While Washington is not a swing state in national politics, there are a number of electoral decisions we will have to make. There is, at present, a closely contested gubernatorial race as well at two hot button ballot initiatives involving the legalization of marijuana and the question of gay marriage.
On the local level, my mailbox has been barraged with competing ads from Rosemary McAuliffe and Dawn McCravey, two women who are running for a State Senate position. The ads have been…interesting, and I’ll be glad when the election is over.
Perhaps the most notable flyer I’ve received is one that came in the mail just a few days ago. Take a look at both front and back:
Attempting to appeal to pro-choice and progressive/liberal voters in our district, McAuliffe has tied McCravey to conservative Pastor Joe Fuiten. While I am not sure of the relationship (if any) that exists between McCravey and Fuiten, that a local pastor (and fellow Assemblies of God minister) would be a character in the midst of such political turf warfare is rather…disheartening for me.
To be clear: I do not have a problem with Pastor Fuiten having his own political views and perspectives. I think that’s part of what being involved in American democracy means. But when those politics can implicitly or explicitly color what is said from the pulpit, I began to take exception. I realize that as a non-member of his church I cannot speak to what is said week-to-week…but when the political flyer above offers links to Fuiten’s own websites (www.joefuiten.com/bio) and (www.franklyfuiten.com) to mine its data, I feel that a pastor has gone too far. “Pastor’s Picks” for the election? I have concerns.
I come from what is admittedly an old-school style of ministry that believes that partisan politics have little place connected to the pulpit OR in the public life of the pastor. Rightly or wrongly, pastors are considered to speak for the Church…and sometimes even for God. To confuse, divide, or anger their flock with political stands or candidate endorsements seems unfortunate. As my former pastor in New Jersey once told me, the local congregation has both Democrats and Republicans in it. As their pastor, what good does it do to take a partisan political stand and divide the people rather than minister to them in the name of Christ where they are?
Though we as pastors have our own political philosophies and we must vote as private citizens, I get very worried when we publicly “choose sides” (and particular candidates) in such debates. Christian believers have a lot of legitimate reasons for voting for a host of different candidates. For a pastor to endorse one or the other forecloses on the deep reflection believers must make in the face of our electoral process, and opens the pastor–and the whole Church–to involvement in the kind of mudslinging politics that the pamphlet above illustrates.
Pastor Fuiten’s particular political positions are not what I am critiquing here (and remember that, as a political attack ad, the flyer pictured above is likely rather biased and sensational). What I am rejecting is partisan politics operating so closely to the pulpit that it opens the church to such attacks in the first place. There are times to stand for things in the name of Christ, yes. There can indeed be momentous issues of the day so pressing that forgoing one’s tax-exempt status to speak prophetically to the nation is the best thing one can do. But to be so regularly involved in matters political that your church, its people, and, dare I say, the cause of Christ might be looked at negatively because of it? I question that position.