The re­li­gious left’s sec­ond com­ing

Lib­eral clergy have no clearer path to sal­va­tion than their con­ser­va­tive coun­ter­parts

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Cal Thomas Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist. His lat­est book is “What Works: Com­mon Sense So­lu­tions for a Stronger Amer­ica” (Zon­der­van, 2014).

The re­li­gious left feels left out. Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in The New York Times, lib­eral clergy feel ex­cluded from the po­lit­i­cal arena and blame the re­li­gious right for oc­cu­py­ing what they once be­lieved was their ex­clu­sive ter­ri­tory. They are, ac­cord­ing to the story’s head­line, “seek­ing to break right’s grip on na­tion’s moral agenda.”

I wasn’t aware the na­tion had a moral agenda — an im­moral one, per­haps.

The re­li­gious left’s agenda is lit­tle dif­fer­ent from that of sec­u­lar pro­gres­sives — from gay rights, to sanc­tu­ary cities for un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, big­ger gov­ern­ment and tax in­creases, abor­tion. Some on the re­li­gious left give lip ser­vice to a pro-life po­si­tion, but they still vote for “pro-choice” Democrats.

Lib­eral clergy are “fight­ing for their faith,” says The New York Times. Which faith? Faith in gov­ern­ment or faith in the God they are sup­posed to serve?

Hav­ing suf­fered re­jec­tion and ridicule fol­low­ing Pro­hi­bi­tion and the Scopes trial, con­ser­va­tive Chris­tians with­drew from the po­lit­i­cal arena into a mod­ern ver­sion of the cat­a­combs, leav­ing the re­li­gious left at the fore­front of cul­ture and the­ol­ogy dis­cus­sions. That be­gan to change with the for­ma­tion of the Moral Ma­jor­ity and later the Chris­tian Coali­tion and other con­ser­va­tive re­li­gious groups.

In re­ac­tion, the re­li­gious left called for a sep­a­ra­tion be­tween church and state, be­liev­ing that con­ser­va­tives were some­how now vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion by speak­ing up on moral is­sues. The im­pli­ca­tion was that con­ser­va­tives should go back to their churches and leave pol­i­tics and bi­b­li­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tion to them.

To their credit, re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives spoke of a cul­ture in de­cline, but they, like the left, mis­tak­enly be­lieved the so­lu­tion could be found in pol­i­tics. The so­cial is­sues they ad­dressed were not the cause of our deca­dence, but a re­flec­tion of it. If re­pairs were to be made they would not come from Wash­ing­ton, but from trans­formed hu­man hearts. Chang­ing hearts is sup­posed to be the call­ing of pas­tors.

The re­li­gious right quickly be­came an ad­junct of the Repub­li­can Party, just one more in­ter­est group to be pla­cated with prom­ises that were rarely kept. In turn, the re­li­gious left aligned with Democrats.

A les­son for all is found in Scrip­ture, but it’s of­ten ig­nored. Here’s one: “Do not love this world nor the things it of­fers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Fa­ther in you. For the world of­fers only a crav­ing for phys­i­cal plea­sure, a crav­ing for ev­ery­thing we see, and pride in our achieve­ments and pos­ses­sions. These are not from the Fa­ther, but are from this world. And this world is fad­ing away, along with ev­ery­thing that peo­ple crave.”

Ev­ery ser­mon ded­i­cated to pol­i­tics is time taken away from a pas­tor’s main call­ing, which is to preach a mes­sage that will fit peo­ple for Heaven. Are there moral and cul­tural is­sues that clergy can and should ad­dress? Of course, but the ser­mo­nizer should be sure he, or she, is faith­ful to Scrip­ture and not preach a mes­sage de­signed to con­form to an earthly po­lit­i­cal agenda.

When they do, this hap­pens:

Ac­cord­ing to a 2014 Pew Re­search Cen­ter Re­li­gious Land­scape Study, just “14.7 per­cent of U.S. adults are af­fil­i­ated with the main­line Protes­tant tra­di­tion — a sharp de­cline from 18.1 per­cent when our last Re­li­gious Land­scape Study was con­ducted in 2007. Main­line Protes­tants have de­clined at a faster rate than any other ma­jor Chris­tian group, in­clud­ing Catholics and evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tants, and as a re­sult also are shrink­ing as a share of all Protes­tants and Chris­tians.”

Here’s an­other verse lib­eral clergy might con­sider be­fore re-en­ter­ing the po­lit­i­cal arena: “Don’t copy the be­hav­ior and cus­toms of this world, but let God trans­form you into a new per­son by chang­ing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleas­ing and per­fect.”

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY LINAS GARSYS

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