Politics and Religion
I don’t know where I came across the link, but I recently saw a December 28th piece on the American Thinker where a formerly secular Jewish woman, searching for God in various houses of worship, found only political indoctrination of the progressive sort. On Christmas eve she saw a website from an Episcopal parish that appeared to be focused on religion, not politics. She called the church and left a voice mail message inquiring about the services, commenting that she wanted a church without a political agenda. She received a reply: “I don’t think you should check us out.”
Sad to say, I am not shocked by this. Several years back I was visiting an Episcopal cathedral in the Midwest and had a pleasant worship experience. The service was Anglo-Catholic and fairly orthodox, the sermon was from the Scripture reading and did a solid job of exposition. After the service some of the congregation came up to great the “newcomers” and ask about what brought us to church that day. I told them we were taking a little weekend trip and had previously visited the cathedral. I was then asked about our home parish. I hesitated, but told them the full name: Saint Andrew’s. . .Anglican. . .Reformed Episcopal. There was silence. Icy looks, a pause, and then one parishioner angrily asked me: “What made you think you’d be welcome here?”
I was flabbergasted, dumbfounded, speechless. I had worshiped in Episcopal churches for most of my adult life and I had welcomed numerous visitors as a member of the congregation. I would never have thought of uttering those words to anyone. If someone were an atheist and told me as much I would have welcomed them warmly. However, over the years what the woman in her essay describes is what I’d come to expect. Politics confused with religion, the Stations of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals replacing the Stations of the Cross, inserts in the bulletin about the evils of plastic (or paper), sermons with analogies and comparisons made between Christ and revolutionary political figures. All I wanted to do in an Episcopal church was pray the liturgy and hear the Gospel. I didn't (and don’t) care if the priest is a Democrat, Republican, Green, or Socialist. However, far too many rectors have been far too eager to tell me, and pat me on the head like a child if a voiced a disagreement.
I am a liberal and a humanist. . .circa 1920 or so. I am open minded, but as Chesterton rightly noted: “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” I do believe there are truths that the Christian religion teaches that, if they were changed, would change the essence of the Catholic Faith and make it meaningless, devoid of content. In discussions of Christianity I will not move on these issues, almost all of them taught quite explicitly in the Bible, the Creeds, and the Book of Common Prayer. However, it is wrong to equate the political agenda of one party or system with Christianity. I am fairly libertarian in my political leanings, but if we were in a truly Christian realm (where state and Church were systematically linked) I could perhaps see myself espousing the Christian socialism of Archbishop Temple. However, in a representative Republic that guarantees “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” to all, confusing a political party with the teachings of Christ is an error, one that is made on the left and the right. The mainline Episcopal Church (and many other mainline bodies) have done that writ large. They have replaced the Faith of the Gospel with the platform of European secularism, and it appears to be killing them.