Drawing the Line Between Caesar and Christ 
Sunday, February 12, 2006, 02:29 PM - Caesar and Christ
A group of religious leaders has sent a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service requesting an investigation of two large churches in Ohio that they say are improperly campaigning on behalf of a conservative Republican running for governor.

In their complaint, the clergy members contend that the two Columbus-area churches, Fairfield Christian Church and the World Harvest Church, which were widely credited with getting out the Ohio vote for President Bush in 2004, have allowed their facilities to be used by Republican organizations, promoted the candidate, J. Kenneth Blackwell, among their members and otherwise violated prohibitions on political activity by tax-exempt groups.

They are asking the I.R.S. to examine whether the churches' tax exemptions should be revoked and are requesting that Mark W. Everson, the federal tax commissioner, seek an injunction to stop what they consider improper activities.

-- From The New York Times, January 16, 2006.

Pastor Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church charges that Liberal preachers [are] trying to silence him (Columbus Dispatch, January 21, via Newsdesk.org):
:The Rev. Rod Parsley challenged critics to identify themselves.

Vehemently denying that he plays partisan politics from the pulpit, the Rev. Rod Parsley said yesterday that he would not be silenced from preaching about moral issues by liberal ministers who this week filed a complaint against him with the Internal Revenue Service.

Parsley, in a news conference at his sprawling World Harvest Church complex in southern Columbus, labeled the complaining pastors as the "anonymous 31" and called on them to reveal their identities.

"The anonymous 31 have chosen to speak behind the masks of personal and political agendas, media manipulation and intimidation, and we simply will not be silenced by those tactics of fear," Parsley said.
Chuck Currie, a United Church of Christ Seminarian sympathetic to the investigation request, offers a warning in Ohio Restoration Project: How The Republicans Misuse God For Political Gain (Chuck Curry Blog, January 27):
Groups like the Ohio Restoration Project are dangerous for many reasons:

1. They confuse the Gospel teachings with the Republican Platform.

2. They create a sense that to be a good pastor you must be a patriotic one (and they define patriotic as being in complete compliance with their own narrow views). The only loyalty a pastor should be concerned with is their loyalty to God. A minister cannot serve both church and state.

3. They seem to have no respect for the US Constitution or the other laws our land.

Those other brave religious leaders in Ohio who are working to put a stop to these crimes should be applauded for their efforts. Americans cannot afford to stand silent as the Religious Right works to replace our democracy with a theocracy where only their views are valued. Democracy and respect for pluralism are ideals worth standing up for.
For a reaction from a politically active conservative evangelical, see
Christian Left Attacks Christian Right (Dane Bramage, January 30):
Well I expected the left to try and impede the Republican grassroots machine. I didn’t expect it to come from so-called brothers and sisters. I participated in the Bush re-election campaign and one of the things I was asked was to have a voter registration drive in my church. I was not asked to tell the congregation to vote for Bush or anybody in particular. I was asked to get people who were not already registered to do so. So the claims of partisanship because of voter registration are pure crap. As for biased material, why don’t the liberals abide by their own rules? When I go to the polls in the Catholic church around the corner, democrat volunteers are there passing out materials in the parking lot. I am always given voting “instructions” with a sample ballot. Always the democrat candidate was selected and the liberal issues chosen as “examples”. Surely they can’t complain about the practice they themselves employ.

As for recommending a conservative candidate, who do they think a conservative church would promote? If they are like my church then the pastors probably don’t say “Vote for this guy or that guy”. They will tell you to vote period. Political issues can be viewed in light of scripture as to being right and wrong but whether we vote for or against is still left to the individual. Unfortunately the leftist mind set is convinced that conservative Christians are mindless bumpkins who live only to do the will of the pastor and therefore no mention of current events or politics must be made on church grounds or the thought-controlled masses will march off lemming-like to the polls to vote Republican. If the moonbat Christians spent less time in their tax codes and more time in their Bibles they would realize that Jesus taught about current events and politics too, emphasizing their importance to Christians.
Don Don's Lounge reprints Sound Off, Moderate Christians, by Robyn E. Blumner, Times Perspective Columnist (February 5):
If you want to see the culmination of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson's dream - the church as party headquarters - go to Ohio. There, two preachers, the Rev. Russell Johnson of Fairfield Christian Church and the Rev. Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church, are diligently working to build an army of conservative Christian voters who will dominate the Republican Party, then Ohio government, then Washington.

Johnson, who calls those to his left "secular jihadists" and condemns public schools for not teaching that Hitler was "an avid evolutionist," has founded the Ohio Restoration Project. Its mission is to enlist 2,000 religious leaders as "Patriot Pastors" who will sign up hundreds of thousands of new voters and mobilize an activist corps within their flocks.

The goal is to capitalize on the 2004 election success that had regular churchgoers in Ohio who identified themselves as white evangelical or born-again voting for George W. Bush over John Kerry by an astounding 97 percent to 3 percent ratio.

Parsley, an Ohio televangelist with a megachurch of 10,000 weekly worshipers, has launched Reformation Ohio, an organization with similar goals.

