The Baptist megachurch near my home routinely flies an enormous American flag, about the size of my car, on a tall flagpole in front of the church. There’s usually a much smaller “Christian flag” underneath it, almost as an afterthought. This weekend, though, being the 4th of July weekend, the church has pulled out all the stops. I counted 30 full-sized American flags flying in front of the church yesterday afternoon, in addition to the enormous one. Only two crosses were visible, making the flag-to-cross ratio 31:2. The “Christian flag” was removed, perhaps because the board of deacons thought it might distract from the display of patriotism. Or perhaps because people might get the wrong idea about what is really being worshipped there. (Hint: It ain’t the Jesus of the Gospels, who gave his disciples a non-violent alternative to the ruling empire of his day.)
It bothers me when politicians try to co-opt the church. I know a small-town politician who does not attend church except for the six months prior to re-election time, when she suddenly becomes a Sunday school teacher.
But it bothers me even more when the church tries to co-opt the state. I’m bothered when the church, either on the right or on the left, tries to present its views as wedded to the teachings of faith. So when I saw the cover of Marcia Ford’s new book, We the Purple: Faith, Politics, and the Independent Voter
, the part about being “tired of partisanship in the church” really appealed to me. The text on the cover reads:
Marcia Ford (check out her blog
, also called We the Purple
) writes about voters across the political spectrum who are no longer thinking in terms of Democrat vs. Republican, or even liberal vs. conservative. Ford writes about the growing numbers of independent voters who are actually thinking about individual issues and no longer buying in to the “package deals” offered by the two party platforms.
I have Catholic friends, for example, who call themselves consistently pro-life
– they are against abortion, but they are also against the death penalty and the war in Iraq. They don’t fit neatly into either the conservative or the liberal camps.
Ford’s book offers a number of profiles of independent voters she has interviewed. She also examines statistics about current voting trends and takes a look at the problems with our current election system (including electronic voting machines). She talks about the growing number of young voters, for whom some issues, like gay marriage, are simply not issues at all. Gay marriage? Why not? Unlike their parents, younger voters “just can’t get all riled up about it,” says Ford. She believes that in time, “same-sex marriage will be legalized, due to a combination of aggressive activism by gay rights advocates, indifference on the part of the electorate, and issue-fatigue among evangelicals and other conservatives who are simply tired of the rhetoric.”
Ford also writes about the issue of abortion, which along with gay marriage is one of the two major concerns of evangelical Christian voters (at least the older ones). She gives fair treatment to issues on both sides of the debate, talking about women she has known “whose conscience – not James Dobson or Pope Benedict XVI – tells them abortion is wrong, and women whose conscience – not NARAL or Planned Parenthood – tells them abortion is a difficult solution to a difficult situation.”
One particularly intriguing chapter of We the Purple
is “The Pew Distrust,” which starts off by quoting Gregory Boyd (“Jesus never allowed himself to be defined by the political conflicts of the day, and neither should we”) and ends with a look at the Emergent Church movement as a possible “spiritual home for independents” (a section based on an earlier article by Ford for explorefaith.org
, one of my favorite websites).We the Purple
is an informative and encouraging look at an increasing movement of independent voters who examine their consciences rather than parroting a party line. It’s good summer time reading for this season as the 4th of July fireworks die down and the presidential campaigns heat up.
Labels: BookLog, GLBT, Politics, Spirituality