Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Approaching Election

Reflections on the upcoming Election, Politics and the Church
Here are some thoughts and opinions of mine as we approach the November election. I thought some of this might help Cathedral members and friends understand me a bit better.

During Seminary I became very involved in what today would be called justice and rights issues. This continued for a few years after seminary, but in 1977 I experienced a conversion experience. In brief, Christ became more clearly my Lord and Savior. Naturally, this touched most aspects of my life. One of these had to do with my involvement in political activism. It isn’t that I suddenly came to see these issues as wrong or unimportant. It was more personal for me. I came to see that my involvement in them was motivated by anger and at times hatred. I knew that love and especially the love of Christ were not my motives. Further, I realized that I tended to see those who differed from me as bad or evil. I needed to step back from all this.

In addition, as I have aged and hopefully matured, I have become a lot more circumspect about politics. I am more inclined to look for the truth on both sides of issues. I have grown too in my conviction that pastors would do well to maintain a more independent and non-partisan position regarding candidates and political parties. We need to be able to minister to all our people and there are always Christians of good conscience on all sides of political divides and all parties. None of this means that I lack political convictions or even passion, I just am very concerned about maintaining the Church’s ability and mine to speak to power no matter which party or person happens to hold it.

I call myself an independent and have many times split my ballot voting for folks from different parties. Since 1980, for those interested, I have voted for the person elected President all but twice. I will leave this for you to guess where I may have gone wrong.

Here is one matter about which I have plenty of conviction. After the 2004 election, the IRS threatened to take away the not-for-profit status of All Saints Parish, Pasadena based on a sermon preached just before the election. Like many in the religious community, I reacted immediately to this interference and threat to the Church’s, or any religious communities, right to free speech and the ability to comment on political matters. Then, I listened to the actual sermon.

After that, I found myself on the IRS’s side of the issue. In his sermon, the retired Rector of the parish, not only took sides in the election, but essentially explained how Jesus would vote. Telling Christians how Jesus would vote is presumptuous and manipulative. This is the worse kind of blurring of the boundaries of Church and State. For me, for a pastor to try to tell folks for whom to vote is an abuse of our power.

Having said all this, here are a couple of observations about this election. Both candidates for president are right, we need a change in direction as a nation. Either will bring change. The most important change IMHO needed is how we carry ourselves in our relationship to the other nations of the world.

As Reporter Brian Williams has stated, I believe that both Senator Obama and Senator McCain are outstanding leaders and persons of character, and either would serve our nation well. I think that demonization and character assassinations do not serve us well. Such attacks undermine the basic truth that for the health and well-being of our nation, after the election, we will need to come back together. After the election, the person who is president will be added to our prayers of the people. He will be President of all the people. We can only pray that the person holding this office will always remember this.

I believe it is the duty of all Christians, as well as all citizens, to vote and to fully participate in our political process. So, don’t forget to vote November 4th!

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