In the United States there is a clear set of divisions where Christian faith and politics is concerned. The first divide is between those Christians who believe that their faith has mandated them to re-establish a moral and upright nation, and those who do not see the nation-state as a principal focus of their religious beliefs. The second divide is between Christians and non-Christians, in no small measure attributable to the steady pressures of anti-abortion, anti-sex, anti-gay, and anti-liberalism coming out of the religious right and the evangelical denominations.
In order to be honest about where the Church stands in the world, and where it should stand, it is important to understand who started this ball rolling and what his priorities were.
"...and for this reason I came into the world, to testify to the Truth." John 18:2(partial(NIV))
Jesus Christ had several mandates in mind when he began his preaching. They were clear and unambiguous.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Matthew 28:19-20(NIV)
"My commandment is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:12-13(NIV)
How does this stand up to the fear and hatred we always seem to be hearing out of the religious right? Aside from that, when we read the Bible and read what Jesus was doing, we find out that he was challenging the religious authorities because they were corrupt and didn't follow the spirit of the Law of Moses. Jesus never challenged the political authority of his day because he understood that the soul of a person, their spirit, was more important than their mind. Where politics captures the imagination, faith captures the very spirit of a person and changes them. This is not what we see coming out of Ann Coultier, Jerry Falwell, or Pat Buchanon--much less professing Christians like Sarah Palin or Christine O'Donnell. Instead we see a constant attack on what other people believe and why they are wrong, why they are a threat, why they are not right. We see people who use their "faith"(and really I should say "belief" because faith is much more spiritual and is not a text-based weapon system) as a blunt instrument to claim a higher moral authority. Yet their very attitudes, their actions, and their swagger undermine whatever message they are trying to give.
There was another mandate, this one kind of old school--it was from the original Ten Commandments:
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
If we are to love each other and love our neighbor, who does that leave for us to hate? Who is there to accuse, to manipulate, to belittle, to assault, to slander, to ridicule, or to insult?
The religious right acts if the stakes are so high. If we don't stop this one! If we don't stop that one! They are exactly like the Left. The Left scares people with the Right, and the Right scares people with everyone else!
Why do they do this, the Christians? Why do they promote fear and anger and hatred and greed and selfishness? Why do they constantly challenge government policy and popular freedoms? What moral foundation are they trying to establish that hasn't been established already? What is that they are trying so desperately to attain?
The answer is power.
People want power, and Christian people want Christian power. No different from any other group, of course. When a clique gets together and they have a vision of the world, they want to make that vision real. They want to be able to transform man and his society for the greater good. Unfortunately, we call such groups either PAC's, cults, or secret societies, none of which any Christian would consider themselves. They are caught up in the cares of this world. They see the Second Coming...er, coming, and they can hardly contain their anticipation. However, they are trying like mad to roll out the carpet, to get that table set and ready so as to bring the event along that much quicker.
This is a grievous mistake.
We don't know the hour or the day.
We don't know the time.
We don't know the circumstances even.
Sure, there are plenty of indications that it may be close, but look at what Christians are doing in the face of this: they are literally abandoning the basis of their faith--LOVE--in an attempt to reach the culmination of their faith. Instead, they are only slipping further away from their beliefs.
Isn't Jesus our personal savior. Don't we talk to him everyday? Don't we have a gigantic testimony of everything he needs to say to us? So why the rush? Why the hell-for-leather charge into a future that we all know is basically unknown even if we think we have some basic outlines? Guess what? The pharisees who crucified Jesus thought they had some basic outlines of the future, too. They thought they knew who the Messiah was going to be.
Our citizenship is in heaven. Our business is salvation. Our mission and our message are pretty darn clear. It's NOT legislation. It's NOT creating a moralistic society because that is NOT our responsibility. It's NOT about money and power and materialism and RICHES and making sure you are being BLESSED!
YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN! How much more blessed do you have to be?!
But to return now to that other division, that of the believers and the non-believers, it is obvious why the detractors of Christianity feel as they do. Christianity has displayed a certain militancy, a clear self-righteous pursuit of peoples' personal affairs, and just generally being way too involved in things they have no business being involved in. The problem is that as the nation continues to disintegrate and faction rises against faction, the immense passions and fears and angers that have been stoked by the Christian leaders and their rivals can only eventually turn ugly, and perhaps even French Revolutionary ugly at that.
It is one thing to hold to ones own beliefs.
It is another to deny the same of others.
There is no clear mandate for the humanist, the secularist, the atheist, socialist, or agnostic. They have their view of life, and God created each individual to see the world in their own way, as their own person, for their own reasons, based on their own experiences. That is what life is about. Not about putting chains on people, but about letting people go.
There is a mandate for Christians--heck, there's a book full of them, but this one is appropriate:
DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE OTHERS DO UNTO YOU.
How hard is that?