Cal Thomas is a long-time conservative political commentator with whom I often agree. However, the mistake many conservative Christians make is in blindly following any and all conservative spin-masters simply because they’re conservative. Experience teaching us that conservatives can be just as down-and-dirty as anyone else: lying, cheating, stealing and engaging in immorality with the best/worst liberal in the land.
Christians tend to conservatism. Conservatives often pander to Christians. The possibility of our being “used” heightened as we question our effectiveness in saving the world through preaching the gospel, as it is a lengthy process and never guaranteed. So we turn to politics and the legislature to force people to do the “right” thing. The problem being: Politics can’t save anyone. Sound policy may indeed help many and rein in the worst offenders in our society – which are admirable accomplishments – but true salvation, of a person or country, comes only at the foot of the cross.
In Mr. Thomas’ recent commentary for the IndyStar, he examines the liberal clergy’s effort to regain a foothold in the religious debates that rage across our land. (The religious left’s agenda differing little from that of secular progressives.) Their stand usually advocating the rights of anybody and everybody – except those they like to characterize as being of the “radical right persuasion.”; who advocate tolerance moderated by caution, acceptance yoked to expectation, and love tempered with justice.
But then he speaks to the problem, as he sees it, within the conservative culture; particularly that of our over-reliance on political coercion over spiritual persuasion.
He begins by saying, “To their credit, religious conservatives spoke of a culture in decline, but they, like the left, mistakenly believed the solution could be found in politics. The social issues they addressed were not the cause of our decadence, but a reflection of it. If repairs were to be made they would not come from Washington, but from transformed human hearts. Changing hearts is supposed to be the calling of pastors.
The religious right quickly became an adjunct of the Republican Party, just one more interest group to be placated with promises that were rarely kept. A lesson for all is found in Scripture, but it’s often ignored. Here’s one: “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.” (1 John 2:15-17 NLT)
Every sermon dedicated to politics is time taken away from a pastor’s main calling, which is to preach a message that will fit people for Heaven. Are there moral and cultural issues that clergy can and should address? Of course, but the sermonizer should be sure he, or she, is faithful to Scripture and not preach a message designed to conform to an earthly political agenda.
When they do, this happens: According to a 2014Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Study, just 14.7 percent of U.S. adults are affiliated with the mainline Protestant tradition — a sharp decline from 18.1 percent when our last Religious Landscape Study was conducted in 2007. Mainline Protestants have declined at a faster rate than any other major Christian group, including Catholics and evangelical Protestants, and as a result also are shrinking as a share of all Protestants and Christians.” (Possibly because their message has become diluted as they strive to be inclusive of anything and everybody – as such, they ultimately stand for nothing and nobody. Many main-line protestant churches removing their support for missions because of its “arrogant and intolerant” supposition that Christ is the only way to heaven.)
He then ends his critique by quoting scripture we all – liberal and conservative alike – need to hear and heed. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT)
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