Sunday, April 01, 2007

Psalm Sunday Sermons and Soundbytes

Warning: I am about to mix religion and politics so hang on...

" I'd rather see sermon than hear one any day."

-Waite Phillips,
Founder, Phillips Petroleum

I know it may seem strange to some to begin a piece on religion by quoting a famous oil executive, but we live in pretty weird times. So it seemed appropriate.

I can't count how often over the past 4 months I have heard the pundits of talk radio and cable news talk about which candidate will be embraced by "Values Voters."

I am always amused by that term. It suggests that only a select group of Americans take their personal values into account when choosing a elected official. The truth of course is the term is a code word . When the alphabet soup of cable news shows say "Values Voters" they mean conservative evangelicals. There is a popular perception that in order to be favored with the support of this particular group a candidate must first "prove" that he or she has embraced their values and beliefs, and by values, they mean a candidate's stance on abortion, gay rights, immigration and stem cell research.

Yet, just like the values voters of GOP I attend church regularly, I belong to an established faith, and take the values and faith of candidates into account when I step into the voting booth. Yet I will confess my definition of faith and values probably differs somewhat from the voters that Focus on the Family sends pre election mailings out to.

Over the next year, we will hear a lot of talk about values. We already have heard the GOP try to scare up votes with the specter of Speaker Pelosi and "San Francisco Values". Well I live in San Francisco, and I may not have much in common with James Dobson and Pat Robertson, but like most Americans I too am a values voter.

Let me take a moment to tell you what is important to this "values voter".

My faith tells me that where charity and hope are there God is. So I am looking for candidate who understands that having 48 million Americans with out health insurance is morally wrong.

My faith tells me that respect for my elders is a good thing. So I am looking for a candidate who understands that the contract with and promises made to, all generations of Americans through social security, Medicare and Medicaid are not negotiable and must be kept.

My faith tells me that the greatest commandment is to love one another. So I am looking candidate who sees war not as tool for commerce or even domestic political gain but as a true last resort. A candidate who sees the lives of our men and women in uniform as far too sacred to risk on whim or to advance a political or economic agenda.

My faith tells me to be suspicious of people who pray loudly and make their faith a public display. So I look for actions to tell me what candidate believes rather than just words said at fundraisers and prayer breakfasts.

Having looked at all the declared and perhaps soon to declare presidential candidates here is what this religious values voter sees.

I see candidates who are scrambling to redefine themselves to sell their candidacy. I see candidates who make statements and promises that are in total contradiction of things they have said and done only a few years ago. I see candidates desperate to show how he or she harbors the same prejudice against certain Americans as as the groups whose campaign contribution checks they are desperate to collect and cash do.

The best way I know to sum what I am looking for in a "Values Candidate" is to quote a banner on the Edwards campaign website . "Tomorrow Begins Today."

Neo-Conservative Evangelicals seem to be obsessed with the idea of when the "end times" are coming, and even what they can do to help hurry that along.

Yet as a Christian , my faith tells me that the true work of kingdom of God is found here and now. The bible doesn't say blessed are those "waiting around to be raptured." My faith clearly says blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those of work for justice and who persecuted for standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. My faith tells me this planet we live on is a gift and the stewardship of that gift is our responsibility.

My faith and values compel me to find a candidate who understands that tomorrow really does start today. A candidate who can inspire and motivate Americans of all ages and backgrounds to start now to build a better future. A candidate who will show me a sermon by living a faith that resonates with my values, rather than scrambling to convince me that they have the same fears and prejudices that I do.

A true values candidate will embrace my hopes, not play on my fears.

A real values voter understands that the time to work for universal health care is now, the time to stand up and oppose this insane misadventure in Iraq is now, the time to work for real dialog in the Middle East is now. The time to address the issues that impact our environment is now.

Nowhere does the Christian faith say it is ok to ignore these issues because the "end times are near so we don't have to worry about it. "

As a values voter, I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day. So when I hear candidates talk about faith and values, talk is pretty cheap. For me it is actions that speak loud and clear.

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