“Can We Use Em?” When Politics and Religion End Up in the Wrong Hands

Religious leaders, politicians, and the quest for power is a toxic mix. For those who seek to claim power for themselves, religion is held in high regard as a vessel. Religion to power is a reoccurring theme throughout human history.

Politics and temple

Part of the Cohen tape that caught my attention was the President asking this questions about two conservative evangelical pastors; “Can we use em? Can we use em?” The President and conservative Christians are using one another to the peril of the church and the American people. The evidence suggests the only person the President has deep faith in is himself. Please don’t think for a minute that this is about doing the will of God. This isn’t about making a more “moral” nation. This is about a politician using a group for their ability to put and keep him in power. One typically does not ask about people they have genuine care and concern for, “can we use em?” He sees religious people as tools to be used to gain power and favor within a worldview.

To be fair, some conservative Christians don’t mind being used by the President. The group of conservative advisors who have surrounded him do so to only gain their own power. They completely ignore the President’s transgressions because they know he will do things for them. They gain access and influence. They use him for power, which for some, is more important than their faith or what their sacred texts might tell about living. It’s a toxic, ugly and decidedly unholy alliance. All of us suffer, most especially those who are the most vulnerable. History is littered with the carnage of the destructive alliances of religion, politics and the quest for power.

Jesus spent his life challenging empire and the religious authorities who propped up and empowered the empire. He saved his greatest critique for those who sought power by using the name of God to oppress the vulnerable and marginalized. Jesus’ ministry centered on selfless living so that the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed might know the fullness of life that God intends for us all. But those who claim to follow Jesus have often missed the mark, even becoming the people he warns us not to be like.

The religious leaders propping up the President have become the very people that Jesus protested in his day. Once again, it is the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the marginalized who are suffering. It usually is when religious leads and politicians corrupt the Gospel for their own personal gain and power.

“Can we use em?” Much to the dismay of God, the answer is yes. The consequences are steep, particularly for those on the margins.

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