|by Tom Bohache
A recent excellent book describes the current political, economic, and religious atmosphere in the United States and bemoans the fact thattorn between liberals and conservatives, Right and Leftreligion has abdicated its responsibility to meet human need. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, a faith-based, human rights advocacy movement in Washington, D.C. (www.sojo.net), writes:
"Many of us feel that our faith has been stolen, and it's time to take it back. In particular, an enormous misrepresentation of Christianity has taken place. And because of an almost uniform media misperception, many people around the world now think Christian faith stands for political commitments that are almost the opposite of its true meaning. How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American? What has happened here? And how do we get back to...faith rescued from its contemporary distortions? That rescue operation is even more crucial today, in the face of deepening social crisis that cries out for more prophetic religion." (God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, HarperCollins, 2005, p. 32)
While Wallis is speaking here of Christianity, he could just as easily be talking about any of the great world faiths that, in cahoots with narrowly-focused agendas, work against overall human rights. (For example, elsewhere in his book he points out how fanatical Zionism has displaced thousands of Palestinians who live in poverty and violence on a daily basis; and, of course we constantly hear of the fanatical elements within Islam that have declared jihad on the United States.)
In calling for "prophetic" religion, Wallis encourages our society to return to the values of Hebrew prophets such as Amos, Micah, and Jesus, eastern prophets like Muhammed and Gautama Buddha, and contemporary prophets such as Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa. What all of these prophets have in common is that they have sought to turn public policy toward advocacy for the poor and oppressed of the worldthose who are forgotten in a world of "haves and have-mores." In today's troubled world, I agree with Wallis that it is essential that people of Spirit come out of the closet and make ourselves heard. To those who would argue that religions are corrupt, unnecessary, and beyond repair, Wallis suggests that the solution to bad religion is not flight from any kind of religious reflection but instead the development of better religion. As Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman pointed out when asked about his devotion to his Jewish faith, the First Amendment provides for freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
We can cherish separation of church and state without omitting spiritual principles and human morality from the policies of our county, state, or nation. Moreover, since the Religious Right is already slipping narrow fundamentalist Christian attitudes and mores into government, it is appropriate for those of a different mindset to stand up and be counted. If that were to happen, I am certain that we would find that the Religious Right does not speak for as many folks as they claim to! When we assess our progress as a people, why not remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, "We must ask ourselves not if God is on our side but if we are on God's side"?
Next issue: How we can "journey out" from our comfort zone to embrace others in the name of Spirit-Based Social Action.
The Rev. Tom Bohache, Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Rehoboth, is a speaker, teacher, and writer on the intersection of sexuality and spirituality. E-mail him at email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 6 June 3, 2005