In Theory: Religious right, heal thyself
It is very risky for any group to set itself up as the absolute authority of the word and the will of God. Jesus himself traveled with prostitutes, and ate at the home of sinners. Time and time again it was people from outside of his tradition that Jesus held up as those who did the greatest good. In Jesus’ very presence were not all welcome? When a group of theologians defines itself as sitting in judgment of other Christians, are they themselves even really authentically Christians?
Our denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), is pursuing words and ways of actively welcoming people from differing racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Further, our denomination doesn’t say that everybody has to come together and believe one absolute creedal statement; it says that everyone is welcome around God’s table. Our general minister and president, the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, spoke at President Obama’s inaugural prayer breakfast in 2008 and essentially brought that message.
Every day, Americans are watching with some breathlessness as our nation and our world so rapidly change. But we cannot deny the fact that it is changing. People from everywhere are demanding to be heard. Just this month the Church of England denied the seating of woman bishops, even as Queen Elizabeth II is still hailed as the head of the church. What a disconnect! Really?
People who don’t look like us live next door to us. Our children and our friends love people that we never imagined they would love. They are all people, all worthy of God’s love. As international theologians such as Dr. James H. Cone, Dr. Paolo Freire, Dr. Soong-Chan-Rah, and so many others too numerous to mention have reflected: the oppressed read the same Bible, looking for words of hope, as do the oppressors.
I think that as both political parties reflect on the gains and the losses from the 2012 election, any group of people who have set themselves up to decide who is included in the family of God, and who is excluded from the family of God do more than risk being marginalized. They marginalize themselves.
The Rev. Dr. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel
Three synonyms were used in today's question: Christian conservatives, religious right and evangelical Christians. Before I accede our “biggest loser” status, I'd like to point something out about our group and how the terms identifying us fit into the conversation.
As Christian conservatives we view our task in life as one that conserves Christian values. Like any conservationists, our people serve as ethical stewards protecting and preserving a cultural heritage, that being the biblical values that God has made clear in his word.
As evangelicals, the name simply points to the evangel (aka, gospel or good-news/message of salvation). Salvation in Christianity is a matter of people turning from their baser, sinful inclinations, and embracing the expressed will of God. Having done so, they're saved from judgment and begin a positive relationship with God. Oh yes, everyone has a relationship to God, it's just not generally good.
Then there's the religious right identifier, and that's more politically charged since it's comprised of voters who are polar opposite of the political left-wing. We hold tenaciously to the perpetual relevance of biblical scripture, and we feel obliged to vote according to how it informs truly “good” society. We could do no other. I'd say the left molds the Bible to fit its values rather than the contrary.
But the thing about the group to which all these appellations apply is that we're not essentially political. Saying we're “losers” is like making fun of the firemen when a larger mob deliberately torches a building to the ground. We maintain divine values even when citizens vote them out, and we'll side with whatever political party helps to more closely reflect the “good.” We'll do what we can, but as this time of the year always reminds us, we evangelical, conservative, right-wing Christians are merely “pilgrims” passing through (Heb 11:13 KJV).
The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church