Monday, June 28, 2004

Can we talk?

Over the utlimate suburban lunch at LaMadelines, she asked for help in reconciling her feelings about the discussions of politics at church. We attend a 90% white congregation in an affluent suburb of Atlanta. She is African-American married to a white man. She and the other black members at our congregation frequently feel offense at the presumption that all God-loving members of the flock vote Republican, love George Bush, resent (maybe even hate?) Bill Clinton, enjoy Rush Limbaugh and admire Sean Hannity. She expressed great concern about the morality of the abortion issue and gay rights, but feels that there are other issues with moral import---care for the sick, the poor, along with stewardship of the environment. So here's the discussion I would like to have. Are there some guidelines or suggestions we can make at our various congregations as this election approaches that will increase the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace, and minimize the divisiveness of politics? I believe it is safe to assume that the Republican party will be organized to mobilize voters even at the congregational level. What will the leaders of our congregations do?


Anne-Geri' said...

CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALOOOONG?????????? heh heh

In Atlanta I found not only a diverse group of friends in regards to background, race, religion - but, shock of ages, I was finally living in a "world" where half of my friends were Democrats. "Wait a minute," I can hear some of my die hard Republican friends say, "Can you still be a Christian and a Democrat?" (oooo.....)

That kind of near-sighted generalism really chaps my hide, pardon my French. (did anyone catch that irony?) Thinking Democrats encourage the role of creativity in education and many, like Bev, are quite savvy at holding our government to account. I have always appreciated this amoung many other things as well. So anyway…..

#1. Now, did anyone notice I said thinking Democrats? Yes, I mean as opposed to non-thinking Democrats and I will not leave out non-thinking Republicans...or NON-non-thinking Independents, other third parties, etc. etc. If you lean one way or another, hopefully your politics will be based on the fact that you have thought your ideas through instead of having had generalizations and commentaries assumed - be it through family, culture or point of origin. (i.e. How can we say a current bill is "stupid" when we don't even know who proposed it? It could very well have been an "opposing party".) In short, OUR POLICIES SHOULD BE INFORMED, QUALIFIED, and THOUGHTFUL.

#2. Anyone pray for divine guidance anymore? Are we praying for God to place in leadership the one He wants for such a time as this or do we breathe a sigh of relief when we think the new leader is going to support our own agendas? Can varying political parties not sit together, heads bowed, praying for GOD'S CHOICE IN THE MATTER? Even if the answer might not be what we thought it should be? Can we get over it – and trust Him?

#3. What will the leaders of our congregations do? For one thing, my dear friend Bev, knowing I lean Republican, asked me to post a comment on this issue. I think that right there is one guideline we should all be following. What UNITY, Bev, thank you. Pardon me for getting all Coca-cola-I'd-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing on the topic, but it is a hot issue for me too. When Jesus prayed for unity he didn't mean as long as they were all Republicans.

May God bless our North America (and all our warts – heck, I’m sure I’m one of them).


Anne-Geri' said...

Oops! I didn't mean to say NON-non-thinking Independents. I double-nonned accidentally. Don't you hate it when you moot your own points?

Travis said...

At the recent annual Southern Baptist Convention, George Bush did a televized address to the pastors encouraging them to get there parishoners to support Bush/Chenney 2004. The outgoing SBC president even held a Bush/Chenney reception following the event. The Republican Party WILL be mobilizing voters at the congregational level.

I think the most important thing that should be done in our pulpits is not support anything one way or another. We need to give our congregation room to do what they feel God leading them to do. Some may feel it is wrong for a Christian to vote, and that's okay (David Lipscomb believed this and this was the position the Church of Christ held for a while). Some may be Republican, Democrat, Independant, Green Party, Communist Party--whatever--and that's okay. Our pulpits do not need to be a "Rock the Vote" kinda party on Sunday mornings. We need to encourage our people to be salt in leaven in the world, no matter what. We need to encourage them to care for the least of these as Jesus taught His church to do, no matter to what canidate that leads them.

I'm a Democrat (almost, I'm there ideologically but I am in the process of offically changing.) I pray that John Kerry wins. I believe that his positions are more consistent to the Christ-like life I desire to live. But I don't want my preacher (also a Democrat) trying to convince people to vote Kerry/Unknown 2004. I want him to encourage us to be Christ in the world, no matter what form that takes. If we become a channel for the work of Christ, great things will happen no matter who's in the White House.

