I have often argued that the Church must refrain from seeking to influence government through the political process. Perhaps I should make myself a little clearer.
Too often, in the U.S. particular Christian movements have become aligned with political parties. The Religious Right cozies up to the Republican Party. The Religious Left closely associates itself with the Democrats. I've had pastors and other Christians repeatedly point out how one party is closer to following Christ than the other. It is what it is, but I, frankly am quite uncomfortable with such coziness.
When one throws one's support fully behind a political movement, it becomes very hard to criticize that movement or things the movement chooses to do. It is better, in my estimation, to be politically neutral when it comes to support of one political party versus another so that one has the freedom to call a spade a spade and confront injustice wherever it may arise.
Case in point. Several years ago, I went off on the government's installation of full body scanners in airports. I argued then, as I argue now, this is an invasion of privacy and lessens the dignity of human beings by allowing someone to essentially view them naked without any probable cause or without their consent. Such things began in 2007 under the Bush Administration--a Republican administration, and I was under no compulsion to support this measure just because of party affiliation.
Today, I raise my voice (or, at least my blog) in opposition to something that came out yesterday in the news. The current administration released a memo outlining why it believes it is legal, moral, and right for them to kill American citizens with drone strikes without due process. I read a very good expose on the memo in The Guardian--a British newspaper of all things!
Essentially, the President and his inner circle become judge, jury, and executioner without presenting evidence to anyone but themselves. They have already used this power to kill three Americans including a 16 year old boy.
I have only heard one other clergy other than myself condemn this memo. Not a single other has raised any sort of opposition to it, and I can't help but wonder if it is because so many of my fellow clergy, at least in the ELCA supported President Obama and the Democrats with zeal and gusto in the last two elections?
The idea that an American citizen can be killed without due process is very disturbing. The idea that the justification for the killing is an assumed relationship to Al Qaida or another like organization even if the person is not actively involved in combat but MAY, mind you, MAY be planning attacks against America, is disturbing. There is an awful lot of leeway in such commentary. Leeway the Guardian article articulates very, very well.
Now, I do not believe our U.S. government is Christian by any stretch of the imagination. It hasn't been for quite some time even if the basis of our laws in the U.S. are founded upon Christian principles. To go after the U.S. government for not acting in a Christian fashion is ludicrous. But my Christian faith will not allow me to let this slide by without some sort of commentary.
We know that absolute power corrupts. We also know that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The ultimate power this side of heaven is to decide whether or not to take someone's life. This memo grants such absolute power to a small group of people who are heavily guarded and who answer to no one.
Is anyone else disturbed by this? Is anyone else disturbed by this seizure of power?
I'm calling this one as I see it: It's wrong. Period. I can't support it even a little bit. Not that I can do much, but I will join my voice with any other who seeks to put restrictions on this power including taking it away.
Government has a job to do, and it's authority comes from God. But when government abuses its authority and does things which are contrary to God's will, we in the Church have an obligation to say, "No." Or as St. Peter once put it, "We must obey God rather than any human authority." (Acts 5:29)