By Dr. Bascom Ratliff
Pastor, Parker/Beagle/Fontana United Methodist Churches
I have to admit to some strong feelings and thoughts about the recent election results and our national politics. If I am reading the results correctly, most voters in Kansas support a woman’s right to have an abortion. It appears that most Democrats and some Republicans and independents likely voted against the amendment that would have given the Kansas legislature the power to ban abortions.
It has been interesting to note during the past few days the dramatic shift that many politicians and made from supporting an outright ban on abortions to now allowing abortions in cases of rape, incest, or potential harm to the mother’s health. The shifts are clearly political. Because of the results in Kansas, many anti-abortion politicians are moderating the rhetoric about completely banning abortion. I suspect they fear defeat if they continue their “hard line” anti-abortion rhetoric.
It also is important to note the catastrophic division occurring in the United Methodist Church over the role of LGBTQ in church leadership. In the midst of the separation, the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church, which includes Nebraska and Kansas, has established a working team to help the church become more diverse, inclusive, and equitable. Quite possibly, this might be a good model for other churches struggling with sexual diversity and reproductive health.
I think an important part of this discussion is whether people should have the right to choose how we worship. Do we have freedom of religion and the right to worship God as we see fit? Does this apply to all religions? Do we have the freedom to live our lives as we wish? Equally important, do we believe others have the right to freely exercise their religious beliefs and live their lives as they choose?
I believe we are called to protect others’ freedom of religion. As Christians, we are called to do God’s will, to love God, and to love others. This is not an impossible task. This is not a political decision or for political debate. Christianity requires us to love and care for others. We are called to share God’s grace, love, and mercy.
I am angry and frustrated by those politicians and churches that suggest that our country or political parties should become Christian nationalists. I am especially angry when our political and religious leaders forsake the love of Christ for their political and financial gain. It makes no sense to me that these leaders would deliberately and purposefully lie and deceive their followers. To suggest that God is a politician or that our faith is political is simply rubbish.
I accept that politics, abortion, gun control, climate change, etc., are serious problems facing our country and our Christian church. There are no simplistic approaches to these complex problems. However, a good place to begin is on our knees having a humble and open conversation with God. Having an open dialogue with others in our Christian community will also help. Just as I believe the election in Kansas, rejecting the abortion ban, got a lot of people’s attention, I think that an open and honest discussion about the myriad of issues facing our country will help guide us out of these current critical dilemmas. If we are motivated by our love of Christ and our love others, I have to believe that God will help us achieve lasting, loving results.
If you want to talk about God’s unfailing love and his wonderful plan for each of us, come and visit us during the month of August at the Fontana United Methodist Church. Services are at 10 AM. We promise to give you the best seats in the house, a hot cup of coffee, or a cold ice tea.