If I was to say to you that I have a problem with political viewpoints being dictated at church by pastors (which I do), what comes to your mind right away? For me – the first thing that pops into my mind (still) is a person like Pat Robertson or some other radical hard right sort of character. Whatever person comes to mind – that’s not really my point. What matters is the perception of what political agenda we automatically assume the pastor is pushing.
The overarching point is, before I become philosophically conservative (or more realistically, before I understood conservative philosophy), I held this perception that most conservatives voted conservative, simply because they were sort of led to in church. The funny thing was that, this line of thinking held no truth in my own personal experience. I was attending a fairly conservative Baptist church, and I had never heard an unbalanced (or super conservative) viewpoint being expressed by the pastor. The problem here was my perception.
At the time – I would say that I was apolitical and pretty much uninterested in the subject. Still, I had somehow obtained a bias (call it a political bias or stereotype) that politics in church were always of the hard right. The question is, where would I learn such a perception without actively seeking out political positions. The answer is of course, the media. The media in this country (TV, Hollywood, The New York Times, etc), as a whole, are liberally biased (I wouldn’t have a problem with this except that they explicitly claim not to be). (This is where someone will always point out how far right they think Fox News is. Ok, let’s say they are slant right, but have you ever thought that maybe they aren’t as right as you perceive them – especially when you have NBC, ABC, CNN, PBS, CBS, and every Hollywood film you’ve seen in the last 20 years all slanting the other direction?). The more I learned about actual conservative philosophy, the more I realized how blatantly mischaracterized conservative ideas where in the media. In fact, I would bet that what most people think about conservative ideas – and what those ideas are, are totally different things.
Either way, back to the our perception as it regards to pastors biases. This discussion is a great tee-up for this clip of Obama’s old pastor Jeremiah Wright (click the image to watch):
Also, please check out one of their church bulletins. (page 9 and 10 at least.)
So, back to our perceptions. Even Don Miller’s book – Blue Like Jazz, seemed to be subtly asserting the idea that political preaching is a problem only held with the “religious right.” I am not trying to say that it doesn’t happen on the right. However, now that I actually understand conservative philosophy (which took some effort on my part), I am certain that the idea that only right wing ideas are preached in church, is false. This is a stereotype and it needs to end.
Also, Where this political preaching is going on, on both sides of the isle – it is dangerous and I think it is does a great disservice to the cause of Christ. When pastors preach political points from the pulpit – it greatly harms people’s (non-Christian’s) perception of what church is all about. Church is a place to discuss and learn Biblical understanding – not to be told how to vote. People should be encouraged to make up their own minds on political issues, based on the values that they learn about in church.
Perceptions are a very hard thing to change though – so I’m not really holding my breath here.
UPDATE: Just found this article by Peter Wehner that relates (probably far more eloquently) to what I am getting at here.
For the last quarter-century, the MSM has focused almost all of its coverage on faith on the religious Right. One of the consequences of all the attention being given to the hate-filled sermons by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is that it will draw attention to the religious Left in America.
It strikes me that the religious Left commits some of the same fundamental errors as the religious Right did during its heyday: too closely associating Christianity with politics; implying that a proper reading of the Bible will easily translate into a partisan agenda; tending to belittle and demonize political opponents. Both Pat Robertson’s and Jim Wallis’s willingness to vulgarize their Christian faith in order to advance their political agendas has been problematic for both sides.
But where the religious Left has set itself apart is in its stand on political issues. It was wrong, profoundly wrong, in its views on the nature and threat of Soviet communism; on its enchantment with “liberation theology” and Marxist dictators like Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega; in its unmitigated hostility toward capitalism; in its one-sided criticisms of Israel; in its opposition to welfare reform. The list goes on. And as Reverend Wright has reminded us, there is a very deep, almost bottomless, hatred for America that runs through the hard Left and among some on the religious Left.
For decades, all the media glare has been on the short-comings of the Robertsons and Falwells. Fair enough: they are deeply flawed figures. But it’s long past time to concentrate attention on the words and mindset of those on the hard religious Left–people who attempt to pretty up the noxious views of Ward Churchill and Noam Chomsky in the garb of religious faith and “social justice.”
If Jeremiah Wright’s ugly sermons highlight for Americans what the Left is preaching from its pulpits–and what they need to be held accountable for–that will be all to the good.