Religion, politics don’t mixPublished 4:27pm Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Religion and politics – they simply don’t mix.
I was reminded of this truth when I read an article in The Outlook regarding a recent meeting at St. John’s the Apostle Catholic Church about Alabama’s new immigration law, HB-56. As you probably know by now, this state law has generated a tremendous amount of national attention, both pro and con.
Regardless, my intention is not to weigh in on the validity of this law but rather to discuss whether religious leaders, or the institutions they represent, should publicly support or denounce politically controversial issues.
In the Outlook article, Rev. Richard Stryker, Southeast District superintendent of the North Alabama Conference United Methodist Church, said the following: “HB-56 is only where it is today because Christians allowed it to be there. I want to challenge Christians to not just be Christian by reading a book, but by being a Christian by acting out what it means to be a believer in Jesus.”
I must admit when I first read Rev. Stryker’s comments I wasn’t concerned at all. It seemed as if this church leader was deeply concerned about the fate of his fellow man and was calling other Christians to not turn a blind eye to another’s suffering. Much like the Good Samaritan story we’ve all read in the Bible, Christians are called to care for the needy, even if they are your enemies.
After some thought, however, I began to think there was probably more to Rev. Stryker’s comments than I originally thought. After all, the meeting was called to essentially denounce a state law that most attendee’s felt was immoral, notwithstanding the fact good people all over this state believe the law correctly addresses the problem of illegal immigration.
And that’s the rub.
Good Christian people in Alex City and all over the state both support and denounce this law. Some see it as a way to address a crime that is consistently being committed by millions of people, while others see it as an immoral response to those who are in need. Because it’s clear that good, moral people are on both sides of this issue, I don’t think there is a clear-cut religious position all Christians can support.
For that reason, I’m afraid Rev. Stryker might be using the Bible to promote a political opinion, which means he might be making the same mistake ministers like Jerry Falwell made in the 1980s. Back then, Falwell and others entered the political arena with a vengeance, sometimes acting more like politicians than ministers. In time, all of these movements lost steam and are now long gone.
To me, this loss of momentum ultimately resides in the fact these Christian leaders lost their focus. Their primary concern should have been saving souls and taking care of their congregation’s needs, not promoting a national political agenda.
I think Rev. Stryker is a well-meaning individual who truly believes he is doing the Lord’s work by weighing in on this political issue. However, I believe his goal of changing hearts and getting Christians to actually act out “what it means to be a believer in Jesus” requires something more than denouncing what he believes to be an inadequate law.
If Jesus is truly the answer and you want people to act in a Christ-like manner, stop using religion to promote a political ideology and start talking about Him and what He did on the cross.
From my perspective, I’ve always believed if you want to truly change the world and make it a better place, start by changing the heart of a single sinner. This act alone will do more good than any political speech to the masses.
Roger Steele is general manager and advertising director of The Outlook.