In the mainline churches, which is what I know best, the political views leaders express are generally those of what could be called the ”˜foundation left’ ”” emotionally grounded in concern for the poor and development, historically linked to the ”˜new left’ mix of economic and social concerns as developed in the 1960’s, shaped by an atmosphere of privilege and entitlement that reflects the upper middle class background of the educated professionals who run these institutions. The social sins they deplore are those of the right: excessive focus on capitalism, too robust and unheeding a promotion of the American national and security interest abroad, insufficient care for the environment, failure to help the poor through government welfare programs, failure to support affirmative action, failure to celebrate and protect the unrestricted right of women to abort. I am of course speaking very generally here and there are lots of individual exceptions, but many of these folks are generally tolerant of theological differences and rigidly intolerant when it comes to political differences: they care nothing at all about doctrines like predestination but get very angry with people who disagree with them about issues like global warming or immigration reform. Theological heresy is a matter for courtesy and silence, but political heretics fill them with bile….
Let me nail some cyber-theses to the virtual door.
1. Nobody cares what you think while your tiny church is falling apart.
In a diocese not a thousand miles from my home in glamorous Queens, there once was a bishop whose long and public battle with alcoholism rendered him unable to carry out his duties. For years and years this diocese suffered under grievous mismanagement and its rotten condition was an open scandal widely discussed and lamented throughout the national church. Yet in the general shipwreck of his episcopacy, this bishop (or what remained of the diocesan machinery) somehow managed to get ”˜prophetic’ statements out on political causes of various kinds. So far as I know, none of these statements ever had any impact on anyone’s thinking anywhere on Planet Earth.
This poor bishop, now thankfully retired, was an extreme case, but why, exactly, would any sane person today pay attention to the political pronouncements of an Episcopal bishop? Episcopalians are a tiny minority of the population and the church long ago lost its social power and cachet. The Episcopal church today is in the worst condition it has been since the aftermath of the Revolution; its clergy has visibly failed to keep the church together or prevent its ongoing decline. I’m afraid that the penchant to make political pronouncements proceeds less from a true prophetic vocation than from a nostalgia for a time when it mattered what Episcopal bishops thought. In any case, there is nothing more ridiculous than a proprietor of a failing concern who officiously lectures everyone else on how to manage their affairs. Please, for the sake of what remains of the dignity of your office, give it a rest….
Read it all.