No More Politics in the Pulpit, … Perhaps

By Bob Hulteen

My funny bone praises God for the dry (and sometimes not-so-dry) humor provided by The Onion, a news source that has its fingers on the pulse of American culture. Staff writers take dry news stories and bring them to life, much like the Valley of the Dry Bones.

As a comic book enthusiast, the article that caught my attention this week was titled “Man Prefers Comic Books That Don’t Insert Politics Into Stories About Government-Engineered Agents of War.” Now, because I read the letters to the editor pages in comics, I know that recent efforts at inclusiveness have been driving some of my fellow comic book patrons crazy. Ms. Marvel is now a Muslim high school student; the “Totally Awesome Hulk” is now an Asian character, replacing Bruce Banner in order to breathe new life into a tired storyline; and, for a while, Captain America was African American (in a beautifully written story that was also very poignant). Fandom has had a fit.

The Onion article even quotes the fictional Jeremy Land, saying, “I’m tired of simply trying to enjoy escapist stories in which people are tortured and experimented upon at black sites run by authoritarian governments, only to have the creators cram political messages down my throat.” Like all good satire, that quote hurts.

 

OF COURSE, AS A good church person, I don’t just read comic books. I also keep up on religion news stories, such as the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., declaring its commitment to the gender neutrality of language about God. In fact, gathered in assembly the voting members of the diocese were resolved that “if revision of the Book of Common Prayer is authorized, to utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God.”  

Anyone not part of the dominant culture is well aware of the political nature of the dominant culture.

The repercussions from people outside the denomination have been fast and furious. In the comment section of “Juicy Ecumenism,” a blog published by the Washington-based think tank the Institute for Religion and Democracy, several people called Episcopalians cultists, and remarked that God has been happy being called “he” all throughout history and is still satisfied. You know how the author knows? Her KJV Bible tells her so.

(I’m hopeful that the ELCA will bring more light than heat when discussing its draft Social Statement on Women and Justice to be discussed and voted on at the 2019 Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee.)

Of course, anyone not part of the dominant culture is well aware of the political nature of the dominant culture. It isn’t that there aren’t politics in the “norms” of culture: it’s that they are the familiar ones. So, offering a differing political perspective can feel like introducing the idea of politics into “non-political” assumptions for someone who has yet to reflect upon it.

We are all prone to locking in our brains the ideal of what we have grown up with. Not too many spheres within society challenge us to expand our thinking, perhaps even to see through another’s (less log-clouded) eyes. The Christian faith, however, requires that of us.

I pray we can live up to that challenge, … because it’s no laughing matter.