Manipulating Religion for Secular Power

The Rev. Mike MacDonald, an evangelical
pastor at Broad Street United Methodist Church in Mooresville, S.C., writes of
his concern that politicians who manipulate religion for secular gain are
affecting the ability of the church to speak to people about commitment to the
faith.

I do have a
problem when
politicians try
to use faith
as a club
to beat up
their opponents
–The Rev. Mike MacDonald

It’s good to know that there is real diversity of opinion in the public conversation about the influence of religion in the political arena today. It’s just too simplistic to treat the loudest right-wing evangelical voices as if they are the only voices to be heard.

Rev. Mike MacDonald makes a good point in his commentary on www.umc.org when he refutes the claim that Christians can take only one political position.

He recalls the history of the Anabaptist movement, which sought to be free of government persecution over their refusal to practice government-sanctioned religion. That history must be taken seriously. It’s not only important because it contributed to the principle of separation of church and state that was embedded in the colonial writings that came to shape the U.S. Constitution, it’s also important because it demonstrates what can happen when religious principles are codified into public policy. Rev. MacDonald is correct to say that religion has more to gain by keeping these two (government and religion) separate than by joining them in policy.

Rev. MacDonald’s desire to distance religion from politics is echoed by the famous evangelist, The Rev. Billy Graham. In today’s USA Today Rev. Graham says, “If I took sides on all these divisive issues I would cut off a great part of the people I want to reach.”

These pastors are speaking from positions of faith that make imminent sense to me. Their voices are a welcome addition to the conversation.

A third set of voices, all diverse, is featured in a series in BusinessWeek. The cover story for May 23, Evangelical America. Big Business. Explosive Politics., tells of the culture wars at corporations in the U.S. and how evangelicals have taken a page from business in marketing books and other products. (The magazine is on the newsstands but it isn’t online at this posting.)

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