The United States has been in church for nearly a year, now, preached to, proselytized, evangelized, testified to by one presidential candidate after another. It seems to be working, on me at least. I've come to a decision. I'm going to vote for a christian.
How is this campaign different from all others? There is this: Never before in American political history have so many Jews gone to so much trouble to try to disprove a candidate's assertions that he is a true Christian.
And there is this: Never before have there been serious discussions among Christian evangelicals over whether Mormonism is a genuinely Christian faith, and, therefore, if Mitt Romney could be seen to be genuinely Christian enough for the office of the presidency.
So pervasive is the issue of personal faith and the quality of one's Christianity, that an online God-o-Meter has been set up to make order of where candidates stand on the faith-based charges and counter-charges clouding the political firmament.
No one is immune. When John McCain said early on in the campaign that America was established as a Christian nation, he didn't yet know how right he was.
A recent Clinton campaign press release declared that "Senator Clinton, a United Methodist, has a strong connection with people of faith as demonstrated by her overwhelming support from Catholic and evangelical voters." Mike Huckabee has spoken of himself as a victim of the "soft bigotry" of the media for overemphasizing his status as an ordained Baptist preacher. Barack Obama staffers have been forced to labor mightily to counter rumor mongering labeling him a closet Muslim.
No one is immune. Not even the expatriate, living in a self-declared Jewish state in the very heart of the Muslim world. Accordingly, this November, I'm voting christian.
I am not about to demand that my candidate be the most consistent of church-goers. My candidate need not believe in Church theology or politics.
This is what I want from my candidate: Emulate Jesus. Heal. Be a true christian. Act to heal a country which is wounded and cleft to its core.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
The message of loving one's enemies is not weakness, but wisdom. It says, do all you can to talk before opening fire. If forced to open fire, be judicious in its application. Explore every opportunity to reopen talks while fighting, and to resolve hostilities through agreement.
If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:39)
Emulate Jesus. Know the difference between self-defense and vengeance.
The message of the turned cheek is not appeasement. It is resoluteness in the face of provocation. It is to consider one's actions with care, to consider the consequences of one's planned reactions as seriously as the depth of the injury which prompted them.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. (Matthew 6:19)
Emulate Jesus. Heal. Reconsider the sanctity of material wealth. Reconsider the concentration of treasure in the hands of the very few. Reconsider the anointment of oil, and how that has come back only to ruin the nation, the economy, the world, how it has fueled and lubricated terrorism, how it has enriched despots. Enshrine not tax cuts and shelters only for those whose treasures are already beyond mortal use.
Disdain not nor dismiss the poor among you, the immigrant, the ghetto child, the ill and infirm and aging for whom health care is beyond reach, for Jesus and those he ministered to, were those as well.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' (Matthew 25:35-6)
Emulate Jesus. Place the good of humanity and the world above the good of one's standing on the Forbes 400. Hear Jesus' message: "He speaks more about the poor than about prayer," says Pastor Mel Williams of Durham, North Carolina. "Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that we will be judged not by our piety, but by how we treat the poor."
A christian should not equate insensitivity, rigidity, voraciousness, profligacy, resort to violence, conspicuous consumption, or the cult of firearms, with true manhood, nor with love of country, nor with sense of self.
If you would be pro-life, fight the death penalty and the right to keep handguns within the grasp of children, with the same fervor with which you fight abortion.
If you would be pro-life, promote public education, employment opportunity, and support for single parenting with that same fervor.
Do you really believe that if Jesus were alive today, he would concern himself with constitutional bans on gay marriage and tenacious defense of the right to own assault weapons?
Someday, America may truly be able to call itself a christian country. But only if it pays more attention to the words and the works of Jesus, and less to those who speak with anger, bitterness, vengeance, and exclusionism, in his name.
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