Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why Have the Church? Just Be a Democrat. Or a Republican.

Brothers and Sisters:

The Lord be with you.

One of the liabilities of being so involved in government, as one of our General Boards so often is, is that we actually get “credit” for what we do (in this case, a resolution made at an earlier General Conference). I speak as a political cynic, having found both of our American political parties wanting.

I want to draw attention to a quote Stan Hauerwas gave several years ago:
"...[A] theological politics understands the church as an alternative polis or civitas, which is constituted by the new reality of the kingdom of God as seen in the life and destiny of Jesus. In contrast to political theology, which makes the political struggle for emancipation the horizon in which the church's theology and practice is interpreted, a theological politics makes the church's story the 'counter story' that interprets the world's politics.... [m]aking the church the primary locus of politics [which] not only changes the political horizon, but also requires a different understanding of the nature of politics."-- Stanley Hauerwas
In my opinion, anyone who thinks Democrats are the only ones who are interested in big government doesn’t read very much – Republicans are just as interested in gaining/regaining power and running things. Today’s politics are reduced to issues, and using power and coercion to enforce the convictions of the Left or the Right. And while I am certainly cynical about politics, I am not advocating we withdraw from the world – indeed, we Christians are supposed to be IN the world, just not OF it. The politics we advocate are the politics of Christ, which will set us apart from the world.

We have only ourselves to blame for the press attention we have gotten from Speaker Pelosi. At least for this week, the United Methodist Church is not known as a Church that makes disciples, but rather known for helping pass a Health Reform Care bill through the House that is split down party lines. I’d say the same thing about abortion: I would like to see abortion become a thing of the past – not because Republicans passed a bill to make abortion illegal, but because the Church influenced society so much that (a) no one would feel so shamed by an out-of-wedlock pregnancy to have an abortion, and (b) no mother would feel alone since the church would step up and minister to her and her child’s needs.

A friend of mine reminded me that during the Bush Administration, Left wing critics made the following observation of Republican Christians: "If the Republican plank has become your Gospel, why do you still need the church?" He noted that this observation fits just as well with this possible observation given this week's happenings: "If the Democratic plank has become your Gospel, why do you still need the church?"

We have been used as a denomination this week by politicians, and it has given in to more of the American preoccupation of being on the correct side instead of being on the Lord’s side. As one of my blogging buddies Allen Bevere said today, to embrace the status quo politics of either party is to become ecclesial sectarians.

I think neither Jesus nor John Wesley would approve. Regardless of what the Book of Resolutions or the Council of Bishops tells us.



Joe Baseball said...

I would suggest that standing for greater access to health care for all is an issue the church must stand for, regardless of which party is for it, and which is against it.
I seem to remember a note from somewhere in a book or lecture that Wesley's best-selling title was aimed at the same purpose.
Of course, my belief about Christ's opinion on health care is probably one of the biggest reasons I feel so estranged from my church at this point.

Sky McCracken said...


I think you would find that you and I would agree on far more than we would disagree where healthcare is concerned. Everyone should have access to healthcare. Insurance reform is desperately needed. And no argument about Wesley's take on healthcare; prevention and heathy discipline are paramount to good health.

My concern has to do with render to Caeser and render to God. Does the Church have any business being an OFFICIAL lobby for anything in our government?

I am certainly an advocate for social justice too - and as others far smart than me remind us, health care is a matter of social justice. So is fiscal responsibility. Republicans certainly didn't demonstrate any fiscal responsibility during the Bush Administration, and the present administration doesn't seem concerned about it either - and that is irresponsible. A government that places itself into a position where it might not be able afford to take care of the basic needs of its people is a government guilty of neglect.

All Christians need to be political - in the manner of the politics of Jesus. But HOW we are political as a church very much matters. How we separate church and state matters, too. I remember Bishop Carder once saying that the conversion of Constantine might have been one of the worst things that ever happened to Christendom. I agree.

I'll quote Alexis de Tocqueville: "There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle." I think we need to heed that - especially as the Church.

Thanks for your comments.

John B said...

I have not heard anyone say that we don't need healthcare reform. Nor I have heard anyone say that some should be denied healthcare. But the government in many respects has become the church. Wesley didn't wait for parliament to pass some type of healthcare law, he went out and started clinics in some of the poorest parts of England. I'm waiting for the day when the church will decide that it is our God-given responsibility to care for people and to depend on the government to do it for us.