On being a "chosen" nation

I know doubt blog too often regarding politics, especially knowing I opine from a minority perspective among conservative Christians, it is such a prominent issue here locally, I feel the need to once again “go there.” I beg your forgiveness ahead of time, but hope for some reflective responses.

The hot issue in Columbus regarding politics and religion deals with the invitation of a political candidate (a Republican) to a gathering of pastors. I can’t even remember when it happened – last year I think (the downfall of blogging is that we are amateurs and have no time to validate our facts!) Anyway . . . the specifics aren’t important. This gathering of 400 plus clergy is the point of contention. The Republican speaker (Ken Blackwell for those of you locals) was the only invited speaker. Two leaders of this group of clergy (two pastors of Christian churches) have recently come under fire by a group of 31 other clergy members citing this group has violated its tax-exempt status by publicly endorsing a candidate.

OK . . . those of you who are local I am sure know this situation, and if you don’t, hopefully this gives you an idea of what’s going on.

Now that I’ve gotten it all mapped out, I don’t know where to begin. Essentially, I want to make the point that there is a division slowly occurring in the undercurrents of many major denominations across the United States regarding political matters. I find this divide unnerving. Here are two recent observations that have made me uncomfortable (just by citing these things leaves me open for potshots, I know):
* Went to a seventh grade girls basketball game yesterday at a large Baptist church. Immediately inside the doors was a large “Support our Troops” booth.
* We get bulletins from another local Church of Christ congregation. Recently their elders’ article on the front page noted the following issues that “are at the forefront” of ways America is becoming a secular nation (in the order they listed them): homosexual marriage, abortion, removal of “one nation under God” from pledge, cloning, and the use of aborted babies stem cells.

Now, the issues these elders mention are no doubt important, but I find it sad that these are the “top five” list that worries them. It has furthered my opinion that the Republican Party has nabbed religious conservatives, put them in their pockets, and I’m not sure will ever let them go. How dare Christians allow a political party to define their values for them? That is exactly what conservative Christians are doing.

In the sidebar I have my “currently reading” book as Many Voices, One God. It is a collection of essays regarding the issue of pluralism as it confronts American Christianity. One of the main factors in this discussion is the “chosen nation” status that many American Christians feel this nation has leading many to use Old Testament texts to apply to our nation today.

In his essay entitled “Being a Christian in a World of Fear” Will Coleman makes the following statements that I couldn’t help but find convicting:

“Unfortunately, the rationale for such violent behavior [wars, inquisitins, slavery and genocice] has been exracted from passages that are contained within the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that privilege a ‘chosen people,’ often at the expense of so-called heathens and infidels. This kind of scriptural eisegetical exegesis and appropriation has led to intolerance more often tha it has to toleration and mutual understanding. Too often, apocalyptic nihilism or fatalism (under the guise of ‘destiny’) has overridden the message of forgiveness, reconcilaiation, and hope that is also in these same texts . . . WIthin the specific context of the history of the United States, as heir to the social doctrine of election (‘a chosen people’), violence has been accepted as an expedient, though somtimes regrettable, necessity. This hersy calls for confession and repentance.”

Written in 1998, this essay obviously predates the “war on terror,” but he hits the nail on the head when it comes to how this “war” has come about. Our current president has succeeded in convincing many conservative Christians of “us vs. them” thinking. His infamous, “If you’re not on our side, you’re on the side of the terrorists” makes complicated cultural, economic, and political issues much to simplistic.

There needs to be greater separation ideologically between most Christian denominations and sects and a particular political party. Many Christians, especially on the right wing, have fallen in love with political power and forgotten their first love. The bickering and the accusations must stop. Seldom can a person raise a question about the war in Iraq or Republican policies regarding taxes or budget concerns without being labeled a liberal or worse. This accusatory obsession is similar to the 1960’s communisist obsession. Fear of liberals has now replaced fear of pinky communists. Looking back at our communist accusations sounds ridiculous . . . perhaps as ridiculous as our liberal accusations will sound in the future.

Jim Wallis’ proposal for a third way, politically, for Christians is very noble. Why can’t anti-abortion lobbying co-exist with pro-welfare lobbying? Why does the fight for poverty have to take a back seat to the fight against abortion? Aren’t both equally noble? Don’t each reflect the characteristics of the Story? Why must we continue on from a reductionist notion of the role Christians have in politics?

I have to warn everyone that the book on deck for me is Yoder’s Politics of Jesus, so when I get done reading that I may never make another “political” statement again! My rambling for today has ended.

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One thought on “On being a "chosen" nation

  1. First, I think we should start out by acknowledging that Christians have getting things wrong for as long as there has been a Christian church. None other than Peter, author of one of the most influential sermons in the history of the church, was quickly on the wrong side of one the church’s first big issues (circumcision of Gentiles). Yet, despite this, his importance to the church is not diminshed and I feel certain his salvation is not in question.Having said that, while I understand your concerns, I think you are a little hard on the “religious right” sometimes. While the “right” may focus on issues such as gay marriage and abortion to the detriment of “pro welfare polic(ies)” (as you refer to it), that failure to publicly acknowledge such a position does not render the “right”‘s positions on the other issues and less correct or any less important, and it certainly does not diminish the place in the Kingdom of those on the “right.” The left has been using this argument to discredit the right for years, calling into question not only the correctness of the right’s positions on those other issues and also questioning the faith of those who strongly advocate for the non-charity issues. This is my personal opinion on the “welfare” issue. It in undebatable that Jesus taught his followers to be concerned for the poor. However, I believe this is a personal command that can only be met through a personal response out of personal faith. The government cannot fulfill this responsibility for me and it is not the government’s place to do so. If I rely soley on the governmen’t welfare programs through my tax dollars, that is not my choice and it certainly isn’t my obedience. Therefore, it is up to me personally to sacrifice of my means to help the poor in my community however I am able. I don’t think that the right’s failure to focus or champion variuos welfare programs is a systematic failure to understand Jesus’s teachings. (I would hate to generalize such a large group of people and their understanding of Christian faith and response.) Now I realize that one could respond that issues like abortion and gay marriage are as as much matters of individual response to faith (though abortion is questionable since a third person/soul is involved)and that one could say the government has no place mandating such a response. I don’t know how to respond to this at this time other than to say I believe there is a distinction. Another note regarding charity: which poor are Chrisitians supposed to support? While Jesus did not qualify the term poor in any way, off the top of my head, all of the examples in Acts are instances of the church selling possessions to support the poor within their congregations. (Knowing how you think Adam, I realize this question could start a whole other discussion regarding the types of peole that make up the modern church and whether we have the same demographics as the early church.)

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