I recently received an email from a young woman who said she had stopped going to her church because the pastor made her feel guilty for not voting Republican. The following is some of what I wrote in reply:
I am sorry that your church is causing such a conflict in your life. I know that the church has been very important for you and your family. It is unfortunate that you are made to feel guilty for not choosing to vote a certain way. It is legitimate for churches and pastors to speak about important issues but should not endorse specific candidates.
I believe in separation of church and state, which means that churches cannot endorse specific candidates. I don't know if your church was one of them, but earlier this fall a number of pastors deliberately violated this principle by telling their parishioners not to vote for Obama.
However, there are growing numbers of Christians who believe there are many other issues that are important besides these two. I receive a magazine called "SoJourners" which presents a broader Christian perspective. In the November issue there is an article entitled "The Meaning of Life". The theme is this: "Once thought to be in the pocket of the Religious Right, many American evangelicals today are discovering a deeper understanding of what it means to affirm life." Some of the issues that are important to these new evangelicals are things like: who really cares about life beyond the womb; to be pro-life means pro-everyone's life; it means health care for everyone; etc.
The following paragraph from the article highlights this nicely:
"The abortion reduction issue became a focal point at both of the national conventions this summer. The Democrats, pushed by evangelicals, Catholics, and others added abortion-reduction language to their platform: 'We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.'
At any rate, no one, regardless of party affiliation, is pro-abortion. The issue for me comes down to who has a consistent value of life. Who cares most about what happens to the baby before and after he/she is born? Who is going to work to provide health care, early childhood education, a safe environment, access to good education and affordable college education? I also do not think that preemptive war such as the war in Iraq fits with a consistent ethic of life. And, I have questions about capital punishment.
I also believe the Democrats with Barack Obama are more likely to fight for the middle class and the poor. The gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen in our country. This is a justice issue. I will be guest preaching on Amos 5:18-24 in a couple of weeks. Amos strongly condemns those who faithfully worship God but then disregard and push aside the poor and needy.
I belong to a Christian lobbying organization called "Bread for the World". They lobby congress to pass legislation that helps the hungry. Barack Obama has co-sponsored a bill that Bread for the World is supporting. You can learn more at www.bread.org
As to gay rights our family values are to love and accept. I believe Jesus went out of his way to accept and minister to those who were rejected by society. In the parable of the Prodigal Son Jesus tells of a father who broke with many laws and traditions of the time to welcome and accept his younger son. There was no way the father would reject his son. Jesus says God is like that father.
The book of Acts shows ever-widening trajectories of acceptance and inclusion of those who formerly were excluded. There are only a few passages in the Bible that say anything about homosexuality and some of them are not at all clear. There are over 2,000 dealing with poverty and economic justice.
I also believe that we need to be good stewards of the earth and the natural resources, which our creator God has given us. I believe again that Obama and the Democrats will work harder towards achieving cleaner alternative energies.
I do get a little angry with those who claim that their way of belief is the only way and that anyone who disagrees is not Christian. I referred to Sojourners magazine above. Jim Wallis is the editor of Sojourners and has written two books that may be of interest to you. A few years ago he wrote "God's Politics" –God is neither a Republican nor Democrat.