The inability to recognize when two concepts oppose each other, or when one belief damages or discredits another. They miss it every time, and so does the media (with rare exceptions).
Case in point: This past week’s brouhaha about Pastor Wright. He hasn’t said anything the “left wing” (I put this in quotes because it’s the very reason I hate politics: everything must be dealt with in labels and stereotypes) hasn’t been saying for years. He’s just repeating common mistakes.
#1. “We’ve been biting our tongues because we don’t want to offend our Jewish friends and our Muslim friends. The new movement is toward not being afraid to talk about your faith. But you should also stop thinking you have absolute truth — that your faith is the only one.” (interviewed on Spiegel Online International)
Textbook definition of pantheism: “Stop thinking you have the absolute truth — that your faith is the only one.” If you are Christian, Muslim or Jewish, your holy writings require you to believe your faith is the only true faith. Deny this and you deny your faith.
The “liberals” in my own denomination would answer, “well that’s not how I believe it.” NEWSFLASH: You don’t get to vote on this! God’s kingdom is not a democracy. You either believe what God says or you don’t.
That said, if what Pastor Wright means is that we need to be aware of the beliefs of other faiths and learn to live peaceably with people who believe differently, then I agree with him. He just needs to find some other way to express the concept than “stop thinking you have the absolute truth.”
#2. “SPIEGEL: Can you be a good Christian and be pro-choice?
Wright: Both. You can be a good Christian and be pro-life. You can be a good Christian and be pro-choice.”
True. You can be a good Christian and be mistaken, you can be a good Christian and waffle on an issue or two, you can even be a good Christian and defend the right of a non-Christian to an abortion. But the Christian scriptures are clear in their teaching that abortion is the ending of a human life. As such we must acknowledge what we are talking about is a matter of life and death. Equivocate all you like, that’s what the book says. Under what circumstances it is appropriate to end someone else’s life?
#3. “SPIEGEL: Can you as a pastor help move voters from the right side of the political spectrum back to the left?
Wright: First of all, not that many people are church goers. But that’s America in general. That said, historically, the black church it has been the political force… A clergy person needs to be aware of that and needs to keep in mind the clergy’s role in changing the public life for the betterment of all… How do we treat the most vulnerable in this society? What are we doing for our old people? What are we doing for our kids? What are we doing for our poor? The clergy need to put those questions on voters’ minds.”
Wright is making the same mistake pastors on the “religious right” have been making for decades. The calling of the pastor is to introduce people to God, preach God’s word, and tend to the needs of the individuals in his or her care with kindness and compassion. Do anything else and all you’re doing is fleecing the flock.
Teach people to read the scriptures and they will figure out for themselves how to vote. Top-down “Theory X” management is not how Jesus led. Stop dictating your politics to the rest of us. It’s BECAUSE people get this stuff shoved down their throats that they’ve stopped going to church. They haven’t stopped going because they don’t want to know about God… they’ve stopped going because they do. That’s why so many churches are dying — because people aren’t finding God there.
Denial, as they say, isn’t just a river in Egypt.