While they expect their efforts to pay off with multiple election victories, in the short term Johnson and Parsley want to elect Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell governor in November. Blackwell is an African-American Christian conservative who led a successful ballot initiative in 2004 to ban same-sex marriage.

Johnson and Parsley say their institutions do not endorse candidates. But they have engaged in transparent electioneering on behalf of Blackwell - exclusively featuring him at events and in educational materials.

The details of Johnson's and Parsley's political activities are exhaustively laid out in a complaint filed with the IRS and signed, not by the ACLU or People for the American Way, but by dozens of religious leaders. Initially, 31 pastors of Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran and other, mainly Protestant, denominations signed the letter that says the tax-exempt status of Johnson's and Parsley's churches and affiliated organizations should be revoked. Since then, at least two dozen more have asked to be included.

The pastors say when they told their congregations about joining the complaint, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Here is the countervailing force. If the Christian Right is going to turn its followers into Republican Party operatives and its churches into political war rooms, then the moderate Christian community has to push back.

Slowly, it's starting to happen.
Pastor Rich Nathan of the Vineyard Church of Columbus questions the spritual wisdom of filing the complaint in his February congregational letter, A “Non-Political” Approach to Politics (Pastor Nathan published a similar column in the February 3 Columbus Dispatch):
As a Christian pastor, I was deeply troubled that a group of pastors would choose to sue other pastors. What, I wondered, is their view of the Body of Christ? What is their understanding of 1 Corinthians 6.1 in which the apostle Paul says:

If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?

As a Christian pastor, I have also been troubled by the continued over-identification of the challenged churches (in this case) with far right Republican politics. Where, I have wondered, is there a place for a thoughtful Christian Democrat in these churches? How does a non-Christian who has contrary political leanings hear the gospel without being thoroughly turned off? Do these churches really want to align themselves with politicians who may have mixed motives or unbiblical perspectives on various issues? Do we really have only two options – the option offered by the political left or the option offered by the political right?
Pastor Eric Williams of North Congregational United Church of Christ, one of thirty-one clergy who signed the IRS complaint, responds to Pastor Nathan and explains why Churches entangled in partisan politics lose their prophetic voice. (Columbus Dispatch, February 10):
I interpret St. Paul’s advice to the church in Corinth differently than Pastor Nathan. The historical situation that this congregation was facing suggests that Paul was talking about court cases involving property ("dispute with another" and "be cheated"). The Roman government permitted Jews (and Christians) to apply their own laws in local property matters. This is very different from judging those who violate Roman law (Romans 13:3-4). Paul advised that everyone must obey the laws of the state or experience its judgment.

In signing the letter of complaint I joined 30 colleagues who shared a common concern. We came together from various faith traditions, differing theological perspectives and individual life experiences to ask that the laws of our nation be enforced.

We think that the two churches and pastors named in the complaint are violating federal laws. I don’t object to their speaking out about religious values or political issues. This kind of public dialogue informs and enhances everyone’s ability to live together in community. I do object to their endorsing a political candidate. . . .

I am very concerned that many conservative evangelical churches and religious leaders in the United States have entered into a Faustian bargain to gain political power and legislative influence. By espousing an ideology of self-righteousness they have undermined the credibility of their moral witness in society today.
Complete text of the Letter and Complaint to IRS Commissioner Everson (Word document)

Conservative Blogs Are More Effective 
Monday, December 12, 2005, 02:12 PM - Caesar and Christ
. . . writes Michael Crowley in yesterday's New York Times Magazine:
That might sound counterintuitive. After all, the Howard Dean campaign showed the power of the liberal blogosphere. And the liberal-activist Web site DailyKos counts hundreds of thousands of visitors each day. But Democrats say there's a key difference between liberals and conservatives online. Liberals use the Web to air ideas and vent grievances with one another, often ripping into Democratic leaders. (Hillary Clinton, for instance, is routinely vilified on liberal Web sites for supporting the Iraq war.) Conservatives, by contrast, skillfully use the Web to provide maximum benefit for their issues and candidates. They are generally less interested in examining every side of every issue and more focused on eliciting strong emotional responses from their supporters.
This squares reasonably well with my own reading of liberal and conservative blogs--except for the implication that liberal blogs are, in fact, "interested in examining every side of every issue." Much as I'd like to believe otherwise, that's hogwash. Indeed, it's hard to find blogs of any kind that explore all sides of an issue.

My Politics, Cont'd 
Saturday, December 10, 2005, 04:11 PM - Caesar and Christ
Stumbled upon the Politopia political quiz, which asks an array of (rather leading) questions and then places you on an idealized political map. I turn out to be right on the main stream (shown on the map as an actual stream) and near the town of . . .
Centerville-You would feel most at home in Centerville, which means that you are more or less pleased the status quo-you think the US government has just about the right amount of control over your economic and personal decisions. Your neighbors include democratic and republican party leaders and others who call themselves "moderates" and "centrists."

My Politics 
Thursday, December 8, 2005, 08:49 PM - Caesar and Christ
These test results are more or less on target:

You are a

Social Liberal
(80% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(35% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test