The Pope recently produced an encyclical (think of a sermon on steriods) about global warming. In it, he (sorry women, no female popes allowed) condemned global warming, insisting that the wealthy are destroying the planet while it’s the poor who suffer most from it. This touched a nerve with some conservative politicians who are running for president. One in particular, whose name I will not reveal but whose initials are Jeb Bush, said publicly that religion needs to make us better persons but also needs to stay out of politics. It just so happens that this is the same guy who, like almost all other conservative presidential candidates, makes a concerted effort to court the conservative Christian community in order to get their votes. Mr. Bush, and any others who agree there’s no place for religion in politics, cannot have it both ways. We have a word for that, and that word is “hypocritical”. If a politician makes appeals to people of faith in order to get their vote, how can he turn around and say that religion needs to stay out of politics?
If religion is needed anywhere, it’s needed in politics. To be certain, religion is needed everywhere. In fact, our religious faith as Christians needs to reflect the biblical witness itself, as well as the teachings of the Christ. To be a Christian is to see the world, and all things in it, through the eyes of faith. The economy? Scripture is full of condemnation for the wealthy, and cries out for justice for the poor. The environment? Scripture tells us we are to be caretakers of God’s creation, and heating up the planet for financial gain doesn’t resonate with that teaching. Violence? Christ tells us to find ways to be peacemakers and to live together non-violently. I take this to mean that the answer to gun violence in this country is not more guns, even though the murders inside the church in South Carolina will bring forth cries that more guns in “good hands” will stop killers dead in their tracks.
Destroying the planet, arming our citizens, and insulating the wealthy from responsibility are not the hallmarks of what it means to be a Christian. These things are part of the sickness of a society that views its faith through political eyes, which is tantamount to hitching the horse to the back end of the wagon and then wondering why the wagon is out of control.
As we struggle with the hard issues of life, we need to first ask ourselves how the answers we come up with honors, or dishonors, the teachings of the Christ and the biblical witness itself, both of which ought never to be secondary, but must be primary.
Good ole Jeb’s got it backwards.