Not Dancing to the Tune of the Pied Dobson

Up until a few months ago, I was still getting political forwards in my e-mail inbox. In light of a few posts, I quit getting them, however, my wife had no such luck and received the letter from 2012 from James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. Ok, I’ll admit, James Dobson’s antics this political season have been getting on my nerves for a while (and this isn’t including the time he went after SpongeBob SquarePants). This fictional letter is written by a Christian from 2012 informing readers of the horrors that may happen if Barack Obama is elected president. I’m officially dubbing this letter Project Fail (and I’ll lump into it this project all of the tactics of fear-mongering and race baiting).

We get it in our heads that one political party speaks for Christendom. I have no problem with our spirituality informing our politics, but have huge problems with our politics informing our spirituality. When politics becomes our religion, with only two agenda points that all “right thinking Christians”/“True Believers” need to base their vote on: abortion and gay marriage. We position leaders to whom we look to for salvation. Their stump speeches become sermons. Their rallies serve as revival meetings.

It cuts both ways. There are black churches that condemn Republicans as evil (and black Republicans as sell outs) and white churches that proclaim that the Republican agenda God’s agenda, and anyone against it amoral, irreligious, or anti-God. I’ve been to Republican and Democratic meetings and found them both attended by people who love this country and seek its best interests (and both opened their meetings in prayer, but this is Indiana).

As a church-cum-political action committee, we’ve been out to amass and wield power. This is the epitome of being of the world and conforming to its ways. I chalk up Project Fail as the last gasp of the Christian right as we’ve known it, though I fully expect 2012 to bring us a new brand of conservative. I’ve been doing some thinking about the idea of the Christian right and how they’ve framed a lot of the discussion about Christianity and politics, and I’ve come to a few conclusions:

1) Have you ever wondered that whenever folks talk about the Christian right, what “the church” should be doing, and Evangelicals in general, that maybe they should just say “white, conservative Evangelicals”? With the size of the black church in America, do you really think “all right thinking Christians” jumped on the Reagan/Bush/Gingrich bandwagon?

2) Religion informing politics is not a bad idea … on paper. In practice is where things become muddled. Actually, they only become muddled when the idea becomes prescriptive rather than descriptive. Here’s what I mean. I have spiritual beliefs that have defined my political views on things. I’m pro-life. I believe we need to be stewards of the environment. I believe we ought to be about “the least of these” (the poor, widows, children, etc). Now HOW we’re to accomplish those things are up for debate. I can’t just say “all right thinking Christians need to define pro-life ‘this way’ and we can only accomplish the end goal of our position with ‘this method.'”

3) There’s the rise of Christian left. I’m talking about the Brian McLarens, the Shane Clairbornes, the Jim Wallis’ of the world. I don’t think this is either good or bad (as jumping into bed with Democrats is no better a solution than jumping in bed with Republicans). What this does accomplish is re-frame the discussion so that there’s not just “one Christian way” to do things. there can be other ideas and actions that can be just as much Christian.

In the fervor of the election season, I can’t help but be reminded of the Old Testament Israelites who clamored for a king. They had some good kings and some bad kings, often getting the leader they deserved. I don’t look to politics to solve many of our problems, no matter who is in office. The church is not a political action committee. The church has a mission, a missio dei, God’s mission. The church needs to be about manifesting God’s love in sacrificial service to the world. We’ll soon know who the new leader of our country is and whoever it is, I will remember two things: 1) to pray for him and 2) that God is sovereign.

Dobson and Obama

I’ve about had it with some of the Evangelical popes.

“Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?” The main thrust of Sen. Barack Obama’s point was about how to be religious and live out one’s faith in a pluralistic society and do so in a way that respects the views of others. Yet, the James Dobsons of the world, rather than wrestle with this point, have used this as an opportunity to wage war on Obama. Dobson did evangelical Christians, and the country a disservice in misrepresenting the intent of Obama’s comments.

The religious right is at a bit of a crossroads, finding their power and influence waning, their voice soon to be given less of an ear (because, let’s face it, neither Sen. John McCain nor Barack Obama are exactly their poster children). Frankly, I thought the central hypocrisy of the religious right was exposed with Mitt Romney campaign: he WAS their poster child on every issue. However, he was Mormon, so his beliefs couldn’t be trusted.

Of course how we view the Bible is shaped by our times and cultural mores. Folks involved in the slavery debate were so tied to their economic realities, not to mention blinded by their racism, that they simply could not see their way to the Bible clearly. Whose Christianity should have been embraced?

“‘You are the salt of the earth.’” Jesus’ words were recorded in the book of Matthew. Think of the implications of salt when it comes to cooking. When you notice salt in a dish, when something is too salty, it spoils the dish. Salt in small doses is a supportive ingredient, it brings out taste and acts as a preservative. Salt, especially in Jesus’ day, was a commodity. People valued it and used to trade for it. When was the last time you heard anyone describe the church, or its representatives, this way?

Our spiritual lives should be embodied by those who call themselves Christian and lived out according to the mission of helping to redeem creation. James Dobson doesn’t speak for me. Al Sharpton doesn’t speak for me. Jesse Jackson doesn’t speak for me. And it looks like they are speaking for fewer and fewer people.