Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Your vote next Tuesday: Let your conscience be your guide.

I am not going to tell you how to vote next week.

There, I said it.

That may not sound like a controversial statement, but apparently it is in some Christian circles. Judging from my mail, there are some who believe Christians must vote a certain way, their way, and they are sparing no expense in convincing the rest of us of the rightness of their stance.

I received in the mail a very curious postcard last week, addressed to me as "Pastor James Richardson," from an organization in Scottsdale, Arizona called the "Judeo-Christian Voter Guide." I must admit I found it a little unsettling that this outfit knows my name and address.

The postcard implored me to tell you about a "non-partisan" voter guide for the candidates who are "the best fit for your congregation." Funny thing: when I clicked on the website, all the candidates who are the "best fit" are members of one party (hint: not the same as President Obama's).

According the Judeo-Christian Voter Guide postcard, I am supposed to make copies of its voter guide and put it in our Sunday worship bulletins, distribute extras in the pews and on your car windshield and email it to you. Rest assured, I am doing none of that.

"At stake," the postcard says, "your congregation's future: religious freedom, tax exempt status, tax deductible support."

Really? Run that by me again.

The postcard claims that "same-sex 'marriage' " is a threat to my freedom of religion. The logic completely escapes me about why two gay people who marry each other is a threat to my freedom to worship God, but maybe I am missing something.

The postcard goes onto to reassure me that if I will distribute this voter guide to you, this organization will defend me if someone challenges my church's tax exempt status for telling you how to vote. It pointed out that "No church or synagogue in U.S. history has ever been stripped of its tax-exempt status nor its constitutionally-guaranteed liberties for communications with its own membership."

That may be so, but let me point out that the only challenge to the tax-exempt status of a church that I know of came against a liberal church during the administration of President George W. Bush. All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena had to endure a drawn out IRS challenge to its tax-exempt status because its former rector, George Regas, had challenged the morality of the Iraq war from the pulpit. All Saints went to great expense to fend off the IRS, and I don't believe they got a dime from the Judeo-Christian Voter Guide to help.

The Judeo-Christian Voter Guide lists itself as an arm of the "National Organization for Marriage," which in turn lists Dr. James Dobson as a backer in small print on the postcard. Dobson is the founder and head of Focus on the Family, an organization that has backed far-right causes for years.

I am bringing this up today for two reasons. First, I am weary of hearing that it is the liberals who are playing politics in the pulpit. From where I sit, the politics this year seems very one-sided, and it is not coming from the liberals.

Second, I want you to vote. But I believe your vote is too precious to let others tell you how to vote, especially religious demagogues. I believe you are smart enough and wise enough to figure out how to vote. I hope you will take the time to look carefully at the issues and the candidates, verify the claims of campaigns, block-out the fear-mongering and hysteria, and exercise an intelligent and informed vote. How you vote and how I vote may be different, and that is perfectly OK.

When you vote, I hope you will allow your conscience to be your guide as God gives you the gift of conscience, and that you will apply the moral principles summed up by the Apostle Paul: "faith, hope and love."

And you don't need a voter guide from a shadowy organization in Arizona to do that.


George L. Johnston said...

Jim, as usual, you are the master of calm and focused "righteous indignation". This organizations propaganda is exactly why the founders of this great republic sought and obtained a clear delineation and separation of church and state, both in the constitution and in its interpretation. Organizations like the "Judeo-Christian" group are clear indications of why it was a good idea to do so.

On a personal note, I love Fiat Lux. On a clear day it makes it seem as if you never left Sacramento.

George L. Johnston

A Deacon's Wife said...

Bless you! I appreciate your position that voters should "exercise an intelligent and informed vote." It frustrates me so when I hear rhetoric about how important it is to vote without a word suggesting one should know anything about either the issues or the candidates. Our votes are indeed precious. They are, perhaps, the biggest investment we can make in the future.