Today's sermon: The 'Christian position' in politics | Arkansas Blog

Today's sermon: The 'Christian position' in politics

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It's Sunday, for one thing. For another, the Republican Party is clearly positioning itself, with platform God-counting and other moves, as the party of the one true American religion. (Christian fundamentalism, if you didn't know; a particularly unforgiving flavor when it comes to women and certain minority groups and sharing the country's bounty with the downtrodden.)

JESUS EXCLUDED NO ONE: Larry Maze.
  • 'JESUS EXCLUDED NO ONE': Larry Maze.
So I think I'll share a brief op-ed submitted to the Times last week by Larry E. Maze, the retired Episcopal bishop of Arkansas. It seems relevant.

The Christian Position

By Larry E. Maze

The late Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, is said to have coined the phrase, “All politics is local.” He even wrote a political guidebook by that title. No doubt it is a good reminder for politicians to remember how the political system works, and why true democracy depends on leaders who know what the people whom they are representing are thinking. Woe to the politician who comes into a reputation for not checking in with home.

In recent years it has occurred to me that expressions of Christianity are likewise “all local.” In spite of the fact that we speak of Christianity as though everyone knows what that means, there is a good likelihood that for every person who has identified as “Christian,” I could produce a dozen other “Christians” who would question the validity of what the first believer thinks Christianity is at its core. Which is to say, there is no monolithic or even consistent agreement about the meaning of the Christian experience except, perhaps and only perhaps, in a local sense. All certain Christians might get close to agreeing about what it means to be a Christian.

As a follower of Jesus myself, I am sometimes troubled and frustrated by what gets identified as Christian as though there was general agreement among Christian people that some belief or some action was an outgrowth of what Jesus said and did and so, of course, we all agree. I have come to the realization that there is no Christian position so clear that it can make exclusive claims. It is never permissible to make public claims about the Christian position. I have a position that has been shaped by what I believe about Jesus. Is it the Christian position? I don’t think so. Does it mean that I cannot join with others who might think like I do and try to get something accomplished? Certainly not, but we would be wading in our own hubris to claim the position.

In this election year it won’t be long before some will produce information about what is and isn’t Christian, ostensibly for the guidance of voters. Much of what I believe might not fare well in such publications. I’m prepared for that. Jesus, it seems, speaks many languages. But I’m left wondering about exclusive claims made about a man who excluded no one from his circle of friends.

You may have noticed headlines in recent hours in which Republican nominee Mitt Romney says God will not be removed from the Republican platform. Whose God is that, exactly?

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