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Jesus Creed


Church Politics 1

posted by Jesus Creed Admin
Here’s a letter I’m using with permission and Wednesday I’ll give my reflections. Have you seen this? Have you seen it the other way, too, with a person getting in trouble for being too conservative?

Scot,

 
Let me first say that your thoughts and writings has encouraged me
as a believer and pastor.  I am a pastor of a church plant.  We began just over four years ago. I would love your thoughts on something.  This election I voted
for Barack Obama.  This is a break in my voting pattern.  I have never
voted for a democrat and typically the abortion issue has been the
primary issue that I filtered my choice through.  Over the past many
years I have become frustrated with the abortion debate and the lack of
any movement due to partisan politics as well as my perception that the
church is only interested in the passing of a law.  It is all or
nothing.  Despite my frustrations on this specific issue, my decision
on who to vote for was in no way easy.  I struggled with the complexity
of all the issues and specifically the abortion issue up to the last
minute.  I shared with many close friends within my church my struggles
and they listened and discussed the issues with me.


In the days after the vote, many within my church came to know of
my voting decision as well as my wife’s vote which was the same.  It
wasn’t something I was declaring but it became known.  Since then I’m
aware of a few families that are leaving our church and another that is
close.  I am in shock.  I have been living life with these families. 
Our values declared by our life and words.  They’ve seen us pursue
doing foster care.  They’ve seen my wife, me, and our teenage son continually pursue ways to
help the homeless in our community.  They’ve heard me teach.  In the
end, their perception is now that I am pro-abortion.  I’ve been told
that I have likely disqualified myself from the pastorate.  We are
heartbroken.  I can’t eat.  I’ve missed work.  I’m utterly devastated
by what my choice may do to our community of faith.  We are not a big church so weathering storms like this gets very personal. 

 
I guess my question is this, have I missed something?  Have I
entered into this decision unaware as to the expectation on pastors in
regards to how they vote?  Right now we feel very alone.  To see people
who have lived life with me for years suddenly doubt my heart.  They’ve
seem my core values displayed in our choices and sacrifices.  All of
that has become void.  Filling in a certain box with a marker has
completely changed how they see me. 
 
I’d appreciate any thoughts.
 
In Christ,


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Anthony

posted November 17, 2008 at 2:41 am


I am tempted to just flatly say that the people who left this pastor’s church because he voted for Obama are ideological idolaters. They have allowed their theology to become embedded in the polarities of the American political landscape and culture wars. I know this is harsh of me to say, but though I have seen the phenomena this pastor refers to again and again, it still gets to me that people cannot see that the comprehensive nature of biblical justice does not easily translate into political choices.



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Anthony

posted November 17, 2008 at 2:46 am


I am tempted to just flatly say that the people who left this pastor’s church because he voted for Obama are ideological idolaters. They have allowed their theology to become embedded in the polarities of the American political landscape and culture wars. I know this is harsh of me to say, but though I have seen the phenomena this pastor refers to again and again, it still gets to me that people cannot see that the comprehensive nature of biblical justice does not easily translate into political choices.
I am working through this, but it currently seems to me that the hope God’s Kingdom offers both inspires our political ideals even as it relativizes it, and consequently it opens a wide variety of avenues for Xians to express their faith in political terms. In the end, I don’t think anyone should smugly feel they have voted God’s politics. Though I think it is important for Xians to be politically involved in American culture, I thinks such involvement will always only be partial, imperfect, and incomplete, and we all should feel a sense of literary tragedy insofar as none of us are going to walk away with completely pure hands.



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Rich Scheenstra

posted November 17, 2008 at 6:00 am


So now you know more about how at least some of your people think about their Christian faith and politics. And of course it is devastating to hear that people are leaving. So what is the call in this season of your community?s life? Is this a teaching opportunity? Have you considered a pastoral letter explaining why you voted the way that you did as well as your struggles in arriving at your decision? Is this an opportunity to help people understand something about the complexity of ?following Christ is the real world?? (I recommend John Stackhouse?s book.) People are leaving not only because they are angry but because they need help. Right now they believe that they must leave in order to keep their integrity. They will need to be shown how it is possible to stay or return with integrity, hopefully with a more informed integrity. This is part of our call as shepherds. So write to them, and then visit them, and then bless them, whatever they decide to do, and in so doing be and become a follower of Jesus yourself in the real world, and in the real church.
I don?t want to turn this comment into a post. Six years ago about a third of my congregation left. Yes, it was devastating. While it was happening, our 21 year old son died of an asthma attack. Today, I am a better pastor and our congregation is larger and much more diverse. These time of crisis and loss are inevitable parts of the journey. Thanks for sharing your struggle. I wonder what God will do in you and through you.



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Rick

posted November 17, 2008 at 7:12 am


“They’ve seen my core values displayed in our choices and sacrifices.”
That is great, but has the writer also ever told them his “core” beliefs of the faith?
I would assume his core beliefs and those of his congregation are similar, so a dialogue on various problems and solutions could build from there.



