Thursday, April 26, 2007

No King

The Religion News Service has released a report on the nation's Christian leaders who are most influential in political (or at least, Republican) circles. These have been characterized as "kingmakers" for the GOP, a label that may be accurate in one sense, though it isnot one that I am very comfortable with.

According to Doug Huntington's story in The Christian Post, these included:
  • Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family
  • Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
  • Rev. Rod Parsley, pastor of World Harvest Church in Ohio
  • Michael Farris of Homeschool Legal Defense Association (Farris also a pastor as well as chancellor of Patrick Henry College)
  • Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network
  • Rev. Don Wildmon of the American Family Association (AFA)
  • Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC)
  • Steve Scheffler of the Iowa Christian Alliance
  • Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice
  • Tamara Scott, leader of the Iowa chapter of Concerned Women for America
There is a pattern in this list which underlines one of my concerns about the "kingmaker" aspect. Though there are several men whom I know are entitled to be called "Reverend" -- and note that title is never mentioned in the Christian Post article -- only one, Parsley, is predominantly known for his role as a pastor.

I am totally in favor of outspoken Christians working in the political process, because I am convinced that the teachings of Christ and His apostles is relevant to every aspect of our lives. Politics is simply part of living within a diverse community, as we do, and Christianity has much to say about that relationship. For that matter, so do other religions and philosophies, and I don't mind the debate seeking a ground of commonality when it comes to social questions. This is not to say that all beliefs are equally true or valid, but there is significant overlap on many of the earthly questions; we can all agree that the innocent should be protected, that honesty should be a hallmark of our interactions, that murder, theft, and rape are criminal acts.

The ethic of politics and citizenship need to be preached from the pulpit, though, as well as broadcast in the programs and publications of the organizations that are represented. I am similarly convinced that ministries like Promise Keepers, Focus on the Family, the Institute for Basic Life Principles, and others that are occasionally decried as "parachurch" groups would not exist and thrive if the conventional church got around to addressing some of these particular needs within the church and society. As it stands, they can coexist and minister together, but we need more pastors speaking out about current issues, and challenging our response to them beyond comfortable, and predictable, platitudes and applause lines.

Make that, "Amen" lines.

As a second point, I am uncomfortable with the apparent ease of this report assigning the role of political broker in the name of Christ to these men and women. I'm glad they're involved, and I expect most of the "Top 10" don't see themselves this way, but the label carries way more of politics than of piety. For the Christian in America, there is no king but Jesus, and no kingmakers are even possible. As for the political class, all of them are simply ministers, but since we get a hand choosing them, we need to elect wisely. And if there are Christian leaders who have godly counsel to share, let them.


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