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Danforth: an Ultimate Concern of Politics is Idolatrous

Danforth: an Ultimate Concern of Politics is Idolatrous
The Republican senator is an ordained Episcopal priest

By Grayson Jang
November 8, 2022

United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, hosted former U.S. Senator John Danforth (R-MO) online October 24 to hear about the connection between religion and politics entitled "Being One," as the midterm elections approach. Sen. Danforth served 18 years in the U.S. Senate from 1976-1995.

Danforth has an undergraduate degree from Princeton in religion and received his Master of Divinity degree at Yale Divinity School. He is now an ordained Episcopal priest.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, prominent in the denomination's self-described "Centrist" movement, serves as pastor for the Church of the Resurrection.

Hamilton gave opening remarks, sharing a church campaign: "be Just, be kind, be humble," based upon Micah 6:8. It is a campaign promoting Christians' role in reconciliation in the community and country.

"We're doing this at this time because we have a major election coming up...the world is polarized by our politics, we're inviting you to be unified around this common idea from Micah," Hamilton said.

"Is there some connection between God's very personal command that we are just kind and humble and the way we engage in politics?" Danforth asked in his opening message. "Should there be a connection?"

Danforth shared one story with his colleague, U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-MO), who served from 1968 to 1987.

When Danforth first became a senator, he had a private dinner with his family and friends. Among the guests, there was also his senior Senate colleague Eagleton.

"I barely knew Tom -- had only been with him once or twice before that evening," Danforth mentioned.

That evening, Eagleton said to Danforth: "I know you wish your father were still alive."

"He was a Democrat. I was a Republican. He was relatively progressive. I was relatively conservative," characterized Danforth. However, as Eagleton recognized Danforth not as a politician or a rival but as someone who just missed his father, starting that evening, they became friends.

Even as they often voted differently in the Senate, as Danforth recalled: "That didn't matter at all. We found ways to cooperate for the benefit of our state...Politics was important, but friendship came first."

"Now it's a holy war between good and evil," Danforth claimed.

The Senator asserted: "While the left argues that we are a land of oppressors and victims, that a conservative opinion is a form of violence, that Republicans are deplorable or even fascists, the Right argues that elites are destroying religious values, that immigrants and minorities are displacing white Christian dominance."

Danforth believed that "Faith is about an ultimate concern...[and] when we make other things our ultimate concern: we commit idolatry."

However, as we set politics as our ultimate concern and religion, it breaks us apart. "That's what's happening in America today. We have enshrined politics. So, we are breaking up as a nation," Danforth insisted.

"We cannot allow our politics to be so dominant in our lives that it destroys our families. It's a matter of priorities. Religious faith puts everything else in perspective." Danforth reiterated.

So, where do we go from here?... What can you and I do to be...ambassadors of reconciliation?" asked Danforth.

Danforth argued that Christians could try signing a petition or write a letter to members of Congress. While he believed all these actions are worth it, he insisted: "none of them will lessen the frantic noise from network news. None of them will end the hatefulness in social media."

The former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations believed that real change only could start from us, not others. "The real answer to our state of rage won't be found someplace else... It's for us to be just kind of humble. We can change politics by changing how we treat one another."

Danforth suggested a practice called "Exchanging of the Peace," which says "the peace of the Lord or simply peace" with church members or "I am your friend or some other expression of humanity" with neighbors. The former senator expected this simple action could start changing our culture.

Danforth hoped: "After the last two elections, politics has turned these family days into disasters. Let's make this Thanksgiving different. Let's put politics aside and concentrate on what's really important."

Sen. Danforth concluded his message with the prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The former senator added one sentence:

"Lord, let us be your church, the instruments of yours."


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