Church and Politics

I was deeply saddened to hear that churches may soon be able to endorse political candidates and keep their tax exempt status. In 1954 the Johnson Amendment prohibited such actions. It is, and remains for now a statute that preserves the separation of church and state. While the argument for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment is freedom of religion, the greater concern is the groups that really benefit are Evangelicals and Conservative Christians. While, on the one hand, it seems a sound argument to allow such actions, the unintended consequences could be the undoing of church as we have known it. How so? The last time I checked the general health of churches the results were grim. Recent polling suggests that most people see Christians as the problem with what's happening in our country. Most people, while saying they are Christian, do not attend, or support a church. The top three words millennials use to describe Christians are hypocritical, judgmental and too political.

Given this, the question I wrestle with is, "What does it mean to be a Christian in this day, at this time?" So I turn to scriptures, our rule of faith. The answer is surprisingly clear. Jesus challenged the religious leadership of his day because they had colluded with the political powers in order to oppress and exploit people for their own gain.

And for that these religious leaders had him killed.

Have religious leaders today killed Jesus again? I don't know the answer to that, but I see mounting evidence that says, "Maybe."

Case and point. Last week congress passed a health care bill. It replaces the current Affordable Care Act. Those who crafted the bill are self-professed Christians. One of the things the bill does is defund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has been under assault by the Christian Right since the 80's. The reason? Abortion.

I have to admit I am pro-life. I am also pro-choice. I mean, who isn't pro life? And who doesn't want to be able to make their own choices about how to live, where to live, who to love?

Whether you agree or not, the Bible says very little about abortion, but when it does it allows it. (Numbers, chapter 5) The Bible is also very clear about when life begins. Genesis 2 and Ezekiel 37 both say it is when we "breathe." It is "breath" that determines life. Unless, or course, you disagree with the Bible.

The ironic thing is, when you look at what Planned Parenthood does you discover that it actually helps prevent abortions. When health care facilities such as Planned Parenthood are readily available, the number of abortions actually goes down. That's because Planned Parenthood offers sex education, and affordable birth control.

It also provides free health care for women, 70% of whom are at or below the federal poverty level. Over 95% of their work has nothing to do with abortion. But when an abortion is the choice a woman makes, a choice made through careful consideration, and centered in their own faith understanding, doesn't it make sense that they get the best care possible?

Or do we demonize them? Based on our religious beliefs that we so want to protect, while denying that same right to those with whom we disagree?

I guess there will be a time when I can stand in the pulpit and tell people how they should think, act, behave, and who to vote for. The thought actually sickens me. The first rule of my Methodist faith is, "Do no harm." The second is, "Do all the good you can." The third is "Stay in love with God."

I think I'm going to stick with that.