So I let Chesya Burke get loose on a post here yesterday on Glenn Beck (which isn’t the first time I let someone run amuck on my blog, as my brother did his “Letter from a Former Black Conservative” not too long ago). These days I don’t find myself nearly the political animal I once was. I considered myself a black Republican, though my strong social justice leanings apparently made me the worst Republican ever.
Anyway, to stave off the comments/e-mails (like the ones I received after my How I’m Still Pro-Life and my No Longer Marching to the Pied Dobson pieces), I don’t care about your politics. Seriously. To be quite honest, I didn’t even know who Glenn Beck was. I did used to listen to Rush Limbaugh way back in the day and figured Beck was just another in the line of agent provocateurs of that ilk. A conservative Republican showman, more court jester to give voice to those who need the rhetoric and someone to provide fodder for The Colbert Report. Am I missing something? What gives me pause, as I looked Mr. Beck up, is when someone cloaks themselves in God language in order to bless their politics.
“I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them…are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.” –Glen Beck
I know, I know religion and politics have been not so strange bedfellows for as long as there have been either. I know I have attended several churches where being a champion for Jesus meant voting Republican (and I still remember the scathing message left on my Facebook Wall the day after President Obama was elected). It always troubled me, if for no other reason than it was presented that no Christians could be, dare I say it, a Democrat (or for that matter, even a patriot), until I realized that politics trumps theology in this brand of “Christianity.”
When folks of any stripe wrap themselves in the flag and God, conflating their politics and their Christianity, I get a little antsy. Politics and religion have different jobs to do and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for a man of faith to navigate political waters. When people “fear” religion, this is one of the things they’re talking about. And we’re not even talking about religion in the strictest sense anyway.* This is more about a civil religion–call it “generic Christianity” or “Christianity in name only”–than about the Gospel. The only thing civil religion does is allow people to be united under the banner of allegiance to the United States of America … under God.
So let’s not confuse a “civil religion” with Jesus flavored rhetoric with a Jesus-shaped Gospel. There’s a huge difference between an American civil religion/watered down Christianity vs. the kingdom of God. The American government is not my Lord. The Republican Party is not my God. Politics is not my call to worship. Jesus didn’t die for lower taxes, smaller government, pro-business policies, and an individualistic worldview. If your religion is to mean anything, then be about the poor, the “least of these”, and then get back to me. Until then, spare me your rallies and rhetoric.
*Speaking of unlikely bedfellows, the Glen Beck rally provided an interesting confluence of differing religious ideas: Mormons (Beck) and Evangelicals finding themselves under the same covers (didn’t Glenn Beck even give a commemorative address at Liberty University/Jerry Falwell U) in order to accuse President Obama of being Muslim/having “a perversion of the Gospel”.