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Kyle

posted November 17, 2008 at 7:16 am


I voted third party, so I don’t really have a dog in the fight of McCain vs. Obama, but its possible that those people see abortion as the largest human rights issue right now. As such, I could see their being surprised that their pastor would vote against someone who clearly seeks to increase what they perceive as human rights violations (i.e. FOCA). Still, leaving the church is rather extreme. In fact, that goes against every thing that I believe about church membership. Unfortunately though, people will leave over all types of doctrinal conflicts, and this is simply an example. The pastor supported a candidate who clearly opposes a doctrine on human life that they hold dear. They should have sought to discuss the issue with the pastor and seek reconciliation. They should have asked for his motives in the vote, but this letter doesn’t make it seem like there was even any discussion.
With that said, I’m of the opinion that the pastor should not have made his vote known to anyone in the congregation. Right or wrong, many people see their pastor as a representative of what their church values and believes. Considering the diverse issues in both major parties that seemingly contradict the gospel, and could thus cause issues with those in the congregation who feel convicted on these issues, he simply should have kept his mouth shut on this topic. If he would have announced to some that he voted for McCain, those in his congregation who didn’t might have felt a conflict. He simply shouldn’t have shared this with anyone in his congregation.



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Brad Boydston

posted November 17, 2008 at 7:56 am


This isn’t so uncommon. People tend to project their own values and approaches to dealing with problems on their pastor — especially if they like the pastor.
They feel hurt and betrayed because you are not the person they thought you were (or that they were in their minds making you out to be).
In this situation you might be able to recover some by explaining that you disagreed with Obama on the issue of abortion and that you will oppose him on this issue. However, you felt that all things considered, given your limited understanding of the situation, that in spite of this weakness in the candidate, he was the one best suited to lead the country right now.
You could explain that — but they probably won’t hear you or your heart. They were probably not listening closely to begin with. And they’re not likely to begin listening now when they’re all riled up.
Be gracious but don’t chase after them. If you play chase and they do return they will feel that you are in someway beholden to them. They will become the dragging anchor that holds the congregation back. Other immature people will figure out that that’s how the game is played and they’ll try it, too.
So, send them off with your love and blessing and trust God to heal the pain that you are experiencing. It sounds like you have a true pastor’s heart and that you are leading through example. I’d be concerned if you were not agonizing over this. I’m sorry for the pain you are experiencing. Pastors usually end up with a good dose of it over the years. But ultimately God uses it and he’ll continue to use you.



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My 2 Cents

posted November 17, 2008 at 7:59 am


Dear pastor, so sorry to hear of this. Interesting, we just had a sermon about honesty yesterday. I would just like to say that you are not alone. I once voted in a primary where a church person was an election worker, and in our state you had to “declare” the party you were voting for in the primary. That church person thought that party was MY party and she made the information known far and wide in the church. I was young. I didn’t know I should not “crossover” etc. and vote where I thought it really mattered.____In the end, I, as a spouse of a ministry person, do not disclose who I vote for even to family members. I never disclosed a party or a person to even my children or spouse. There are many who have very limited vision and understanding about how others weigh their trust when it comes to voting. As an aside, my spouse never brings partisanship topics into the pulpit either.____I guess that is the only encouragement I have to offer. I grieve for you and your spouse. I truly hope God uses this as a means to show you where He truly wants YOU.



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Michael

posted November 17, 2008 at 9:09 am


I’m deeply sorry for the angst this pastor is going through. As a pastor, when people leave, it isn’t fun. having said that, brad (#6) gave counsel that matches my experience — it’s okay to work through conflict, but chasing people hasn’t ever worked for me.
A couple of questions:
– Is it possible that this illustrates most people’s inability (whether left or right) to see the gray in situations rather than making everything black and white?
– as an Anabaptist who holds a peace position, how DO you sort through the conflicting “problems” such as war and abortion?



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nick

posted November 17, 2008 at 9:34 am


I’ve just started out on the journey of pastoral ministry and I’ve used the NLT in public worship for a while. It has had 2 reactions. 1) The senior pastors in my tradition hate it because it is too simple. 2)My church love it because it has got them reading the Bible again. I continue to use NLT



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Your Name

posted November 17, 2008 at 9:51 am


Brad (#6) did hit the nail on the head. Resolve the issues in your heart before God so that you can honestly send them off in grace. It’s hard to be the recipiant of rejection, but it’s an opportunity to endure suffering with Christ. ____One thing above many others that the church needs is leaders who will thoughtfully engage the social problems of our day with grace and humility as opposed to simplistic leagalism.



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Julie Clawson

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:00 am


I’ve been there, one that as well. I remember the first time I voted democrat and someone found out I was called a babykiller. (although I should add that the only time I have ever voted straight ticket was when I thought christians had to vote republican…).
I do have to disagree with “my 2 cents” though. I don’t feel that anyone, even people in ministry, should have to hide or lie about who they are. Maybe one shouldn’t preach such things from the pulpit, but ideally in the church staying quiet so people can assume what they want to assume about you shouldn’t be what we are forced into. In my mind knowing that people assume something false about you is promoting a lie and I’m a tad uncomfortable with that.
I do wonder if this whole thing happens the other way around. Conservative politics has become such a bedfellow of the evangelical church that those who move away from that political stance are seen as moving away from the church. I don’t think the connection between mainline churches and democrats is anywhere near as strong so as to “excommunicate” those that vote republican. The only time I’ve witnessed being too conservative in church as an issue is when some people in a church we were in were asked to stop making fun of LGBT people because they were part of the church too (not stop disagreeing, just stop making fun of).



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AprilK

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:08 am


A pastor in my town went through a similar situation just before the election. He even submitted his resignation, though it was rejected by his church’s elders. That congregation is working through the conflict now, and I’m sure they’re lost some families.
My husband is from the Evangelical Lutheran Church which is more liberal. When I started getting a lot of flack from the conservative evangelical people I know after they found out I was voting for Obama, I asked my husband if the same thing happens in liberal church circles when someone is too conservative. He said it does, but he’s never seen it happen to the degree of what he was seeing happen to those in the conservative traditions voting for Obama.



