Three wise sermons on “Putting Politics in its Place”

by faithgibson on November 8, 2012

The Vineyard Christian Fellowship of the Peninsula (VCFP) scheduled a series of 3 sermons titled “Putting Politics in its Place” for the three Sundays preceding the 2012 elections.

My reaction was both excitement and trepidation. Would the tone be consistent with my search for creative and compassionate ways to the incorporate ethical principles of non-sectarian religion into our democratic system of government?

Or would these sermons reinforce the currently popular idea among right-leaning conservative groups that all ‘true’ believers are obligated, both as individuals and as organizations, to define the United States as a Christian-only country and demand that our democracy become a vehicle for imposing Christian policies at all levels of government?

Unfortunately this latter position imposes a punitive form of sectarian beliefs that excludes everyone who does not share a tightly drawn set of specific doctrines. Even loyal members of these groups face scrutiny, as their beliefs are constantly judged by others. Anyone who fails these tests of doctrinal purity can be publicly denounced, shunned or even excommunicated. If they happen to also be running for elected office, these tests for ideological purity can end their career in public service.

I am from a historical group known collectively as ‘Anabaptists’ that is also known for the use of shunning among its members. These groups include Mennonite, Amish, Society of Friends (Quakers), German Brotherhood, etc. In 1521 anabaptists and many other protestant sects rejected the customary practice of infant baptism  as a method for conferring a life-long definition of Christianity on a days, weeks or months-old baby that obviously did not participate in this decision.  Unfortunately, many of the new protestant sects merely replaced Catholic dogma with their own versions of absolutism.

As a young adult, I was shunned by my family for making a choice my father believed to be inappropriate. It taught me how uncharitable and unloving we humans can be in the name of ideological purity and how much unnecessary, unproductive harm results. It’s particularly onerous when this is done by people who profess to a religion based on loving one another and honoring the Old Testament admonishion that judgment belongs to G*D and not to us.

As a person of maturity, my matured religious beliefs tell me that love never kills to save, that faith without works is dead and that I am to help many and harm none. I trust G*D to take care of all the rest.

I am pleased to report that my sense of right and wrong in a representative democracy such as ours is also compatible with the teachings of my congregation, which applies compassion, not coersion, as the core attribute of our faith.

The first of these three  sermons addressed the question: “Where is your Primary Citizenship” and was given by our senior pastor, Alex Can Riesen.

I found it inspiring, thought-provoking, instructive and insightful. Click here to download the mp3 podcast. Part one  is 17 mins; part two is 15 minutes, for a total listening time of 32 minutes.

Puttng-Politics-n-its-place_Alex-part1            Puttng-Politics-n-its-place_Alex-part2

The last of the series was Sunday, November 4th and called “Putting Politics in Its Place: Mending the Gap”. The speaker was Ron Sanders, PhD, and he expanded on the issue of partisan politics, elections and religious principles to include what is the most salient of question of our time: Should sectarian religion impose its will on our democratic form of government by demanding that it replicate the sectarian policies of certain conservative Christian sects?

“Mending the Gap” is wonderful at doing just that – providing a context the fees us from Christianity as an oppressive form of tyranny.

I will post the URL to it in the next few days and also hope to have a transcript of the hard-copy, which will provided the text of several instructive and insightful quotes.

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