Quiara said...

Hi. I've been kind of lurking around your blog since I followed a link from Matt Elliott's blog. And I will preemptively apologize for the lengthy comment I am about to make.

I've wondered pretty much this same thing -- and felt the same sort of sore resentment at the implication that to cast a non-GOP vote is somehow non-Christian.

I cannot understand how people vote based solely on one issue that never changes -- regardless of who takes office. I can't understand how the it's possible to rest comfortably on the moralistic platitude, "well, we may not actually have stopped any abortions -- but we voted for a guy who's against it."

Abortion is an important issue -- but it's not the only issue. Those are not the only children in danger of dying today. And maybe if we managed to help a few more of the already born children, there'd be fewer people who find themselves in a position to go that route. Yes, I'm an idealist of sorts, but I really think we'll get a lot further in preventing abortion if we work toward remedying and preventing of the things that contribute to them.

As for gay marriage, it's impossible anyhow. If we honestly believe that marriage is an institute of God, then not just any wedding is a marriage. Anybody can have a wedding. I don't know whose idea it was that a covenant before God should be sanctioned and/or subsidized by the government.

The government won't "fix" any of these issues, anyway. It's not really meant to do that. The government is (and has always been) a sort of ... management. A steward -- and sometimes a bad one. It's up to people to make the real changes, regardless of who's in office; we can't just elect away the problems. We can vote for people who will be stewards and manage resources in such a way as to fund programs that will educate the ignorant, will alleviate the oppressed, and will elevate the fallen -- to the degree that an institution can do so or any legislation can accomplish.

I still think if more of us were doing our job as Christians, we'd have fewer things to legislate. But all the talk in the world doesn't seem to convince anybody -- so for the short answer? I haven't got a clue how to get our churches tunnel-vision corrected until we remember where our focus is supposed to be in the first place.

SteveA said...

I feel the same way. For instance, I don't agree with G. W. being praised in public prayer as if it is assumed that everyone agrees that he is following God's marching orders. Even though he is a fine christian man and virtuous in several ways, I just don't agree with his political philosophy, how he has executed it and how he has surrounded himself with people some of whom are extremists. (Colin Powell is one exception.)

I for one will just stay quiet about it. I spoke up once about a decade ago and the response was disturbing. Surely this phase will pass soon. I hope.


Quiara said...

I was thinking about this again last night and it occurs to me that if we were going about equipping ourselves and each other to be the Christians we are called to be, our churches wouldn't have to worry about politicking from the pulpit.

Mandy said...

I am so happy to see you putting your wonderful comments on a blog for others to see! You are so great!

Another problem I have is that I have become quite resentful of hearing political rhetoric in a church building. ANYHING political in a church bothers me BIG TIME! The other day a soldier was home from Iraq in our church and we gave him a standing ovation... and rightly so. I am so grateful to him and that he is serving in our military. Thank God for people who want to be in our armed forces because I do not. And I should have been happy and proud to stand up for that young man (and part of me was). But due in part to the resentment I feel, my past experiences, and the quickly offered opinions of many conservatives in my church, another part of me felt mad because I was put in a position to clap for the WAR this soldier was a part of. Honestly, I don't want to feel this way. I just feel resentful when I am forced to mix church and state at church! Am I evil?... bad?... or just really in love with the US Bill of Rights? Anyone want to tell me how to deal?

I would just like to hear our leaders in church stand up in the pulpit and say that we should love each other instead of loving on the condition of politics! (and don't tell me politics doesn't make a difference... I've been told I'm going to hell for being a democrat!) It isn't enough for leaders to just be silent... I think they should step up to the plate and hit it out of the ballpark! "Love thy neighbor... even if he/she is a member of the other party!"

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

How about a DPZ??? The meetinghouse becomes a DE-POLITICIZED ZONE! Now here's a big question for theology types out there -- I may do a blog on it. The question is -- the Calvinistic tradition of the meetinghouse and the statehouse being one--isn't the tone of evangelical politics very much the grandchild of Calvin? I am thinking of two influential thinkers Francis Schaeffer and Abraham Kuyper. I am thinking that maybe the reason this strikes some of us so hard is that we grew up in the Stone-Campbell downright Armenian tradition and look, we've got David Lipscomb not even voting!