What Historically White Denominations Can Learn From the Republican Party

www.flickr.com – prakharevich

The day after election night is like Christmas morning for bloggers and political pundits. Like eager children we come bounding down the stairs ready to rip open and reflect on wins, losses, gaffes and funnies left on the hearth of election night.

Oh but where to start?

I think I’ll start with race.

For as much as some would like to think that we are “over” race or that the whole reason we still have racism is because we keep talking about it, occurrences like John Sununu’s comments about Colin Powell and last night’s demographic breakdown have once again pushed race to the forefront of American political and cultural conversations. Other demographics: class, age, gender, etc. also play a huge part in the discussion, but over and over again, the pundits from both parties kept coming back to race.

The topic that has been particularly compelling to me has been about the future of the Republican party. In light of what one commentator described when talking about the impact of demographic racial diversity on the election saying, “The future as arrived” I am intrigued by how this mostly older, White Republican party will respond and adapt in order to regain influence?

Hey wait a gosh darn minute . . . White and older?

And this is where historically White and aging denominations like my own, the Presbyterian Church (USA) might want to tune into future discussions and developments in the Republican Party. Many of the Republican commentators described what is to come as anything from a pending civil war to a time for regrouping and deep soul-searching, but regardless of the intensity levels, there is obviously going to be some serious talk about how Republicans will reach the increasingly diverse United States population.

Yeah, kinda like what we Presbyterians and others need to do as well.

While I doubt that I will be invited into the strategy meetings of the Grand Old Party, I do know that I may have the ear of some of our Grand Old Denominations. With this in mind let me not-so-humbly offer a few words of unsolicited advice.

First, we must stop seeing these demographic changes as problems that must be leveraged in order to avoid death and instead see these changes as transformational realities that must be embraced in order to experience new life.

And second . . . well, let’s see if we can get a handle on the first one 😉

On more than one occasion, it was said that the Republican party has a “Latino Problem” that must be addressed. While I understand what was intended by the statement, this framing of an ethnic group as a resource to be leveraged only goes to commoditize a people and does not invite new voices into the conversations as equal partners in shaping and forming the future of the body. This perspective only encourages resentment and disdain, because it forces those who hold power to give it up out of necessity and survival and not out of genuine openness to a new way of being . . . of being Presbyterian, of being Lutheran, of being Republican.

Some might say that this election and the current state of most historically White denominations makes it clear that it is simply a matter of time before our need to hold onto power, privilege and status creates an institutional reality so narrow that, as Brian Williams said about Donald Trump, we may drive “well past the last exit to relevance and veer[ed] into something closer to irresponsible.” And while I am don’t believe that we Presbyterians will be as outrageous as Mr. Trump in the ways we express ourselves during this time, to allow our deep theological and ecclesiastic traditions to be retrained and confined by our unwillingness to express those things in new ways and through difference voices, we will not only move closer to irresponsibility, but we will move closer to being unfaithful.

So as discussions about race continue in politics, and I hope in our churches, let us do so with pastoral hearts for the struggles that change invites, gracious voices that are committed to the conversation and liberating eyes toward who God may be intending for us to become.

This is an exciting and opportune time for us all and I look forward to the ongoing adventure that it is to be the body politic and the body of Christ.

May the peace of Christ be with you and may we see God’s blessings in us all.

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Faith, Stones and the Top Ten Catholic Teachings Rick Santorum Rejects

[Photo by Gage Skidmore]

If you are one of those who “enjoys” the topsy-turvy nature of the election season, the only real show to watch these past few months has been the Republican Primary. I will say that I have managed only to watch the debates via the filter of my friends on Twitter, but still it has been fascinating. Like every arm-chair political pundit, I too have been wondering who has the best shot at unseating President Obama – for the record, I think John Huntsman was the only legit threat – and now that it’s down to the final four, the past few weeks have been pretty wild.

