Rev. Madison Shockley: Christian Coalition in the Fray
Editor’s Note: The following are a few musings of the Rev. Madison Shockley on the intersection of religion and politics
The Christian Coalition is alive and well in the 50th Congressional District (north San Diego County), one of the battlefields where the Democrats see a chink in the Republican armor.
Below is an excerpt from a letter that the San Diego chapter of the coalition sent to churches in the 50th district about the special election to replace the corrupted and disgraced Republican Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who is currently serving an eight-year federal prison term.
“Dear Pastor, Are you aware that it is very possible that a candidate that is opposed to Christian family values could be elected…to take Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s Congressional seat [sic]. If Christians do not turn out in large numbers…the opportunity of seeing the 50th Congressional District served by a pro-family representative may be lost.
“One thing we do that has been helpful to voters who aren’t knowledgeable on the issues is to list organizations that endorse the candidates. For example, when a candidate is endorsed by the San Diego Democratic Club, “fighting for lesbian, gay, & bisexual rights since 1975″, and the other is endorsed by the Christian Examiner, most Christians know which candidate to choose without doing a lot of research…please advertise our website in your Church bulletin…”
The irony is that I am sure the Christian Coalition endorsed Cunningham in the first place!
Meanwhile, the National Council of Churches is participating in the Cover the Uninsured Week National Interfaith Advisory Board, which is urging congregations to bring the issue to the attention of the public and to tell Congress that health coverage for Americans must be its top priority. At the same time evangelical leaders and some Catholic bishops are propagating a petition drive to urge the Senate to vote to ban same-sex marriage (even though marriage is regulated by states and not the federal government and there isn’t a chance in hell that such an amendment to the Constitution will be passed). The Senate vote is scheduled for June.
Also, the Latino wing of the religious right is feeling rather betrayed these days. Hard-core Southern Baptists have staked out an anti-immigrant “law and order” policy that equates a misdemeanor border crossing with the desire to avoid starvation and deprivation for one’s family. Other evangelicals accustomed to opining on everything from school vouchers to television ratings have suddenly fallen silent when the lives of Hispanics are on the line. The Rev. Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says that about 12 million families whose undocumented relatives migrated so they could survive are at jeopardy in this debate. “What if you have no means of feeding your family?” he asks. “How long do you wait [to immigrate legally]? Do you wait until after your second child dies? How violated do we have to be to justify crossing borders without papers?”
Keep in mind that progressive Christian and Jewish as well as many mainline Catholic and Protestant congregations and leaders have come out strongly for comprehensive immigration reform. For them the overwhelming message of the Bible is clear in these matters. Do not abuse the alien or the foreigner is a refrain in the Hebrew Bible. The Christian texts remind their followers to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” For Christians who fully understand the multicultural dimensions of the faith (especially as expressed in the Pentecostal’s favorite verses in Acts, Chapter 2), the message of God’s love trumps every human border, language or nationality.
What a difference in two movements of Christianity that claim to read the same book and worship the same God!
We often wonder why the religious right has so dominated the airwaves of radio and television. One answer is the censorship of progressive Christian messages by the media. Consider: News coverage by the “liberal” media regularly reports the silly and outrageous statements of right-wing religionists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson but routinely ignores pronouncements against war, poverty, racism and a lack of healthcare by liberal and progressive church leaders like Robert Edgar, James Forbes and Jim Wallis (Never heard of these people? I wonder why…). However, since the news doesn’t cover progressive Christian activities, consider the fate of the United Church of Christ in trying to buy airtime for its ad campaign. Its money (and the ad) was rejected by the major networks because of its message of inclusiveness, particularly to gay and lesbian persons. The ad was relegated to a few cable networks. If you want to see the ad visit the United Church of Christ website at www.ucc.org.
The Rev. Madison Shockley is the pastor of the Pilgrim United Church of Christ (UCC) in Carlsbad, Calif. Originally ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1979, he has served churches in St.…