The New York Times ran an article about Rev. Greg Boyd, a senior minister at Woodland Hills Church, in Maplewood, MN near St. Paul. Woodland Hills is an evangelical megachurch with a conservative congregation and Rev. Boyd has for the most part conservative views. That's fine. But he understands the importance of separation of church and state. (It's right there amongst the U.S. history and in the Constitution George W, look it up.)
Rev. Boyd got fed up with requests from church members and visitors alike:
"Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute “voters’ guides” that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?"
Rev. Boyd refused each request and developed a six sermon series called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should not be in the business of politics, should stop moralizing on sexual issues, and stop glorifying American military campaigns.
Woodland lost about 1000 of it's 5000 members with many walking out during Rev. Boyd's sermons. But, he is also hearing a collective exhalation from members who have been holding their breaths afraid that if they question the war in Iraq or any conservative social stance, it means they don't love Jesus.
Randall Balmer, a religion professor at Barnard College and an evangelical, has written “Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America -- an Evangelical’s Lament.”
Brian D. McLaren, the founding pastor at Cedar Ridge Community Church in Gaithersburg, Md. is a leader in challenging the more politicized evangelical establishment.
“More and more people are saying this has gone too far -- the dominance of the evangelical identity by the religious right,” Mr. McLaren said. “You cannot say the word ‘Jesus’ in 2006 without having an awful lot of baggage going along with it. You can’t say the word ‘Christian,’ and you certainly can’t say the word ‘evangelical’ without it now raising connotations and a certain cringe factor in people.
“Because people think, ‘Oh no, what is going to come next is homosexual bashing, or pro-war rhetoric, or complaining about ‘activist judges.’ ”
Mr. Boyd has a new book out, “The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church,” which is based on his sermons.
Mr. Boyd lambasted the “hypocrisy and pettiness” of Christians who focus on “sexual issues” like homosexuality, abortion or Janet Jackson’s breast-revealing performance at the Super Bowl halftime show. He said Christians these days were constantly outraged about sex and perceived violations of their rights to display their faith in public.
“Those are the two buttons to push if you want to get Christians to act,” he said. “And those are the two buttons Jesus never pushed.”
I dashed off an e-mail to Rev. Boyd and received a reply.
Hello Rev. Boyd,
I live in Chicago IL and I just read an article about your book and sermons challenging the current religious/political bond. I want to say THANK YOU!!!!! Thank you very much. Thanks for having the courage to breakaway and say what so desperately needed to be said. Thanks for speaking what is in the hearts and minds of so many people in our country who are disturbed by the connotation that to be Christian is not only to be Republican but to be of a certain narrow, intolerant, military, America can do no wrong mind set.
I am an extremely patriotic American, I love my country deeply. But to love it means I want it to live up to it's ideals (not it's practices) of religious and personal freedoms. It does not meant love it or leave it, God is on our side no matter what we do, or that we can sit in judgement of others because they are different and then translate those judgements into laws.
I am also a Christian. I love Jesus and I know he loves me. I attend a wonderful church. It hurts me to see the attitude in America that being a Christian is not enough. You have to be a certain type of Christian. It's sad and it's dangerous and scares me.
Please continue your work. Please impress on your listeners that a single minded nation would be death of what America is supposed to be. I have always wanted Muslims, especially Muslim-Americans to speak up and let the world know that to be Muslim does not mean you are a terrorist or that you are sympathetic to terrorist. Well I hope Christians will do the same. Speak up and say we can have philosophical differences and political differences and still be Christian.
I hope our nation will come back to it's senses and heed the wisdom of the founding fathers regarding the separation of church and state.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback. I'm receiving thousands of similar e-mails from people all over the world. People all over the place are tired of the fusion of the cross and the sword that has been taking place in American religion. I'm happy to play a small role in helping people see a beautiful alternative.
If you want to go further with this, you might enjoy Myth of a Christian Nation.
In any case, thanks for your very encouraging words.
I am sure that Rev. Boyd and I have many differences of opinion and I am sure that he agrees with me that the church has been and should be a place where social justice and change is a priority, but not a pawn for a political party or justification for military action.