I've been trying to make sense of the relationship of church and state. It's clear that government endorsement of religion, one or many of them, crosses the line. But what limits exist for the church?
It's certain that people of all walks of life, including those from our religious communities, ought to be involved in the political process. We need more, not less voices in this process. At the same time, politics offers a peculiar kind of peril for the church.
We've seen where that path goes such as the religious right's involvement where for the last three decades they wedded themselves to the GOP. So how does the religious left get involved in politics, staying true to our values, without running into the same problems?
I have a few ideas. But welcome more ideas and corrections to the ideas I've put forward. Because it's something I'm working on and it's in flux. I'll assume the first is that being involved in discussing ideas, not endorsing candidates and parties is best.
Which is to say, we can begin to evaluate candidates and parties by how they hold to certain values, to certain ideas instead of having the candidates and parties define for us what the good is. ie we need to be able to make an independent judgment.
The church ought to use it's voice on certain issues without over using it's voice on less central issues. That is, if we have a position on every issue under the sun, when we do speak out, there's less punch. At the same time, it can fetter the conscience of church members.
If every issue is spoken of as if we could have "the" position, it doesn't leave room for church members who disagree. Congregationalism can mitigate this but I assume being pro-choice as a Southern Baptist or supporting the war as a UU is not pleasant.
Our discernment on these issues are fallible, so seeking out the counsel of many, in the church, from those affected by the issue, from organizations which have worked on the issue, etc. is key. We need to take care that we bring forth the best when we take a stand.
And how how do we see campaigns, and candidates? Can they "bring forth the kingdom"? Or are they flawed instruments that can, at best, bring out the better. Are elections salvific? Or is that from God? A critical involvement seems needed here.
Lots of hopes have been placed on Bush by the religious right and many were disappointed. Well we see the same thing if the democrats win among the religious left? Can we not be impressed when the NCC is invited to the white house. The integrity of the church is at stake.
And the integrity for those of us who are looking for a different way at doing Christianity is also at stake. And our alliances, with those of other religions, and those of no religion who rightfully value the first amendment are also at play. Just some beginning thoughts.