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Your Name

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:10 am


In a sad way, I am glad to read your letter simply because it makes me feel much less alone. I’ve experienced similar things at a different level. I had several hard, hard days after the election.____I believe many have been told (by various Christian groups and books) that the ONLY way to vote as a Christian is by using the litmus test of pro-choice v. pro-life (which are very unfair terms, by the way!) People get convinced of this and are unable to see things any other way. Even nuanced conversations are impossible and potentially volatile. The bumper sticker, “You can’t be pro-abortion and be a Christian” pretty much sums up the view. (Not that anyone is “pro-abortion” but you can see the picture that gets painted) ____All I can say about your situation is that your pain is shared by many in ministry. You are not alone in your sadness and your sense of feeling stunned.____I do agree with the person who suggested you let these folks go. I know that is heartbreaking, but honestly, if they are willing to walk out of your fellowship and their relationship with you based on this one issue, then the long-term potential of true, authentic community was not really present anyway. ____I’ve had to simply take my angst and sad feelings about the chasm I’ve felt with other believers based on this election to Jesus. I don’t know what else to do with them, because I refuse to let them lead me down the road of bitterness.____In the long-term, I do think it is really important that pastors exercise their right to privacy on voting choice. Until our churches navigates this black/white, right/wrong, Christian/non-Christian way of seeing voting choice, this is your only safe option.____Perhaps when we are out of the contentious election cycle, you could do a bit of teaching on this … and help your body grow to a place where this kind of “my way or the highway” view does not exist. But until then, the sad truth is that you should probably play your cards closer to the vest.____I will pray for you, especially as I navigate my own journey back to equilibrium in this arena. Godspeed and thanks for your honesty.____



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alice

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:12 am


your name = me, alice.
:)just getting used to the new posting situation here …



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Your Name

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:21 am


The plight of this pastor illustrates in a very dramatic way WHY we have separation of church and state; and I come from one of the oldest traditions in the U.S. that made that mistake early on. (Separatists; Pilgrims; Puritans) now known as Congregationalists. I saw this kind of confusion about a pastor’s place in my seminary studies (in New York City), both from pastors who may have spoken out too frankly on some occasions, and from the younger students, particularly women, who had to escape from their traditions(and very often, their own overbearing pastors) in order to acquire a better understanding of the whole of the Christian experience. I am retired from active pastoral work, partly because I now live in the deep south, where there are no Congregationalists or UCC churches. It seems this part of Mississippi is predominately Southern Baptist and United Methodist as well as a lot of inter/non-denominational-/apostolic congregations. I do speak out in written commentaries for the local newspaper, and have not yet received a bad reaction; in fact, I have detected a silent and secret agreement with some of my positions. All this division along party lines, which does NOT belong in religion and really has nothing to do with faith, is the sad fall-out of the so-called “southern strategy” of the Republican party, which has been for a long time captive to the insidious Jerry Falwell influence, if the truth be known. Anything I have ever done, any position I have ever taken, within the framework of my religious/spiritual life has been after much study and prayful meditation. And I think that’s basically true of most of us who are serious about our religious life. Something happens to a pastor who goes too political–they either become power hungry and caricatures of what pastors are or should be; or they are shot, like MKLJr. Is there no middle ground anymore in this free nation? Even in religion?
(Rev.) Paulina K. Dennis



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Your Name

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:31 am


A very sad situation. To answer Scot’s question, I’ve seen the mirror image of this in the Episcopal Church (USA). It varies diocese by diocese, depending upon the bishop one is under. But in our diocese, run by a very liberal bishop and with 90+% of the priests being quite liberal both theologically and politically, any priest who dares to question liberal orthodoxy would receive much the same treatment. Indeed a close friend of mine did, and was forced out of his position as assistant rector. ____The difference might be that merely admitting one voted conservative – while an embarrassment – probably wouldn’t be enough to result in total ostracism as long as one kept relatively quiet about it. But daring to espouse a conservative view from the pulpit or in diocesan deliberations on abortion, the ordination of non-celibate gay clergy, etc. would bring down the wrath from on high – and from within the congregation and elicit scorn from the priest’s peers.



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John W Frye

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:36 am


Dear Pastor,
As a pastor I too grieve over the confusion and hurt in your and wife?s life. I could be wrong, but I suspect that those leaving were swayed by stringent, agenda-driven voices that drown out your life and teaching, your ministry and relationships with those who left the church over the abortion issue. I suspect, too, that the single issue of abortion was not their only (political) reason for their departure. Some Christians refuse to think. They depend on ?Christian experts? to tell them what to do?how to raise their kids, what movies to see, what translations of the Bible are illegitimate, what candidates to vote for, and what political issues are going to create the apocalypse. I agree that this is a good, if not arduous teaching opportunity on how Christians need to escape wedge issue politics and think kingdomly through each candidate and issue.



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Luke

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:44 am


Wow. This is one of the saddest things I’ve heard in a long time. It goes to show you what hope many Christians put in the political process, and it goes to show you how the extreme rhetoric on either side really does work with some people. I’m sure I would be the same way if those who were around me knew who I voted for. Fortunately, I have just kept my mouth shut :-) Often, I try to seize opportunities to communicate to the right-wing Christians how great Christians can be polar opposites politically but the same theologically. Most of them don’t understand this and kind of put their fingers in their ears and start screaming. That somebody would actually leave your church after spending years with you based upon how you voted in one election is a complete joke. If they leave over such a thing, then I say good riddance. We’ve had 20 years worth of “pro-life” presidents since 1973 and they haven’t made a dent. Move on and put hope in other places besides laws and politicians.



