Sunday, October 12, 2008

Politics From the Pulpit

With an important election just over three weeks away, it is getting down to crunch time for candidates and their supporters. Those running for office are actively seeking to get out the message they want conveyed to voters and their supporters are trying to encourage their friends and family to vote for the candidate that they are backing.

In the weeks that are left until November 4th, I'd like to encourage all of my friends to engage in civil discourse and dialog when speaking of the candidates. It is possible to support your candidates without entering into personal attacks on those running for office. As the election draws near, the temptation to resort to smear tactics and the spreading of slander is tempting.

I'd like us all to follow the example of presidential candidate John McCain in how he responded at some recent rallies when some of those in attendance began to bash his opponent, Barack Obama. McCain, in responding to negative comments about Obama, had this to say:
"If you want a fight, we will fight," McCain said. "But we will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments." When people booed, he cut them off.
"I don't mean that has to reduce your ferocity," he said. "I just mean to say you have to be respectful."
When one woman said she didn't trust Obama because she thought he was "an Arab", McCain shook his head in disagreement, and said:
"No, ma'am. He's a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with (him) on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about. I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States."
I encourage all of my friends, especially those of you that identify yourself as Christians, to focus much more on the issues that are important to you than on negative attacks on candidates that don't support the issues that are closest to your heart. That means you can stand for a pro-life position without demonizing Obama or be against the war in Iraq without spreading rumors about McCain.
I am well-aware of how divisive political positions can be and when those positions get mixed up with religious viewpoints the results can be combustible. It is why as an ordained minister and a staff member with a large Christian organization, I choose not to endorse any particular candidates publicly. I find that I can promote the issues that are important to me and encourage others to consider those matters without endorsing or speaking against a candidate.

I feel like initiatives such as the Pulpit Freedom Sunday, where pastors were instructed to specifically endorse a presidential candidate from the pulpit, are dangerous. Since the Scriptures obviously don't endorse those running for U.S. office, we can be walking on thin ice when we claim that certain individuals are "God's man" or "God's woman." I think it is good for pastors, as well as Christian laity, to speak to the compelling and prominent issues of our day and to seek to do so from a biblical perspective. But as Isaiah 55 says, "God's ways are not our ways and His ways are higher than ours." We can make our best attempt to focus on those issues that the Bible also focuses on, but we need to always remember that we are infallible human beings that never have it all figured out. I love the quote from the late great Christian singer, Rich Mullins, who had this to say:
"I think if we were given the Scriptures, it was not so that we could prove that we were right about everything. If we were given the Scriptures, it was to humble us into realizing that God is right, and the rest of us are just guessing."
So, in the days ahead, I urge you to be positive, be civil and refuse to participate in name-calling and hearsay. Focus on the issues and know that God is in control no matter who is elected.

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