Church as politics. That is the sad fate of far too many churches. Case in point is the United Church of Christ, of which the most (in)famous example of late is the America-hating Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity UCC in Chicago. If I were a UCC booster, I think the last thing I’d like to see would be an expose of Wright. But, as they say, your mileage may vary…
Being a Baptist, I may have an old-school view of what a Christian church ought to be. Creeds and dogmas vary all over the map, but any Christian church ought to be about three basic things: Christ incarnate; Christ crucified; Christ resurrected.
Yes, there’s lots and lots of Gospel and other Scripture to fill in the blanks as to how best to live up to these three things. And each denomination has its own interpretation on the best approach. But those are the basics. One’s politics may shape one’s response to the Gospel and Scripture; but politics should never be preached in lieu of them.
Back to the UCC. In a breezy and clueless article in today’s WaPo, we learn the rather unshocking news:
Like many other mainline Protestant denominations, the UCC has seen its membership fall from 2 million in 1965 to 1.2 million at the end of 2006.
The population of the United States grew from about 194 million to 299 million in that time. So, when the general population grew by 54%, UCC declined by 40%. Must be that Vast Right Wing Conspiracy afoot. So, what is UCC doing about this precipitous decline? From the WaPo:
Since 2004, the denomination has aggressively advertised on radio and television. The campaign, called “God Is Still Speaking,” portrays the church as open to everyone, including racial minorities and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
The attention Obama brings to the UCC is almost all positive, experts on religion and politics say, because they share similar political views and Obama’s message of inclusion fits with the denomination’s advertising campaign. Religious conservatives who would be turned off by liberal politics probably would not be interested in the denomination, observers say.
“While it is exciting for many of us to have a member of our church running for president, what excites many of us the most is seeing a candidate who is promoting progressive values based on his Christian faith,” [Rev. John Thomas, church president] wrote in his e-mail. “Obama reminds us that Christianity is not owned by those on the far right politically, but can provide a spiritual foundation and moral vision for those across the political spectrum.” (emphasis added)
First, I’d guess those “experts” haven’t been paying close attention this past week. I’d have to say that the Trinity UCC horror show has pretty much disgraced the UCC. It’s given the lie to at least the part of the UCC that all would be welcome. Don’t think most white folks would feel at home at Trinity.
The clear sense one must get from all of this is that the UCC is a place for “progressive” and “liberal politics.” Conservatives are clearly not welcome. Again, so much for being inclusive. This is wrong. One’s politics should not, must not matter in a church.
No church should be a place for any kind of politics. Not on the right. Not on the left. We have political parties and clubs for that sort of thing. Not a house of God.