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.
By Mark Tooley @markdtooley
It’s sad when clergy egregiously politicize worship, especially on an important holy day at an historic church that used to symbolize non partisan unity. But the Episcopal clergy Luis Leon at St. John’s Episcopal Church next to the White House, known as the church of the presidents, discharged some cheap shots during Easter worship today, with the Obamas in the congregation.
“It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back, back, back,” Leon sermonized. “For blacks to be back in the back of the bus, for women to be back in the kitchen, for gays to be in the closet, and for … immigrants to be on their side of the border.”
Is this characterization of religious conservatives as racists, chauvinists and bigots really fair and accurate? And if political critique of religious conservatives were appropriate in an Easter sermon, couldn’t Leon offer a thoughtful analysis rather than snide smugness?
Leon continued: “What you and I understand is that when Jesus says you can’t hang onto me, he says you know it’s not about the past, it’s not about the before, it’s not about the way things were but about the way things can be in the now.” And he asked: “Will you accept the invitation from our gospel today to see things with Easter vision, recognizing reality in a different and new and wonderful way?”
So Easter is about being liberal and feeling morally superior over everybody else. Nice.
Every president since James Monroe has attended St. John’s, and the clergy there across almost 200 years have usually done well not to align with one political party against another. Leon has been there since 1995, with Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama worshipping there. And he has delivered prayers at inaugurations for both Bush and Obama. Leon had been more prudently moderate and non political for most of this time. But evidently he has decided to break with two centuries of tradition and declare his church is partial to one party against another. More troubling, he seems to distill Easter, which is supposed to focus on Christ’s resurrection, and even the Gospel itself, down to shoddy, secular polemics.
With this attitude of its pastor, can St. John’s Episcopal Church remain church of all the presidents?Google+