Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Commandment XI: Thou Shalt Not Vote Democrat?

Recently here in my new home state of North Carolina, several members of a Baptist church were expelled when the Reverend discovered they had voted for John Kerry in the last election. Of course the Reverend denied the allegations, until an audio tape surfaced on which he was heard insisting that anyone who voted for Kerry must resign. Thou Shalt Not Lie?

Kerry, a Catholic, made it clear that he personally opposed abortion, but felt that legislating based on faith was outside the government's authority in a free, pluralistic society. This position wasn't enough to stop the Religious Right from campaigning against Kerry on the basis of morality.

Leonard Pitts of the Chicago Tribue wrote a nice opinion pice on the subject: I strongly suggest reading the ntire article, but here's a nice excerpt:

It's telling that when another Catholic ran for president 45 years ago--a fellow named Kennedy--he was required to assure anxious voters that he would not allow personal faith to dictate public policy.

How times change.

Some have said the moral here is that preachers should leave politics out of the pulpit. I disagree. Certainly, preachers should not lend their moral authority to political parties or candidates, or make churches into campaign headquarters. But it's a fallacy to believe social and political issues should never be discussed inside church walls. Had that been the case, there could never have been a civil rights movement.

So what galls me about Rev. Chandler's behavior is not that he talked politics per se, but that he assumes belief in God and belief in George W. to be synonymous. As one who believes in a God who is above party, I find that assumption offensive. But you hear it a lot these days. The right wing has cornered the market on God, evidence of both its marketing savvy and the left wing's illiteracy in the language of faith.

If you grew up, as I did, in an era when Christian meant, among other things, long-haired kids with denim-covered Bibles, you have to marvel that it now becomes the exclusive property of those who believe in big business and tax cuts. You have to marvel, too, at the ruthlessness with which they seek to enforce that lockstep mentality. Beg pardon, but it's none of Chan Chandler's business how anyone votes.

Frankly, what he did makes no sense. I mean, assuming a vote for Kerry were incompatible with Christian faith, what better place for such errant people to be than in a church? As a wise person once said, a church is not a museum for saints; it is a hospital for sinners.

But too often these days, it seems to be neither, seems to be little more than a refuge for human meanness, pettiness, partisanship and smug self-satisfaction. One is embarrassed to have to remind such people of what ought to be patently obvious: God is not a Republican.

Read the whole article at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-0505170165may17,1,981714.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

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