Separating religion from ones politics is probably impossible. I have never heard an objective discussion of politics from a deeply religious person, nor have I from a person religiously atheistic. From my perspective, it is these two extremes which cloud and prejudice the voices of the rest of us who spend our lives hoping to be relevant and effective during our time among the living, while simultaneously trying to be both heavenly (spiritually) minded and of some earthly good.
This morning, while in church, there was a guest evangelist speaker. Actually the speaker is well known in the evangelistic speaking circuits, and since it had been over twenty years since I last saw him in person, I was looking forward to hearing and seeing him again.
I am sure, for those who may know me, you have already concluded that I am preparing, in text, to body slam this preacher for some slip of the tongue or inappropriate political gesture . In a way you are right, but actually, that is not my intention albeit I was very troubled by what he said and how he said it.
In preface I want to say that I am a very strong proponent of free speech. It is my heartfelt and irrevocable belief that none of us, living in a free society, has a right to not be offended. Can you just imagine living in a society where voicing your opinion could be a crime? It is, in China, North Korea and most Middle Eastern countries. That’s not for me and never was.
Laws governing common, individual thought and words are usually a preamble to tyranny. I am not referring to the “Shouting Fire in The Theater” kind of laws, least you immediately pin me down with that. I am referring to the restricting of freedom to say and express how one feels and what one believes, even if that thought or belief offends one or many. Many of the stoutly held beliefs of the strongly religious are very offensive to those who do not share similar beliefs and the same is true of the reverse. The offence felt on both sides of that argument is unavoidable and the articulation from either should be as fully protected as any other part of “Freedom of Speech”.
Calling every form of expression which offends “Hate Speech” is a bridge to far for me to go in our free society. Tolerance is a hallmark of any democratic society. It should be. That is not to say there is not a line over which free speech crosses and becomes “Hate Speech”. That line does indeed exist.
Now back to the preacher I was listening to this morning in church. He was preaching about our responsibility to each other and to our collective interests. He was propounding the “I am my brothers keeper” theology; something I am in full agreement with, as is the entire tenant of Christianity as well.
Suddenly he paused and said, “I feel very strongly that I need to mention this to you. It is a feeling which came over me yesterday while hearing news of Barak Obama”. At that point he had my undivided attention because in my family church, our pastor very rarely, if ever, mentions politics, candidates, parties or anything of subjective political overtone or substance. The guest evangelist went on; “When I heard the TV mention Obama’s name, a strong thought entered my mind. It was two words; Nuclear Proliferation”. I was riveted. He continued. “I believe that if Obama is elected and keeps to the promises he has made regarding eliminating our nuclear arms and unilateral disarmament , he will leave America exposed to the “secret” nuclear weapons other evil countries may continue to develop and maintain, thus hastening Armageddon”.
I sat there for a moment pondering what he had said. Did he just say Jesus is pro-atomic bomb development? I asked myself. Did he just tell this congregation that we, as Christians, will overcome the evil and sin in the world through the might of our military instead of by the power of God, faith, hope and love? Did he just ask us to be offended by the thought of a President of The United States pursuing “peace on earth” through nuclear disarmament? Did he just tell this congregation that having the ability to wipe out entire nations with the push of a button is God’s will? He did. Now I was offended.
When the children of Israel were face to face with the mighty and overwhelming army of the Philistines, God chose a Sheppard boy, David, to confront them. In this battle, a mighty Philistine soldier, Goliath, a giant and undefeated warrior, was brought down by this tribe of Judah teenager with a slingshot because God was with him against all earthly odds. The mighty fortress of Jericho was brought to ruin by the children of Israel because they obeyed God and marched around the fortress blowing trumpets and singing. The battle was God’s and His children did not need man’s might to defeat their enemies.
Jesus did not arm himself neither did he allow arms among his closest disciples. He did not allow them to protect him when the Romans came to take him to what he had already foretold would be his death. The Sanhedrin priest sought to trap Him by showing Jesus a Coin which bore Caesar’s image. They asked him; “To whom should we render allegiance?“ Jesus told them; “Render to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesars”. (Caesar represented the government of man). In saying this, Jesus clearly separated religion and spiritual matters from mans government and worldly matters. When he stood before Punches Pilot Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world”.
The point I am making is that God clearly allows man to hurt, or help himself. The Bible clearly says “God reigns on the just and the unjust alike”. From my own Christian point of view, mankind has no power to save itself, regarding God’s grace and heaven, but all of the individual power, ability and freedom to hurt, or help him/herself.
Preachers should choose to back away form political discourse and alignment in favor of Godly discourse and alignment with their calling to preach the Gospel to the world, bringing those who will to a saving grace and awareness of God’s existence in the world. Christian Preachers should leave Caesar’s business to Caesar and tend to God’s business on earth, as is their calling.
In His very well known “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus told us what we, mankind, should be doing to bring about a better world and to please God; Feed the hungry, Clothe the naked, visit Prisoners, Care for the widowed and helpless, to love our neighbors even as we love ourselves. This Biblical guidance, which came directly from Jesus himself, was not mentioned this morning. Not once.
How sad, how very sad for us all if this is what our religion has brought us to; Having become just another arm of a Political Party. Caesar’s Party.
Nuclear disarmament? I hope Obama puts it near the top of his list, just behind restoring our constitutional rights deprived us in the Patriot Act, discontinuing the use of torture by any means for any reason, ending the ridicules, harmful and tragic war in Iraq, pursuing a real National Health care plan for all Americans and others living in the United States where moral government is relevant, making education available to all Americans and restoring our decimated military.
America will never be a good place for some of us until it is a good place for all of us.