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Chaplain Mike

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:49 am


Scot, thanks for sharing this letter. I will be posting a link to it on the “Monday Musings” post on my blog later today and encouraging people to read and comment. This is such an important letter. What in the world are we doing in the evangelical church? A report like this is almost incoomprehensible to me. And overwhelmingly sad.



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Luke

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:50 am


Here’s a question: do “Christians” really vote for the “pro-life” candidate because they are so passionate about it and have such convictions, or is it more of a cultural thing where most feel pressured because that’s what everybody else does? Even if a person can in good conscience come to see that it would be more “pro-life” to vote for the democratic candidate, he/she still votes Republican because of the pressure and rhetoric. I vote for the latter. Most people don’t care about all of life. Most of the “pro-life” people I know are just-war Augustinians….pretty anti-life to me.



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ChrisB

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:54 am


As the author’s by now read a dozen times, you should have learned from this adventure that a pastor doesn’t have the luxury of discussing his vote even in private. It sucks, but them’s the breaks.
“Our values declared by our life and words.”
Well, in the eyes of many, your “life”, your actions just declared your values — that the killing of tiny human beings is really not that big a deal.
Many in this last election let questions of HOW to help the poor, HOW to handle the war, and HOW to deal with this economy override the question of WHETHER we can kill unborn human beings.
“I have become frustrated with the abortion debate and the lack of any movement due to partisan politics”
So you decided to vote for the guy who has promised to move this country sharply to the left on this issue. That’s consistent.
I’m sorry this took you by surprise, but the simple fact of the matter is that many people will feel like you betrayed the values that you’ve taught. They aren’t going to trust you anymore, so they need to move on. Live and learn.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:57 am


Chris at #21,
That comment was too harsh. Even if you were to agree with those who left, are we not obligated to think of a more compassionate way to say so?



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Your Name

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:59 am


I think abortion is a very important moral issue but having self-defined on that i don’t think that one’s voting of a particular candidate is the measure of one’s faith and belief on all things and the definition of Christianity. ____if one looks at this from a family system’s perspective… while the church is called to speak the truth in our world (self-define) there are many significant moral issues beyond abortion. While the church is called to hold steadfast to the witness of Christ, it should not blend the Christian faith with political ideology. (unless you vote my way, you are not a christian which is coercion with a threat to be cut off from community). ____Some Christians are indeed called to work on the aboriton issue in the political world. Others are called to work on issues of poverty or race or justice matters.(if we are each one working areas we feel strongly about… a lot of bases get covered). I think it is important for the faith community recognize that and stop using cut-off tactics to or shame tactics to coerce group think and conformity (enmeshment/emotional triangles). ____As part of a community learning to discern well, it is not one person’s job or one’ groups job to think for everyone and force it. I think a pastor can invite the church to think through the issues and help them self-differentiate(sp?) by giving them permission (self-defining) to vote according to their conscience and how God is inviting them. And by voting one’s own conscience (self-differientiating). ____This stuff can get really hurtful so my sympathy is great. But we can help the community of God’s people by helping them discern, connect with God around important moral issues and discern for themselves how to apply the word in their own world. I don’t think this is individualism but a formation of community in which there is responsible, self action without group think conformity. Such helps a community to mature. ____my thoughts (self-defiing).



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Rick

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:59 am


Luke #18-
I agree with much of what you said. However, your claim, “We’ve had 20 years worth of “pro-life” presidents since 1973 and they haven’t made a dent”, may not be accurate.
A recent post by Justin Taylor shows stats since 1973 which dispute that claim.
http://theologica.blogspot.com/2008/11/abortion-rates-under-clinton-and-bush.html



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alice

posted November 17, 2008 at 11:12 am


A couples things to ponder … and I hope these will be encouraging things to our friend who wrote such an honest letter …
Democrats for Life … a group of Democrats who desire a consistent pro-life agenda for the Democratic party … with a strong desire to see a 95% reduction in abortions over the next 10 years. Not a bad group for some of us Christian Democrats to join.
Also, have you seen the Prayer/Challenge for Obama over at Jim Wallis’ Sojourners site? Good stuff. Yes, we can vote for a Democrat and be a Christian. We then have a strong moral obligation to get our voices heard on many different issues.
Doesn’t help with the pain of losing families and friends, but it might help you feel like you are part of a larger movmement and not just some kind of lone ranger.



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joanne

posted November 17, 2008 at 11:19 am


it looks like “Your Name” is one person but I think it is many… when i hit the button i missed it. My name is Joanne… i am the one who commented about this from a family system perspective. sorry for the lack of clarity it reveals my internet bloging incompetency.



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Rachel H. Evans

posted November 17, 2008 at 11:20 am


You are not alone!
Though not a pastor, I too was ostracized by conservative evangelicals for voting for Obama. Honestly, it?s made me never want to go to church again.
I agree that perhaps this is a good teaching opportunity…although, if I were you, I would not focus too much on your choice of Obama. Maybe you could focus instead on living peaceably with one another as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven FIRST and citizens of the United States SECOND.
You might want to check out ?Jesus for President? by Claiborne and Haw or ?The Politics of Jesus? by Yoder. I?m so glad that I encountered this stuff right before the election, because it reminded me that 1) no candidate or political party could ever fully represent the radical teachings of Jesus Christ, 2) it is our job as followers of Christ to represent our values in the world, not the government?s job, 3) voting is something we do once every 2-4 years or so, whereas following Jesus Christ is something that we are called to do every day.
Communicating this to your congregation might serve as an encouragement to disappointed McCain supporters and a warning to elated Obama supporters. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, not in any kingdom of this world.
(By the way, there may be more Obama supporters out there than you realize. I know a lot of folks who are too afraid to admit that they voted for him in Christian circles…which is such a shame.)
Blessings on you and your family; I will say a prayer for you today.



