10.13.2008

My God's bigger than your god?

Wonder why so many people see Christians as intolerant and hateful? Exhibit A: Pastor Arnold Conrad before a McCain rally Saturday:
I also would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god--whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah--that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons. And Lord, I pray that you will guard your own reputation, because they're going to think that their God is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and election day."

(I'm not making this up -- audio at the link.)
I am, sadly, not shocked that a "Christian" would use God to incite fear and anxiety about another Christian. This is a more obviously religious take on Gov. Palin's coded claim that their opponent "doesn't see America the way we do." Clearly this prayer suggests that Sen. Obama is in league with terrorists and infidels. It's also a not-so-veiled call for divine retribution upon unspecified others, who by virtue of not sharing the American religion obviously have nefarious interests at heart. (Somehow, I doubt that Osama bin Laden is praying for either of our candidates.)

There is so much wrong with such religious intolerance. Let's look at a couple points.
  1. Jesus is clear that it's not religious labels and externals that make a person good. "But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’" (Luke 8:21) The requirements of God -- mercy, justice, humility (Michah 6:8) -- are met in many cultures and religious traditions. Consider Ghandi, the witness of the Dalai Lama, the Muslims and Jews who reach across the Wall to seek peace and understanding. At the very least we are to see the similarities among traditions instead of only fearing the differences.
  2. God is really not as insecure as Pastor Conrad needs God to be. Were that true, God might have been a little more concerned about his reputation instead of eating with riff-raff and unclean outsiders, annoying the high priests and being executed as a terrorist. A God who takes on humanity, who empties himself of privilege and accepts death on a cross to reach out to those who killed him, surely has a very different kind of reputation in mind.
  3. Jesus' strongest complaints were not aimed at "others" but at those in his own religious tradition who were so sure they were right that they refused to even consider the evidence of another way that walked and taught and healed right in front of them.
Sen. McCain needs to condemn this kind of prayer at one of his rallies much more strongly than the carefully worded, Bill Clintonesque "distancing" statement released by the campaign.

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