Politics and the Pulpit

Preachers are making news this week. Bishop Michael Curry set the royal wedding abuzz with his animated, uplifting sermon about the transformative power of love. And longtime Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson lost his post at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary after delivering one too many sermons urging wives to stay with abusive husbands.

Tonight, religious leaders including Bishop Curry will hold a candlelight vigil at the White House. The vigil is part of a movement to “reclaim Jesus” by rejecting racism, white supremacy, sexual abuse, misogyny, and more. This statement, signed by about two dozen faith leaders from various denominations, condemns the mistreatment of immigrants, refugees, and the poor. It calls out the hypocrisy of denying health care to people who need it. It declares sexism a sin. Most interesting, in my opinion, is this declaration:

THEREFORE, WE REJECT the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life. Politicians, like the rest of us, are human, fallible, sinful, and mortal. But when public lying becomes so persistent that it deliberately tries to change facts for ideological, political, or personal gain, the public accountability to truth is undermined. The regular purveying of falsehoods and consistent lying by the nation’s highest leaders can change the moral expectations within a culture, the accountability for a civil society, and even the behavior of families and children. The normalization of lying presents a profound moral danger to the fabric of society. In the face of lies that bring darkness, Jesus is our truth and our light.

There’s no question who they are referencing here. They don’t use the term “alternative facts,” but they could have.

The one good thing about this terrible moment in our nation’s political history is that it serves as a kind of lie detector for people’s beliefs. It has confirmed that some Christians are more interested in building up their earthly treasures than in feeding the hungry, healing the sick, or sheltering the poor. We see that many in the “moral majority” will happily join hands with the devil if the devil can deliver a few judgeships. To be fair, so will people across the political spectrum. Before this president duped Republicans into voting for him, plenty of Democrats took his dirty money.

Now, I’m not a big fan of dragging Jesus into politics nor politics into the church, but the camel’s head is in the tent. We’ve allowed politics at the pulpit for decades, despite a supposed prohibition on candidate endorsements from churches and other non-profit organizations. Religion and politics are much too cozy in America.

When this mess is done, there should be no more talk of a moral majority. Religion has nothing to do with morality. It never did. Christianity gives us men like Bishop Curry and men like Paige Patterson in equal measure. You cannot judge a man by where he sits on Sunday morning, but you can judge a man by his actions. If we can’t get religion out of politics, I am heartened to see some Christian leaders taking action against the president’s divisive, immoral policies. It’s past time for such a reckoning. I hope it’s not too late.

Tiffany Quay Tyson
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Tiffany Quay Tyson