Thursday, August 03, 2017

Sermon on God and Politics

I went to a politicans forum here organized by the young democrats and young republicans and listened to 16 politicians, dems and repubs, men and women, for offices ranging from city councilmen to US representatives,  and all of these people except one began and ended their debates/speeches with a statement about how God had told them to pursue this office for the greater good of mankind.
Two of these guys, in fact, were ministers.  One was a democrat-episcopalian, and the other a republican-baptist. 
What they probably all are is bad readers.  I can't see how you can read the New Testament and walk away thinking that Jesus wants you to go into politics, or for that matter, thinking that Jesus wants you to join a church. 
I read a book called What Jesus Meant by Garry Wills--and his take on all of this (and he's a catholic) is that there is almost nothing in the NT (at least in the 4 gospels) that would have you honestly joining a church.  And I've read bible scholars who have pretty much said the same thing (Elaine Pagels/Karen Armstrong).  If Jesus wants you to do anything, he wants you to be good and help people.  See the Sermon on the Mount.  You don't need a church for that.  If anything, a church gets in the way, and also sets up a structure that is more about structure and power and politics and maintaining power than it is about anything that has to do with the soul.
I was brought up a catholic and I look back on the things I was taught and it's amazing how little of it came from the teachings of Jesus.  If jesus is point A, and the catholic church or any church is point Z, I don't think you can explain by either reason or faith how the one led to the other. 
Jesus says in the sermon on the mount, as plain as plain can be: if they strike you in the face, turn the other cheek. 
I don't think any of these preachers or politicians is advocating that.  In fact, I think what all of them are advocating is a rejection of Jesus's teachings and an acceptance of a sort of vision of the marriage of politics and religion that you get in the old testament.  America as a sort of israel, a warrior state with a god who's angry at other nations. 
One of the preacher/politicans at this political forum said something very interesting.  He said that where there is faith there is no need for fear.  I thought: that's wisdom.  I don't think Jesus ever teaches fear.  And those politicians and preachers (what bruce springsteen in one song calls "those soul sucking preachers) who get you worked up with fear to be afraid of other people and other countries are probably doing the devil's work.
End of sermon.

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