Friday, February 08, 2008

The Elect and the Election

Just kidding about "the elect" part, but we do have an election in Virginia in a few days, or, at least a primary. Here in Northern Virginia we are getting a good dose of Democrats, of course. Hillary spoke at one of the Arlington high schools yesterday and Obama speaks at T.C. Williams, of Remember the Titans fame, on Sunday. No sight of McCain yet.
Elections are a great temptation for churches. To flirt with power is, as Jesus knew, a fundamental human temptation. The Lenten fast traces its roots back to the Biblical story of Jesus being tempted with just such power.
The temptation of the church is to align itself with a particular candidate or party as if the desired results of any election might bring about the coming of the kingdom. Of course, when it’s put that way it’s easy to dismiss the rhetoric, but too often religious leaders speak and act as if salvation depends upon voting right.
Of late, that has usually meant also voting Right.
Scripture, although thoroughly concerned with politics, clearly distrusts such alliances. As the psalmist put it,
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
If one does not put trust in the princes or princesses of any given moment, where does trust lie when it comes to exercising one’s democratic responsibilities as a person of faith? Surely it comes down to bringing core values and commitments into the decisions.
The issue that has been troubling me this week is torture. As the present Administration has been found to be less than truthful in its denials of using torture, the candidates for “next” have been forced to confront again a fundamental moral choice.
Here’s how the three leading candidates have said they would handle the proverbial “ticking time bomb” thought-experiment that asks, “would you approve the torture of someone with information about the bomb?”
John McCain: “Should [an interrogator use torture] and thereby save an American city or prevent another 9/11, authorities and the public would surely take this into account when judging his actions and recognize the extremely dire situation he confronted.”
Hillary Clinton: “Those are very rare, but if they occur, there has to be some lawful authority for pursuing it…. [If] we have sufficient basis to believe that there is something imminent, yeah, but then we’ve got to have a check and balance on that.”
Obama: ”The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security … torture is not a part of the answer - it is a fundamental part of the problem…. Torture is how you create enemies, not how you defeat them. Torture is how you get bad information, not good intelligence. … When I am president America will … [stand] up to these deplorable tactics. When I am president we won’t work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution, we will be straight with the American people and true to our values.”
There are other issues and additional core values, to be sure, and final decisions are always a collection of judgments that add up to something we hope is more than a hunch, knowing that the coming of the kingdom does not rest on our decision.
Still, it seems to me that we bring our core faith values and convictions to bear precisely when we are called to judge such issues as this, and those judgments are our best guidance when election time comes around.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

For Lent: Commit to Peace

Take on the Lenten discipline of peacemaking this year!
Last March thousands of Christians filled the Washington National Cathedral to pray and act for peace, and then processed to the White House to surround it with the light of Christ’s peace. One year later, the United States continues to occupy Iraq, so Christian Peace Witness for Iraq must continue to 'speak their peace' through worship and witness.
We invite you, your family, your congregation and your neighbors to come again to the nation's capitol from Thursday, March 6, 2008 through Monday, March 10 to speak the truth in love.
As people of faith and spiritual yearnings, we are called to such witness for peace and justice. At times, our faiths compel us to speak truth to power. This is the moment in which we must show the greatest possible resolve in rescuing the fundamental values of respect for life and dignity from those who offer empty promises leading to a downward spiral of militarism and domination. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal, and that time has come for us.”
Together we will fill houses of worship, remembering and learning anew the ways of the Prince of Peace. Then we will carry our public witness to the halls of government power, calling our leaders to embody values fundamental to the Christian tradition—and shared in other traditions—that truly make for communities of prosperity, security, and justice.
We need your help – your prayers, time, talents and financial donations.
On Friday, March 7, at noon people from across the United States will gather at more than a dozen different houses of worship and centers of faith on or near Capitol Hill to worship in each of our different traditions. Then at 2:30 p.m., we will come together for a mass public witness and demonstration against the war.
Please join us for this act of faith.
The world cries out for a common voice for peace from across religious traditions and paths.
Together we can end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home. Together we can stand against fear and violence, and live into a longing for wholeness that unites us across all boundaries. Together we can offer a path toward reconciliation. Together we can learn to build security through right relationships.
Communities and individuals of all religious traditions and spiritualities are invited to participate, so long as they share a common commitment to nonviolence, a positive vision of peace through justice, and a desire to witness through both worship and public action.
For further information on Christian Peace Witness for Iraq visit: To register go to: