The Unchristian State of America
Many of our elected leaders talk about the USA being exceptional. Many people believe that the USA was founded on Christian principles and is a “Christian nation.” The prophet Jeremiah faced the same ideology with the people of Israel. They thought being God’s chosen people made them exceptional. They confused being God’s chosen people with privilege rather than responsibility. National leaders had strayed from relying on a covenant relationship with God to relying on power of their own. They adopted a popular national religiosity that was designed to please others in power and was self-serving. Through Jeremiah, God was condemning this practice of false religion and calling God’s people back into a covenant relationship.
As in Jeremiah’s day, so it is today. We often hear our state and national leaders referencing religion in various ways. They imply that there’s only one preferred faith in a time when there are a plurality of faith groups in the U.S. They use references to religion to exercise power. They interpret faith to fit their preferred political biases. While claiming some form of faith, they don’t associate faith values with political decisions.
Elected leaders for our state of Missouri place political power over the health and well-being of people they are to serve. They listen to the dollars of their campaign donors and lobbyists more than the people who voted for them. People are only valued for their votes yet many of those voters’ needs are ignored. Leaders have forgotten the “least of these” for their own riches of political power. Leaders protect their own political position by making alliances with those who take advantage of “the least of these” for personal profit and they pass by the person who struggles in the ditches of life many of whom are children. The facts of what people want are twisted to support leaders’ personal and political viewpoint. The goal is to persuade the uninformed to further their own political bias.
When referring to religion or faith in political discourse elected leaders need to hear God’s true call to “do justice to the afflicted and needy; deliver the poor and needy” (Psalm 82:3-4) and to remember “blessed is the one who considers the poor” (Psalm 41.1) Jesus gives the same guidance as Jeremiah in the story of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar (Luke 16:19-31) and in the story of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke18:1-8).
Our leaders need to practice biblical faith in their planning and decision-making by restoring the health of our state with economic dignity; exceptional education of our children; exceptionally healthy food for children; exceptional health care for all; exceptional safety from gun violence for all our citizens; exceptionally affordable housing; exceptionally fair and honest trials and sentencing for those charged with crimes; and exceptionally fair and restorative treatment of the incarcerated. Only then will we be an exceptional state and country and then we may ask God to bless us because we are sincerely blessing others.
Rev Dale Shotts, Retired Clergy, United Methodist Church, Member of St Luke’s United Methodist Church in Kansas City