One of the biggest problems in modern American Christianity is the “church-hopping” phenomenon. People stay in churches for a certain period of time, get bored, find someplace new and repeat.
I am a perfect example of this problem. I’ve been part of a wonderful church for the past five years. But due to babies and health and inertia and occasional frustration with the church, Kim and I have been there rarely. We’ve both talked about the things that annoy us – we wish for more of this and more of that and so on and so forth.
We’ve had this discussion with two of our dear friends who are also part of the church. They understand the issues but they have taken a different approach. They have jumped into the middle of the church. This church, they’ve said, is their home. And the Bible, they say, calls them to be vibrant, vital parts of their church home, not people hovering on the outside.
They are right. Our church isn’t perfect. No church is. But it is our spiritual home and we are blessed by it and we understand our job isn’t to take and take and take from it but to give and give and give.
Barack Obama understands this approach. That is why he didn’t just rip the church wily nilly. Lots of American Christians should use his faithfulness to his church as an example in their own lives.
He didn’t forego his spiritual home for political convenience. Whether or not that is good politics is yet to be seen. That is is good spiritually should be applauded.
The distinction between the two – the distinction between the spiritual and the political here is a distinction we miss at our peril. It is a distinction we are at risk of missing because of the unseemly mingling of faith and politics this campaign season. That mix isn’t just a problem on the right, it is a problem on the left as well. And just as the right threatens the name of Jesus by coopting him for their political purposes so too the left does the same thing here.
Some have said Obama needs to give a Checkers Speech. He doesn’t. He has done nothing wrong. His pastor holds extreme views. He has clarified and distinguished his views from his pastor’s. Done. The speech he should give is a speech about the nature of faith and politics – a speech that reminds us all about the dangers of confusing the political and the spiritual. We need that speech.