By Steve Holt, Opinion Editor
Sometimes I am ashamed to be a Christian.
I’m sorry; let me rephrase that: Sometimes I am ashamed to be associated with Christians. These negative feelings often surface on my morning drive to work or school or driving somewhere in the afternoon, when I am listening to Christian radio.
Don’t get me wrong; I love the music. But with the music, I must endure pleas from the “moral majority” to call my state representative about the abortion issue, sign a petition regarding the marriage debate, and most of all, make sure God’s leader stays in the White House in November.
I am appalled when I hear such things.
Dr. Tony Campolo, an evangelical minister, sociologist and speaker, wrote a book recently called “Speaking My Mind,” in which he claims that evangelical Christianity has been “hijacked” with respect to politics.
“When did [evangelicalism] become anti-feminist? When did evangelical Christianity become anti-gay? When did it become supportive of capital punishment? Pro-war? When did it become so negative towards other religious groups?” Campolo asked in a recent interview with beliefnet.com.
Campolo has a response to the latest statistics he had seen reported that 83 percent of evangelicals are going to vote for George W. Bush in November.
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “It’s just that Christians need to be considering other issues beside abortion and homosexuality.”
Campolo isn’t right on every issue, but he’s got it mostly right.
The other day, I heard Mr. Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson, informing listeners that before the year is out, America will decide whether it will go with God or whether it will go in another direction. Following this statement, Dobson put down the hammer, informing listeners that God expects them to vote come November.
Now, Dobson and others aren’t telling Christians whom to vote for, but they toe that line meticulously. And of course, we all know whom Dobson, Robertson, Falwell and others want to see in the White House in January.
Their tactics are underhanded and deceptive, however, mixing religion and politics into a thick soup of guilt, responsibility and legalism. The guilt comes when Christian voters feel they cannot pick the other guy with a clean conscience. They are being led to believe it is their responsibility to vote for the right guy in November, and even being told that they’re sinning if they don’t show up at the polls. Finally, Christian voters are being told they cannot simply sit out and watch while the gays and baby-killers take the rest of America to hell with them.
Many evangelical ministers in America have even replaced Gospel preaching with campaign ads for George W. Bush. They won’t let you know it, though. They’ll lay out all the issues on a neat, black-and-white Venn diagram, sprinkle it with carefully selected scripture, throw in the “vote or you’re a bad person” line, and let it simmer. The president himself even told ministers and church leaders at this year’s Southern Baptist Association Meeting (at which he’s spoken the last two years) to tell their parishioners to vote for him in November.
I don’t mind having a Christian president. I appreciate the fact that he prays, attends church, and loves his family. What I hate is when polarizing forces like Dobson make one’s politics a spiritual issue.
The Republican platform on values issues is not what I’m criticizing. It’s the underhanded tactics used by trusted clergy to get their guy elected. The other guy is a legitimate choice for president this November. The only wrong vote this coming election would be the one that isn’t from the heart.
I almost spoke out to Dobson himself after hearing his radio charge for Christians to show up in force at the polls in this election. I considered calling the show and saying, “Thank you, Dr. Dobson, for convincing me of my responsibility to vote this election. It is an important election year, and I will with great pride cast my vote for John F. Kerry.”
But I thought, “Naw, I’ll just let my vote do the talking.”