View from the Pew
A Kailua church places the presidential candidates under the microscope of Scripture
Many people, especially Christians, use their religious beliefs to gauge how other people measure up, and those faith-based yardsticks are in hectic use during this political season.
Some of the measurers seem to have only two lines on their yardsticks, abortion and marriage, with which to assess candidates.
The National Council of Churches urges churches to look at politicians, government policies and civic leaders through a wider lens and to ask how they measure up to biblical teaching about peace, justice, protection of the weak and the poor, and stewardship of Creation.
A Kailua church will use the National Council of Churches' "Christian Principles in an Election Year" for an eight-week course of study that will bring Scripture to bear on speeches and platforms of presidential contenders Barack Obama and John McCain.
The class begins tomorrow at Christ Church Uniting Disciples and Presbyterians, 1300 Kailua Road. The Rev. Buddy Summers will lead the discussions each Sunday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Classes are open to the public.
The first class will look at Obama's speech on racism in America with the question, "What will you do to promote racial justice and equal opportunity for everyone?" The second session will use McCain's remarks about national security from the perspective of "What will you do to make peace with justice a top priority and actively seek nonviolent solutions to conflict?"
(Top) Sen. John McCain and (bottom) Sen. Barack Obama.
What it will not be is a debate about the relative merits of the candidates, said Summers. "We are definitely not comparing one to the other," and that is why the topic will alternate from McCain to Obama week by week. "We will not be arguing about a candidate and whether his (platform) will work. We are not going to deal with whether we think they are truth-tellers or if they can pull it off."
There are other platforms for those discussions, he said. And besides, to go down that path could mean trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. Any inkling of support of a candidate threatens a church's tax-exempt status.
"We want to develop our skills to listen to a candidate. It's an exercise in a careful reading of a position. It is for a class member to be a discerning person," said Summers.
"Each person in the class will have time to respond: 'How the discussion today activates my Gospel-shaped thinking.' That is where faith gets activated in this discussion, when you hear with other people are thinking," said the pastor, who described Christ Church Uniting as "nondoctrinaire. We don't have single answers."
"We'll be doing what churches know how to do: ask faith questions about real life," Summers said.
Among the 10 "Christian principles" in the National Council of Churches' guide to listening to politicians are:
» "God created us for each other, and thus our security depends on the well-being of our global neighbors." Translation: Shape foreign policy based on cooperation.
» "Those who follow Christ are called to heal the sick." Translation: Provide health care for all.
» "Christians have a biblical mandate to welcome strangers." Translation: How does that look as an immigration policy?
The national organization provided a list of Old and New Testament passages to use in examining what politicians propose to do when they are in power. Jesus' command to "Love your neighbor as yourself" tops that yardstick.