Monday, September 17, 2012

"Obama Will Destroy Christianity As We Know It"

This Sunday we will be holding the charge conference for the two churches I serve.  For those unfamiliar with Methodist polity, this is the "official" meeting of the church held each year.  It is the time in which we vote of clergy salary, elect new leaders and look back over the course of the year and celebrate the ministries of the church.  The District Superintendent comes out and runs the meeting.  It used to be a much more important and significant event in the life of the church, but has greatly diminished in importance, but that's for another time.

Anyways, this year at the meeting the DS wants us to present something on where the church will be in 3-5 years.  In order to help prepare for that, yesterday during worship I had everyone write down where they thought the congregation would, should, might be in 3-5 years.  In my smallest church (10 in worship including me and the pianist), one the people said they couldn't say because it would depend on who won the election.  I said that who was president would make no difference to where we were as a congregation, but what they wrote on their card was "it will be dependent upon who is President."

Now I did not seek to engage them in any conversation about this because I know exactly where they stand politically, and I didn't really want to get into it.  But from their comment I am assuming that they have bought into the rhetoric that not only is President Obama a Muslim, but that he is heart-set on destroying America as we know it, and of course destroying the church as well.  I need not elaborate on where they might get such an idea, cough Fox cough.  And they are not alone in that sentiment, as this post from the New York Times about people in the middle-east, who oppose America, also buying into the conservative rhetoric that Obama is a closeted Muslim and trying to support some Muslim groups and oppose others.

Romney himself has sort of built on this idea of the other, not just through his birther jokes, but through this recent comment: "As President, I'll support the expression of religion in the public square."  The impression he hoped to convey, most especially based on the group he was speaking to, was that Obama would not do this because he wasn't like them and somehow was opposed to religion.  In believing this they must also totally disregard the ruckus from the last election over Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who is a minister in the United Church of Christ, and thus is a Christian, but whatever.

But what struck me yesterday was not only their thinking this about Obama, but them saying it in light of the reading from James that was read this Sunday.
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.
We had just heard about the damage that can be done with the tongue, especially in slandering and cursing "those who are made in the likeness of God," and yet at the same time also wanting to make such a proclamation.

Now I think that one of the reasons that no information was given about why the future of the church was dependent upon the election was because they believed everyone "knew" why, including me, with the implicit assumption that everyone there agreed with this concern.  I, of course, did not and would guess that I am the minority in that, if not the only one.

But, one of the great ironies for those who are claiming that President Obama is not a Christian is that their option is to vote for someone in Romney who is not a Christian.  Yes I know that some will object to that claim, but by almost every traditional test Mormons are not Christians (and every "evangelical"/fundamentalist I know does not believe they are Christian either, which is why the campaign has ignored this issue to the degree they have).  Mormons are the only church that I am aware of for which the United Methodist church will not recognize their baptisms (and we are very liberal on this), and we do not do so because they do not baptize in a trinitarian formulation, nor do they believe in the trinity.  (There are some non-trinitarian pentocostal churches but they likelihood of them joining a Methodist church is next to zero.)

Now I am not agruing that you should vote against Romney because he is a Mormon.  Having grown up in the southwest I have many friends who are Mormon (isn't that the oldest cliche in the world?), and have also voted for candidates who also happened to be Mormon in the past.  I am much more concerned with whether they would be able to govern in a way I think appropriate for the country, most especially for "the least of these" and by that standard Romney fails, and that has nothing to do with his faith.

I have little worry, in fact no worries, that my congregations, my faith or my church will be changed or impacted by the new President.  I do worry about people in my congregations who will be impacted either because of their negative views, or because of negative economic impacts especially if the drastic cuts to the social safety nets are cut the way that Romney/Ryan propose.

If those cuts were enacted, then we would have to respond to the even greater need we see in our communities and I don't know where we would come up with estimated $50,000 or so a year each church would have to come up with to match that need.  Now that is a true threat.

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