Monday, September 03, 2007

Preaching Up a Storm

Recently, Senator Barack Obama preached up a storm of controversy preaching about a storm from a church pulpit in New Orleans. Part of the attack can be dismissed as a disingenuous double standard from Republicans who have not objected in the past when members of their party followed the campaign trail to churches on Sunday mornings. But another part of the attack was theological. Some Evangelicals objected to Obama's use of Jesus' metaphor of building a house on a rock. They insist that the only genuine understanding of the rock is to see it as Jesus himself and/or his teachings. Obama used this image to imply that the government's response to Katrina provided a foundation of sand, not rock. He told the congregation that their response following the storm of taking in those who lost homes was the true rock.

Two years ago, President Bush used a different biblical image to offer hope to the Gulf Coast. He spoke of how God once provided an ark to save people from a flood and that God never leaves anyone totally abandoned. He conveniently neglected the part of the story that the flood came as God's judgment of the people, but there was no similar outcry at that time about his incomplete use of scripture.

Faith and scripture should be employed in the service of inspiring hope. Both of these politicians did just that. Obama told the church, the Body of Christ, that by doing Christ's work they were building a foundation of rock. Bush told the suffering that God was their last refuge, their best hope. Appeals like these to Christian charity are a much better use of religious language than, for example, the divisive, even sometimes hateful, campaign to deny equal marriage rights to homosexuals.

Two years ago, standing in a deserted New Orleans addressing the people of America, Bush had the opportunity to appeal to the demands of faith to rise up and meet the need. He didn't ask us to roll up our sleeves, instead promising government assistance. Now we see that he failed to deliver on his promises. Obama has yet to be tested on this issue and may likewise fail to deliver, but at least he understands that the power of faith lies in the action that accompanies it.

Mixing religion and politics must only be done with great care. It is much too easy to fall into the self-serving justification of “God is on our side.” Religious language also has the power to become code to indicate who is in and who is out. But throwing faith out of the public square would silence the prophetic voice that speaks truth to power. As a person of faith, I am compelled not just to care about, but to work for the common good. As a religious leader, I call on all people of faith to join their voices in public debate and not just “talk the talk” but also “walk the walk.”


David J said...

I really liked this post. It has a familiar ring to it ;->

Rick said...

Mr. Lynch, please excuse me contact you this way but I was unable to find an email address.

The gracious and generous Almighty does work in mysterious ways. As a blogger at Jesus was a Liberal, my total hits does not yet achieve the minimum number of daily readers at OpEd News. Recently my articles at OpEd News have earned top story/headline status at Google News, the industry standard. As editor of spirituality and politics at OpEd News, I would like to share the same opportunity with you by inviting you to submit timely and articulately accessible articles available for online viewing to around 30,000 or more readers a day at OpEd with over a million readers a month. Around 400,000 of them are new readers. Millions more can see your headline at Google News. As the Creator has freely shared with me, if you like I will do my best to help your articles be widely read and earn top rankings at Google News. Relax. This isn't some scheme to get your money. This is a plan to get progressive spiritual voices widely read and spread.

We have a wonderful opportunity at OpEd news to establish a vibrant voice of progressive spirituality through the practice of writing. OpEd offers opportunities for multi-media, including audio and video. You will be able to provide biographical information and a link to your website. Feel free to also publish your piece at your blog.

As an editor, I believe that you have something to say and that you can say it well. I'm looking for pieces that are substantiated with more than pride and prejudice. While reason most certainly matters, compassion is crucial. Evidence is essential. Humor helps. Perspective is always precious. As an editor, I want us to bring some genuine loving/healing/help instead of the already rampant hate and venting too easily found in the media.

My prayer is that you bring a lot with your writing and actions. You can help make real on earth as in heaven. Let's no longer complain about not having a voice in the media. Indeed, my friends, we have been granted the opportunity to be a major voice in the media, at least on the internet. May we speak progressive voices of peace, love and justice loud and clear from the rooftops and out in the daylight.

I gratefully await your response,

Richard Mathis

David J said...

I say you take Rick up on his offer. And if you become famous, I'd appreciate you remembering the little guywho encouraged you to enter the fray! ;-). Actually if you do become famous (or infamous), I wouldn't mind carrying your water! Wow, God does move in mysterious ways.

Mystical Seeker said...

Can you speak truth to power if you are seeking to acquire power yourself? To me, faith belongs in the role of an independent witness to the prophetic vision of justice. To be a part of the machinations of power would contradict that prophetic witness, in my view. That is why I think that progressive religion works best when it acts as an independent voice of conscience that seeks to pressure the ruling elites from the outside. As soon as you become part of the ruling elite, you have made a bargain with the Empire.

David J said...

Yes, but that independent voice needs to be heard!

Culture Dove said...

The issue of mixing religion and politics definitely deserves more attention. The independent prophetic voice speaking truth to power surely needs to be raised. And I don't support the idea of joining the ruling elite, but what level of participation makes sense? I'm not suggesting that I have answers, just that this is a topic worth pursuing.

Anonymous said...

I think, that you are not right. I can defend the position.