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Tony Hunt

posted November 17, 2008 at 11:26 am


If it helps at all, last election, when Greg Boyd opened up the discussion at his church, over 1,000 people left.



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Your Name

posted November 17, 2008 at 11:49 am


I agree that this is a very disheartening situation. I realize that many Christians have voted for Barack Obama than we are willing to admit and to suggest that we should be secretive is both wise corporately and perhaps detrimental personally. I personally was told that I could not be a Christian for allowing a “murderer to be handed over to me”. The type of venom and zeal that has been portrayed by some evangelicals have been eye-opening to me, but I don’t lose heart knowing that we are to find comfort in the Scriptures and He whom they testify of. It seems that we are more influenced by culture than we are willing to admit. To me this is a matter of theology (understanding of God and His relation with mankind).



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Scott

posted November 17, 2008 at 12:29 pm


While it’s most likely just the unfortunate response of evangelicals that are shaped more by consumerism than the cross, it also suggests that the merits of not voting need to be more thoughtfully considered.
If our participation leads to such division, is that participation justified?
Would Christians have a stronger voice if they promoted issues, (and a lifestyle that speaks to those issues), more than candidates.



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David Opderbeck

posted November 17, 2008 at 12:41 pm


Wow, what a shame. Though I’m sure this sounds trite now, maybe it’s for the best in the long run?
I’m pro-life, but sometimes I wonder whether “pro-life-ism” is become a sort of “religion” of its own. It seems that some people start to see everything through the “pro-life” lens, rather than seeing the pro-life issue, along with everything else, through the “Jesus” lens.
To Scot’s question — in the churches I’ve been part of, it simply was not possible to be “too conservative.” I’m aware of “liberal” churches in my community, however, where being pro-life or pro-traditional-marriage would get you ostracized in a heartbeat. I’m thankful that my pastors respect my effort to be politically “moderate” even if they’re more conservative than me personally.



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ChrisB

posted November 17, 2008 at 2:04 pm


Scot, as always, I learn better from specific examples than from generalized statements. But I wonder if you’re perhaps inserting a tone that was not intended into my comment. (I also wonder if you picked up on any overly negative tones in some of the comments above mine.)
I don’t think I was harsh. Perhaps “prophetically blunt” is a better description.
Whether one agrees with their attitudes or not, these people likely felt just as betrayed as he does now. Calling them “idolaters” that “refuse to think” does them a disservice. Those folks are probably not rabid ideologues but sincere believers who are appalled that their pastor could put anything else over the issue of taking innocent human lives. They deserve to be represented here.
I’ve tried to understand those who think it is appropriate to “weigh the issues,” and I wish him no ill personally or professionally. But we can’t act like he’s the only victim here.



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Luke

posted November 17, 2008 at 2:05 pm


Rick (#24), the funny thing about JT’s post, which was a polemic to demonstrate the impact of “pro-life” presidents, was that abortion rates have decreased the most under Bill Clinton…a pro-choice democrat! Also, the years only go up to 2003, so the chart proves nothing about the numbers under Bush (which was the title of his post). Basically, JT wanted to make a point but backed it up with indecisive evidence that demonstrated that abortion has decreased the most under a democrat. Maybe he should take a course in “chart-reading”



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kyle j

posted November 17, 2008 at 2:25 pm


To me, the issue of how much to make public regarding one’s political views in a church setting requires tremendous discernment. On the one hand, I think you want to err on the side of maintaining church unity so that the ministry of the church is not impaired. On the other hand, I am increasingly convinced there’s a need for the traditional Christian voices on the right to be balanced with alternate view points that are also based on Christian values (examples: the lives lost through incompetent disaster response or management of a war, higher mortality rates resulting from a lack of universal health coverage, damage to the Gospel message when Christians associate themselves too closely with an economic philosophy).
I’m afraid there’s no easy or simple answer here.



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Tony Simoncini

posted November 17, 2008 at 2:36 pm


I think the key to this debate is seeing both sides. I personally could not align myself with Obama because of his overall very liberal voting record, especially pertaining to Abortion. I’m not sure I would leave a church because of it, but I can certainly understand that many people wear this issue on their sleeve and let’s face it, of all issues we face today this one if worth wearing openly. I know many people who feel the same passion for the war issue. They believe America is becoming an Empire of Tyranny that our forefathers never intended in the first place and the war mongering republicans have created a country that doesn’t reflect our core values of doing good in the world; many believing this war has ruined our country, so they voted for the guy who vowed to end the war. After all the other option said he will keep the war going at all costs to defend our nation in the war on terror. And for some his language simply put, changes their vote from Republican to Democrat. They voted for Obama no matter how he views other issues. But Obama’s language in regards to partial birth abortion lost my vote. I could not vote for a guy who will more than likely try to get the Partial Birth Abortion Ban lifted, and will do nothing to add “language for the mother?s health”. Let’s be honest, they don’t want any language or legislation that might overturn Roe v Wade…Why? Are they really concerned for the mother?s choice, or is it because they are concerned about losing a voting platform. I think it’s more about the platform, because no honest thinking person would say that the abortion of a 20 week old baby is OK if it means honoring the choice of a mother!
My advice to the pastor is to be as honest and open as possible at all times, and realize that you will never make everyone happy. Your life, thoughts, and decisions will ALL be under a microscope (rightly or not) and people WILL judge them. Over the years you will continue to gain and lose people based on your journey with God. As God moves you in the journey people will follow you and get on board, or they will leave thinking the grass is greener on the other side! Some will approve of the changes and join you in the journey and others will disapprove and go elsewhere. This will be the never ending cycle of your life as a pastor and it must become something you embrace and “go with the flow” or you will spend too many days worrying about the ?what ifs? and miss your opportunities for the NOWS! I think you do everything you can to restore those relationships and explain your positions to those friends and make it clear your love for them weather they leave, stay, or find their way back to your church again…the decision is up to them! If they are calling you pro-choice, you have to face a fact, you voted and thus aligned yourself with a guy who voted against a partial birth abortion bill EVERY time?and he himself has stated his pro-choice views rather strongly. There may have been some in your congregation that would have called you a pro-war guy if you voted for McCain and left because they believe that ALL war is wrong, and even though your not a believer in war you voted for McCain because of his string views in other areas!!! Your not going to make everyone happy and if you let this change the way you do life?you will be in danger of making choices for your church and yourself that will make other people happy, and this is church as usual suicide. Fight the good fight!
Peace
Tony



