If you are progressive and live in a politically deep red state you may wonder sometimes just how the atmosphere became, and remains, so pervasively radical and right-wing. It’s not by accident.
In part, it is due to Christian pastors who play into the hands of the power grab that is under way by radicals on the far right, funded by many wealthy people and organized by the Koch Brothers “octopus” of influence.
For a few pastors, siding with the radical right is cynical, intentional, and motivated by a desire for personal power. But, for the largest portion, the drift toward overt or subtle blessing of the radical right is so incremental that it goes unnoticed even by them until someone like you brings it to their attention.
Here are the three ways that progressives can disrupt this corrupting influence on your pastor, Christian faith, and elected government:
Realize that in your red state, there are people in your congregation who are demanding compliance with right-wing ideology. Every pastor that I have known in my red state deals with a constant barrage of demands from people who want the church to bless, promote, and comply with their political ideology.
Take action by expressing your objections to any accommodation or promotion of right-wing ideology with which you genuinely disagree. No matter where they fall along the liberal-conservative-evangelical-Pentecostal spectrum of Christian expression, your pastor needs to know that “everyone” does not have the same political views as those right-wing folks who make weekly demands for political purity.
Follow up and persist so that your pastor remembers that there are many different opinions about solutions to political problems in your country, state, and town/city. As individuals among other individuals in America, Christians may contribute to solutions; but, there is no “Christian” solution to problems in a democracy. Right-wing purists want to insist that there is. Pastors must allow for political issues to be worked out in the public sphere that includes many more than are in your congregation or even belief system.
Smart pastors with integrity will welcome your counterbalance of pressure that will allow them to tell the right-wing purists that there are other people in their congregation who do not agree and must be considered, also. They will welcome the reminder that they are in the uniquely neutral position of being in the culture while not being completely of it.
Some smart ones don’t need intervention at all. My strongly evangelical pastor regularly claims in his sermons that Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat and demands that people leave him alone about it. Ha!
On the other hand, pastors who are hungry for personal acclaim and approval, or who don’t want to see the difference between right-wing political ideology and conservative Christian expression, simply do not deserve your support. They are neither effective leaders of the Christian Faith or of the political sphere. Once you are convinced that they are intent upon only blessing a certain brand of secular politics, then it’s time to go. There is never any need to attack. Just be calm, but clear about why with that pastor and others who ask.
It is important that you not engage in a large conflict with other members of your congregation with whom you disagree. It will be energy wasted on tearing up a congregation instead of expressing your faith in a different congregation whose ministry you can truly support. Save that fight for your democracy, which is where the active debate over political ideas is legitimate, necessary, and expected.
End Note: I have been a teacher in Oklahoma for the last 19 years. Before that, I was a Methodist pastor here for 17 years. I know personally how hard it is to be a pastor in a red state. So, this is no attack on pastors. In fact, it is a process that will liberate them.