Spirit of the People

A candidate for the NC State senate prayed in front of the crowd in red hats when Mr. Trump came to the Winston-Salem airport a few weeks ago. This week she is running blood curdling attack ads against a member of a local church, running against her, Terri LeGrand. Terri is a friend of mine, visited with the local ministerial association, but is careful to not make a big show of her faith. Her website reads like Francis of Assisi, all about caring for the kids, planet and the vulnerable. Every time I see her attacked on TV, we send her a little more money (you can do that here).

In years past, the Democrats effectively gave religion away to the Republicans, hardly lifting a keystroke even though there are likely more religious Democrats than all Republicans combined. There are more democrats and, being Americans, most are religious. They’re just less likely to weaponize it. Some denominations, such as the African Methodist Episcopal, are 92% Democrat. Those that claim “nothing in particular” are 49% Democrat, just a smidgen more than Catholics. Southern Baptists are still 26% Democrat, even though about 80% voted for Mr. Trump in the last election. (Pew Religious Landscape Study, 2014)

This year a number of groups are actively working to elect Mr. Biden, including 1,600 faith leaders organized by Vote Common Good. Rev. Doug Padgitt brings their bright orange bus with Faith, Hope and Love in 3-foot letters through Winston-Salem Tuesday. Their original goal was to tip 5% of evangelical voters from Trump to Biden, which has already happened in the polls, now currently showing 11% support. Doug is not a subtle guy; the map on the side of the bus shows the swing states  where this kind of political love is relevant, including North Carolina.

A Baptist, Doug travels with a band playing songs about mercy, justice and walking humbly. It would annoy the Pharisees and, I think, make Jesus tap his foot. (Listen here.) God so loved the people—the polis.  Act that way,–no mean-spirited attacks on other Christians. But don’t be surprised when the weaponized Christians come after you anyway. Ask Terri and Doug.

The best and worst things a democracy does are powered by the winds of the Spirit. Presbyterian pastors wrote books justifying slavery at the very moment that other Christians were running the underground railroad. In South Africa the worst Apartheid laws has Christian titles, just as Archbishop Tutu embodied its downfall. Go humbly into politics, don’t assign God a political label. Save one’s boldness for works of mercy, justice and love.

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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