Preachers, politics, and the Christian Left

“This need not be our normal.”

Love thy neighborPeople of faith have been, and ought to be involved with small-p politics, in terms of feeding the hungry, but also pointing out injustice, opposing immoral wars, and the like.

I’m fascinated that the Washington National Cathedral, the closest thing the US has to a national house of worship, issued a strong statement about the White House resident. “The racial overtones are clear, and they are building,” says Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde. “This need not be our normal.”:

The new DC Archbishop, Wilton Gregory, and the only black archbishop in the nation, said 45 is “diminishing our national life,” by attacking non-white members of Congress. “I have stressed that I am a pastor and fellow disciple of Jesus, not a political leader,” Gregory, the former archbishop of Atlanta, said in a statement to the Catholic Standard. “There are, however, sometimes, when a pastor and a disciple of Jesus is called to speak out to defend the dignity of all God’s children.

“Our faith teaches us that respect for people of every race, religion, gender, ethnicity and background are requirements of fundamental human dignity and basic decency,” Gregory said. “This include newcomers to our country, people who have differing political views and people who may be different from us. Comments which dismiss, demean or demonize any of God’s children are destructive of the common good and a denial of our national pledge of ‘liberty and justice for all.'”

You can tell these comments were made reluctantly, lest their intentions be misunderstood, their parishioners offended, their sincerity attacked.

Someone, I wish I remembered who, noted recently that Paul Tillich, one of the most important theologians of the 20th century, said c. 1960 that we should declare a 100-year moratorium on the use of the word “God.” “He’d simply grown weary of people dropping the name to support their utterly non-scriptural, usually bigoted, fundamentalist agenda, and wanted time for the air to clear, and to let real theologians set the record straight.”

I’m not crazy about the term Christian left, because it seems to suggest a primarily electoral agenda. Still, John Pavlovitz lays it out correctly. “The loudest people get to write the story that everyone hears, the one they come to believe is the only story. In this way, they get to define what is true for those looking on, who may not hear anything else.

“Right now there is a story being written about Christians in America; a story saturated with cruelty and absent of compassion, and because the authors’ volume is so great and their profile so high and their political position so unrivaled—that is becoming the singular story. It is becoming true for all of us.

“But that is not our story.” And he goes into great deal about what IS an alternative narrative. This important to me personally, because those louder, more Politically connected, but less spiritually compassionate have been a stain on my faith for WAY too long.

Finally, an old IRL friend of mine said recently, “You know, Roger, so many ‘good’ people who claim to follow Jesus Christ also support racism in this country. Do they really think they won’t burn in hell for their greed and bigotry?!” To which I can safely answer, these things are WAY above my pay grade.