Thursday, February 28, 2008

He's Not; But What If He Were???

Because I pastor a large church in an urban area, I try to stay away from “partisan” politics in my public speaking and writing. I have no trouble speaking against senseless wars or naming racism or misogyny or homophobia wherever I may encounter it. I proudly encourage people to vote, and to vote according to their best judgment, their conscience, and in the interest of justice for all people. This I do without endorsing any candidate or without publicly supporting (or attacking) any political party. My assumption is that there are people of goodwill in all the political parties and that peace and justice and equal opportunity are issues that Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Greens can all support. So that is my personal policy in matters of electoral politics. I vote for the candidate of my choice, and I allow others to do the same.

However, without endorsing a party or a candidate, I must say that I am concerned about a trend that has developed of “accusing” Senator Barak Obama of being Muslim. Of course, he isn't Muslim, but in America he has a right to be.

In the land that guarantees freedom of (and from) religion, one isn't disqualified from public service because of his or her personal faith experience. When people use their religiosity as an excuse to legislate dogma, then I become nervous and cry out. That just means that extremists of any tradition are problematic; but faithful, honest, humble, quiet followers of any tradition get to serve their country in public service, all the way up to the White House, even as they worship in the way that is meaningful to them.

For the first time in my life I believe that all the possible candidates for president are people of integrity and goodwill. I can now say, “Vote for the Senator of your choice, but vote!” It seems clear that a senator for Arizona, Illinois, or New York will be our next president, and all three of these people have outstanding records of public service and commitment to their nation. So this isn't an endorsement of Sen. Obama. But it isn't fair to attack him for his faith, especially for a faith that ISN'T his; but I'm as concerned about the anti-Muslim sentiments as I am about his being falsely identified with a particular religion.

Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, Other...this is America and "creed" should no more be used as a weapon of discrimination than race, ethnicity, age, gender, ability, or sexual orientation. Vote for any of the candidates based on their record, their rhetoric, and your belief in their capabilities and commitments. But please don’t vote against someone because he or she is a person of faith…whatever that faith may be. In the case of Barak Obama, his faith happens to be that of a Protestant Christian…but don’t hold that against him either.

--durrell watkins

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