When I was in Dallas I often got into trouble for calling the church to contest the inequalities in the judicial system and, in particular, how capital punishment is imposed only on the poor. One Sunday I pointed out that Jesus, a peasant rabbi, had been executed by an unholy alliance of religion and the militarized government. I was greeting people after the service, and I saw an older man headed toward me who I knew to be much more politically conservative than me. As I braced myself, he said, “Preacher, you know I disagree with you about the death penalty, but I’ve decided that I really do think a preacher ought to be opposed to it.”
I have thought about that perspective a lot since then. He had compartmentalized his faith system in such a way that he thought his pastor and church ought to take a position that contradicted his own. On the one hand, I was glad he could live with that tension and not leave because he disagreed. On the other, though, it disturbed me that he thought there was no need to align his view with what he clearly thought was the “more Christian” position.
This issue arose for me again last week as the Georgia Legislature voted to put a statue of the Ten Commandments on the capitol grounds and to deny health care to the state’s poorest citizens by refusing to expand Medicaid. There seemed absolutely no contradiction between an unconstitutional expression of their Judeo-Christian tradition and a complete dismissal of Jesus’ most core instruction to care for “the least.”
In one of the most churched states in the nation, there was utter silence rather than advocating for the poor. The same day a report came out that showed that Georgia, one of the most homophobic states, is tied for second in the consumption of Internet gay porn. Some days I think we’d be better off if a lot more churches closed because they don’t seem to be doing anyone much good … and neither are the people who attend them.
by Michael Piazza
Center for Progressive Renewal