In the past weeks I have been thinking about the relationship between religion and critical issues facing our nation. I have concluded that there is no righteous political party. The lust of certain Republican candidates in their hunger for support by evangelical Christians strikes me as bad politics combined with worse religion. Perhaps the Democrats come down without obviously bowing to more conservative religionists, but giving only passing attention to several profoundly Christian concerns, like peace and how to deal with one’s enemies.
Leaving out any identification of either political party or any specific candidate, are there issues that have arisen in the present political struggles with which Christians might take a position growing out of their commitment to Jesus’ view of the world?
The closest I have come to a response to that question is found in the words of a hymn by Fred Kaan, a British Congregational Minister who was born in 1929 and died in 2009. This hymn is a prayer addressed to “You, Creator God”:
FOR THE HEALING OF THE NATIONS
For the healing of the nations, God we pray with one accord;
For a just and equal sharing of the things the earth affords.
To a life of love in action help us rise and pledge our word.
Lead us, Most High, into freedom; from despair your world release,
that redeemed from war and hatred, all may come and go in peace.
Show us how through care and goodness fear will die and hope increase.
All that kills abundant living, let it from the earth be banned:
Pride of status, race and schooling, dogmas that obscure your plan.
In our common quest for justice, may we hallow life’s brief span.
You, Creator God, have written your great name on humankind;
For our growing in your likeness, bring the life of Christ to mind;
Thus by our response and service earth its destiny may find.
The real liberals in the world have been people who imagined a future about which they could only dream. But their lives were dedicated to reaching into that future and bringing back into the present what they could. These were and are society’s visionaries. Jesus called his vision, “The Kingdom of God.” Martin Luther King Jr. spelled out his vision as a dream, and called the nation to dream with him. Nelson Mandela envisioned a new South Africa. Most of his life was spent in prison. Jesus was executed and King assassinated. These and so many others gave their lives for their dream, and society has been remade because of them. Each of their dreams envisioned a world of peace, equity and justice growing out of a profound religious commitment.
No politician or political party is equipped to live out of that sort of dream. And yet people of faith must do what they can to align themselves with those secular forces that come closest to their dreams. And this means swimming in the nasty sea of politics. What ethical imperatives shape your dream? In previous columns I have spelled out what I believe to be the present issues and how those committed to peace, justice and equity might see them acted out in society.
My profound worry is that the conservative Christian community has made common cause with candidates whose position on the themes of Jesus’ ministry — peace, justice and equity — flows in the opposite direction. My horror at the likely nomination of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz comes from their oft-repeated racism, super-nationalism, trust in enlarged wars, torture as a national policy, and the prostitution of Christian morality for the sake of political advantage. For Christians who have really thought about what is happening, I believe the political decisions may be coming clear.