I was looking at my FB stream a few days ago, and saw a post that was being shared by a friend. It showed two pictures– one was apparently evangelical pastors in prayer, while the other a catholic priest… pontificating, I suppose. The overlayed captions referred to these two groups’ relationships to the new Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte. Putting the two captions together, one gets something to the effect of:
“Evangelical leaders pray for their President. Catholic priests criticize him.”
The creator of the post was presumably attempting to make his own group look good (Evangelical Christians) and another group (Roman Catholics) look bad. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is pretty common for a person to pump up their own social group identity by tearing down another. It is also common for religious groups to “suck up” (sorry for the Americanism) to people in political power. The problem here is that if one takes these statements at face value, both groups are deserving of a certain measure of shame.
If one is truly a man or woman of God, having access to God’s ideals that challenge man’s systems and institutions, then one should BOTH pray for civil leaders AND criticize them. Civil leaders need this. Politics and the voting public don’t really need statements of religious leaders that:
- Emphasize their own personal religious or political partisanship
- Promote an uncritical support or submission to authority (a fan rather than supporter, being obsequious rather than holding them accountable)
- Maintain a critical heart that is not seeking their civil leaders’ best, as well as the people they were called upon to serve.
We need religious leaders who accept a prophetic role. They need to embrace the role of the prophet in the time of Israel. Prophets accept that the civil leaders have an important role in society (and apparently avoided the temptation to be civil leaders themselves). At the same time, they declared the truth, holding leaders accountable for their leadership. They also appeared to accept a role of being a mediator between these leaders and God at times.
Today, religious leaders appear more interested in partisanship, seeking the “lesser evil,” bigotry (of many flavors), and playing junior politician. This does little but demean themselves and their god.
We need more prophets and less politicians in the church right now.