Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Church, Political Ads, and My Building Frustration

I try to steer clear of politics.  As a minister, I try to keep my mouth shut because I don't want the divisive nature of politics to come into my congregation.  It's probably no surprise then that I hate election years.  As I sit here typing, I can already imagine the flaming I'll take in comments either here or on Facebook.  But even if that happens, as a minister who serves the Church, I've seen and heard some things that I feel need a response.

With each passing year the political rhetoric attempting to tie Christianity with a specific political agenda has escalated.  This is nothing new.  It's been going on at least since the 1980's.  I've found that rhetoric suspect ever since I was old enough and aware enough to see beyond the smoke and mirrors of it all, but this year I've become especially frustrated.  I'm frustrated that the Church is having words put in her mouth.  I'm frustrated that Jesus is being replaced with nationalism to serve another agenda, and I'm frustrated that certain individuals are using fear mongering (in the name of Jesus) to get people to vote for specific political agendas.

Toward my first frustration, I'm sick and tired of having politicians tell me what the Church believes and then never actually hearing what the Church believes.  As a minister who (often failingly) is called to speak on behalf of the Church, let me remind everyone of what the Church believes.  This is the massage that the Church has proclaimed from the very beginning.
Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day.  After his resurrection, he first appeared to Peter, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than 500 people, then to his brother James, then to all the apostles, including Paul.  He is the first fruits of God's new creation, which means that the life Jesus has already experienced will later be experienced by everyone who belongs to Jesus when he returns.

Yes, I just plagiarised Paul from I Corinthians 15, but those are the words that come out of the Church's mouth.  I absolutely believe that the message Paul proclaims here, and the Church through him, makes demands on our behavior, morality, and how we understand ethics.  I do believe that this message is bound to come into dialogue with political agendas, but the words of the Church are Jesus, Jesus crucified, Jesus raised, and Jesus returning.  Any time a politician uses rhetoric to suggest that the Church says "X" about abortion or "Y" about marriage or "Z" about some other hot topic and never mentions Jesus crucified, raised, and returning...well, they aren't speaking on behalf of the Church or using the Church's language.  The individuals and communities that compose the Church are incredibly diverse.  Some are pro-life.  Some are pro-choice.  Some are pro-LBGT, some not.  Any time politicians use language that oversimplifies that diversity, they are not speaking on behalf of the Church; they are speaking in spite of her.

On to my second frustration...It not only frustrates me when politicians try to make the Church say things she doesn't.  It also frustrates me when they appeal to their constituents as a Christians but then replace Jesus with something else.  I'm specifically thinking of a phrase Gov. Romney used in his closing arguments after the foreign policy debate.  (Please don't misread what I'm about to say.  I'm not suggesting you shouldn't vote for Gov. Romney if that is what you want to do.  I am also not saying that Gov. Romney is an evil man for using this phrase.)  In closing he said, "This nation is the hope of the world."  If he wants to believe that personally, fine and dandy with me.  However, this rhetoric should deeply unsettle Christians because that is not at all what we believe.  America has good to offer, without a doubt, but it succumbs to greed, injustice, and the fear of death just like any other nation.  America will never break the cycle of fallen-ness and set the world free, not just because it can't but because Jesus has already broken the cycle on the cross.  Jesus is the hope of the world, period.

And finally, my last frustration.  This ad represents a trend that infuriates me.


Stop using hell to scare people into voting for a specific political agenda!  Seriously...this ad is just nuts.  "Your vote...will be recorded in eternity."  Barf...forgive the juvenile sarcasm, but come on.  There's something else that might be recorded in eternity, scaring people with eternal fire if they don't vote the way you want them to.  As a Christian, the fact that this ad was made by another Christian shames me.  Christians have a hard enough time being taken seriously in this world without ridiculous ads like this.  This ad might be endorsed by Mike Huckabee, but not by me, or my congregation, or the Church.  God didn't promise eternal life through a pro-life, same sex marriage, anti-Obama administration insurance law agenda.  God promises eternal life through the Son.  Someday I hope to look back on ads like this and laugh.  For now, I'll just try to ignore it and do damage control in my community.

Luckily the election is right around the corner, and this will all settle down again after time.  I look forward the upcoming three-year hiatus from the insanity.  In the mean time, speaking to the Church and the Christians who make it the beautiful (if faulty) thing she is, remember who we are.  Remember what we believe and remember our message.  The powers that think themselves important in this world will all come to an end.  Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords is eternal.