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James L. Evans

Politicians should practice religion if they preach it

The primaries are over and the main races are set for November. Marriage also is safe. With the Marriage Protection amendment to the Alabama state constitution, marriages in our state are now secure from the ravages of the so-called "gay agenda." We haven't figured out yet how to save marriage from what actually threatens marriage. I guess that will require yet another amendment in some future campaign.

Anyway, between now and the November general election, I wonder what other faith concerns will be brought into the fray. Since political advisors have learned how to use faith as a way to mobilize and energize parts of the electorate, most candidates feel compelled to demonstrate their spiritual credentials.

In fact, one thing to watch is a correlation between poll numbers and fervent faith. Low standings in the polls mean more public affirmations of Jesus.

I don't mind so much that we bring Jesus into our politics. Jesus was significantly political in his own day. Anytime you call for economic justice and counsel against the use of violence, it's political.

Incidentally, Jesus also weighed in on the issue of marriage, but not once did he mention homosexuality as the main threat. Jesus seemed to think that something he called "hardness of heart" was the main cause of marital failure. I'll leave you to do your own biblical research, but don't be surprised to learn that hardness of heart basically means "commitment to bad habits."

And it makes sense when we think about it. Marriages fail when people are committed to bad habits that wreak havoc in relationships.

Anyway, back to the campaign.

I wish more candidates in political races would invoke the name of Jesus by championing the causes he cared about most. In our state in particular, I can't imagine Jesus remaining silent about the way we provide for children, the elderly, the sick without health insurance, and men and women in our prisons.

Toward the end of his life, Jesus said it was the way we cared for these sorts of people that demonstrated whether we really knew him.

Of course, I know the down side. Just because the box says Christian on the outside does not mean Jesus is on the inside. I also know that there is a danger, from all segments of the political spectrum, of so politicizing Jesus that we empty him of his true significance in our lives.

But that is really a fairly easy problem to avoid. We simply declare our independence as people of faith. We stand with one voice and say, "Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican." We take a stand against partisanship and declare a higher loyalty to the radical ethic of Jesus.

Then when candidates start strutting their Christian stuff we can say, "If you are going to claim to know Jesus, then let's talk about what Jesus talked about."

I know that this won't entirely eliminate misuses of the faith. So long as there is fear and those willing to exploit that fear for votes, the faithful will be at risk of being manipulated at the point of their beliefs.

But an independent faith presence, a community of faith calling to account those who use the language of faith for partisan political ends, would at least introduce some check and balance into the process.

And who knows, a real follower of Jesus might one day get elected. Wouldn't that be interesting?

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church, Auburn. He can be reached at faithmatters@mindspring.com.

James L. Evans James L. Evans

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