Why Christian faith belongs in politics | VailDaily.com

Why Christian faith belongs in politics

Jack Van Ens

Barbara Brown Taylor has probably ghost written more sermons than any other preacher living. Her poetic style riveting biblical truth to contemporary events woos clergy to borrow generously from her books of sermons and palm them off as their original insights. Next to Jesus, Barbara Brown Taylor ranks as savior for preachers whose wells of inspiration have dried up. People in the pew might not recognize her. Her clergy fans are ever grateful for this Episcopalian cleric who left parish ministry to teach at Piedmont College and the Presbyterian Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia.Barbara writes memorable prose and speaks effectively from the pulpit. A few months ago I heard her relate why she left the parish for working with college and seminary students. She said, like Pilate of old, she washed her hands of denominational fights. She got sick of the bickering. A deeper reason, she admitted, goaded her to leave her local church. She learned early on in ministry that a wise preacher in pulpit ministry rarely mentions what the Bible teaches. He ducks getting parishioners’ hackles up. They fire preachers who dare preach the whole Word of God, said Barbara Brown Taylor.She could not be silent any longer about what the Bible really declares. It makes very clear that the Christian faith intersects politics. What Christians believe can not be isolated from what’s happening in the public square. Personal faith and public expression go hand-in-hand.Wise clergy who want to keep their pulpits rarely build this bridge between politics and personal faith. It makes worshippers uneasy. They get their dander up. The most heated frequent criticism I receive about my writing is that I mix politics with faith. That’s meddling, claim Christians who don’t want to hear at Christmas about the Iraqi War.Why Christian faith belongs in politics has strong biblical support and is vitally necessary. Then Christians may work toward transforming evil into good in this world.Biblical prophets thundered just declarations amid angry political fights. Old Testament teacher Walter Brueggemann reminds us why a prophetic call for justice raises a ruckus. “Justice is to sort out what belongs to whom, and to return it to them,” Brueggemann writes in crisply defining biblical justice. Justice demands changes in power among us.Moses marched up to Pharaoh, never backing down from his stern demand to let God’s people go. Freedom does not tolerate shackles. The prophet Nathan stormed into King David’s Court and dressed down the king, telling him that his lust for Bathsheba made him murder her husband, the front-line soldier Uriah. Elijah often lost his prophetic cool, castigating Jezebel and Ahab for filching from poor Naboth his precious land. What irked King Herod during the first Christmas was his belief that God had made a political statement costing him royal power. God plunked infant Jesus into those crossroads where religion and politics often collide. Magi traveled from afar to meet Herod, begging him to tell where the star brightly beamed over the infant King of the Jews. Herod didn’t want God messing into his politics. “When Herod the king heard this, he was deeply troubled….” (Matthew 2:3). He massacred infants to wipe out Jesus.Christian faith belongs in politics when it dares speak to life. Much life deals in messy politics. Those maintaining that their preacher is meddling when she brings faith into the public square do not realize the implications of what they declare. Those who want sermons to be above the fray, like fleecy clouds over Earth, are making a dominant, clear political statement. They opt for the status quo. They like how the political power in control stacks up. They don’t want their preacher upsetting the political apple cart in which they enjoy riding. To demand that the pulpit is no place in which to interpret what’s happening in Washington and Iraq parades definite political colors. Stay silent, preacher, so that things political stay the same.William Sloane Coffin, former preacher at Manhattan’s Riverside Church, is no stranger to rousing political agitation in Christ’s name. He offers an able defense for why faith must tackle politics in order to save the world in the name of the Savior born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ. Exhorts Coffin, “A politically committed spirituality contends against wrong without becoming wrongly contentious. It confronts national self-righteousness without personal self-righteousness. It cherishes God’s creation; it serves the poor; it is not interested in the might of a nation but in the goodness of its people.”A storm recently thrashed Denver’s City and County Building, twinkling with a myriad of colored lights announcing “Merry Christmas.” Annually, this building attracts critics who frown on the state proclaiming a Christmas message. Of course, Denver’s city government tries covering all the bases. A full Nativity scene greets holiday visitors. Santa rides alongside, red-nosed Rudolph leading a team of reindeer. In the tableau choristers belt out carols. Angels swirl around baby Jesus and Santa. A festooned Christmas tree shines. Huge candy canes whet appetites. Majestic doves fly above, suggesting this place is a Mecca where the Denver community kneels together in peace.All hell broke loose when soft-spoken Mayor John Hickenlooper suggested exchanging “Merry Christmas” in lights for “Happy Holidays.” He backed down, after incensed holiday viewers flooded his phone lines with threats, complaints and charges that Hickenlooper played the part of Herod, desiring to take Christ out of Christmas. Mayor Hickenlooper merely wanted to replace the old with the new. “I apologize to anyone who may have been offended or mistakenly felt I was being anti-Christmas,” the crestfallen mayor contritely announced. “‘Hickenlooper’ might have two Os, but I am not Scrooge.” No wonder Barbara Brown Taylor has put behind her parish ministry. Mixing faith with politics, so biblical and necessary, stirs up perfect storms that God desires and many worshippers do not. Christian faith is apt to raise political tempests. Scripture shows how Christ’s birth in Bethlehem when Caesar Augustus ruled and Quirinius was governor of Syria proved to be no picnic. God stirred up the political mix. doc: politics

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