Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pastor Gregory Boyd on the church and politics. -- What of ISAIAH?

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:37 AM |  

The Strib runs a column today by Gregory Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood, whom I've quoted before as pretty close to my personal view on religion and politics.

Yes, Jesus was all about transforming society -- but not by political means. This is why he said the movement he came to bring was "not of this world." This simply wasn't the kind of power Jesus was interested in.
And, of course, we all know how the story ends -- Jesus is crucified by the state.

The point of previous discussions here is simple: The Bible says, "all we like sheep have gone astray," and the IRS can make anyone a criminal.

Those that want to nail Pastor Mac Hammond of Living Word Christian Center to a cross for making a personal endorsement of Michele Bachmann miss the larger point that allowing government to hold power to define religious content does not preserve separation of church and state --it is manifestation of the founders’ fear that the state would hold sway over the individual’s religious beliefs.

Pastor Hammond says his endorsement of Michele Bachmann was a misunderstanding of IRS rules. Given the right (or the wrong) administration, who can say that Pastor Boyd's letter is not political speech, or that his book, "The Myth of a Christian Nation" is not political speech -- it is more critical of the religious right than the left. What of ISAIAH?

Also in the Strib, Lori Sturdevant writes about the group of churches operating under the ISAIAH banner, offering “a comeback for the peace-and-justice Christians.”

Still, something is stirring when 400-plus suburbanites stream into a church on a school night to talk about the need for more mass transit, battered women's shelters, school funding and chances for immigrant kids to go to college.

They came intent upon talking about those issues with candidates for elective office, and some obligingly showed up. A half-dozen legislators and most of their challengers were present, as was a cluster of municipal officials. Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad, a crowd pleaser and big fan of ISAIAH, was there, as was his challenger, DFLer Wendy Wilde.

But only one of the major-party candidates for governor appeared -- and Peter Hutchinson's presence wasn't enough for a group that's promoting more citizen interaction with public decisionmakers.

"The other candidates have not responded. Do you think that's right?" moderator Barb Brown asked the crowd. The response was a booming "No!" . . . .

Understandably, the big boys' debate dodging has Hutchinson in a lather. But it's also ruffling ISAIAH. Hear Sarah Gleason, chair of the group's legislative strategy team, on the gubernatorial no-shows in Maple Grove: "This is what makes people cynical. It gives them the feeling that they don't have an opportunity to be heard or to help shape their future. In a democracy, that feeling is deadly. It's what we're trying to overcome." (emphasis added)
Do I detect in those paragraphs just a hint of political activism organized by not one, but many chruches? Should a congregation of the saved, secure in the righteousness of its cause and the evil of its enemies, say a group like Dump Bachmann, be poised with video cameras ready to catch a slip or misstatement that could get ISAIAH member churchers in trouble with the IRS?

I hope not.

Fortunately, partisanship and obsession with Michele Bachmann will keep some dogs from nipping at the heels of Pastor Boyd and ISAIAH. Hopefully no such "Dump" group will form. There is more than enough photoshopping passing for thought and thnking not worth a photoshop from some quarters.

And the fundamental question remains -- freedom of religious thought is secure only to the extent we are willing to grant security to those with a differing view. Religous, or any other thought, remains vibrant only when it is intellectually challenged. Politically, we need Living Word and ISAIAH to be free of government coercion. Personally, we could all beenfit from a little contemplation of Pator Boyd's thoughts.