WINSTON SALEM, N.C., Oct. 23, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — Today in America, many Christians feel disillusioned as they watch the faith they hold dear being used to further a worldly political agenda. It is as if our religion has been taken hostage: forcibly wedded to a particular political ideology or economic system, or stripped down to a couple of hot-button issues, like abortion and same-sex marriage, as though to oppose these were the sum of our faith. Ironically, in our efforts to “take back America,” we have ourselves been taken captive by the prevailing culture and politics of imperialism, partisanship, greed, racism, and xenophobia that surround us. And so the struggle for the soul of a nation has also become a struggle for the soul of the church. How can we regain a political voice that is neither power-hungry nor passive, neither conservative nor liberal, but simply Christlike in its concern for justice and the poor?
In “Christ Held Hostage: The Hijacking of American Christianity,” evangelical pastor and author S.J. Munson explores these issues from the perspective of both the Bible and history. “There is an ever-growing frustration within American Christianity over the marriage of religion and politics,” says the author. “Many of us feel the so-called culture wars of the past forty years, have failed us. In the popular mind, the church, which Christ intended for the uplifting of humanity, has instead become a kind of pathetic old curmudgeon, leading the charge on the downward slope of regressive politics. Whereas Christ stood with the poor and powerless, too often we have become attack dogs for the rich and powerful.”
How has this happened? Throughout its history, Munson maintains, the church has frequently been accused of being a guardian of the status quo. This occurs whenever the church allies itself with power, empire, a certain economic system, or even a particular political party.
The solution, he believes, begins with reading the Bible with new eyes, to rediscover God’s deep concern for the poor and weak. “We are, first and foremost, followers of Christ. That means bringing his agenda to the table. And that agenda is a whole lot broader than any conservative or liberal platform.” For Munson, Christ’s agenda goes beyond abortion, same-sex marriage, and prayer in schools. “Limiting our agenda to such hot-button issues conveniently enables us to externalize sin, to say ‘those people’ out there are the problem. Yet when we read the Bible, we find the number-one social issue on God’s heart is concern for the poor and weak. If you start digging, you find that poverty and injustice are issues in which we are all deeply involved and implicated.”
Munson believes our agenda is too narrow and needs to be “expanded” to become a more consistently biblical one. “If we want to be biblically consistent, then we cannot cherry-pick sins,” he says. “These hot-button issues are important, but when it comes right down to it, they cost us very little.”
The Rev. S.J. Munson has been an evangelical pastor and writer for the past 25 years. The author of plays, theological articles, and fiction (“The Treasure of Israel,” 2011), he is an outspoken activist with a deep concern for issues of poverty and injustice. He resides in Winston Salem, NC.
“Christ Held Hostage: The Hijacking of American Christianity” by S.J. Munson is available in paperback or Kindle ebook via Amazon.com.