There seems to be some angst on both the right and the left his election year about the role of churches, or God, in politics. Republicans worry about the influences of pastors of predominantly black churches between now and election day. Democrats worry about the voices of what they call the "religious right" that they contend come from evangelical churches. Both sides cite the need for a separation between church and state and hint that they will sick the IRS on the other.
Such concerns have resulted in the Republicans bemoaning the remarks of Barack Obama's pastor and the Democrats doing the same in regards to Sarah Palin's pastor.
I think it is time for a reality check.
First, if anyone expects any political official to check his or her religious faith at the door, one is not being realistic. Most of us agree that a man or woman's religion should not be expressed in a manner to disrupt the workplace. However, to believe that political leaders, or anyone for that matter, can simply check the core beliefs that they hold as a human being is absurd. One's religious beliefs or moral standards will influence how one interacts with others and faces problems. How one thinks on morals or prays shapes who that person is. To ask for someone to check that core inside begs for the worst of political leaders.
Now, to the issue of pastors and what they say. First, let me state that I think that Rev. Wright, Obama's pastor, said some nutty things about America. I also believe that Barack Obama could not have sat in his church for twenty years without knowing what his pastor was saying. Obama's claims that he did not know what his pastor was saying are lame.
Yet, Obama and Palin both are likely sincere Christians. A sincere Christian who really believes in the Gospels of Jesus Christ does not put faith in any man, including their pastor. Instead, they put faith in God and forgive their fellow man of his trespasses, even if that fellow man is a pastor.
Further, people attend a church for all sorts of reasons not related to a pastor. For some, it is family tradition. For others it is convenient location. Others choose a church because they enjoy the fellowship of friends who share their faith. This Sunday, millions will sit through sermons by their pastors and then walk out and say to someone close by, "You know I am not sure I agree with the preacher on what he said today." They will say so without leaving the church because they like things like its involvement with youth or like the musical program. Millions of others will not attend church, but still embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The difference between those millions of Americans and Barack Obama and Sarah Palin is those millions of Americans do not have the modern day press corps and paid political professionals pouring over the words of their pastors and then asking them why they still attend their church.
Indeed, it is a far cry today from the true religious freedom that has long been our history. Thomas Jefferson was agnostic, yet that was never reported in relation to him politically. Ronald Reagan was a champion to so many Christians, yet despite the records of his diaries that show he prayed and thought of God everyday, he rarely attended church as President, out of concern for the other worshipers who would be disrupted by the security. Jimmy Carter's Sunday School lessons were never poured over, nor were his pastor's remarks. The list can and does go on. Throughout our history, people of strong faith have served without the criticism they get today.
The new cliched intellectual class of today's politics seems to summarily dismiss religion and people who have a particular faith. They work to degrade those who dare enter our political world by attacking their pastors. To be frank, I do not endorse or subscribe to the particular faiths espoused by either Barack Obama's or Sarah Palin's churches. I have my own brand of Christian faith I embrace.
However, those who send emails and make other attacks against the choice of churches of both Obama and Palin need not worry with me anymore. I do not care to hear such. Though I am clearly for McCain-Palin in this election, I believe attacking someone over his or her choice of church is out of bounds. At least both Palin and Obama have some sort of sense of their souls and act upon it. Far too many of those who criticize them for their church choices seem to have no souls at all.