Saturday, September 8, 2012

Are Democrats Welcome at Church?

A couple of nights ago I signed off of Facebook until after the election. I love Facebook, so it wasn't an impulse decision. Facebook keeps me connected to friends from high school and college, extended family members, former neighbors, missionaries, and former clients, students, and youth ministry kids, as well as former church members and co-workers. We have lived in 5 states and traveled quite a bit, so FB keeps those friends and family scattered all over the world as close as my iPad. I love knowing the dailyness of people's lives, as well as the milestone events and occasions.

So, why am I taking a leave of absence from Facebook? Politics! I am so tired of the insensitive comments, cartoons, and links plastering my newsfeed. I have blocked and hidden some people who routinely post inflammatory and hurtful things, but it's not enough to keep the vitriol from creeping in on a daily basis. I'm sick of it! The biggest problem is the vicious things being posted are causing me to think ill of people I love and care about. I don't want my impressions of people to be tarnished because of their lack for forethought in posting something that they probably aren't thinking much or at all about how it affects other people, so I need to walk away. I find myself thinking not-so-nice thoughts about people I really like because I think what they posted was cruel, ignorant, or intolerant...even though I know that they themselves are loving and giving people.

This behavior is occurring on both sides of the political spectrum, with conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. I don't want to give the impression that it's just Republicans at all because it's not. Democrats praise MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, the Democratic National Convention, and bash FOX news, the Republican National Convention, and all things Romney and Ryan. It is just the opposite with Republicans. There is a very obvious line in the sand. Quite frankly, as a southern transplant living up north it appears to me that the Civil War is still being fought. As the RNC was in session my southern friends were so inspired and motivated while most of my northern friends were mocking Romney and the parade of speakers, as well as Ryan's marathon time. The opposite happened this week with my northern friends praising speeches by Clinton and Deval Patrick, while my southern friends proclaimed they were nauseated by the proceedings and questioned how much money Michelle Obama's wardrobe costs. However, in this post I am singling out Republicans. Why? Because conservative Republicans compose the "religious right", the tea party, and let's be honest, the membership of almost all evangelical Christian churches, especially in the south. And even more particularly, WHITE evangelical churches.

All of this political posturing and ranting on Facebook (and yes, I shamefully admit that I have been guilty of it as well, although more in the past than recently) got me thinking...

Are Democrats even welcome at church?

One of my evangelical Christian friends posted this in the last couple of weeks

What if I was a Democrat neighbor of this person? Let's pretend we have a friendly neighbor relationship. We talk while doing yard work. Maybe we check each other's mail when we are out of town. Perhaps we've grilled out and eaten together once on Labor Day. I see this on my neighbor's Facebook page and then he invites me to church. This seemingly innocuous little captioned picture basically says that liberals aren't worth even existing. Basically, we could all get along fine if all liberals were dead. And you think I would want to go to your church? That one little posting has the potential to destroy a relationship.Other Christians I know, many of them in vocational ministry, have posted "jokes" about watching Obama drowning, as well as derogatory posts about Democrats as a whole.

Or some evangelical Republican Christians welcome liberal Democrats to their churches because they "know" that Democrats are lost, backslidden heathens. After all, Jesus even said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17), so Democrats make up a great mission field. However, this may come as quite a shock, but being a Democrat and being a evangelical Christian are not mutually exclusive. There are plenty of liberal Democrats who love Jesus too. This causes the religious right to say, "Well, how can they love Jesus and not vote Republican? Democrats are FOR abortion. God hates abortion." As a moderate, I am pro-life, so I ask "How can Republicans be for capital punishment?" Since I'm somewhere muddling in the middle I "get" the questions that Republicans ask of Democrats and vice versa. I think we have to remember that while our faith has to (or should) influence our political opinions and voting record, there is not one "right" candidate. I haven't seen a dove descend from heaven and land on anyone in the political realm. Jesus did not live a sinless life as God incarnate to die a horrific death for political dogma. He did it because He unconditionally loves each of us. That includes Romney, Obama, Bush (both of them), Clinton (both of them), and yes...even political figures like bin Laden, Hitler, and Castro.

