Sometimes I read a book that is so open and forceful it makes me appreciate the power of the English language. That was my feeling when I got into Robin Meyers's Why the Christian Right Is Wrong: A Minister's Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future [San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006].
Meyers is the minister at Mayflower Congregational Church on Northwest 63rd in Oklahoma City. He's now a major peace activist on the national scene, and he also teaches at Oklahoma City University. His book comes recommended by Bill Moyers, Bishop John Shelby Spong and the late William Sloane Coffin of Riverside Church in New York City. And Frosty Troy of the Oklahoma Observer, a lifelong Catholic, says Meyers "is one of the few clergymen we've heard take off the gloves in secular public forums."
His message is that many fundamentalist Christians who call on the name of Jesus to justify war and bigotry have missed the point of His teachings. He tells about a dream he sometimes has in which Jesus is standing near him -- "the central figure of human history, the radical teacher who comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. He has been tied up and muzzled with duct tape."
How did this happen? And why do so many of our political leaders, especially the president, say they believe one thing and then do another? Why do they claim to be Christian and then violate the most basic of Jesus' teachings? Meyers gets started in chapter one by titling it "Christians Don't Start Wars, They Try to Stop Them." Does the president not understand the person he claims as his religious idol (or, as he once put it, his favorite philosopher) spent his life preaching and practicing peace? Or do many public figures use religious ideas and language just to get votes? Again let me quote: "For every fallen soldier, for every dark-eyed girl and boy, for every wailing mother wandering in the carnage of the latest bombing, the only truly religious response to an unnecessary war is rage." And to top it off, this kind of suffering is called "collateral damage."
Meyers contends that the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount have not "just been ignored but reversed." The same is true of the frequent use of the phrase "family values." War is not one of them! We should be defining them as health care everyone can afford, a living wage, the control of deficit spending and leaders who value cooperation -- peacemaking at home and everywhere else.
Meyers says a "pro-life" stance ought to include Mother Nature. To work on these family values might help the 40 million Americans in poverty in this, the richest country in the world. And it definitely would help our 13 million poor children.
Meyers encourages what used to be called "critical thinking" as we encounter moral problems. He says the religion majors he teaches at Oklahoma City University, a United Methodist school, are very closed-minded. It's ironic that that is the opposite idea of the new Methodist motto -- Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.
Finally, I like his quote from the saintly Hindu, Mahatma Gandhi, who said, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."
Contact Alvena Bieri by emailing BubbaBieri@aol.com.
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