I Wish They Wouldn’t Do That

I typically like to stay away from controversial topics and stick with arguing baseball, but I couldn’t stay away from an item in today’s news.

300 or so religious leaders, including pastors, priests, and rabbis, gathered at a church in Edina yesterday for a Pastors’ Summit to discuss gay marriage. Well, not so much for discussion, the gathering was for “prayer and political strategizing” according to today’s Star Tribune article. More from the story:

At the end of the day of presentations from leading state and national social conservatives, participants were asked to sign a five-point pledge to pray for the proposed constitutional amendment, preach on “God’s plan for marriage”, collect petitions, register voters and distribute information on the amendment effort.

I like the idea of religious leaders representing different faiths gathering together to pray. I have difficulty with the idea of a group of pastors getting together for “political strategizing” regardless of the issue involved.

I am a pastor’s kid (or PK in Christian circles). I grew up observing my parents, both of whom were, and still are very politically conscious, keep a low public profile when it came to politics. I once asked my mother why we didn’t have political yard signs when it seemed that everyone else in the neighborhood did. She replied that since my father is in a position of leadership at the church, they did not feel it appropriate for his, or our family’s, political leanings to influence those in the congregation (I also believe, when it comes to my mother, that there was an element of aesthetics involved in her decision to avoid yard signs-for that I thank her).

It is unfortunate, but certainly a reality, that a church member may look to the pastor’s political leaning as a reflection of God’s political leaning. Since it is a difficult task at best to attempt to ascertain if God is a Republican or a Democrat, I will leave that to someone else*, and assume that God is not aligned with either party (in this case, one just need to look at those religious leaders outside the church protesting to discover that there is more than one way for a Christian to think on this issue).

While I would not argue that a pastor needs to stay out of politics completely, I would suggest that he or she be very careful about using the position as a community and religious leader to lobby for one agenda or another. The Church should not be in the business of distributing political literature (point five of the five-point pledge outlined above).

My other question would be why, with so many problems in the world, is this the issue that is so pressing that it calls for a gathering of Minnesota’s religious leaders? The most common argument I hear is the pressing need to “defend Biblical marriage”, an honorable sounding goal, but when scrutinized, seems silly in a nation whose laws are not based upon one individual religion.

In a quick scan of the ten commandments (the list from Exodus, not the movie), I discovered that I could, without much trouble, break nine of the ten without breaking any of our national laws (I actually think I could work around “thou shalt not kill” too, but that may be up for debate). If America truly was a Christian nation (as many evangelicals like to claim), I would think that addressing these discrepancies would be a higher priority. Why is a gay marriage amendment the political issue this group has chosen to take a very public stand on?

In the end this event comes across as unnecessarily divisive. The result seems to be that a group of people will feel further alienated from the Church. While this may not be the intent, the message seems loud and clear, and I am not sure this is the message the Church and its leaders need to be sending to the gay community, or to the world in general.

*Apparently there are some who are trying to fit God into a political party. From the Star Tribune article:
David Barton of the Texas-based group Wallbuilders said the Bible condemns not only homosexuality but also capital-gains taxes, progressive income taxes, estate taxes, and minimum wage laws.

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