March 31, 2013

Politicizing Easter at Church of the Presidents


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?

15 Responses to Politicizing Easter at Church of the Presidents

  1. It can remain the church of this President. Just take a look at his last church. He sure can choose em.

    • ericvlytle says:

      He sure can! If the pastor hates America, or at least hates orthodox Christians, he’s Obama’s man. Not much Christian about that, but that isn’t really Obama’s goal, given that he can’t conceive of any Being higher than himself.

  2. scottiegram says:

    Can it remain tax-exempt?

  3. There are reasons I have been an EX-Episcopalian for nearly 25 years.

    • sandytnaylor says:

      You and many thousands of others! At this point in time, ex-Episcopalians probably outnumber Episcopalians. Hope you found a church home that actually honors Christ.

      Obamessiah sure knows how to pick his lovable pastors. There was the saintly and meek Jeremiah Wright with his explosiveness and now the marginally more restrained Luis Leon bashing “the captains of the religious right.” (Who are they, anyway? As a member of the RR, I didn’t get the memo about who our “captains” are. Speaking as a “private,” I take my orders from God and no one else.) Deep thinker that he is, Leon makes the assumption, worthy of the most addle-brained and self-righteous college sophomore, that “progress” is a god worth worshipping, that change is inevitably good, and (worse assumption) that “marriage equality” is even remotely related to civil rights for ethnics. “New and improved” may apply to cell phones, but not to moral standards. Standards are always out of date, that’s what makes them standards.

      To the guy who applauds the “inclusivness” of the Episcopalians: I don’t think throwing slurs at the “captains of the religious right” is a sign of inclusiveness, strikes me as divisive and judgmental. Calling us racists, homophobes, etc isn’t quite the equivalent of a warm bear hug. What a hypocrite this pastor is. Given a choice, I’d side with the “captains of the religious right” rather than the lefty hypocrites who preach tolerance and then spew their venom from the pulpit on what is generally considered Christians’ holiest day. Glad I didn’t spend Easter with that crowd.

      • Marco Bell says:

        I applaud your staying power to hold to your beliefs, and I would not wish you to change for anything. You have your set of standards that must be rigid but reliable, so with that, what more might you need?
        Oh, maybe some peaceful understanding of those people that are different than you?

        Jeremiah Wright preaches with vigor! Something that the White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestants could use a big dose of when proclaiming the Grace and Love of God. The speech of his that some people got upset about: stating “G-Damn America” was to illustrate the state of unholiness that our country had become during the previous administration. He was praying for a new beginning, and redemption for our country’s sins in the Middle East.

        Remember, there are always three or more sides to every story!

        Marco Bell

      • ericvlytle says:

        Always comes back to “blame it on Bush,” doesn’t it?

        We’ve got heaven on earth after 4 years of Obama, and perfect peace reigns in the Middle East, Jews and Muslims toasting marshmallows together. All is well, the liberals’ Savior finally put it all right by bringing all the American troops home.

  4. Marco Bell says:

    There have been more than enough Pastors espousing prejudice on both sides of the political spectrum, it just seems that the Religious Right proponents find it disingenuous when the Liberal Left do it.
    I imagine St. John’s Episcopal Church will survive, and probably thrive with the progressive attitude of inclusiveness on it’s side.

  5. […] “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,” Tooley wrote. […]

  6. […] Tooley from the Institute on Religion and Democracy writes: Is this characterization of religious conservatives as racists, chauvinists and bigots […]

  7. […] Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). He is a native of Virginia and a life-long Methodist. This article first appeared at the IRD blog and is used with […]

  8. […] So the Obamas were in church, but the religious right is unhappy — in no small part because they don’t like religious services to be politicized. […]

  9. […] “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,” Tooley wrote. […]

  10. Of all the things this supposed pastor could have talked about on Easter Sunday….how disgusting!

  11. I can’t help but think there’s only one real reason Luis Leon started blasting conservative Christians on Easter Sunday, Christendom’s most holy day: to please Barack Obama. I highly doubt he would have gotten away with doing that if George W. Bush was attending!

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