The American church is failing

By Kyle Williams

Over the past months, the Bush campaign has been in hot water from religious leaders because of their effort to court America’s evangelical churches.

Apparently, Bush volunteers were contacting churches and asking them for their directories, so they could be targeted for campaign mailers. The Bush campaign has also attempted to court black churches, which have for so long been on the liberal side. This, of course, has caused controversy and created division. And as if it weren’t political enough already, it has created even more of a political environment within the Christian community,.

Over the past week, a conference held in Texas asked the question: “How would Jesus vote?” James Moore, the guy who wrote, “Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George Bush Presidential,” preached to the choir, saying, “If ever there were a bleeding-heart liberal, it was Jesus Christ. I think the carpenter from Galilee was the original Democrat.” Apparently, these liberal Christians are trying to get a piece of the American Christian vote.

Then, on Aug. 8, the New York Times reported on a 600-member church in Missouri that is in the front-lines of an evangelical movement hoping to mobilize its members like never before in favor of President Bush. The St. Louis church has put together a “moral action team” to promote involvement in the local community.

Here in Oklahoma, I know personally of a church nearby that has mobilized its youth group in volunteering for a state-house campaign. Another church in Oklahoma City is holding classes on the influence of Christianity in the American political process and how those principles can be applied to politics today.

Similarly, the pastor of a church in Springdale, Ark., was under fire in July for allegedly crossing the line into partisan politics from the pulpit. The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued a press release on its website, saying:

[The pastor’s] bias in favor of Bush was evident throughout the sermon. He projected large pictures of the two candidates on a screen and described Bush as a committed Christian who lets his religious beliefs influence his policy decisions while characterizing Kerry as keeping his faith private. He also twisted their stands on key social issues to make Bush more appealing to the evangelical Christian audience.

Americans United called on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the church and this particular sermon. In response to this criticism, conservatives accuse liberal and black churches on the East Coast of doing the same or even worse.

Now, all this political action from churches seems to have brought us to a climax, where conservative and liberal groups are forming for the purpose of spying on each other’s churches and reporting them if they endorse candidates or talk politics from the pulpit.

Ironically, a D.C.-based group called the “Religious Freedom Action Coalition” has formed an organization named, “Big Brother Church Watch.” Fronting the website, RatOutaChurch.org, the group has sent out volunteers to spy on churches in Virginia and if they hear anything that might violate tax rules, they report the church to the IRS. The organization is specifically targeting more liberal churches in the area, attending their church, hoping to hear politics from the pulpit.

In Kansas, the Mainstream Coalition has about 100 volunteers and they’re doing the same thing as BBCW, but are targeting conservative churches that might endorse the Federal Marriage Amendment or conservative candidates.

All this hype and all this bickering makes me sit back and ask: Is this what the church is about? Political squabbling and divisions because of political parties? The American church is failing if they continue to get caught up in petty politics. A reality check is in order: We’re spying on each others’ sermons in hopes of reporting them to the IRS.

These events beg the question – is a Christian’s allegiance to a political party or to God? It’s not like these churches are just discerning politics and culture. They’ve stepped out of the realm of values and entered into dirty, American politics.

Don’t these people know that they’re not helping anyone? They’re alienating their communities, causing division between churches, and raping the church for their own political gain.