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US bishops warn against religious rhetoric in presidential race

24 March 2016


Dawn patrol: anti-Trump protesters outside a church in Hickory, North Carolina

Dawn patrol: anti-Trump protesters outside a church in Hickory, North Carolina

THE House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United States has unanimously expressed concern about the provocative rhetoric used by Republican and Democratic politicians in the US in the race for the presidency.

The candidates for presidential nomination are currently touring the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories as they seek to win delegates — party members from a state who pledge to endorse a candidate for nomination at the party conventions in July — in a series of primary elections and caucuses.

In a statement approved last week during a retreat at the Camp Allen Conference Centre in Navasota, Texas, the bishops said: “The current rhetoric is leading us to construct a modern false idol out of power and privilege.

“We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being, and we must seek the common good above all else.”

One in four American adults are Evangelical Christians, making it the largest religious group in the US, and a tempting majority for candidates, who have quoted B+ible verses, attended churches, and talked at Christian conferences throughout their campaigns.

After clinching the delegacy in Iowa last month, the Republican candidate Ted Cruz, who has a strong Evangelical following, thanked God for the win, which he said was a “victory for Judaeo-Christian values”. The conservative Texas senator is strongly opposed to gay marriage, and abortion, unless the mother’s life is in danger.

His Republican rival Donald Trump, who describes himself as a “Protestant, a Presbyterian”, has also credited Evangelicals for their “amazing” support. His faith and anti-Muslim views have been the subject of much controversy throughout his campaign, however; on Saturday, protests and violence interrupted two of his rallies in Arizona.

Mr Trump had previously called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the US, and has said that Christianity is “under siege” from Syrians (News, 22 January).

The bishops warned: “We are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbours, particularly those on the margins of society. They seek to secure their own safety and security at the expense of others.”

Meanwhile the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, who is a lifelong Methodist, has made several appearances in churches, most recently in Memphis and Ohio. After her victory in South Carolina, she quoted from Corinthians: “‘Love never fails,’ it tells; us love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

She said: “These are words to live by — not only for ourselves, but also for our country.” Her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, has described himself as “not particularly religious”.

The bishops’ statement concluded: “We call for prayer for our country that a spirit of reconciliation will prevail and we will not betray our true selves.”

Forthcoming Events

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Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
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From HeartEdge and St Augustine’s College of Theology.

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