They Didn’t See This Coming

Today while doing the regular scroll through Facebook, I came upon a live feed from a Congressional hearing. The details of that hearing aren’t important for this post. What is important is that though these views reflect much of  MY own interpretations of my personal faith in Jesus, how I live and what I believe about how to treat people, I’m not sure they are appropriate for a legislative body. I had to ask myself whether or not these expressions of faith actually belong in a legal Congressional hearing.  Should the person of Jesus and the words that he said to his followers actually have anything to do with the proceedings of a secular government overseeing a pluralistic country made up of people from many different religious persuasions? Before I go on, here is what I heard spoken today. 

“I’m experiencing this hearing and I’m struggling whether I respond or launch into this question as a legislator or from the perspective of a woman of faith,”.

“… it’s very difficult to sit here and listen to arguments in the long history in this country of using scripture and weaponizing and abusing scripture to justify bigotry,” she said. “White supremacists have done it, those who justified slavery did it, those who fought against integration did it, and we’re seeing it today.”

“Sometimes, especially in this body (Congress), I feel as though if Christ himself walked through these doors and said what he said thousands of years ago, that we should love our neighbor and our enemy, that we should welcome the stranger, fight for the least of us … he would be maligned as a radical and rejected from these doors.”

“There is nothing holy about rejecting medical care of people, no matter who they are on the grounds of what their identity is; There is nothing holy about turning someone away from a hospital,”

“My faith commands me to treat Mr. Minton as holy because he is sacred, because his life is sacred, because you are not to be denied anything that I am entitled to,”

“That we are equal in the eyes of the law and we are equal — in my faith — in the eyes of the world.”

When I asked myself these questions, the answer that came to my mind was, that though faith and practice should affect an individual, in all practical reality, it should be specifically irrelevant in Congress because what a holy man or a holy book says about a person does not belong in the making of our laws and policy in an official way. If it does from the Bible, then it also does from the holy books of other people of faith.

Why did this Representative feel the need to say these words in her official capacity? In the same vein, why did the Speaker of the House recently make a point to talk openly about prayer, specifically that she prays daily for the POTUS when she was asked about it? Think about what would happen if Representative Ilan Omar dared to express any of her beliefs in this way.  OMG, the GOP would become apoplectic! At this point though, I’m expecting that because this Representative isn’t the right kind of Christian, they are freaking out anyway. 

The answer to why this is now the norm in our public discourse, especially in DC can be found in what I believe to be the founding of two Evangelical organizations in 1979 and 1983. I believe that in their righteous zeal to obey God, as they saw it, they had no real idea what they would be ushering into those places by demanding that their one right way of things become the only right way of doing them.  These people didn’t know or realize that Christianity is an ancient religion theologians have been trying to understand and implement for centuries with their own take on the accuracy and precision of it. They forgot that not ALL Christians are Evangelical ones. Actually, they didn’t forget, they assumed that if they got enough of the right kind of Christians in office, they could control the state of public affairs the way they believed to be right.  Nonevangelical Christians are not real Christians in their minds. End of story. 

The first organization I remember was called the Moral Majority and it was founded by Jerry Falwell Senior. Falwell was a Baptist minister and the president of Liberty University. Mr. Falwell was a devout Republican who believed that America was founded exclusively on Evangelical Christian principles. It was his express aim to reclaim what he believed to have been lost in the nation’s capital. Other associates across the country joined Rev. Falwell in support and many Evangelicals across the country began to follow its work. The Evangelical pulpit began to be politicized in a way it had never been before.

The next organization was established in 1983. It was called the Family Research Council. A nonprofit founded by Dr. James Dobson, Armand Nicholi Jr., George Rekers and others. In 1988, due to financial difficulties it became a part of Dr. Dobson’s Focus on the Family ministry. Gary Bauer joined the organization as its first president and its work continues to this day. The primary aim of this organization is to lobby at the national level for Christian principles with respect to faith, family and freedom.

It is my observation that these two organizations, as well as a plethora of others, including Pat Robertson’s Regent University and 700 Club, had a collective mission to make America Evangelical Christian, again.

The preachers and leaders (not historians) believed that the early settlers came to America primarily for to establish the Christian faith. They believe that the Founding Fathers were Christians and claim any view to the contrary is the result of secular humanist wrongly interpreting American history. I can say this with confidence because my husband Dean and I were devout Evangelicals committed to the collective cause.  I also taught American History in an Evangelical Christian school. I was deeply committed to this cause for almost 30 years. 

My journey into a very different worldview began with questions, a lot of them. It is now clear to me that a whole lot of people came to America for reasons other than religious freedom and the Founders were a group of men with and without faith in God and with and without religious principles. Yes, the culture was generally Christian but it was profoundly diverse. Our founders did not intend for us to be an Evangelical Christian Nation, or a Christian only nation. The government our  founders established was a government for ALL of America’s citizens.  It was never intended to reflect a specific religion of any kind. If it was, the Founding Fathers would have clearly set that out in the Constitution.

The reason this particular Representative was compelled to share what she did above, is because Evangelicals in her midst are constantly bringing the Bible into the discussion as though it were a part of the US Constitution. In essence Evangelicals have asked for it to be this way. 

The number of Evangelicals in the House and Senate who believe that they have the one true and right way to have faith in God, the one right and true way to live their lives and make others do the same, is likely the largest it has ever been. What no one committed to the agenda seemed to have seen coming was that bringing in this very specific Christian worldview, they would also bring into the political decision making exercise anyone else who claimed the Bible as a holy book. They would have to actually be confronted by others on their use of the Bible as a justification for making the laws the way they do.

What this Representative described today was a worldview established by a Jewish carpenter. It is a worldview that Evangelicals actually share with her IN THEIR CHURCH ministries and yet, simultaneously they do not believe government should do ministry. Government should control the populace is what seems to be the gist of their involvement in it. They believe that biblical mandates, especially on morality should absolutely be a part of the law of this land according to the way they perform their duties in the House and Senate. What I do not believe they thought through very well, perhaps because they didn’t really expect to succeed, is how to actually use the whole of the Bible to make laws to govern. For example, the laws, with respect to LGBT individuals  cannot be made by throwing Bible verses at one another. MANY MANY Christians do not interpret that the Bible prohibits homosexual behavior. MANY MANY Christians do not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible or the inerrancy of the words within its pages. 

At the end of the day, WE ARE A COUNTRY OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM! There are core principles of right and wrong shared by all religions but there are atheists using rational thinking who come to similar conclusions. Religion does not belong in a government like ours. It belongs in our country because religious people live here and we need to respect their right to believe as their conscience dictates. The only time we should object is when that religion is a physical threat to others. 

The Representative who shared this today was Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. AOC…I waited to say who it was because I knew some of you wouldn’t have gotten this far had you known that to begin with.

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