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Rick

posted November 17, 2008 at 3:04 pm


Luke #33-
There are aspects of JT’s analysis that one could question, and that is why I qualified my comment with “may not be accurate”. It certainly is a complicated issue.
However, the chart does show that the rates have gone down, so the claim “haven’t made a dent” can be disputed. If you have something so show otherwise, then please do so. One might say one option may be more effective than another option(s), but that does not mean the other option is ineffective.
When people, such as the writer to Scot, might need to explain their position on such issues, the wording used can be very important. That is my point.



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Craig Thompson

posted November 17, 2008 at 3:28 pm


One of the more disturbing statements I’ve heard (technically read) in recent years came from a church friend. During the primaries (we ended up voting for McCain BTW) my wife and her got into an e-mail discussion about Obama. She stated that she just assumed that we were Republicans because “Christians are Republicans”). I did some research and found out that 39% of American Christians considered themselves as Republicans, 38% Democrats, and 25% Independents. When presented with those numbers she said (the disturbing part) she felt so sorry for all those people who thought they were Christians but were not.
This has so many things wrong with it that my keyboard would wear out if I tried to list them all of course. The most obvious is the assumption that all Democrats are pro-abortion (or are the Spawn of Satan I suppose she might phrase it) never mind the bit about, who am I to judge another’s servant . . . etc.
Evenso Maranatha



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ChrisB

posted November 17, 2008 at 3:50 pm


Luke and Rick,
The decrease under Clinton is probably best attributed to the state-level laws like parental notification.
Does it correlate with the rise of CPCs too? Might be worth researching.



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Rich Schmidt

posted November 17, 2008 at 4:14 pm


I haven’t read all the comments, but I wanted to say that I agree with #3 (Rich) and #6 (Brad). As the pastor of an 8-year-old church plant myself, I’ve gone out of my way before previous elections to teach on the topic, to help people understand that there are Christians on both sides of these party debates. “Who Would Jesus Vote For?” and “Is Jesus a Republican or a Democrat?” are two of the titles that I’ve used. These have helped set a tone of honesty and respect for political conversations in our midst. If people have left the church because I’ve not been militantly for or against one side or the other, I’m not aware of it.
So while it might be too late to salvage some of these broken relationships, you can work to create a church culture moving forward that avoids conceiving of one side or the other as “THE Christian side.”



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Your Name

posted November 17, 2008 at 7:57 pm


I am a bit uncertain how to respond to all of this. Part of my says, “My heart hurts for this pastor.” Part of me says, “If he would have been more open and upfront, the fall out may not have happened.” Then again, part of me says, “Why do we find it incongruent to discuss politics as part of the corporate church experience?” Aren’t most political issues really moral issues? And should pastors not be leaders in the moral arena?____Is Christianity separate from moral behavior? Does it seem logical for pastors to encourage their flock to engage the community, its needs, its hurts, and not expect that there will be some political influence as a result? ____Personally, I could not see how anyone of faith could vote for Obama. But that does not mean their faith is not genuine or viable. ____As others have said, this pastor and his family may emerge stronger and his ministry better as a result of all this. May it be. May it be ten-fold.



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GregF

posted November 17, 2008 at 8:07 pm


What does your bishop have to say?
Advice from the folks here is all well and good (and can probably help you to gather your thoughts), but remember “do nothing without the bishop,” so… I’d recommend that you address this issue to your bishop for guidance.
“As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled… Be subject to the bishop, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father, according to the flesh, and the apostles to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit; that so there may be a union both fleshly and spiritual.”
Ignatius of Antioch, The Letter to the Magnesians (ca. 100 AD)



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Mary

posted November 17, 2008 at 8:15 pm


I am sorry that this happened to this pastor; I am sorry for the families that are leaving, and for the community that is left hurting.
I had a similar thing happen to me when I mentioned the election to a friend. I was so surprised by the vehemence with which they replied to me, centering on this very issue, attacking me despite our close trust.
I just suppose there are good things and bad things that happen with each president. One person that is elected as president is only there for between 4-8 years, and there is even a system of checks and balances. We ought not have too much hatred nor too much hope placed in humankind that we elect every few years.
Most importantly, we may continue on in the peace that God is the True King, who has been watching transient power for ages. And may we proclaim truth and love into a situation where people may despair – for that is always the work of our God.
I pray for ears to hear for American Christians, that we may continue to live out the kingdom of God in love, unity, and peacemaking. Glory and trust be to our Lord Jesus Christ, Father and Holy Spirit who dwells within the Church.



