By Rudy Barnes, Jr., October 7, 2023
The ouster of Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House has enormous implications for both politics and Christianity. It brought the festering boil of partisan politics to a head, and underscored the failure of the church as a moral steward of democracy. If our politics are a reflection of America, we are a poor example of democracy to the rest of the world.
John Locke asserted that the political legitimacy of a nation is conferred by the consent of the governed; and for a diverse democracy to survive it must be able to resolve critical issues. Until America’s two political parties became polarized, they were able to compromise on critical issues. The ouster of McCarthy as Speaker of the House forced a shutdown of Congress.
Kevin McCarthy’s cardinal partisan sin was to support a compromise on the critical issue of avoiding a government shutdown. If he broke some partisan commitments, the compromise was necessary to promote the common good. On the ouster, the partisan polarization was evident on both sides of the aisle; not a single Democrat voted to retain McCarthy as Speaker.
Religion is a major source of moral standards in politics, but mainstream churches have been unwilling to address morality in politics. The Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” but there is no restriction on applying the moral standards of our faith to politics.
Churches tend to be divided by race and partisan politics, and pastors are unwilling to address moral issues in politics that might upset their congregations, since church growth is their first priority. That’s a cop-out for pastors! Jesus never hesitated to address controversial issues, and his teachings are the primary source of Christian morality.
Unfortunately, some pastors appeal to racial and partisan bias to grow their churches. Since Christian nationalism is popular in the white church, and most churches remain racially segregated, pastors often pander to the partisan and racial preferences of their congregations. As a result, churches often contribute to partisan and racial polarization than to reconciliation.
The ouster of Kevin McCarthy is only the tip of the iceberg, with deep cultural divisions that threaten the legitimacy of both American democracy and Christianity. Unless churches or some other institution becomes the moral steward of America’s tribal partisan divisions of politics and religion, both American democracy and its churches are doomed to demise.
Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. Until there is a widespread public commitment to reconcile America’s dysfunctional democracy and its church with moral standards of political legitimacy that provide for the common good, the fragile fabric of American democracy could come apart at its seams.
The House of Representatives is Paralyzed with No Speaker after McCarthy Ouster,
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich says House GOP should expel “anti-Republican” Gaetz, but Marjorie Taylor Greene disagrees with Gingrich. See https://thehill.com/homenews/house/4236223-gingrich-says-house-gop-should-expel-anti-republican-gaet
On political legitimacy in Wikipedia, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(political)#:~
On America’s Culture War, Racism and Christian Morality in Politics, see
http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2020/07/musings-on-americas-culture-war-racism.html; see also, On Religion, Race and Identity Politics, at
On political legitimacy in Wikipedia, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(political)#:~:text=In%20political%20science%2C%20legitimacy%20has,and%20mutual%20understandings%2C%20not%20coercion.
On Religion, Legitimacy and Politics, see https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JmbiCVilmbKydDgP-_n274DuiS017YbVbNHaSXag5f4/edit.