Of Pastors and Politics II: Pastor Fuiten Responds

I opine about a variety of topics on this blog, whether they be theological, historical, pastoral, personal, or political.  Sometimes I get some feedback in the comments section (which I welcome).  Very rarely–actually, probably never–has one of the subjects of my posts actually respond.

Until yesterday.

After writing about my disagreement with his involvement the world of partisan politics in my post entitled “Of Pastors and Politics,” I was honored to have Pastor Joe Fuiten himself respond in the public comment section of that post.  Below is what he had to say and my response.

I’m thankful we’ve been able to share openly, and am hopeful that we–whether on this blog on in some kind of other public setting–may be able to share our divergent thoughts to help spark further conversation and reflection.  At this point he’s indicated as such, so stay tuned in the coming weeks and months.

Now, without further ado, our brief interchange:

Hi Joshua

Someone sent me your piece. Glad to know someone is paying attention. The answer in this case is rather simple. McAuliffe voted for gay marriage. The people who did the hit piece on me share common leadership and funding with the gay marriage campaign. Their attack on me is pretty clearly payoff to Rosemary for her support of gay marriage. In truth it has very little to do with me and everything to do with their belief in how they protect their teacher’s union candidate who voted for gay marriage. I have met Dawn once. I don’t really do partisan politics from the pulpit contrary to what you may have heard. I do try to apply scripture to the issues of the day and don’t avoid those that are controversial.

It is possible that the cause of Christ is looked at negatively through my efforts. It is also possible that the cause of Christ would be looked at even more negatively if I did not.

In response, I wrote the following:

Pastor Fuiten,

Thank you for your willingness to respond to and enter into this conversation, as well as your respectful approach to what is admittedly a critique.

First and foremost, I want to let you know that I didn’t post the rather distasteful hit piece on this blog because I am a partisan McAuliffe supporter or to further her campaign. In many ways, it was simply an exhibit of the real messiness of politics and a clear example of some dirty end-of-the-line campaigning by an apparently desperate candidate. In recent weeks I have had a mailbox full of bizarre McCravey/McAuliffe attack ads, and I’ve had about enough of them. :)

Second, I appreciate your “insider’s” information as to how the attack ad came about. Reminds me of Bismarck saying that politics are like sausages: we wouldn’t like them so much if we knew how they were made.

My questions about your involvement in politics are, at some level, pastoral. With respect, I disagree with how politically involved you are. Though I am glad to hear that the pulpit is not your main arena for these positions/endorsement/etc., I do wonder whether your actions can be divorced from your role as a pastor. If they cannot, I’m not sure they are always helpful.

However, if I have mischaracterized you on this blog, I want to apologize. As I noted in my initial post, I am not a member of your congregation and as such cannot speak authoritatively here; I’m simply operating based on my existing understanding and my own awareness of your public presence.

With your permission, I would love the opportunity to post this exchange on my blog so that readers can understand both of our positions and, furthermore, how two Christian brothers can disagree in charity.

Once the election season draws to its inevitable end, I would be very interested in continuing the conversation started by the questions posed by my post and your response. I, for instance, may be accused of being too quiescent in the face of real-world issues. You, on the other hand, can be and are critiqued for being too involved. What you say at the end of your response: “It is possible that the cause of Christ is looked at negatively through my efforts. It is also possible that the cause of Christ would be looked at even more negatively if I did not” is certainly a conversation worth having, whether here online or a church or academic setting.

Once again, thank for your taking the time to share your thoughts.

Only By His Grace,

Joshua R. Ziefle

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