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Chaplain Mike

posted November 17, 2008 at 8:35 pm


GregF, though I’m not exactly sure how to take your post, I think you have put your finger on one aspect of the problem. Who sets the agenda for the church? In the evangelical world, it appears that the parachurch and prominent media pastors and ministry leaders have been setting the agenda. Evangelicalism has a notoriously weak ecclesiology, and as a result, church members take an individualistic approach to joining local churches that fit their tastes and convictions, and pastors often have little support or direction from spiritual mentors and overseers. If this pastor had a “bishop” with whom he could have discussed these things, rather than friends in the church, perhaps the outcome might have been different.



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Travis Greene

posted November 17, 2008 at 8:38 pm


GregF @ 41,
Not sure of your background, but it seems like from this guy’s letter that he’s not in the kind of ecclesial structure where he has a bishop. I suspect many of us here are not either (with no disrespect to our Catholic, Anglican, or Methodist brothers and sisters who are). This kind of situation may be a good starting point for a discussion of ecclesiology and authority, but I wouldn’t assume that we’re all on the same page in that regard.



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mariam

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:10 pm


Well, you could tell them that you have studied the issue in depth and because of your strong pro-life leanings you decided to vote for the party that had the greatest chances of actually reducing abortions, rather than simply making it illegal. There is no evidence that making abortions illegal significantly reduces the abortion rates. Abortion rates in South America are extremely high and abortion is illegal or highly restricted. Abortion rates are lowest in Western Europe where abortion is generally completely legal and state-funded. The key to reducing abortion is comprehensive sex education, state-funded health care and, most importantly, ready access to birth control – things which many fervent pro-lifers oppose.



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Rich Rhodes

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:19 pm


I was involved in several pre-election discussions, mostly with people I have been in long term relationships with about this very issue. One on them is a German missionary to Native Americans, and who finds the American evangelical approach to politics completely incomprehensible.
Why do we demonize a self-professed born-again man, long married to one woman, who gave up a lucrative job to be a stay at home mom? but laud a man who waffles about his faith who unceremoniously dumped his first wife for a beautiful, rich, and much younger woman with whom he was having an affair?
Why do we question the patriotism of a man who has the most tenuous of connections to a violent war protester of a bygone era (who has since turned his life around to be a college professor, and — oh yeah — Citizen of the Year in Chicago in 1997)? and hail as a patriot a woman married to a former secessionist?
Why do we give Gov. Palin a bye on her daughter’s pregnancy? (Imagine the unrelenting stream questioning the Obamas’ morality that would flow if they had a 17 year-old daughter pregnant out of wedlock)
It’s all about abortion, and in the dumbest way. If the candidate says the right thing about abortion, we bite.
Too long has the Christian Right looked to politics to get what we should be looking to Jesus for.
And we’ve gotten what we deserved — a useless war and a depression.



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Josh B

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:39 pm


Unfortunately I can relate to this pastors experience. I am at a very conservative church, and I know the problems that I would have if my choice for the President were to be made public. I am ashamed that we have come to this point, and are so divided. I was led to believe in my congregation that it was not possible for me to be a Christian and vote for Obama.
How is it that someone can claim to be pro-life and also be pro-capitol punishment? Is that not a contradiction? Is McCain not for capitol punishment? The issue is much more complicated than just abortion. We must begin to look at politics beyond just this issue.
Trust me, I am anti-abortion to the bone, but there is so much more than just claiming pro-life or pro-choice. Most importantly we must remember that Jesus is Lord.
We must unite and be willing to have open conversations that are blanketed in love, grace, and truth.



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P. K. Dennis

posted November 17, 2008 at 10:46 pm


add this to 15 – your name. It is P. K. Dennis
I wasn’t sure about the business of the name. Sorry! By the way, kudos to Rich Rhodes, 46 for a good summing up. In fact, cheers to all the respondents who gave thoughtful, not knee-jerk, reactions. It helps all of us in the religious vocation to hear others who have encountered various aspects of vexing religious questions. Abortion, for instance. Most of the discussion, if you can call it that, is about the fetus. Only Obama actually mentioned the woman! I have found this kind of callousness off-putting and has strengthened my own determination to keep the rights of women first and foremost, and I don’t apologize for that, not even down here in the Deep South! I suspect many of my fellow congregants feel much as I do, but don’t want to be quoted. There in only one humane solution: keep abortion legal but help to make it rare, through contraception and other ways to prevent pregnancy in the first place. That’s so common-sense that it amazes me that we have to keep saying it! (Rev.) Paulina K. Dennis



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Travis Greene

posted November 17, 2008 at 11:14 pm


Paulina,
It’s not nearly so common-sense. It’s quite difficult, actually. You are right that the issue involves balancing the rights of the fetus and the mother. But I don’t put the right to privacy ahead of the right to live.
It’s like prostitution. Is prostitution immoral? Yes. Should it be illegal? Yes. Once we’ve made it illegal, is our job done? No. It still happens, and we still have to work for social justice and fight the causes of prostitution (which is wrapped up in all kinds of questions about drug abuse, economics, broken family structures, good old-fashioned lust, and so forth).
So if I had to choose between a party that wanted to legalize prostitution but address the economic and social causes of it, and a party that would simply make prostitution illegal and leave it at that, I’d have a tough decision if I want there to actually be less (or no) prostitution. Both my options are half-wrong. And I think I’d want to not judge anyone who made the decision differently than I did. I certainly wouldn’t want to implicitly attack the motives of those with whom I disagree (like saying they’re not humane), or implying they lack the common-sense to see how right I am.
By the way, like this pastor, I voted for Obama. Because of many issues, and in spite of abortion. But it wasn’t something I didn’t wrestle about. I think the whole point of this letter is that we all need to learn to be much less smug about our opinions, whether we’re as conservative as ChrisB or as liberal as you, or somewhere in between.



