Friday, September 12, 2008

Responding to Michael Gerson

I sent this to the Washington Post today after reading one of their op ed pieces.
I love Michael Gerson. Only a former Bush speechwriter could so artfully speak out of both sides of his mouth at the same time. In an essay ostensibly taking liberals to task for mocking the religious beliefs of evangelicals he mocks Episcopalians! I suppose it must be simply a matter of whose ox – or sacred cow – is getting gored. Still, Gerson’s two-faced tactics bother me less than the fact that he simply ignores the ideas at stake in looking carefully at the theology proclaimed by Sarah Palin’s church and, indeed, by the governor herself. Her church has called same-sex relationships an illness that can be cured by God, and Gov. Palin has not denounced that idea. As pastor of a congregation that insists that God loves all of us, including gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual people, that idea bothers me a lot. Gov. Palin has also insisted that America’s founders intended to create a Christian nation. Never mind that most historians doubt that or that the founders themselves were deeply divided on questions of faith, as a pastor of congregation with the deeply held, Biblical conviction that God’s house has many rooms open to folks of many faiths, and as an American who believes that our religious diversity is one of the nation’s great strengths, Gov. Palin’s idea scares me. I am a Presbyterian, and we often call ourselves “God’s frozen people.” I would love it if our worship was a bit more lively like the “whoop and holler” congregations Gerson describes or the African-American church tradition that has shaped Sen. Obama’s faith convictions. But it is not merely a question of style or cultural differences. Ideas matter. Proclaiming that the end times are very near, and that Alaska has been chosen by God as a place of refuge from the coming deluge, surely has implications for the way one views public policy, international relations and the role of government in general. So as the campaign moves on these next 55 days or so, let us all pay attention to the ideas voiced by the various candidates, their advisors and their spiritual guides and move beyond mocking the styles in which those ideas are expressed.

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