SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Violent political rhetoric is causing Americans to worship a “modern false idol” of power and privilege, say bishops of the Episcopal Church. Gathering for their annual Lenten retreat in Texas, the church’s House of Bishops released a statement Tuesday condemning what they see as a political conversation that turns Americans against one another, and particularly against those who are in need.
Bishop Doug Fisher of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, was one of the authors of the “Word for the Church” statement. In a news release sent to 22News, he said that it is important for religious leaders to try to stop what they see as damaging developments in our political system.
“At a time when the political discourse in our great nation is often at the level of playground taunts, and a time when immigrants and the poor are being scapegoated, it is essential that our religious leaders speak out and appeal to our intrinsic goodness as people created in God’s image,” Fisher said.
The House of Bishops’ statement itself strikes a similar tone.
“In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society,” it says.
The immigration issue has been a major focus of the 2016 campaign, particularly on the Republican side. Party front runner Donald Trump began his campaign with a speech saying that rapists were coming over the border from Mexico. He has called for a wall to be built across the border, which would be paid for by the Mexican government. Trump has also called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Controversies surrounding Trump’s rhetoric have led to disruptions at his rallies, including the cancellation of one in Chicago last week over security concerns. During a disruption at a separate rally in North Carolina, a man in the audience was arrested for punching a protester in the face. Trump has said his campaign is considering paying the man’s legal fees.
The letter did not mention any candidates or parties by name. It speaks about how Americans are like God’s children wandering in the wilderness.
“We, like they, are struggling to find our way. They turned from following God and worshiped a golden calf constructed from their own wealth. The current rhetoric is leading us to construct a modern false idol out of power and privilege,” the statement reads.
The College of Bishops includes all active and retired bishops of the Episcopal Church, one of the nation’s largest Christian denominations.