Our neighbor George recently attended a meeting of the “Better Angels” where they were discussing both religious faith and politics. Apparently there is a group forming in Carroll County to help people with differing views both to listen to one another and understand views different from their own.
During their discussion the issue of “electability” to the presidency came up and George said it focused on Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg. They said he was intelligent, a military veteran, well liked and although not greatly experienced would make a good president. At the same time they felt he was carrying the heavy baggage of being gay. Writer Philip Jenkins wrote “it is difficult for anyone under 40 to realize how very rapidly the concept of same sex-marriage has ceased to be viewed as extreme and outlandish and moved into mainstream." George said research in medicine and psychiatry have indicated that being gay is not a choice but rather how we are born. At the same time while the Supreme Court ruled same sex-marriage was a constitutional right, the Pew Research survey indicated that nearly one-third of Americans (generally over 40) oppose same-sex marriage.
As one editorial writer put it “homophobia is alive and robust in the United States.” Those with an opposite view say it has nothing to do with being homophobia, it has to do with a violation of the teaching of the Bible.
That issue, how do you translate the Holy Scriptures, is an issue that is presently dividing a large Protestant denomination. On the surface the issue is “should gay men or women be ordained to the ministry?” But the real issue is how do you translate the Bible? Was the Bible written by God or by human beings or by human beings inspired by God? Do you take into account the culture at the time the Scriptures were written, or the audience they were written for or do all the Scriptures have the same weight (like a flat text) or are some more important than others and are some now obsolete? Do you worship the Bible or do you worship God?
Theologian Brian Zahnd wrote “if we see the Bible as an end in itself instead of an inspired witness pointing us to Jesus it will become an idol.” He continued “idols are gods we can manage according to our own interests. If we want to make the Bible our final authority, which is an act of idolatry, we are conveniently ignoring the problem that we can make the Bible say just about whatever we want.”
Often credited to John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement is what is called his “quadrilateral.” That is, we judge things on the basis of: 1. Holy Scripture; 2. tradition’ 3. reason and 4. experience. God gave us a brain to use even in evaluating Scripture. We remember one church we visited that had a sign “when you enter our sanctuary you do not have to leave your brain behind.”
Beside Biblical interpretation morality has been in the news. In our home we receive several magazines. Two of them are primarily religious. The “Christian Century” is more progressive and “Christianity Today” is more conservative.
Carroll County Daily Headlines
So it came as somewhat of a surprise to read the words of Christianity Today’s outgoing Editor-in-Chief Mark Galli who recently wrote, “To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency.”
Galli pointed out that he was not talking about the president’s political issues but rather his moral issues. Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham (who helped start the magazine Christianity Today) and Jerry Falwell Jr. both criticized the editorial pointing out that the president’s record on abortion alone is a key to his support from his religious followers. The general consensus of those who support the president say personal moral issues are not as important as the big issues — especially abortion, stopping illegal immigrants and LGBT issues.
Columnist John Stoeher had an interesting comment: “What is God’s will? Whatever the leadership of the white evangelical Christian community declares it to be. The leadership of that community is almost always men. Therefore, God’s will is what these men say it is. What these men say is what everyone in their group believes. Doing what they say is being good. Being good is being obedient. In this context, there is no room for dissent.”
A congressman was asked if the president was a good role model for his son. His response was that he would not be a good example when it came to morals but “the end justifies the means.” Simply meaning, he has given us everything our base wanted — that’s why he felt Trump had been chosen to “make America great again.”
It is an interesting — some would say frightening — time in which to live, both in regard to religious faith and politics and how they are often intertwined. Maybe our closing words should come from Mark Galli who wrote “remember who you are and whom you serve.”
Let the dialogue continue. We only ask that you think on these things.
The Rev. Dr. Wm. Louis “Lou” Piel is pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Finksburg and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.