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Problems, Promises, Politics, Pastors and Parishioners

There are approximately 60 more days of this Presidential campaign.  In the Christian world I've noticed a trend toward a collective sigh of relief.  Now that both conventions are complete I thought I'd share a few thoughts I have about today's poltical/religious climate.  The views below are more of an observation than a critique.   

There is a disconnect between Christians and the political process that I haven't seen in my lifetime.  I was born in '78 and that year was effectively the birth of the Moral Majority which receives credit for organizing the would-be "religious right'.  I can tell you that the entire political landscape is trying to adapt to this new norm.  We've seen Democrats and Republicans trying to court the religious vote to varying degrees.  McCain's pick of Gov. Palin was in no small way an effort to get the religious base fired up.  The McCain campaign also floated the idea of a pro-choice VP a few weeks back only to see that balloon get blown out of the sky.  The Obama campaign has also played up faith much more than I've seen any Democrat in my lifetime.  Unfortunately for Obama, the Wright controversy made touting his 20+ year history in his church almost unspeakable. 

Christians are less monolithic about the issues which concern them.  Christians in this election cycle are no longer simply holding to the areas of "family values" with abortion and gay marriage being the rallying cries.  Now many Christians are equally concerned about the economy, environment and social justice issues like Darfur, homelessness and poverty.  

By and large there is no leadership for the "Christian Right" like there once was.  With the passing of Dr. Falwell and Dr. D James Kennedy among others, there is at present somewhat of a leadership vacuum when it comes to conservative Christians and the political process.  There wasn't a deep 'bench' behind those guys.  While Christians have always been concerned about a multiplicity of issues, they previously had leadership who asked them to prioritize their list of concerns.  Ultimately "life" ended up being number one followed by the rest.  Today Christians have a bigger picture of "life" to include not only the unborn but also the downtrodden.  Also there is a philisophical difference in how Christians desire to use government to enact their Christian principles.  Conservatives are still by and large concerned with life and the family but they want less government and more personal responsibility.  Progressives would agrue that we should have in place a government that is charitable to the orphan, poor and widow.  Both want to utilize the government to 'do good' but their philosophical (not religious) views form the prizim upon which they see those views being enacted.  More or less government doesn't mean more or less Jesus.  

Younger Pastors have a distaste and distrust for the political process.  Reactionary or not, young Pastors are frustrated with being pigeon-holed when they attempt to share their faith with people who aren't Christians.  People who do not know Christ have come to believe that Jesus is symbolic with a particular party (usually republican).  Interestingly enough however there are also young African American Pastors who are concerned with the political involvement coming from their side of the fence (usually democrat).  The concern is that while scripture teaches believers to care for their own, many have substituted the government as being the main provider of these services.  

Political machines are having a difficult time understanding this new dynamic.  The reality is that Churches remain a very unique institution in America.  There aren't many places where a hundred or more people are gathered together every week in order to hear a message.  Political parties are trying to figure out how to handle this new wave of Christian leaders.  The old way of having one or two key figures point the way for the rest of Christianity no longer works.  There is no longer a "Christian Herd" mentality.  

In spite of all of this change I believe this is simply a time of transition and the dust hasn't settled for the next 20 years.  It's a fact of life that both Pastors and Politicians share a common constituency, the American people.  So long as Pastors are searching after souls and Politicians are seeking out supporters they will collide in the realm of public discourse.  I happen to see a lot of common ground that can be found if partisanship can give way to achieving results for a better populous.  I happen to believe that there are entrenched interests on both fronts that will give way to some reasonable conversation.  

Ideally if Christians are praying for the "Kingdom to come to earth as it is in Heaven" and Politicians truly want "the best for the American people", there can be many places where agreement can be found if that is the end which we seek.  If however we are beholden to the idolatry of party affiliation we will continue to have problems and the very unity Christ said his people would have would become eroded by the world's best form of government.  Let's also be cautious.  We cannot blame politics for being the main problem.  The political process is amoral.  It's a mirror.  

Let's face it, Christians identify themselves with a lot of labels apart from the label of Christ. Look at the sign in front of your church building.  It's a vestige of the sinful nature.  Division. How we behave in our public discourse simply shows the world that we like division among our ranks.  That division doesn't represent Christ and it doesn't show the world that we love one another which is how Jesus said people would know we were His.

No matter who you cheer for in November, one thing is clear after two weeks of political conventions, we can all agree that we live in an imperfect but amazing country.  I'm going to be excited in January to see an African American or a woman walk into the White House as either President or Vice President of the United States.  That's progress we can all cheer for. 

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Friday, September 05, 2008


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