Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Kingdom Right Here On Earth

"I want all of you to pray that I can be an instrument of God... We're going to keep on praising together. I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."

Which candidate for President made this statement over the weekend?

Was it former Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee? Nope.

Could it have been the dedicated Mormon and Republican Mitt Romney? No.

How about social conservative and Catholic Sam Brownback? It's not him either.

Or, John McCain, a former Episcopalian and now Baptist? Wrong again.

It was none other than Barack Obama, Democratic hopeful and United Church of Christ (UCC) member.

Obama made the remark during a 15 minute speech at Pentecostal megachurch Redemption World Outreach Center, in Greenville, South Carolina, on Sunday, October 7.

Create a Kingdom right here on Earth.

Now if George Bush (or any front running Republican) made this statement, the media pundits would be in a foaming frenzy of outrage and condemnation:
Why, he wants to turn the United States into a theocracy!
Instead, the media commentators are giving Obama a pass. Liberal policies will do that.

Still, it's interesting listening to Obama's religious rhetoric on the campaign trail and comparing it to the way faith is typically expressed within his denomination.

For instance, Obama told the multicultural audience at Redemption World Outreach about his work years ago in Chicago as a community organizer of churches:
I thought I was coming to save a ministry but in fact I was being saved, and I accepted Jesus Christ into my life.
When do you hear anything like that at United Church of Christ meetings? Talk of redemption and salvation through Jesus? Frankly, it'd do the UCC a lot of good. But that's the language of conservatives and evangelicals, who'd appreciate this saying from Obama-- that is, if he wasn't a liberal:
These days, when people ask me, ‘What role does religion play in your work?’ – You’re running for president of the United States, the leader of the free world. What role does faith play? It plays every role.
Every role?

Again, does anyone hear this kind of talk within the UCC? If a Republican said this, how many UCC people would be-- let's put it in political terms-- deeply concerned?

On the other hand, Obama paints a vision of unity where people from all sides join together to solve common problems:
As I travel around the country I feel hopeful and optimistic. There's God's spirit in each and everyone of us that's waiting to be released and to be let out... He wants us to join together and break the partisan divisions.
That certainly is UCC language, a hope expressed in the logo, "That They May All Be One" (John 17:21).

With his religious campaign rhetoric, Obama is reestablishing something Democrats have ignored for years-- the relationship between faith and politics. Whether Obama's strategy of reaching a broad spectrum of Christians succeeds or not, op-ed columnist Michael Gerson of the Washington Post has some good advice for any politician who seeks to baptize their agenda in religious rhetoric:
The essential humanism of Christianity requires an active, political concern about human dignity and the rights of the poor and weak. But faith says little about the means to achieve those ideals. The justice of welfare reform or tax cuts or moving toward socialized medicine is measured by the outcome of these changes. And those debates cannot be short-circuited by the claim "Thus sayeth the Lord," spoken by the Christian Coalition or the United Church of Christ.
Create a kingdom right here on earth. How?

That is why we have elections.

3 comments:

David said...

"When do you hear anything like that at United Church of Christ meetings?"

I hear this language during every service at my progressive ONA congregation.

"Instead, the media commentators are giving Obama a pass. Liberal policies will do that."

So true. Most people aren't afraid of liberal policies in the way they are terrified by the Radical Religious Right. "Liberal policies" have governed our country since the Gilded Age and have proved ENORMOUSLY successful.

"Again, does anyone hear this kind of talk within the UCC? If a Republican said this, how many UCC people would be-- let's put it in political terms-- deeply concerned?"

Again, yes. We progressives hear this type of language during every service.

"With his religious campaign rhetoric, Obama is reestablishing something Democrats have ignored for years-- the relationship between faith and politics."

Oh really? So it wasn't primarily religious faith which motivated progressives to act for the poor, our children, and our common interests? Democratic politics have always been deeply rooted in our shared Judeo-Christian ethics and draw from the teachings of Christ Jesus. The idea of shared responsibility and a social contract popular in American progressive politics are modeled after the economic example of the early Christian Community. In contrast, Republican politics draw from Adam Smith and Ayn Rand.

Acts 4:32-35. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.

Peace and Grace!!!

In Christ,

David

Living the Biblios said...

David--

RE: Heard this language of redemption and faith in Jesus at my progressive ONA congregation

Really? Salvation altar calls included? In all seriousness, my 10+ years in UCC life leads me to conclude that the prevailing thought in the UCC is an assumption that everyone is already saved. I've never heard any UCC meeting declare a need, or a testimony, of the need to move from spiritual darkness to light, as seen in Jesus' encounter with people, or say in Ephesians 2.

RE: Media commentators

If what you suggest is true, then the media's real issue isn't that they fear expressions of faith in the public square, but fear specific political ideologies.

So for disfavored policies held by the "right," the media will gladly take their religion and desecrate it. That's shameful. If you don't like the policy, just attack the policy.

As for the success of liberal policies, Democrats held control of Congress for 40+ consecutive years until Newt's Contract with America. Where's all the success? Why do Democrats-- especially those running for Prez, keep saying we need MORE govn't programs and MORE taxes? I'm a poor minister and I already give 30% of my income. Why do they need more? Just what we need, more mismanaged govn't pgms like Social Security.

RE: Democrats linking faith and policies

Reread history. Dems have been very silent on justice as a matter of faith for years. And listen to what political analysts today are saying, like this:

Jim Guth, a political science professor at Furman University, says many Democratic candidates are trying to inject religion into their campaigns, but it could backfire.

"This is a little bit of a problem for them at times," Guth said. "They also have a lot of secular voters that tend to vote democratic and they're not sure about religious appeals."

RE: Citing Acts 4

So you're suggesting David that giving to others should be voluntary, not compelled by government?

David said...

Yes, we have "altar calls" nearly every service. Have you EVER attended a progressive UCC congregation? I know I've only been a member of the church for two years but it seems I know more about it than yourself -- and you're a UCC pastor!

"So for disfavored policies held by the "right," the media will gladly take their religion and desecrate it. That's shameful. If you don't like the policy, just attack the policy."

That's exactly the problem. Their policy is the institution of their religion. Who is calling America a "Christian Nation"? Who is advocating for Christian Dominionism? Who is complaining when a Hindu gives the prayer for Congress, or a Muslim represents Minnesota? It isn't progressives that's for sure. The "policy" of American fundamentalism is basically antithetical to the values which founded our country (separation of church/state, civic society, shared social responsibility, informed citizenry).

"As for the success of liberal policies, Democrats held control of Congress for 40+ consecutive years until Newt's Contract with America. Where's all the success?"

Where's the success??! That period of American history is what has defined us as a global superpower. It represents the largest economic and cultural advance of any society in Western History. After the Democratic Party led America through both WWI and WWII it created the enormous economic expansion which resulted in America becoming a global superpower. I could most definitely call that successful. To claim that America was less than successful between 1944-1994 would demonstrate a profound ignorance of American history.

And finally:
"I've never heard any UCC meeting declare a need, or a testimony, of the need to move from spiritual darkness to light, as seen in Jesus' encounter with people, or say in Ephesians 2."

This I found particularly ironic as it was the theme for last week's sermon at my progressive ONA UCC congregation.

Do they teach salvation at FWC congregations? ;)