Jesus lived and died in an occupied country that was only a tiny troublesome corner of the Roman Empire. He also dealt with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees who collaborated with the Romans. He tried to stay out of politics, and his stories dealt with the concerns of the common people. So why should we mix religion and politics? The Republican Party has manipulated the evangelicals to do its bidding, regardless of the cost. Their booming issue now is religious rights, i.e. methods to skirt the law. The Democrats often have appeared hostile to organized religion and seem to favor the secular.
What is the role of Progressive Christians? John Pavlovich recently challenged us to try to answer that question. We do not want to become as hostile, but we cannot remain passive in the midst of such a crisis of the assault on moral authority in this nation. The language of doublespeak has infested even the church, much less the political realm. People don’t seem to matter; it’s all about power and money. What we call populism is a joke and an insult to the common people. How do we define the “common good,” and does it matter anymore? The goal of many people seems to be about winning the pot of gold and maintaining the privileged status of a few. Even a billionaire such a Ray Dalio recently commented on a 60 Minutes interview that we are in danger of losing our democracy due to our economic inequality and lack of opportunity for all.
Christianity has strayed at times over the centuries from the message of Jesus and the Good News, and we seem to be in another valley of deceit again. The church appears to be more concerned with searching out heretics than in serving, and the poor and disenfranchised are left to rot. Sure, we still do lots of good mission work and help in times of disasters, but so do the so-called heathens. We are divided not so much by theology as by a division of worldviews. Openness versus fear; love versus hostility; abundance versus scarcity. How can the Holy Spirit move in the chaos of such division?
In the most basic terms, this isn’t about who is right and who is wrong. Everyone thinks God is on his or her side. But how do we know what he wants? Yes, the Bible is a good guide, but too often it is merely used as a weapon. It is not a question of different interpretations; it is a matter of priorities.
The radical right has adopted two social issues: abortion and homosexuality as the litmus tests of religious righteousness. Nothing else seems to matter to them. Strange that Jesus never talked about either of them so are they just the sins of the 21st Century? Perhaps the objective was simply to create more divisiveness as a means to win elections? Pick a hot button issue and get elected or have some convenient bogeyman to preach against. Who are we to judge their motivation? The question is how can we reach across that chasm? How can we engage the power of the Holy Spirit to meet such a challenge? That is the issue of our times.