Regular readers know that I am Presbyterian. Most do not know, nor care really, that I am Presbyterian Church in the United States of America – PC(USA). There are many Presbyterian denominations in the US and the world. PC(USA) is the largest in the United States. It is also the most liberal. At its last General Assembly, the highest governing body in the church, it voted, among other things, to divest from Israel for the sake of peace and to allow pastors moved by conscience to perform same-sex marriages.
I find myself in the rather unusual position of having the church I was raised in and that inculcated me with my sexual mores calling me a bigot because I believe homosexual practice is outside of God’s will. People of many different faiths read this blog. One thing we all share is the idea that what is good, typically defined by divine order, is static, not subject to whim, fashion, or even time. It is strange indeed to have gone from faithful adherent to bigoted old fart without ever changing my view. It is also rather unusual when I have visited Israel and been under rocket fire from the Gaza to be told by people that have never left the Midwestern United States that I have no understanding of peace and war and the situation in the Middle East. It is as if reality is warping around me.
The true legacy of the Mormon Moment might just be that the church was given the chance that many religious institutions desperately need to stay relevant in the 21st century: the opportunity to open itself to criticism and inquiry. The church has chosen not to. And it has killed its own moment by doing so.
Note that phrase “stay relevant,” we will return to it momentarily.
And what is the primary concern of the United Nations, nearly all the world’s media, and nearly all the world’s intellectuals? That Entity B, while hundreds of missiles are launched at its most populated cities, not kill any of the civilians among whom Entity A’s leaders hide.
The moral gulf between Israel, our Entity B, and Hamas, our Entity A, is as clear and as great as the one that existed between the Allies and Nazi Germany. It is one of the few instances in today’s world when the Nazi analogy is accurate.
It is clear that while free and democratic countries such as those in Western Europe value the freedoms of speech, assembly, and press for themselves, the absence of these freedoms among Israel’s enemies means nothing to the Europeans in morally assessing the Middle East conflict.
The news media, too, have no moral focus. They are preoccupied with Gazans who have died, and with the disparity between the number of Gazans killed and the number of Israelis killed — as if that is morally dispositive. Imagine that during World War II, the Western press had converged on German hospitals and apartment buildings and repeatedly announced the huge disparity between German civilian deaths and British civilian deaths. More than 10 times the number of German civilians were killed as were British — but did that have anything at all to do with the morality of the British war against Germany?
So if there is one thing we can learn from Glenn Beck (and subsequently Jesus) it is that we must be willing to go against the grain to stand for what we know to be right, even if it costs our job, wealth, power, position, or privilege. We must be willing to stick our necks out and seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. If we do, God will take care of everything else.
Note that Beck is going against a conservative grain here (humanitarian aid to illegal immigrant children), not a liberal one. Which raises some interesting points.
One is that Mormons seem to be standing firm more than others. And yet we were worried about Romney’s Mormon faith?! I am sorry, there is a lot of sour grapes in that – which is unbecoming, but gosh darn it – I told you so.
The second interesting point is that religious values and political values do not always align, on either side of the political spectrum. Beck is absolutely right on this one – as I wrote last week. The conservative orthodoxy regarding illegal immigration ignores the humanitarian disaster we are confronted with. Politically, governmentally, we cannot take them into the nation – on that I agree. But churches, as separate entities, should be offering all the humanitarian aid they can. To do less only harms the reputation of religious folks. It makes us look like the beasts the left wants to claim we are.
Which brings me to my third point. It is one we have made here over and over and over again. Democracy can only work with a good and moral populace. It is the job of the church to help people find that goodness and morality. Absent divinity, reality can indeed warp. Some churches seem to be abandoning divinity, the left certainly has. The question is not relevancy, it is right. Politics is an expression, not a source.
Before we can get our politics correct we have to return to our source.