Thursday, March 10, 2005

Presumptuous Pontificating Political Pronouncement

If you want a small sample what caused me to leave mainline denominations for my health, read the Holy Joint Ecumenical Statement opposing President Bush’s budget. Yes, it's signed by ECUSA leader ++Griswold and by PCUSA Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, of course. In it, they call for higher taxes and bigger government programs. They aren't honest enough to clearly state that, but that's what they're calling for.

I can argue the opposite until I’m blue in the face. Gouging successful earners to make big government bigger is scarcely anything Jesus called for. But I’ll leave that aside and acknowledge that such issues are ones faithful Christians can disagree on. (I will not say that about issues such as abortion, but I’ll leave that for another day.) And I’ll leave aside the question of whether the alarmist depiction of Bush’s budget is accurate. (I’ve seen this sort of thing time and time again. It probably isn’t.)

That still leaves serious – and, yes, infuriating – problems with such pronouncements. First, is that most of these worthies are abusing and probably going beyond the authority entrusted to them.

Clifton Kirkpatrick stands out in this regard. I was a Presbyterian for 14 years and followed denominational doings closely (and still do on occasion). Under Presbyterian polity, I can’t anywhere recall that a proper role of the Stated Clerk is to act like a political pope on behalf of the denomination. Yet he and Andrews before him have constantly presumed to speak for Presbyterians by spouting the liberal line. I can’t imagine that kind of arrogance. And you can’t imagine how much this enraged me in my Presbyterian days. Which leads me to . . .

The second problem is complete disregard for the consciences of political conservatives in those denominations. (O. K., there aren’t many conservatives left in the United Church of Christ, but anyway…) It really shows contempt for politically conservative Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Presbyterians to make an official statement that the Methodist etc. position is that conservative positions on budgeting etc. are wrong and immoral. And there are still a lot of conservatives in the pews of mainline denominations. And such statements make it problematic for many of those conservatives to stay in those pews.

And that in turn leads to a third problem. The liberal pontificators’ statements are highly divisive.

The hypocrisy of these leaders is revealed by such acts. They speak again and again about how much they value unity. Then they engage in divisive acts on issues where faithful Christians disagree. If they really cared about unity, they would decline to make official pronouncements on such issues.

Now there are times for church leaders to take divisive action. Some issues are so important and so clearly right and wrong matters that division is a proper cost to pay. But President Bush’s budget is not such an issue.

Actions such as this statement on the President’s budget lend credence to the admittedly jaundiced view of what liberals really mean by “unity”: Us liberals do what we want and you conservatives put up with it and fork over the money.

Well, I stopped playing that game long ago.

More commentary and lots of comments may be found here.

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