Americans have allowed the Christian faith to become corrupted by the Republican right, and people who truly want to be Christian should fight to take their faith back, an Oklahoma City pastor said Friday.

Robin Meyers, a minister at Oklahoma City’s United Church of Christ, said Republican leaders have “co-opted” Christianity and in many areas religious leaders are more concerned about belief than action.

“We have a theological crisis in this country,” Meyers told a standing-room-only crowd at last Friday’s Tyner Cornbread and Beans luncheon. The event is sponsored by the Cleveland County Democratic Party.

Meyers said evangelical Christians focus on individual beliefs and ignore systemic problems. “Democrats, on the other hand, focus on systemic problems and ignore individual beliefs.”

Instead, he said, progressives should work to do both. “The Democrats are going to have to reclaim the social gospel,” he said.

Meyers used the Sooner State as an example.

“The strange thing about Oklahoma is that we claim to be a Christian state but our lawmakers pass mean legislation.”

He listed Moore Rep. Randy Terrill’s 2007 immigration law as an example of mean legislation and added that state Rep. Sally Kern’s recent tirade against gays and lesbians wasn’t really about morals but designed, instead, to raise money for her political campaign.

“Sally Kern is using fear and loathing of homosexuals to raise money for her campaign,” he said. “When she compared homosexuals to cancer and terrorists, she, in effect, was advocating violence against them. Because what do you do with a terrorist or what do you do with cancer? You cut it out.”

Kern’s speech, he said, was “hate speech.”

Meyers, a University of Oklahoma graduate who also teaches rhetoric at Oklahoma City University, said the country “needs a church that isn’t connected to politics.”

“I’m worried about the church’s future,” he said.

An occasional political pundit, Meyers said he was “disappointed” in the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and acknowledged Barack Obama’s lack of experience.

“But I believe we should give Sen. Obama the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “It’s amazing what people will do to try and destroy his candidacy.”

With no prepared speech, Meyers said he wanted to have a conversation with the audience and spent most of the hour answering the group’s questions.

“We need a great leader,” he said. ‘But during the 9-11 crisis we didn’t have one. I believe it was our country’s greatest missed opportunity.”

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