Politicians co-opting God is killing the church; it's not the only reason the church is dying, but it sure is unknowingly playing to the Church's weaknesses. As I've mentioned in another blog post and a sermon at The God Article, politicians are playing The God Card now-a-days more than ever...and they are hurting the Church more than ever in doing it. I'm not saying they are the only thing that is killing the Church (far, far from it), but they are certainly doing their part.
While there are many ways this is happening, there are two in particular that I'd like to mention and as I said they unknowingly play on the weaknesses already present in the church. The first is related to one of the Church's primary problems; it still acts like it is important. Not that it's not important in the lives of it's members and (for the churches still actively practicing real outreach) in the lives of those they help, because for them it is very important. Rather, it acts like it is important in the overall life of the culture. More specifically, it acts like it is central to community.
The truth is, it used to be. The Church used to be the center point of life in many towns and cities, not to mention families. However, a long time ago the culture moved forward as world dynamics shifted and the church planted it's roots and was passed by. Now (with some exceptions), the Church has gone from being central to being on the margins, way back where it planted it's roots – it just isn't central to culture anymore. Yet, it insist (demands?) on being treated as if it were. It seems to believe that it can just go about being what it once was and demand that those who participate do it our way, the “right way.” And people are staying away in droves.
When politicians play The God Card to garnish a few votes, they remind the rest of the US about one of the things they dislike about the Church, it's sense of privilege, entitlement and “rightness” - and they do it on a national platform.
Which brings me to the second way that politicians co-copting God is killing the church. If you are a Christian and you haven't read unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons let me highly recommend it (book review coming this week). I have to say, I am not a fan of some of the theology, but the research and what it reveals about the general public's perception of the church is both astonishing and right-on-the-money. One of the top issues it reveals is the Church's problem with being perceived as hypocritical. (Ok, you have to see where I'm going with this at this point).
Politicians are going to break their promises (I don't know why...that's just what they do. Get a history book and look it up). All these politicians flashing their particular brand of The God Card every time they have the platform ultimately just serves to remind people of the existing perception that the Church is hypocritical...and let's face it, we really don't need any help with that...just get a history book and look it up.
Last night on “The Daily Show” former President Jimmy Carter had a little fun picking on The Tea Party's Christine O'Donnell about dabbling in witchcraft...oh, and on her stand on masturbation (can I say that on a Christian blog? I guess I just did). It seems that everyone is jumping on the Witchy-Poo (shout out to my H.R. Pufnstuff peeps!) bandwagon in yet another modern day witch hunt.
I have to say, as a Christian minister, I just don't care. No more than I would care if Obama were actually a “secret Muslim,” or the fact that Glenn Beck probably believes in three heavens and the ability to become a god in the afterlife. Besides, that was then and this is now. We have to stop holding political candidates hostage over something they once thought or believed. It is as if we don't want our leaders (and perspective leaders) to gain experience and knowledge and then learn from it.
What I do care about is the crazy stuff she believes in now that would directly impact how she would serve if elected. Things like: “America is now a socialist economy,” creationism, she hears “the audible voice of God,” being gay is an “identity disorder,” and a number of other questionable beliefs and statements.
What does all of this have to do with God, you ask? (After all this is “The God Article”). Simply this, too many politicians are playing The God Card and in doing so they seem to believe they can just co-opt the Christian church and it's beliefs as if we are one homogenous group. When they do, they always pick a fairly conservative bent on Christianity and project to the world that that particular take on Christianity is the only Christianity (or at least 'true' Christianity). Ultimately, this serves to minimize, in the minds of the world, the more progressive Christian movement. They are able to do this partially because those of us who fit into that category have had a tendency to sit by silently, presumably out of some false belief that Jesus was passive to the point of irrelevance.
The Progressive Christian movement must begin to stand up, even in the face of conservative Christians who will undoubtedly point fingers and try to shout us back down (sometimes literally), and overcome our reluctance to say what we believe with the same passion and vigor that our more traditional brothers and sisters do.
O'Donnell has said a lot of things that ring the crazy bell for many progressive Christians; we must stand up in one united voice when this happens and say, not all Christians believe that, not all Christians want that, not all Christians carry that particular brand of God Card.
Watch Jon Stewart's interview with former President