Last week I wrote a post about The Religion of Politics; the temptation and misdirected idol of merging faith into politics. For the record, the history of Christianity is littered with a repetitive record of this political muddling and it always ends badly. I think this is a critically important but grossly under-taught subject and I will write more fully on Jesus and nationalism in the days ahead.
However, the temptation for Christianity is not just to pursue political influence externally, there is also the danger of pursuing political influence internally.
Bruxy Cavey is the relaxed, pseudo-hippie pastor of The Meeting House, a self-described ‘Church for people who aren’t into church.’ It has grown from meagre beginnings to approximately 5,000 people based at the main campus in Oakville, Ontario and in numerous satellites around Ontario. It’s open style and quality of teaching have made it a popular choice among church-searchers as well the unchurched. Bruxy has become a widely respected speaker and writer whose teachings continue to interest and bless people.
I recently read a blog by another pastor which attacked Cavey and predictably fingered him as a heretic, which is a bad word suggesting he doesn’t fit with traditionally held teaching. About the same time some pastors in the region began to wonder how to think about this church guy with long hair, funny hats and relevant information so a religious organization called the Gospel Coalition took the responsibility upon themselves to determine if the rumours of heresy were true.
After their interviews with the Meeting House pastor the Gospel Coalition pronounced that they don’t agree with all he says and don’t like the theological friends he keeps, but ‘Having summarized my observations, I am ready to render my conclusion. Bruxy Cavey is not a heretic. He’s an Anabaptist.’
Which is a biased and presumptuous way of pronouncing, ‘We do hereby declare that Mr. Cavey is alright, just not all right. No burning at the stake required. At this time.’ Something that those who listened to him with open minds already knew.
John MacArthur. The very name of this conservative media preacher strikes fear into the hearts of anybody who he doesn’t agree with for some reason known only to him until he tells everyone. Nobody is safe, no small difference small enough to escape his righteous pursuit of doctrinal purity. From Catholics to charismatics, emergents to Arminians his glare is empowered by others like himself.
Recently he has felt the need to head up another organization of evangelicals who are against things (let’s call them EWAATs). What is this new bunch of EWAATs against you ask? Well, they’re against social justice of course. Wait, not really against it, just think there are more important things than caring for people. Wait, they aren’t against caring for people but against talking too much about caring for people. Wait, not just against talking about caring for people but they think that Jesus caring for people’s physical needs was his secondary message. So it should be our secondary message.
So obviously this was heresy and required a Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel and an organization to prepare, endorse and promote it because obviously there was grave danger afoot out there there in their minds: Christians were taking care of people’s needs first instead of preaching at them. This of course totally misses the point, something most good thinking Christians already knew. (I won’t tackle it now but this subject will make a good future post.)
Aren’t these the kinds of internal politics that drive people away from religion? Hand-wringing and fighting over small, doctrinal differences that frankly probably even bore God? Squabbling over words, nuances, self-determined priorities and spending hard working people’s money to make it an issue? Standing on those principles as ultimate and godly while outside people are starving, literally and spiritually?
Politics of religion.
Idol of being right.
I have seen internal politics in religion and, although it doesn’t make religion bad, it does make it vulnerable. When faith becomes divisive it’s our own fault for participating with leaders who are attractive and championing heroes who are addicted to being right.
The early church sought love and unity and were known for their acceptance of people regardless of race, income, sex or religious training. There should be no partisanship in God’s family: no caste system that praises and demeans; no strong arms that push or pull the weak; no elitism that elevates or insults differences (Galatians 3:28).
I’m not sure how to say this but ‘success’ – being on television, writing a book, pastoring a church, guarding doctrinal minutia – doesn’t necessarily make someone qualified spiritually. It can also mean they are privileged or can work a plan or can maneuver politically or are an alpha personality. And usually it falls on others to hear their truth and work harder to change.
When I write this blog I express my opinions; that is what blogs are for. I do my very best to give you information that will entertain, challenge and inform you but mostly to help draw your heart and thoughts to God. But I don’t want you to believe me any more easily than you would believe anybody else. I am much happier flipping switches in your brain than telling you right or wrong because that is what builds humble, true, exemplary people of faith. You see, if you are God’s child and if you are honestly seeking Him, then you have the basic qualifications to ignore the politics of religion and think and discern true truth.
This doesn’t mean we ignore all other opinions either. In our tradition, John Wesley’s quadrilateral for determining truth was: (1) Scripture, (2) tradition, (3) reason, and (4) experience. You could say those Methodists were very methodical. There is observation, listening, learning involved in our beliefs but then we cover and wash each of those by listening to God’s Spirit speaking into our deepest places (John 16:13).
So when you see politics entering the sacred places step back and observe and listen. And pray. Those who belong to God have a higher authority than the politics of religion.