One of the issues that keep arising is the boldness with which Rick Santorum has been speaking the ways his faith influences his politics and should influence the laws of the United States. I am not a fan, but I get why some people might like him. No one is going to fault him for not speaking his mind including saying that 1960’s John Kennedy’s Speech about the separation of church and state made him want to vomit.  His “throw up” comment combined with his comments about the snobbery of a college education and a growing list of other provocative statements may be moving him closer to the Dan Quale and Sarah Palin Quotable Club than the White House. But I guess we’ll see . . .

In any case, one of the Santorum posts that has been going around is the Top Ten Catholic Teachings Santorum Rejects while Obsessing about Birth Control post by Juan Cole. His list is as follows:

1. So for instance, Pope John Paul II was against anyone going to war against Iraq I think you’ll find that Rick Santorum managed to ignore that Catholic teaching.

2.The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans. I.e., Rick Santorum’s opposition to universal health care is a betrayal of the Catholic faith he is always trumpeting.

3. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for criminals in almost all situations. (Santorum largely supports executions.)

4. The US Conference of Bishops has urged that the federal minimum wage be increased, for the working poor. Santorum in the Senate repeatedly voted against the minimum wage.

5. The bishops want welfare for all needy families, saying “We reiterate our call for a minimum national welfare benefit that will permit children and their parents to live in dignity. A decent society will not balance its budget on the backs of poor children.” Santorum is a critic of welfare.

6. The US bishops say that “the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions…”. Santorum, who used to be supportive of unions in the 1990s, has now, predictably, turned against them.

7. Catholic bishops demand the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. Rick Santorum denies that there are any Palestinians, so I guess he doesn’t agree with the bishops on that one.

8. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops ripped into Arizona’s law on treatment of immigrants, Cardinal Roger Mahony characterized Arizona’s S.B. 1070 as “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law,” saying it is based on “totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources.” He even suggested that the law is a harbinger of an American Nazism! Santorum attacks ‘anchor babies’ or the provision of any services to children of illegal immigrants born and brought up in the US.

9. The Bishops have urged that illegal immigrants not be treated as criminals and that their contribution to this country be recognized.

10. The US Conference of Bishops has denounced, as has the Pope, the Bush idea of ‘preventive war’, and has come out against an attack on Iran in the absence of a real and present threat of an Iranian assault on the US. In contrast, Santorum wants to play Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove and ride the rocket down on Isfahan himself.

Read full post by Juan Cole here.

Now when I first read this list, my inside snarky junior high school boy voice was like, “Yeah, Santorum take that, you big mean right-wing hypocrite!” Because, let’s be honest, it does seems like a serious amount of selective faith positions are being used to support political ones. Now I am not Catholic. I personally differ on some social and theological positions that the Roman Catholic church holds and I also agree with a great deal of what the Catholic Church believes and does, but again, I am not a Catholic, so I do not know what the expectations are of the members of the Roman Catholic Church. Should a member agree with everything that the Catholic Church believes in doctrine and practice? Wow, that’s a huge question for Catholics around the world.

I am so very glad that I am a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA) where, in our tradition, every member agrees with every one of the social and theological positions that our denomination has ever taken.

Oh . . . wait a minute.

Dangit, I guess it’s hard for me to really get on Santorum too much because really, is any of us pure of heart and action when it comes to our denominational or religious affiliations let alone the entirety of our faith? I think not. So while I would love to bask the condescending glow of his own inconsistencies and hypocrisy, I keep hearing Jesus scream into my ear,

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. – John 8:2-11

Please don’t get me wrong, I am also not defending him, his positions or the tone of the attacks that are coming from the GOP primary. It is probably safe to say that much would have to happen in order for me not to support a 2nd term of Barack Obama. What I am doing is calling on those of us Christians who vigorously disagree with the folks like Santorum, to do so with a little more care than others might, because, while he is certainly opening himself up to public scrutiny by seeking the highest elected office in the land, I do not think Jesus’ would see that as an excuse to unfairly judge or cast any stones his way.

While I would love to be able to keep up with comments on the various blogs that I post on, if you really want me to respond, please comment on the original post on www.reyes-chow.com.