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Religion, Politics, Church, 4th of July

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Message Harold Novikoff
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DSC00781 - Church of the Good Shepherd
DSC00781 - Church of the Good Shepherd
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I recently became acquainted with a retired man now residing in Chelsea, Oklahoma, a small rural community of approx. 2000, about 25% of whom are members of the Cherokee Nation. There couldn't be a nicer, more honest person. In conversations with him, I gained some first-hand perspective on the political persuasion of rural Middle America, the Southwest, and perhaps the South.

Having originally spent most of his life in Orange County, CA (adjacent to L.A.) where he held an office of Police Commissioner, I thought he might have some cosmopolitan views, but when he settled in Chelsea he adapted quickly to the local culture of 13 small churches and even into the Cherokee community. Previously indifferent to religion, he now became a born-again Christian. Part of the package was to be Republican. Most of the issues that dominate the political dialogue nationwide were of little interest to him. His family and neighbors were mostly concerned with their local affairs and the benefits they receive from the local indian casino. I mentioned the floods and tornadoes devastating rural areas in the Midwest and South, but that didn't seem to have any bearing on his political loyalty or religious motivation. And he wasn't much concerned about anything overseas.

Similarly, I recall a discussion I had over 60 years ago with a boyhood friend who had recently moved from Mandan, ND to Tacoma, WA. I was extolling FDR as an example of a great president. Instead of arguing with me, he introduced me to his visiting grandmother, who was a Methodist minister from North Dakota. She lectured me on how Roosevelt was an agent of the devil.

In communities like Chelsea, religion and politics command equal faithfulness. For them, religion and politics are both bound to an established church that cannot be separated by individual questioning.The progressive spirit awakening in cities has not filtered down to these isolated conservative communities where events outside their towns do not alter their long-held shared views. I hate to think that they could determine the outcome of the forthcoming election of historic gravity if it is a tight race.

A good citizen in a democracy is not only entitled to his opinion, but has a responsibility to be vigilant about what's going on in his country so that his opinion, as expressed in his voting, is beneficial to the welfare of the country - not just to his community. And a person of true religious faith would, like the Good Samaritan, be concerned about the treatment of his fellow humankind - regardless of what his church may tell him to do. Otherwise, just wearing a religious symbol is nothing more than a good luck charm.

The Republican party of today is not the same "church" that Abraham Lincoln would belong to. It is an insult to his memory that Trump should speak at the Lincoln Memorial on this July 4.

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Veteran, retired from several occupations (school teacher, technical writer, energy conservation business, etc.) long-time Sierra Club member

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