Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A politically incorrect rant

Catez at Allthings2all has some thoughts on evangelical Christianity's own version of political correctness:

I have been thinking about the cognitive dissonance that occurs when matters of faith are manipulated to suit political ideology. It's a type of Christian political correctness that compromises faith because we do not want to critique the political ideology we subscribe to... I'm looking to hold my conscience right with the Image Maker. That's what matters most to me.

This is a valid point, and one that needs to be made a lot because we don't all understand it. But what struck me more about Catez's post was what led up to it: a months-long struggle with pressure to not say certain things so as not to be on the "wrong" side of a political issue.

I understand what she is saying because I see it too. Western, evangelical Christianity has become too closely connected to specific policies, positions and political parties. This is not to say that Christians shouldn't use their moral voice in the voting booth, but to an extent we've allowed the life-changing good news of Jesus to be traded for a mess of voter guides, sound bites and political positions. I also think that particular issues are placed on the front burner for us by political operatives who would be just as happy to use anti-Christian groups if it suited their purpose. Here in America, evangelicals have for the most part placed their hopes in the Republican Party. Well, now the Republicans hold the White House and Congress, and aside from a more aggressive foreign policy it's status quo all the way. Yet they still have the evangelical church chasing its tail over same-sex marriage or judicial appointments (even while announcing they will not investigate law-flouting activist judges). I don't know what is the worse insult to our collective intelligence: that they blame the Democrats for all of this or that we might actually buy it. Or perhaps we don't buy it but don't really care either, since the only option (since only two parties are allowed to be heard on the airwaves) is for the Democrats to win, which would mean a rapid spiral into full-blown socialism and summary scrapping of the Constitution, or what's left of it. We keep supporting the Republicans and fighting for what we're told are the imprtant issues of the day, somehow hoping that things will turn out differently this time. Didn't someone define insanity that way?

It's not just Karl Rove pulling the strings. Evangelicals have, to an extent, disregarded the biblical model of church leadership. The folks in the pews --and not a few pastors-- are marching to the drum beat of parachurch ministries and talking heads on Christian radio and TV. Where do these people get such authority? Who are they accountable to? Yet they carry a lot of weight and set the agenda. We oppose gay marriage because we hear about it every day and hear how the sky will fall if it happens. We don't give much thought to opposing divorce because the talking heads don't talk about it. Or maybe it's because the people who do that are within our ranks.

It's been said that rat poison is 95% good grain; it's the other 5% that is deadly. I don't want to call Christian radio rat poison; I don't regard it as a deliberate attempt to mislead us. I was a DJ on Christian radio for a few years, so I know that's not the case. But I do believe that along with the good music and beneficial teaching that there is some poison that accompanies it. A lot of that poison is demagoguery and invitations to put our trust in political leaders, in mortal men who cannot save (cf. Psalm 146:3). We hear unbiblical, demagogic teaching whenever we are told that a particular group of people are a dangerous enemy that we need to defeat (see Ephesians 6:12), whether they are the ACLU, gay activists, activist judges or anyone else. Sure, these folks are wrong. That's why they need God. But how will they come to know Him if His people are too busy arguing politics to talk about anything else? How are we going to show God's love to those whom we are told are the new barbarians kicking down the gates of Western Civilization?

I don't hardly listen to Christian radio these days, in part because I don't want to hear about homosexuality half a dozen times every day. (If this statement doesn't strike you as incredibly ironic, think about it for a minute.) I know what it's like to be the target of both subtle and outlandish attacks from ignorant Christians whose zeal for their pet cause far exceeds their biblical literacy, because I had the temerity to express disagreement with that cause. But it's a fair price to pay for keeping my eye on the prize rather than being led into the ditch by myopic, tunnel-visioned people who think that certitude is next to godliness. This life is too short to waste by letting ourselves be led around by those who have stopped thinking a long time ago, or who have become --to borrow Steve Taylor's phrase-- deaf from the din of their self-righteous battle.

Lay Christians and pastors, let's turn off the demagogues and return to the old paths of self-denial and humility. And let's not fear to speak the truth in love: all of it.