Letter to the editor: Christianity isn't Republican or Democrat
Jim Wallis, an evangelical preacher and public theologian, wrote in his book "God's Politics" the following: "Clearly, God is not a Republican or a Democrat, and the best contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable or loyally partisan but to maintain the moral independence to critique both the Left and the Right."
Admittedly, I've never been able to think of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as Republican or Democrat either. You might be a cradle to grave Christian, but manufacturing hard-hearted and mind-numbing fantasies of the political realm being served best by a particular faction of a party is not a path of high moral conscience. Imperfect though they were (but by any measure more intelligent than many politicians today), the creme de la creme of the founding fathers agreed with great passion that a separation of church and state was necessary for one overriding reason--to forestall the possibility of an "official" church becoming tyrannical in an emergent nation of diversity.
An imprimatur of only Christianity on our politics could lead to more browbeating of non-Christians than gentle yet firm persuasion to follow the teachings of Jesus. Shouldn't we acknowledge that our founding fathers wanted a safety valve to prevent overwhelming extremes of Christian expression that, frankly, can border on a self-righteous spread of God's way or an underground highway toward a horrific plunge into a lake of fire?
Let me be clear, though, in stating that the self-righteous can also be among progressive Christians. Their apparent gentle persuasion can conceal an intolerance too. How? By an intolerance of the very conservatism I've alluded to above--the bible-thumping and tough-as-nails love of Christians who won't tolerate anyone who tells them how they should believe. Hence, a vicious and sometimes violent circle.
Separation of church and state obviously hasn't ameliorated the heightened tensions that persist among Christians, but at least the option to follow any creed, spiritual practice, philosophy of life, whether Jew, Muslim, native American, Buddhist, Hindu and on and on must be allowed unless dealing with the extremes of the darkest of dark cults.
In other words, within reason, be a cradle to grave believer in whatever moves your spirit. Just don't trample on someone else who believes or thinks differently.
Consider what the Rev. William Sloane Coffin (1924-2006) advised; "It is bad religion to deify doctrines and creeds. . . . Doctrine, let's not forget, supported slavery and apartheid. . . . Moreover, doctrines can divide while compassion can only unite." And back to Wallis, reflecting on the bible: "At the heart of this book's message I am saying, don't go right, don't go left; go deeper."
Yes, go deeper. With love. Or as Coffin wrote, "carry on a lover's quarrel with their country."
Richard Joel Holmes