Here's very well written post by Eileen Newsome, who I am proud to say is a member of our church. A couple of things you should know about Eileen, aside from the fact that she is witty, gregarious, and loves Jesus. She is working on her master's degree in social work, she has worked for years at a crisis pregnancy center and she lives a life of service to others. She wrote:
It’s possible that you don’t know this about me – but I am incredibly passionate about abortion, euthanasia, and the surrounding issues. I work in the right-to-life movement in the summer putting on leadership camps which inspire many youth to get involved and be a part of the change we wish to see. We stress teaching them to think critically and debate effectively. Something we teach campers is to always ask the opponent – what if you’re wrong? I firmly believe in the importance of being asked this question. Recently, I read an article solely saying that we cannot truly believe something unless we’ve allowed the possibility to come into our minds that said belief is wrong.  
So in the midst of political uproar, I ponder the legitimacy of being an incredibly pro-life, future social worker, and voting republican. Ooo, what a sentence. 
Last night, I spent about three hours reading in one of my social welfare policy books and hearing all the craziness of the “religious right” … especially in regards to the tireless efforts to take away everyone’s reproductive rights, of course. So first, I find myself fuming at the textbook first for misrepresenting me. Then second, I find myself fuming with this textbook when I am reminded that it’s liberals who care about feeding the poor, educating children, taking in the homeless, and treating the ill.  While I do not find it to necessarily be the government’s responsibility to do any of the above, I have a little message for the religious right – Jesus said train up a child, feed the poor, house the homeless, care for the sick. And we. are freaking. not. Thus, the crisis calling for bleeding hearts to advocate that the government do these things. It’d be very nice if religious, republican voters would all take care of the poor, the children, the ill, the homeless, and we wouldn’t have this problem of whether or not that’s even the government’s role. But we do have this problem. This topic could be an entirely different post itself, but point being: please never wonder if I don’t consider these things or care about these things. I am just outraged as you are that “the top 1/10 of households account for more than 50% of all income” (Netting). 
So I question. I ask myself, am I wrong, the way I’m voting? Are the people who care about these issues right, about my issue? Are they right, about the right-to-life? What if I am wrong? What are the implications? Well, let’s say my vote decides the election. I vote for the R’s and social welfare policy takes hit. The poor remain poor. The hungry remain hungry. The ill may die. That’s not very pro-life.
Oh...she's also only 22 years old...and this eloquent. If only we could all be so humble, so thoughtful, and so willing to learn from each other. Eileen is so much wiser than most people twice her age.

As always, this post is getting very long.. The crux of the message is this:
  • Is the temporary glee we get from making flippant remarks about "the other party" worth it? 
  • Is announcing religious right agendas from the pulpit isolating the democrats and moderates in your congregation? 
  • Does every evangelical Christian adhere to your exact political ideology and if not, can you consider that maybe they are right, you are wrong, and/or that it's okay to disagree and we can still be in love with the same Jesus? 
  • If a liberal Democrat attended your church would he/she feel welcome or as the presidential election heats up, will he/she hear snide Obama jokes around coffee before Sunday school?

We should embrace our freedom in this country: our freedom to vote and our freedom to openly discuss political opinions. However, we need to remember that not everyone currently IN our churches and certainly not everyone outside of our churches holds to the same political ideology. By assuming that others do...or assuming if they don't then they are wrong...we are at risk of making political agendas more important than Godly agendas. Love God. Love others. That's what Jesus told us to do.

P.S., This blog posts automatically to Facebook. If you comment on FB I will not see it, so if you want to comment, please do so directly on the blog, Thanks!


  1. Love this article Pam! I actually have an issue to add to this in that I have tons of Democratic friends and the majority of them go to church in several fundamental, Christian churches here. What I don't get is how, just like the Republican friends I have, it is ok to go to church, be friends in real life, and then have them post so much hate in the name of political passion on FB. My Democratic friends actually post tons more hate than my Republican friends but that really doesn't matter. One ugly post, even with the intent of sarcastic humor paints the human condition in a horrible light. Makes me ill and want nothing to do with any religion to be honest.....or FB. I have scaled back tremendously from sharing and spending time there for these very reasons, just too much toxicity and not what Jesus would have ever taught or lived. I understand for standing up for what you believe in but both sides have simply lost the concepts of respect, loving your fellow man, or basic common decency. I loathe both parties at this point.

  2. Pam!!! Yes, yes, and YES!!! :-) I will miss you on FB, but may join you on a reprieve. Am so proud to call you "friend"!

  3. What an amazing perspective. I am so glad I stumbled upon this. Very refreshing, and eye-opening. I hope you don't min; I shared it on my FB page! God bless you and keep you strong! Thank you for this!