Monday, January 21, 2008

Presidential Candidates Speaking In Churches

Take a close look at the two pictures on the left. What's wrong with these pictures?

Both are pictures of presidential candidates speaking in churches during Sunday morning worship services. On top is a shot of Barack Obama speaking to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and the bottom is Mike Huckabee speaking at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

What are these churches thinking? And what are the candidates thinking? (Well, obviously, they are thinking about votes). Obama is a Harvard educated lawyer, so you would think he would know a little about the legal problems of partisan politics from the pulpit. And Huckabee is a former pastor so he should know better as well.

Every major presidential candidate - Republican and Democrat - have been using churches as political tools to gain votes. First, no church should be foolish enough to allow this to happen. But since so many churches - and even more pastors - are so enamored by being close to political figures they will trade their pulpits for a political stump speech in a heartbeat. Second, the candidates should know better than this. They are pandering to the faithful and using faith to win votes. Shame on us all for allowing this to happen!

No church - I repeat, no church - should allow a candidate to speak in a worship service during a campaign. While there is a place for a political message in church, there is no place for partisan politics.

I am not against a candidate speaking about their faith, and I am grateful all the candidates are individuals of faith. I do not believe, however, that it is proper to bring political campaigns into churches. Such a practice makes a mockery of worship and hurts the witness of the church.

If churches want to be political in nature, and all churches should have something to say about politics, they should be challenging power, not embracing power and seeking to secure political power. The message of the gospel is not gaining power, but questioning the powers that be. Read the Old Testament prophets and you will find story after story where they railed against the political power that exploited people. Today, when churches embrace partisan politics, they are getting too cozy with these powers that exploit people.

Unfortunately, as the campaign continues we will see faith increasingly used as a political tool, and shame on the churches and the candidates that use faith in such a way.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Go Mountaineers!

As a native of West Virginia I will be the first to admit that we don't often have much to cheer about. West Virginia ranks at or near the bottom in almost every important measurement and serves as the punch line for too many bad jokes.

But we certainly can cheer about the Mountaineer's thrashing of Oklahoma in Wednesday's Fiesta Bowl. It looked as though this was going to be "the season that might have been" after the shocking loss to Pitt and the debacle of coach 'Rod bolting to Michigan (which was a terrible way for him to leave. And good luck with Michigan, you will certainly need it).

West Virginia could have beaten anyone Wednesday night. Their offense was awesome and to see the players overcome so much negativity in the previous weeks was a great sight. And much of that credit can be given to new coach Bill Stewart, who obviously has the love and respect of the players. To hear the players lobby for him to be given the job and to see how well he had them prepared for the game made him the obvious choice. And topping it off is the great news that Pat White will return next year. And a note to the Heisman committee - Tim Tebow is a great quarterback, but his team was not the out and out winner of their conference and they did not win their bowl game (which wasn't even a BCS bowl game). Put White at the top of the list for next year.

Congratulations Mountaineers, it's been a great season.