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Your Name

posted November 17, 2008 at 11:35 pm


ok – it’s late and I probably shouldn’t be posting … but I just read Rich’s post (#46) and I’d like to say … THANK YOU.____



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Brad Boydston

posted November 18, 2008 at 4:09 am


Fr. Ernesto Obreg?n (EO priest) is having an interesting time explaining why he voted for Obama. He’s articulate.
http://www.orthocuban.com/2008/11/why-did-i-vote-for-obama/



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Craig

posted November 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm


concerning #46
>> Why do we give Gov. Palin a bye on her daughter’s pregnancy?
Because we are sinners saved by grace and shouldn’t be shooting our wounded?



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pburns

posted November 18, 2008 at 4:08 pm


“I shared with many close friends within my church my struggles and they listened and discussed the issues with me. In the days after the vote, many within my church came to know of my voting decision as well as my wife’s vote which was the same. It wasn’t something I was declaring but it became known.”
It seems to be that some of the congregation may be disappointed that they were not included in these discussions with you and your friends. Could it be that these members who are considering leaving may have felt “left out?” Certainly ideology is part of the issue here. I simply wonder if relationship is part of the issue also.



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jestrfyl

posted November 19, 2008 at 11:57 am


Colleague in ministry,
If you look to the parables of Jesus I think you will discover you have spread all of your seed on rocky ground or where the weeds could spring up and choke it. If this is all it takes for the disaffection and defection, then they were not too firmly held anyway. It hurts and it stinks, but it is what it is. Do not sell your spirit to a congregation – they will abuse you and lead you down an awful path. You are called to ministry, to serve God, not a community that has no more respect for itself than to abandon someone who has devoted time and energy to them. They are as fickle and stiff-necked as the Hebrews in the wilderness – and are probably fashioning their own “golden calf’ somewhere else.
The flip side of this is is the warning NOT to enable your own Messiah complex. As Jesus advised his disciples who were sent out – simply kick the dust off your feet and move on. Neither a curse nor a blessing will cause them to come back. Now is the time to discover the true self God called to ministry.
Blessings and take care,
jestrfyl



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Scorpiocov

posted November 19, 2008 at 1:06 pm


I have come to the conclusion that most politicians are pretty much teh same. With one exception, to many republicans would gladly throw millions of people to the wolves for being on disability or SS retirement; And thne there is the issue of welfare. YET, I here no Christian recomendations.



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Alan

posted November 19, 2008 at 4:30 pm


I’m saddened but not surprised. I have been a Republican since I first registered to vote, but more and more lately I’ve felt the Republican party and evangelical Christians were becoming unhealthily aligned. So I switched to non-partisan registration. What freedom! I was able to look at both sides of issues without feeling the “us vs. them” mentality. And yes, for the first time ever, I voted Democrat for president. After a HUGE amount of discussion and thought and some prayed “sanity checks”. Evangelical Christianity is becoming (or perhaps always has been) very superficial. There are things we do and (especially) don’t do, but it’s thought-free, and much of this attitude is reinforced from the pulpit.



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Your Name

posted November 24, 2008 at 4:18 pm


Sigh, when did a vote for Obama become outright support for abortion rights? Yeah, I know he supports them but that’s just one issue in an unfortunately grey muddle of talking points.
Brother, as Jestrfyl pointed out, it may be time to move on to your next place of service.
From your own description, you thoughtfully and prayerfully considered the options and made the choice you believed right. I don’t happen to agree with you but democracy and Christian fellowship oblige me to respect your choice.
If the congregation cannot tolerate your voting choice and still accept you as their pastor, then this particular door of ministry may have closed. But I suspect God is no where near done with you yet and another door will open.
— Ishmael



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Your Name

posted March 8, 2010 at 8:35 am


The people who left love politics more than your church. I believe church and politics don’t mix. You are entitled to your vote and your opinion just as the people who left are entitled to their vote and their opinion.
I have grown up in church all my life and believe me the people who left your church, would leave if they didn’t agree with you on other futures matters as well. These are people who like to be in control and are usually critics. They usually have inflexible personalities and are spiritually immature.
I would never leave a church, pastor and wife with high integrity, that I love and am receiving great teaching. My Pastor and I don’t always agree on everything and this is good. You have to learn how to disagree. We have different political views but they don’t supercede my love for God, my Pastor and his wife, and our church.



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Your Name

posted March 8, 2010 at 9:44 am


If our faith and trust is in God why would we have such hatred and disdain for those who don’t vote the same way we vote or share the same political views. God is always in control and this is something we need to always remember. Daniel 2:21 says “He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them.”
As Christians, when we get angry and upset because a candidate we voted for didn’t win, or we fall out with people who don’t vote the way we vote, it sends a message to non-believers that our faith is not in God at all. We are not to put our faith and trust in any man. I have never gotten angry or upset that a candidate I voted for didn’t win because my faith and trust is in God. My faith is not in our government. The bible tells us to pray for our leaders and as Christians we should do as the bible tells us and pray for every President that is elected to office.
We should not be fighting with one another, it is a poor witness to non-believers and fails to represent Christ.



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