Prior to joining the IRD in 1994, Mark worked eight years for the Central Intelligence Agency as an analyst. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and is a native of Arlington, Virginia. A lifelong United Methodist, he has been active in United Methodist renewal since 1988, when he wrote a study about denominational funding of pro-Marxist groups for his local congregation. He currently attends a United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Tooley became president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) in 2009. He joined IRD in 1994 to found its United Methodist committee (UMAction). He is the author of Taking Back The United Methodist Church, published in 2008, and Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century, published in 2012. His articles about the political witness of America's churches have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The American Spectator, Patheos, Washington Post On Faith, World, Christianity Today, First Things, The Weekly Standard, National Review Online, Washington Examiner, Human Events, The Washington Times, The Review of Faith and International Affairs, Touchstone, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Post, and elsewhere. He is a frequent commentator on radio and television.
Mainline Protestants were once commonly renowned for their stately spiritual care for the nation. Dating back four centuries of our history, Mainliners traditionally exuded a unique sensibility regarding American democracy.
United Methodist megachurch pastor Adam Hamilton of Kansas City recaptured some of that sensibility in his Election Day commentary. He cited New England Puritan leader Jonathan Winthrop’s famous “city upon a hill” vision for the new land, which both JFK and President Reagan commonly quoted. It called America to a special lofty mission.
Hamilton noted that Jesus’ “city on a hill” primarily was aimed at The Church. But Hamilton does not dispute the soaring vision as a helpful guide for the nation. And he wisely notes:
It is difficult to build Jesus’ city upon a hill unless you’ve first dealt with the human condition – by nature we’re selfish, self-absorbed, materialistic, prideful, and often indifferent to the needs of others. Theologians speak of this as our sin nature.
There are two ways to overcome this for the common good: One is government compulsion through laws and taxation. The other is spiritual conversion and sanctification that leads to a willingness to give sacrificially and to demonstrate compassion for those less fortunate.
Unlike many Mainline Protestant utopians, Hamilton carefully distinguishes between the vocation of state and church, both of which are essential:
The Church plays a critical role in creating citizens of the state who are selfless, compassionate, and loving. And because ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people, when a significant number of our citizens are followers of Jesus we would expect that our nation’s policies, too, would strive to reflect this picture of a city upon a hill.
Hamilton says he will vote for persons who advocate the common good without expecting the government to create the city on a hill, which requires “Christ-followers who will live as salt and light in the world.”
It’s fashionable in some religious circles to scoff at such basic Christian teachings about good citizenship and political realism. But Hamilton reminds us of what Mainline Protestants once assumed by consensus, to America’s and The Church’s advantage.
Here’s Hamilton’s blog.Google+