In the midst of the election season, I was asked if I would write a blog post supporting Barack Obama. I had to think about it for a few days. I believe in the separation of church and state, and I would never support one candidate from the pulpit.
But, it was a moment in the election when Sarah Palin had been picked and the Republicans were all energized, which was great. Except then I would turn on the television and listen to “Drill, Baby, Drill!”
After a couple of years living in “cancer alley” in Louisiana, I learned what drilling and processing could do to the environment and people’s health. I could just imagine the earth under the feet of those crowds crying out with a muffled, “Help me. Please.”
You know, there are not that many people qualified to do these jobs, and John McCain had, like, a hundred years of political favors to pay back. Even though I realize McCain stood up to his party, I also knew that he would inevitably be stuck hiring the same advisors who have driven our country into this big, scary ditch. Or, he could find some more beauty queens to hire. Either way, it wasn’t looking good.
I figured that I needed to do what I could, and if that meant writing a blog post, as a private citizen, then I would. So, I did.
Go ahead. You can pick that decision apart.
There is a lot to say about whether pastors should publicly support one candidate. Typically, I would not, because I would not want Christianity tied to one political party, or one candidate. We’ve had an awful lot of that in recent decades. Unlike many of my colleagues (whom I respect deeply), I am not middle-of-the-road. I’m not a moderate. I do not refuse labels. My views are not that complicated, although they are also not the same as whatever the Democrats are cookin’ up in their kitchen at this moment.
I am progressive. I want to see social justice happen in our country. I want people to be fed and sheltered. Men and women, who go to work for forty hours a week, should make a living wage. We have enough resources in our country to ensure that everyone has health care. Children should have equal opportunities, equal education. We should protect the environment. I could go on… but you get the picture, and I’ve spent enough time digressing.
The point of the post was actually not about pastors picking presidents. The point was more about presidents picking pastors. I know we’ve all read more about Rick Warren than we ever wanted to, so I won’t rehearse his views on same gender relationships again. But, the selection of who will lead the Inaugural Invocation and the fury that ensued made me realize what a strange moment in history this is.
Billy Graham, the man who was the “pastor to the presidents,” and, therefore, (some people thought) pastor to the country, is in his nineties. He’s probably not able to swim in the White House pool anymore. He needs to be replaced.
I wonder if Barack Obama realized that he was picking Billy Graham’s successor. I wonder if he should.
Maybe it’s time to go to a new model. I mean, maybe we don’t need a one-size-fits-all-presidents pastor. Maybe half of the presidents didn’t even like Billy Graham, and they just felt obligated to invite him to pray for this or that because it was the custom.
Some people say that Obama has a pastor problem, but shouldn’t presidents be able to go to whomever they want for prayer and spiritual guidance? Why should we assume that it will be the same person for the next fifty years? Can you imagine the pastor for that job? I mean, it’s hard enough to keep a small congregation happy with you, how could you keep a large country happy with you? And what about the strange positions that the pastor might be put in? Anyone remember Philip Wogaman (the man who wrote my ethics textbook) defending Bill Clinton’s sexual proclivities on CNN? Can you say, “Awkward”? Would it even be possible for a president to have a pastor nowadays without the blogosphere getting all in an uproar?
What do you think?
The photo is of the Billy Graham Library by Carolina Tim. From what I’ve read, I think the barn has an animatronic milk cow, named “Bessie,” that will lead you in the prayer of salvation. Anyone been there? Is it true?