Last the Thursday, the fax in the church office started humming, shaking and sputtering. A message, coming in out of the ether, began to jerkily roll off the machine.
The facsimile’s headline announced it as the “Pennsylvania Voter Guide for Christians.” Billi saw it first, and said, “I guess this is for you, Michael.”
I responded, “I’ll bet, sight unseen, that its understanding of the faith and mine are pretty divergent. That our respective faith leads us in opposite directions when it comes to a vision for how our world should be and its most pressing social issues of our time.”
This voter’s guide graded the Pennsylvania candidates for U.S. Senate and the House on only two issues: whether or not they were “pro-homosexual” and “pro-abortion.” The test for these grades was where the legislators stood on:
1) the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,”
2) funding for abortions in ‘Obamacare,’
3) the protect life act of 2011, and, finally,
4) “pro-abortion and pro-homosexual Judge Goodwin Liu.” (President Obama’s nominee for Court of Appeals’ 9th Circuit who Republicans successfully opposed.)
You all know I believe my faith calls me to advocate for equality for queer folks and for a women’s right to choose. But I understand that Christians could understand their faith differently than I, and therefore come to very different conclusions on such issues.
I’m not suggesting how anyone should vote or for whom. I am exhorting you to consider your political positions in the light of what you believe and hold most deeply.
Sometimes, we compartmentalize our faith, and limit its reach to things spiritual or to Sunday mornings or to our church relationships. And then we use other sets of beliefs for determining how we behave, what we think is right or wrong in the world, and who we hope to be.
But as the pastor, I also need to point out another disconnect. Think for a moment about all of Jesus’ teachings. List your favorite Gospel passages. Or the sayings of Jesus that you remember. You might even get a Bible with story headings and page through the Gospels.
Jesus has a lot to say about a whole host of different topics, issues, interactions. I read recently this summary of Jesus’ earthly ministry: “he warned the rich; the verbose; the hypocrites; those who see themselves as self-made, self-sufficient or independent; and anyone who seeks to conduct their affairs outside the scope of God’s providential care.” That seems an adequate summary of his ministry commitments. He also was forthright about extending our respect, even love, to those whom the world judges unacceptable and thereby invites us to overlook or disregard.
I guess I’m simply asking how “A Voter’s Guide for Christians” be so narrow. Can Christians ignore issues of wealth and deprivation, truthfulness and self-serving lies, false claims to self-sufficiency or the idolatry of independence, and basic decency towards “the other”?
Interestingly, termination of pregnancy via herbal abortifacients was practiced in Jesus’ day, but nowhere does the New Testament reference, much less condemn it. Likewise, earlier Hebrew Scriptures refer negatively to certain homosexual relations, but Jesus apparently remained silent. Yes, we need to determine what our faith tells us about these issues. But one is left extrapolating from other biblical commitments in order to draw conclusions on how to be faithful and vote on these issues.
My question, however, is this: is it faithful to limit one’s focus to these two issues, ignoring a wide range of other issues on which Jesus had much to say explicitly and much to teach those with ears and hearts?
See you in church,