Saturday, June 04, 2005

Politics Endorsed by a Church? I Don't Think So

Tomorrow, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, is signing two pieces of legislation that the right-wing Christians have sought there. He's doing it in the gym of a church.

Says the Washington Post, "One requires parents to sign off on abortions for minors; the other calls for a November vote on a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage."

Apart from whatever merits these two new laws may have, as a Christian and a pastor I find the governor's bill-signing venue deeply disturbing.

I wrote about this in the Comments section of Ann Althouse's blog earlier today. [Added comments are in brackets.]
There is no "Christian" political program. God is not a Republican or a Democrat. What is happening is that slowly, many Christians are allowing their faith and Christ Himself to be subordinated to the political philosophies they embrace.

Jesus upbraided the Pharisees for thinking that if they got people to acquiesce to their version of "righteousness," they could stem the tides of faithlessness and irreligiosity. (Coincidentally, they could also trumpet their "moral superiority.") By the Pharisees' program, they unwittingly replaced the teachings of both the Old Testament and later, of the New Testament, that righteousness--rightness with God--is a gift to all with faith in God, not an attainment [that comes from meeting certain] proscribed behaviors.
Although I am deeply interested in politics, I don't push my politics from the pulpit. After all, my politics is just that, my politics. God didn't hand it to me from Mount Sinai. I'm certain that He didn't do that for either James Dobson or Jim Wallis, either.

When I ran for the Ohio House of Representatives last year, I was careful that no reference to my campaign invaded the worship services of our congregation. (One well-meaning person brought it up during the announcements one Sunday morning and after I explained that I deemed that inappropriate, he never mentioned it again. A fund-raiser was also held there. But we open the facility to virtually all community groups and would allow any political candidate not advocating hate to use our facilities. We feel that God has given us our building and we want to share it with others. While the congregation does not charge for the use of its building, my campaign paid the congregation for the building use anyway.) I never would countenance a candidate for public office speaking during a worship celebration at our church or to in any way, use the church for political purposes. Not only is this illegal under federal law, it's inconsistent with the mission of the Church.

Of course, Perry's church bill-signing ceremony may be a desperate attempt to gain the support of the Religious Right from what is probably the second-least popular governor in America. (The least popular is Ohio's Bob Taft. Unlike Taft, who is term-limited, Perry faces an election in 2006.) Be that as it may, the church and the pastor who would acquiesce to allowing Christ and the Church to be used in this way should really second-guess themselves. It's like endorsing the governor. And a church should not be in the endorsing business.

The willingness of congregation and pastor to be used for Perry's political agenda risks subordinating the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is a lot more important than two pieces of legislation, Rick Perry's political future, the Republican Party, or even the United States of America, to all of these things.

The purpose of the Church isn't to get cozy with politicians or to pass laws that coerce society into accepting some Christians' notions of morality. The purpose of the Church is to help the world know Jesus Christ, Who we believe is the way to a new life with God, lived here and in eternity. We in the Church need to remember that!

No comments: