Tuesday, September 09, 2008

rendering unto caesar - or not

Remember this story from back in May?

Well, the Washington Post has another story as follow up:

Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.
More about that later.

But first, this: I happened upon this via The Revealer, a handy compendium of news about religion and media coverage of religion. They don't see what the big deal is:

So news of a bid to stop a bid to overturn the ban requires the journalistic equivalent of explaining why a joke is funny. It's hard to get outraged over defiance of a law you didn't know existed. Maybe I'm wrong.
Yeah, dude. You're wrong. This is a very big deal. Where the hell have you been? Anyone who goes to church (or works for a church board or school or any non profit organization) knows exactly what this law is and what the ramifications are if 501c3 organizations are allowed to participate in electioneering.

Back to my original outrage:
For churches to bleat that their rights are being infringed upon by an oppressive government because they can't say 'Sarah Palin is teh bomb!' from the pulpit during an election year - I call shenanigans on that. Anyone who works for a non profit (like I do) knows there are ways around this code and ways to bend the code. Under the tax code, non profits are allowed a lot of leeway. We can talk about policies; we can offer opinions on legislation; we can even participate in direct lobbying and the limits are even broader if we participate in grassroots lobbying. During an election year, we just can't stand on our pulpits (bully or otherwise) and say 'Sarah Palin is teh shit!' because it's sort of like exercising undue influence on folks when voting is supposed to be a private civil matter.

Beyond the the self-serving, disingenuous goal-post-moving (which seems to be a contemporary hallmark of the radical Christian Right), I think it's interesting how the orthodox self-image of the Church has changed.

(Putting on Sunday School hat)

If the Church was meant to be called out from the world (to be separate from it, if you will), and if we accept the idea that national electoral politics are, well, secular , then why are certain church people agitating for an increased ability to be more...worldly?

Do you understand what I'm saying?

Because progressive churches don't seem to have a problem with the current tax code as it's written. My denomination, for example, is perfectly ok with keeping the wall between Church and State in place. For some reason we don't think it's necessary for our pastor to tell folks how to vote or who to vote for - we just let our actions speak louder than our words.

We don't even associate our missions or activities to politics (though we will participate in the lobbying process when it comes to negotiating real estate in Chicago) because we see our missions as a direct outgrowth from our Christian mission - to help the less fortunate, to be graceful in our life toward one another - basically, to live the frakking beatitudes like they mean something.

Do more socially conservative congregations *not* live their mission? I won't say that. (And some congregations are very active in publicly maintaining their particular community standards when it comes to issues like homosexuality, reproductive freedom and the like.) But I'll say that it's interesting that simply living their mission and vision isn't enough for these churches and the ADF; jumping into the political muck and dictating national policy that impacts everyone, regardless of individual religious affiliation, seems too attractive an opportunity to pass up.

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