Saturday, April 30, 2005

An attempt to hijack Christianity

I found this piece by Jim Wallis via Iddybud. Jim Wallis is a strong support of the notion that religion has been hijacked by politics and that it cannot and should not be owned by either political party. He tries to remind us that there is a lot more to faith/Christianity than just abortion.

Jim Wallis on the Hijacking of Christianity

An attempt to hijack Christianity
by Jim Wallis
From: Sojourners

"Last week, I wrote about the "Justice Sunday" event held at a Louisville, Kentucky, mega-church. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Prison Fellowship's Chuck Colson, and Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler were joined by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on video in the event titled "Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith." Of course, I have no objection to Christian leaders expressing their faith in the public arena - it's a good thing that I do all the time. The question is not whether to do so, but how. As I heard more and more about "Justice Sunday," it felt to me like it was crossing an important line - saying that a political issue was a test of faith.

So, when I was invited to speak at an interfaith "Freedom and Faith" service at Central Presbyterian Church in Louisville, I agreed. On Sunday morning, I flew to Louisville, and that afternoon addressed more than 1,000 people who attended the rally. I didn't go to say that these leaders shouldn't bring their faith into politics; the issues concerning them - abortion and family values - are also important to me. But the way they were doing it was wrong. The clear implication of their message was that those who opposed them are not people of faith.

We can get some historical perspective by looking at how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did it - and he was the church leader who did it best. Once after he was arrested, he wrote a very famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," addressed to the white clergy who were opposing him on the issues of racial segregation and violence against black people. Never once did he say that they were not people of faith. He appealed to their faith, challenged their faith, asked them to go deeper with their faith, but he never said they were not real Christians. If Dr. King refused to attack the integrity and faith of his opponents over such a clear gospel issue, how can the Religious Right do it over presidential nominees and a Senate procedural issue known as the filibuster?

After the "Justice Sunday" event, and the controversy surrounding it, some of the sponsors are denying they ever claimed that those who oppose them are hostile to people of faith. Yet their words stand for themselves. In the letter announcing the event on the Family Research Council Web site, Tony Perkins wrote: "Many of these nominees to the all-important appellate court level are being blocked...because they are people of faith and moral convictions.... We must stop this unprecedented filibuster of people of faith."

So, I told the Louisville rally that when someone has stolen our faith in the public arena, it is time to take our faith back. "Justice Sunday" was an attempt to hijack Christianity for a partisan and ideological agenda. Those on the Religious Right are declaring a religious war to give their version of faith religious supremacy in America. And some members of the Republican Party seem ready almost to declare a Christian theocracy in America. It is time to take back both our faith and our Constitution.

It is now clear there are some who will fight this religious war by any means necessary. So we will fight, but not the way they do. We must never lie or misrepresent the facts or the truth. We must not demonize or vilify those who are our opponents. We must claim that those who disagree with our judgments are still real people of faith. We must not fight the way they do, but fight we must. A great deal is at stake in this battle for the heart and soul of faith in America and for the nation's future itself. We will not allow faith to be put into the service of one political agenda.

This is a call for the rest of the churches to wake up. This is a call for people of faith everywhere to stand up and let their faith be heard. This is not a call to be just concerned, or just a little worried, or even just alarmed. This is a call for clear speech and courageous action. This is a call to take back our faith, and in the words of the prophet Micah, "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God."

- Jim Wallis


Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Interesting post- however the writer fails to deal with the other side of the coin- far left liberal ideology excoriates religion and makes no room for believers at the liberal table (a horrible idea and notion- in our opinion not addressed by the more centrist liberal community.).

Dingo said...

He actually does deal with this, just not in this article. He wrote a book titled "God's politics: How the Right gets it wrong and the Left just doesn't get it."

Boomr said...

With due respect, SC&A, I think you're making a sound-byte out of a more complicated issue. There are plenty of "believers" in the liberal camps. I know a ton of hardcore Democrats who are regular church-going, Bible-reading Christians.

There needs to be a distinction made -- and I've tried to point this out in some threads over at your blog -- between "excoriating religion" and simply not wanting to be controlled by it. Plenty of "liberals" believe in, or at least respect, Christianity, but don't necessarily want our government to be run by its singular world view. Such a stance is not "excoriating" religion, but is asking religion to stay in its intended place -- which is way, way, way outside of the political sphere.

Just look at EVERY politicaly candidate from both the Dems and the Reps in the last few years. How many of them DO NOT end every speech with "... and may God bless America..."?

I think you're also making the big mistake of assuming that liberality and Christianity are mutually exclusive, but according to the true central tenets of the Bible, Christians should be the most left-leaning, bleeding heart liberals out there. Want changed since Christ?

ilona said...

Thank you for posting this, dingo.

You know that Bible phrase "rightly dividing"? This is a good example of that.... it makes the points well and lucidly.

sojourning crow said...

it's funny how we have a Congrasional Chaplain which only offers prayers devoted to monotheism.

hijacked?? who owned it in the first place?? cna you own a religion?? it's so funny that when people make a "controversy" of something do the opinions of others matter. usually our beleifs are enough to sustain us. most of the time.

Dingo said...

I think the point is that no one should own faith, but the exreme right is attempting to do that by saying if you don't agree with them, you can be a 'real' Christian. James Madison made a good point when he said (paraphrasing) if you need the government to support you religion, your religion can't be all that strong.