LICC – Connecting with Culture – God is not a republican
‘God is not a Republican… Or a Democrat.’
That’s a statement that over 40,000 US Christians have put their name to, signing a petition to say that the Religious Right does not speak for all Christians.
The show of dissent against the Moral Majority – titled ‘take back our faith’ – was led by Sojourners, a radical, ‘thinking’ Christian network headed by the political activist and regular guest of both sides at the White House, Jim Wallis. In particular, Wallis wanted believers to refute claims by tele-evangelist Jerry Falwell that “Christians… need to get serious about re-electing President Bush” – as if they had no other choice – and by Pat Robertson that Bush will win because “the Lord is blessing him.”
In UK politics, it’s unusual to hear people evoke God’s name for their cause, even if they believe in guidance from above. Remember Alastair Campbell’s dictum that “We don’t do God.” However, our scepticism shouldn’t lead us simply to sneer at America’s faith in politics, where 46 per cent of its people describe themselves as born-again hChristians. The likes of Falwell and Robertson – who declared that “God is pro-war” – can help to influence national and global politics.
The Bible affirms, on one level, that God is well and truly on our side. It records that God became human and lived and died among us, and for us, so that we might ave life to the full. And, all Christians would hope, quite reasonably, that they are doing what God wants them to do. The only trouble is, we can hold opposing opinions about what exactly that means.
A better, humbler, question to ask, is: ‘Are we on God’s side?’ After all, the Bible is slow to suggest that God blesses individual parties, or even nations, and quick to suggest that we should help the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised in all that we do.
In America, the Moral Majority’s leaders and politicians tend to focus on single issues such as abortion and gay rights, but the Bible places greater emphasis on justice for all – focusing on poverty, the call to be peacemakers, to be truthful, to confront the bad in ourselves as well as in our enemies.
So, as the race for the White House enters the home straight, Christians should continue to ask those in contention – as well as ourselves, of course – ‘Whose side are you really on?’
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LICC – Word for the Week – A fresh look at the 10 commandments
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:2”
The commandments must come very high in the world’s list of all-time most influential writings, but many of us, even those who are Christians, would have difficulty listing them off the top of our head. Today, however, according to a recent NOP survey (The Times, September 3rd 2004), 10% of young people have never heard of them and nearly half of those between the age of 15 and 24 could not name a single one. For many others, they lurk in the memory but sadly often only as evidence that Christianity is a judgemental, legalistic faith.
Sometimes we miss crucial points in well-worn passages and a closer look can give us fresh and life-changing insights. I learnt the commandments at school, and in the Anglican church I attend they are written up in centuries old lettering on the wall. But in both cases they begin, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’. But now reading them again, I see that they begin with redemption. God who demands holiness does so because he is the deliverer and rescuer, the mighty worker of miracles. The life of holiness and obedience is our commitment of gratitude to our redeemer and saviour. These are not the rules that have to be kept in order to earn salvation; they are kept as the loving response of the already saved.
So the Lord says to Israel and to us ‘you shall have no other gods before me’. The ‘you’ is singular. There is no one, not one single individual in the rescued covenant community, who is to have any other allegiance ever. It is about the exclusive nature of our practical relationship with God. Nor is there any way this command is compatible with pluralism of any kind. The God of Israel who reveals himself on Mount Sinai, will later reveal himself in Jesus Christ, ‘who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation’. (Col. 1:15) There is no other god anywhere.Margaret Killingray
you shall have no other gods before me rules kept as a loving response to
our Redeemer and Saviour
Thought for the Week
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more a child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15 KJV)
There is a difference, then, between evangelism and proselytism; for Jesus told us to go into all the world to make disciples of all people – yet he condemned the religious leaders of his time for their hellish activities.
Let’s get the difference clear for Christians are often told that in their witness and preaching they are “proselytising”, when it is nothing of the sort! Even on the broadest front the churches are firm on this. For example, the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches produced a useful study document in 1970, Common Witness and Proselytism. It identified “proselytism” as unworthy witness, in particular with regard to our Motives (our own glory and power-seeking), our Methods (psychological or financial pressure etc) and indeed the Message itself (for example deliberately misrepresenting our own or other people’s beliefs). Hold those three M’s!
In contrast, to evangelize is to make an open and honest statement of the Gospel, which leaves the hearers entirely free to make up their own minds. (The Manila Manifesto of the 1989 Billy Graham congress).
Let’s arm ourselves with this distinction, meanwhile ourselves never falling into the ways of the power-seeking scribes and Pharisees.