Posted tagged ‘voting rights’

What Would Jesus Say To ______?

September 10, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                September 10, 2016

                     

Since I’ve been a pastor for a majority of my life people have often looked to me for guidance on a variety of issues and life situations. I’ve been asked what version of the Bible I would recommend, what to say to a child that has begun to wander spiritually, how to deal with mother-in-laws that make life torture, and what to say to someone who scoffs at the Christian faith?

All are relevant questions that trouble people’s minds.

There is one area, however, where I refuse to give people that I’ve been the pastor to any guidance, and that is the problem of politics. It’s interesting how in the blessedness of our liberty we’ve made the political arena a problem. People have become snippy! If I was able to measure on a scale the weight of political venom expressed versus mercy for the impoverished the scale would topple over under the weight of the vicious.

About 25 years ago I made a political comment during a Sunday sermon and I still remember a woman in my congregation getting up and walking out. My conversation with her the following week was eye-opening for me. She respected me as her pastor, but not as her political commentator. Our deep dialogue made me realize how powerful the pulpit can be…for good or for bad. Although I have my personal view on politics since that episode I have never used my position as pastor to influence how people should vote.

On the other hand I have used my position as pastor to influence how people respond to poverty, community needs, supporting missions, responding to catastrophic events around the world, and the church’s tendency to become insulated and isolated.

It’s interesting how those issues get pushed to the side in the midst of the daily political jabs and low blows. It seems that people are more interested in what Jesus would say about someone or to someone. What would he say to Trump, or Clinton, or Johnson, or Stein? There is a weird thirst amongst a number of religious people to dress Jesus in the coat of their political preference. The funny thing is that Jesus was always a bit wary of politics and people in power, or looking to be in power. The politics of the Kingdom of God are usually printed in a different section of the newspaper than the news of current political campaigns.

Jesus said a lot about issues. His words would not fit neatly into any one of the political parties’ platforms. People would be trying in a variety of ways to reword his views to fall within their boundaries. In effect, there would be a lot of “trying to straighten out Jesus” moments!

And thus the tension with where we are today! My family and relatives include avid Trump supporters, committed Democrats, confused Republicans, and some who will vote Libertarian for the first time in their lives…and we’re all still one family! Most of us are followers of Jesus, and most of us understand that it’s okay to disagree with one another. That we can vote for different people and still be family! Sadly, that kind of freedom seems to be lacking in many congregations of Christ-followers, and some sanctuaries this time of year simply resemble smaller versions of Cleveland and Philadelphia.

 

What Would You Sell Your Convictions For?

August 29, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            August 29, 2016

                         

I was born in eastern Kentucky…Winchester, to be exact…so the story that came out last week about vote-selling in several eastern Kentucky counties isn’t that surprising to me. There’s a certain desperation in the lives of impoverished people that makes the exercising of our right to vote a lower priority than surviving another week.

In case you missed it, there have been several convictions of people who have bought votes in various Kentucky elections for $25 to $50 a vote. But Kentucky isn’t the only state that has had to deal with vote-selling. In West Virginia a county sheriff would show up at people’s homes and tell them who to vote for. Evidently, having the gun-toting sheriff show up at your home was motivation enough for people. In Tennessee one candidate would buy a vote for a pint of whiskey.

As our American history gets further away from the stories of those who sacrificed everything for freedom it could be that what was once important will not be viewed as valuable. After all, stealing elections is not that hard in counties where only twenty to thirty percent of registered voters vote. The indifference towards casting a voter’s ballot is a troubling trend.

There are some threads of connection between vote-selling and faith-selling. Just as the freedom to vote is at the core of our democracy the Lordship of Christ is at the core of who we are as Christians. It is the “why” of our faith! As people become less knowledgeable about the Bible it is also the “why” that gets glazed over.

“What I get out of it” becomes a more important question than “why do I believe this?” Self-interests trumps sacrifice. Having convictions is never because of convenience. Convictions, faith convictions that is, are because of our belief in a cause that we know is necessary to fall in line behind. The cause becomes our defining point. It’s the first domino and everything falls in line behind it.

How important is it to me? Just as their are American citizens who sell their vote for a pint of whiskey there are church-going Christians who stay true to their convictions until a better offer comes their way. At that point what they really value is no longer hidden behind their backs…and they don’t feel bad about it!