A disclaimer. I am a conservative politically. Not republican per se, not libertarian per se, but Conservative both fiscally and socially.
I also have compassion for the poor, downtrodden, abused, rejected, those discriminated against, those who are not allowed in the front door. For that reason I spend a lot of time with people who I know sometimes are in that boat. I can't help steer the ship if I'm not in the boat with them.
It's a matter of choice and practice. It's not new. My whole life I have again and again inserted myself into a culture that is very different from my northern European white roots. In college during the years of civil rights struggle, I was there. Not from the outside looking in, but developing relationships that allow me to prod and poke in places most people would not dare go. Some are offended. Some angry. Most accept what I say as sincere inquiry, discussion and disagreement.
Now in the later years I am beginning to get it.
Sunday Morning I was invited by a friend to attend a catholic church of some repute. St Sabina. That's the Church led by Father Michael Pfleger. He talks about being part of the same struggle in the 1960s. He is 65 years old. He would have been 15 when I was 20. He would have been 19 when MLK was killed. I don't deny his bonifides, I did wonder a bit about his story.. A priest wouldn't make any of it up now..
The Church service was good. The praise and worship excellent. Good Praise dancers. Things were in order. It had catholic overtones. But more urban than catholic.
When I arrived at the church I was met by several white activists on the church steps. Handing out all sorts of material. The kind of thing you see and hear in more liberal circles. Cops are killing everybody, Rauner is starving people and something something something jobs - discrimination.
I took it and smiled.
When I sat down and the worship started I noted many of those people had joined the service. When people raised their hands, they stood mute. No participating. Nothing at all. Even as the service intensified there was complete passivity. They were there for political Jesus, not the King of Kings. In attendance right up at the altar were Bill Ayers and Bernadette Dorn. Friends of Barack Obama. They were applauded. Introduced by Father Pfleger.
Many radical left wing people have zero faith in God, but are expedient in their participation in events. The event was a talk that was given by Cornel West. I didn't know as much about West as I thought. Before going, I read on line a lot of what he said and wrote. I also read those who endorsed him and those who did not. I discovered that I liked him. He actually is a prophetic voice and can say things I can't say. I suspect we would have much in common if we talked very long.
After he was done speaking there was an altar call. Not for salvation. Not for repentance from dead works (of which there were plenty on display). The altar call was to lay down your life. Not for Jesus, but for "The Cause". It was at that point where Father Pfleger offered his story about getting on a bus in those days of protest and not knowing if he would come back alive. Most of the white non participating in worship white radicals went forward. It looked to the outside like a show of unity. It wasn't.
After reading and studying what he said and what I heard that was presented to a majority black congregation, I get it. He is like a lot of prophetic people. He speaks what sounds like it is what you want to hear, but beneath the surface there is a message, a spirit. Kim Clement does the same thing.. What you think you hear Kim say prophetically isn't what he said at all if you know how to hear with ears tuned to the frequency of God.
If people who were hearing his voice understood what he really saying many would be offended. I won't get into it here, but he is actually right.
I stayed for the whole thing. Left when the formal mass began being held.
NOW you probably expect me to come down on this. I won't. I can't. You see, I have seen EXACTLY the same behavior from the right. The mixture (Remember God isn't real big on mixture if you read the law) of politics and Church is a vile cocktail. Both ways.
Here's where it goes wrong, no matter the philosophy, left or right. It is in fact taking the name of the Lord in Vain. I know MLK used the pulpit. I know James Kennedy used the pulpit. I know that historically the pulpit has been a tool for political change. There is a time and place but it's not what it seems. We have been co-opted as a church from the mission we were given on earth. The real cause.
Those people in the pew, left wing or right wing are led to believe a falsehood:
- Jesus is a Republican or Democrat
- Jesus cares about political outcomes
- Jesus is in the business of righting social wrongs thru political action
- I am a good christian because I support the political viewpoint that my Reverend supports (and preaches).
- I love God and I know my Reverend loves God and he is in favor of________ therefore I am too
In other words people are persuaded to a political viewpoint because of the leadership of the church, not because they are able to articulate and defend what the leaders is propounding.
Like Ezekial I must prophesy against this activity:
Ezekial 34:2-4 Prophesy and say to those shepherds, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? 3"You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. 4"Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.…
The other problem is the sheep love to have their ears tickled.
Paul wrote this to Timothy at Ephesus:
2 Timothy 4:3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.
This goes both ways. In the left leaning church the straw men are how oppressed everyone is, how unjust everything is, how inequality is the real problem, how people are victims and there needs to be political change. People eat it up, the responsibility for personal life change is lifted from them and they wallow in a spiritual gutter victimized.
In the right leaning church, the straw men are some powerful forces that control everything, conspiracies, government is the enemy, if we could just get right leaders in place everything would be all right. People eat that up because the future is where life will get better. They believe that the nation is under a great judgement because of liberals.
I know this because I have been a proponent of these things.
My eyes were opened. I saw how vain this whole thing really is, vanity of effort that only keeps people in bondage and taking the name of the Lord in Vain.
Here's what I know for sure, God has few mandates that he is really serious about. He changes our heart of stone to a heart of flesh, and from there he expects us to be filled with the Spirit of God and respond in love.
Father knows best and that is nothing will change until peoples hearts are changed.
- Gangs and killing on the streets? Not gun control, Heart Changes
- Babies born rampantly to single moms, not more welfare support, Heart Change
- People gaming the system to live well and not work.. not rules, Heart Change
- People taking advantage of others who need work and so they don't pay them .. not minimum wage, Heart Change
- People saying racist things about others, not hate law, Heart Change
- Corruption in government, not prosecution, Heart Change
We have to get away from the idea that religious political activism is the answer.. left or right and begin to focus on heart change.
What I saw on Sunday Morning at St Sabina had nothing to do with heart change and even those who listened carefully to Cornel West didn't get what he was saying... hard hearts needing change walked away convinced he just reinforced what they already believed. He didn't.