Monday, October 13, 2008

VOTE! VOTE ALL YOUR VALUES! VOTE!

Lord, keep this nation under your care.

Bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.

Help us elect trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and thus serve you faithfully in our generation to the honour of your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (page 678, BAS)

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In the aftermath of the 2004 US elections, All Saints Episcopal hurch in Pasadena, California was subjected to harassment by the US Internal Revenue Service for a sermon entitled If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush. The IRS investigation was based on the suggestion that this sermon - which endorsed neither candidate - constituted political activity inconsistent with the parish's status as a charitable organization. The details of the parish's IRS problems can be found here.

More recently, a group of right wing American evangelicals called upon clergy to preach explicit endorsements of Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin in an effort to challenge those laws which restrict political activity by organizations which have charitable status. It remains to be seen if the IRS will investigate these churches. Will this government agency spend as much energy pursuing 33 clergy for clearly and unequivocally violating the law that they did in pursuing one priest and one parish who unequivocally did not violate the law?

I don't have a lot of use for clergy who use the unanswerable privilege of the pulpit for partisan purposes. My politics are no secret, but I have never used a Sunday sermon to tell anyone what party to support come election time.

I do like Fr. Regas's approach in his October 31, 2004 sermon at All Saints, Pasadena.

He challenges his listeners to consider three issues - ending war and violence; eliminating poverty; holding tenaciously to hope - and how Jesus would have challenged both candidates had He been the third participant in the presidential debates.

Consider Jesus as the sixth participant in our Canadian leaders debates. How would the debates have been different? Would we have judged Him on the relative quality of His French and His English? Or on the content and quality of his message? How would Jesus's participation have shaped the discussion of Canada's mission in Afghanistan? Of the strength of our social safety net? Homelessness? Economic security? Job creation? Child care? The Environment?

Four years ago, at All Saints, Pasadena, Fr. Regas's point was clear in his closing sentence, which repeated a theme used frequently throughout:

When you go into the voting booth on Tuesday, take with you all that you know about Jesus, the peacemaker. Take all that Jesus means to you. Then vote your deepest values.
Amen indeed.

The Anglican Church of Canada has created a very ill-publicized issues page for the current federal election. It doesn't endorse any party either.

People of good faith will disagree about what political approach is likely to be most effective in creating peace, in addressing poverty, in instilling hope. Both the invisible hand of the marketplace and the genius of central planning are human-made idols. But none of us who call ourselves Christian can ignore that Jesus calls us to be concerned about these things.

Vote.

Vote your values.

Vote all your values.

Vote.

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Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom:

Guide and direct, we humbly beseech thee, the minds of all those who are called at this time to elect fit persons to serve in the House of Commons.

Grant that in the exercise of their choice they may promote thy glory, and the welfare of this Dominion. And this we beg for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. (page 50, BCP).

5 comments:

Tim Chesterton said...

So say we all.

Country Parson (Steven Woolley) said...

OK, I've been watching the votes roll in and it doesn't look like much will change.

Seeker said...

Malcolm: You write "But none of us who call ourselves Christian can ignore that Jesus calls us to be concerned about these things."

Surely Jesus calls us to do more than be concerned? Isn't there a time when pious prayers and polite petitions are not enough? When giving food to the foodbank or cooking meals for the homeless or building a handful of houses with Habitat for Humanity are still not enough? Are mainstream Christians - like me - being way too polite?

I wonder how one can really make a difference and not "be political". I wonder what Tommy Douglas would have said.

Malcolm+ said...

I can't disagree with you, seeker. Real concern should them prompt us to action - both personally and politically.

Tommy would be calling us all to build the new Jerusalem.

Doorman-Priest said...

You have an election too? Funny, we don't get to hear too much about it.