Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Do Pastors truly validate Presidential competency?

So let me get this straight... In the court of public opinion, I can be judged competent or incompetent by what the Pastor or Guest Speaker says while speaking at the church where I currently have my membership? Seriously? Is this for real??

This has so many ramifications in an already historical political drama. I tried ignoring it some months ago after jotting down some thoughts following Round One with Rev. Wright.

Then Sarah - gosh darn her - brought it up again - and again - which is truly remarkable considering the videos of her being circulated on YouTube. The Church were she was raised has provided a pulpit to at least one unusual Guest Speaker, to say the least. Through his thick accent, he proudly describes his own encounters with witchdoctors and casting out demons. Other taped presentations show her professing her belief that God wants her to pursue a pipeline and other initiatives, likely hers alone but she needed a little credibility from the Guy Upstairs in order to sell it. I'm not even mentioning her church connection to the infamous Jesus Camp, the focus of a documentary several years ago that trained young kids to be Jesus Warriors with some horribly unorthodox methods.

And the Pastor of Obama's church is scary??

Rev. Wright, one of the most highly regarded African American pastors in America, speaks out about something he believes and suddenly the Democratic Candidate is under scrutiny for similar beliefs - I guess that is the implication. Who doesn't agree that "The government gives them (African Americans) the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America?' "

That must not be the controversial part - because we know that it is true. It must be the remaining part of the 2003 sermon (it's 2008, Sarah supporters): "No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

Maybe he shouldn't have said damn in church - wait, the Bible does talk about damning people to hell. In fact I have been in plenty of services where preachers of all stripes and denominations talk of God's wrath (is that a whiter version of damnation?) due to any number of "sins" be it abortion, homosexuality or yes, stern warnings against voting for a "baby killer." In fact, judging from the tapes, I would be willing to bet a hundo that Palin's church has espoused similar damnation.

I was in a service once where the Guest Speaker encouraged hundreds of people to turn off their minds, not unlike a hypnotist attempting to get another message past the gates of normal thought processing. And though I wasn't in attendance at one particularly "interesting" service, I was told that God had replaced the silver fillings of some folks with gold.

Good Lord, could any of the members of that church ever run for President?? Wait, in fact, I understand that Palin's church had a similar experience in her congregation. Let's check her teeth!

When I heard that the preaching of Obama's Pastor had caused such an uproar, it was hard not to reflect on what has been said from the pulpit at the church where I attend. I have to believe many of us felt the same way. I trust that everyone reflected on all the services, even those dating back to 2003, and came up feeling good about what is being taught during every service. (Those who now have gold teeth instead of silver probably feel even better than the rest of us!)

And therein lies the rub for me (I love that saying!): If we didn't feel proud of what was said on that one Sunday in 2005, what are we going to do when the reporter shoves the microphone in our face asking our thoughts? Are we going to risk hurting the pastor who married us, the nursery workers who tended to our babies?

I personally like the way Obama handled it. "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial." He said. I suspect Palin would say the same. Rev. Wright/the Witchdoctor Chaser "is like an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with."

Let's not forget, however, that he did end up leaving that church - AFTER a guest speaker came and ridiculed Sen. Hillary Clinton from the Trinity pulpit. Obama said he then had to make what he refers to as a sad decision; he and his family withdrew their membership at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ.

Obama cut the cord to the church where he found Jesus Christ, where he was married, where his daughters were baptized--and whose pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, gave him the title of his best-seller, The Audacity of Hope. "Our relations with Trinity have been strained by the divisive statements of Reverend Wright, which sharply conflict with our own views."

This is the kicker for me: "But it's clear that now that I am a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by any one associated with Trinity, including guest pastors, the remarks will be imputed to me even if they totally conflict with my long held views, statements and principles," Obama said.

Should we truly be judged by our Pastors? What does it say about John McCain that he had publicly endorsed the ministries of John Hagee and Rod Parsley? Does it say anything at all?

I think it says very little. People make their choices to attend a particular church for all kinds of reasons. Maybe John McCain needed Hagee's congregation to support his run. Perhaps Obama had a loyalty to the people with whom he worships every Sunday. Maybe Sarah ... Well, I'll let it go at that.

I will add, however, that unlike Obama, Palin has not yet cut ties with the Witchdoctor Chaser or her church leadership. It's with that in mind that I think Palin should simply quit imputing Obama unless she wants to be imputed upon.