The same sermon was the subject of an article in the Los Angeles Times, which called it "a searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq." The preacher even apparently had the audacity to say that tax cuts for the rich "are inimical to the values of Jesus."
The preacher did not endorse any candidate by name. No funds were raised in the church, and no voter guides were handed out after the service. It appears that the only "sin" of the preacher is that he is a liberal. If that's the case, then I'm in trouble.
I have been preaching against this war for three years. I have repeatedly expressed my disdain for the claim of the Bush administration to being either "moral" or "Christian." Now I have written a book about, to be released in May, called WHY THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT IS WRONG.
I have said these things as an American citizen protected by the First Amendment. I said them as an ordained minister whose denomination respects the freedom of the pulpit. I have said them because it is a sacred responsibility of the church to speak truth to power. If we are no longer free to do this, then this isn't America anymore.
And let 's face it; with the near takeover of the Republican Party by the Religious Right, someone at the IRS has some explaining to do. Liberal churches did not invent the voter guide (telling the faithful which candidate is God's candidate)--conservative churches did. Liberal churches do not host "Justice Sundays," at which far right political operatives call judges "vermin in black robes" and plot a "war against the judiciary" to institute "biblical law." Conservative churches do.
It wasn't a liberal church that formed a tax-exempt PAC called Campaign for Working Families. It was Jerry Falwell. Just before the election he wrote to his millions: "It is the responsibility of every political conservative, every evangelical Christian, every pro-life Catholic, every traditional Jew, every Reagan Democrat, and everyone in between to get serious about re-electing President Bush."
The separation of church and state is a profoundly important principle in American life, but so is the freedom of the pulpit. At Mayflower, we don't hand out voter guides, raise campaign money, pass out bumper stickers, or tell people which candidate God wants them to vote for. We have too much respect for our members to do that, and too much reverence for the separation of church and state.
But we still believe in the First Amendment and the liberty of conscience-- especially in these dark and frightening times.
Dr. Robin Meyers has been minister of Mayflower UCC church of OKC for 20 years, and is a professor of rhetoric at Oklahoma City University. His next book, WHY THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT IS WRONG: A Minister 's Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, and Your Future, is due out in May.