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Location: Anniston, Alabama, United States

Monday, September 11, 2006

Civil Religion

I have found myself pondering the question. Are you a good Christian if you support(insert political agenda here)?


Does Religion and Politics mix or is it like oil and water?

I am a Political Science Major here at Jacksonville State. I find that this comes up a lot in class. Most recently in American Political Thought we discussed why Freedom of Religion was a part foe the Bill of Rights. The thought is that it was put there not only to prevent a official State Church. But because of past mistakes esp in the Mass. Bay Colony.....Our good friends the puritans.

My thought is that in small doses they can coexist together.

I wish some of my friends with me on the right would take that small bit of advice. I have seen so many political ads so far with the phrase "Conservative Christian Values". I want to puke everytime I see it. I am a republican...in fact I am the Chairman of the College Republicans here on campus. But if I one more of those ads and then talk with a candidate in person to only find out that it is a mask I will go nuts.

Yes I understand that Politics is War fought by other means. It is a dirty job. I have had to talk out of both sides of my mouth as a chairman. But for once please be upfront with us. You want the job because of the Power. I understand that. But stop placating to the ingorance of the electorate. They are so easily misled by slick ads and snappy soundbites.

This is not directed to any campaign. Just a Rant on politics in general.


Bishop Willmon had this to say on the subject in 2005:

When I met with United Methodist Legislators in Montgomery, one of the things that they said to me, when I asked them how I could help them better fulfill their ministry in public service, was this: "Bishop, please do everything you can to let the citizens of Alabama know that there is more than one Christian view on most political subjects. To be a Christian is to be part of a dizzying variety of theologies and perspectives on just about anything. Please let people know that there is no one, single Christian view on highway construction."

It is the nature of the Christian faith to be rather messy, to include a variety of voices and perspectives, so that means that when you ask Christians, “What do you think we ought to do on this particular political issue?” you are going to hear a variety of voices, and no one voice can lay claim to being the one authoritative, uncontested Christian voice.

That when we religious folk play the political game, we must play through political rules. Politics follows a different set of rulrulesules that apply in a non-religious, secular, constitutional democracy. (I don't really believe there is much biblical support for democracy, though, democracy has been a good system of government for us Christians. In the Bible, it's all hierarchy, God's authority that overrules everybody else, and there is no place for majority vote -- truth determined by who can get the most votes. Our truth comes from God, or so we believe.)

It is not fair for Christians to get into politics and then try to exclude other voices. Politics is the art of compromise, but most religious faiths consider compromise to be a bad thing. I am troubled when Christians attempt to force through legislation the standards we can't even achieve in our own churches.

A story from Bishop Willmon:

Early Sunday morning, sitting in my office at Duke University Chapel, the phone rings. A nasal voice on the end asks, "Who's Preaching in Duke Chapel this morning? I am trying to decide whether or not to drive over from Raleigh for the service."

I clear my voice and I say resonantly, "The Reverend Dr. William H. Willimon, Dean of the Chapel."
The voice from Raleigh responds, "Good, I am coming over."

I then ask, "Why is that good?"

The voice responds, "I am a Baptist. I am so sick of hearing about nothing but politics in sermons. I've got to hear a sermon about Jesus."

I put down the phone and I thought to myself, "How old am I?" When I was a young pastor, it was always we liberal, mainline pastors who were told, "Boy, you need to stick to saving souls and stay out of politics." Now, the roles have switched. It's mainly conservative, evangelical Christians who are more strongly mixing religion and politics. My, how things have changed.

Strange bedfellows Politics and Religion make. Let us just remember what is was like in Plymouth.

3 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

I certainly don't want the state involved in my church, but our faith must necessarily be integral to our public life whether in politics or business. To say that there is a necessary separation comes dangerously close to suggesting that our faith has no place in politics, and that is just wrong for a disciple.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Louie said...

I agree that Faith is a intergal part of our life in all aspects. I meant that I am tired of hearing that "Vote conservative traditional values vote John Doe for Dog Catcher". Then we have people vote for Jone Doe because in his commercial he is walkin out of the local Baptist Church and teaches sunday school and is a good Deacon. But could not catch a dog if his life depended on it. I am trying to say Yes Look through faith but use all of the Quadrilateral. Thanks for you comment and reading Blees you in your ministry.

11:07 PM  
Blogger -F- said...

I would like to throw a wrench in this discussion. It may only be helpful in that it might arouse some curiousity and imagination.

Thus far, the discussion has focused on HOW a Christian might best participate in politics. It has already been assumed that doing so is not an unreconcilable conflict of character. And so, I offer the following questions:

Is it possible for a Christian community to follow Jesus in the way of perfection while participating in politics?

Is politics, by its very nature, contrary to the way of Christ?

Before mindlessly dismissing this, consider Louie's own words: "Yes I understand that Politics is War fought by other means. It is a dirty job. I have had to talk out of both sides of my mouth as a chairman." In order to participate in politics, Louie admitted that he had to lie. Is lying and deception in keeping with the example of Christ? Is violence - which all politics have used as a means to some end or another?

I commend you on your quest and encourage you to continue your journey in faith and hope as a witness of God's peaceable kingdom present and future.

2:55 PM  

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