Earlier I posted a segment from last night’s debate about politics and faith. Faith still matters in American politics. We are not, as some say many European countries are, post-Christian or secular in our politics.
One of my convictions I keep returning to in this election is that the church begin to be aware and actively refute the attempt by special interests/political parties to co-opt the church for the good of that particular organization. In this the church loses and the special interests win.
Let me give you two recent examples of how “the church” (universal) has allowed itself to be used by special interests:
- The Passion. ICON and the partner distributers and publicists have used churches to market their movie, and few churches have balked at this. Christians have swallowed the movie whole and bristle at any suggestion that in part–or many parts–the movie is not “as it was.” The propensity these days of churches buying into large marketing efforts should be a concern for us, as one recent “un-review” of The Passion points out, because the church gives itself to effort, at times, in place of the Lord himself and relating directly to people with lives that reflect Jesus.
- The erstwhile Moral Majority. Though the name has fallen into disuse, the political idea is the same: “We can win if we get churches on our side.” Over the last three decades, many Christians have been convinced that a particular political party is more moral than another. I don’t agree. This depends on how one frames morality. What set of morality are we talking about? Republicans know their morally conservative base and frame morality as standing strong on issues such as stem-cell research and abortion. Many Christian Republicans do this with conviction that I respect very much. Others follow blindly the Republican line, and I’m more concerned about this, because I believe the church, again, can more easily get co-opted by party interests and power when we don’t carefully consider how we support political parties. Democrats, meanwhile, frame morality as just war, appropriately restricting assault weapons, giving liberty to women and gay people, and seeking justice for the poor and disenfranchised minorities such as black and hispanic Americans and immigrants.
I am seeing a new reality in America: politics and religion are not off the table . . . at least right now during an election and in the post-denominational age when we are trying to reframe how we operate as Christian churches and how we approach non-Christians or searchers (I believe more people are on a faith journey than we give credit for). I think discussing faith and politics, particularly as they relate to one another, is very healthy.