Election2000 - Gore Church - Story4

Election2000 - Gore Church - Story4

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The Cumberland Valley of Tennessee (and Kentucky) had an important impact on American religion. Its 19th-century church revivals and camp meetings ignited the second Great Awakening. Nashville, 40 miles downriver from Carthage, is headquarters for the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Convention, USA, the National Association of Free Will Baptists, and a sizable portion of the United Methodist Church, not to mention some of the largest publishers of religious books, magazines, and other materials.

Though this history helps to define Gore, it is only part of his spiritual journey. His many political, social, and religious experiences make it difficult to categorize his faith, even for him.

"I am a Christian. I am a Protestant. I am a Baptist," Gore said last year in an interview with Newsweek.

"All of those labels are less significant to me than my own personal religious faith, which has been shaped by the tradition that I have been raised in, but which has developed out of my own personal experience in life as well. And, indeed, the tradition of which I'm a part recognizes the importance of personal communication with the Deity, along with the lessons that come from Scripture."

The folks at New Salem might say that last sentence in plainer words, but they'd probably give Gore an amen for the thought.

The tour of Al Gore's church made me think...

He's more of an old-fashioned Christian than I thought.

He doesn't belong at New Salem because he's a Southern Baptist.

He doesn't belong at New Salem because he's a liberal Democrat.

His choice of church accurately reflects what I thought of him.
The tour didn't affect my opinion of him

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The Church Covenant, hanging behind the pulpit between the church's only two stained-glass windows, still declares this church's beliefs and practices: "We engage, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love, to strive for the advancement of the Church in knowledge . to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain worship, discipline and doctrine; to contribute . to the support of the ministry and expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations."

And that's pretty much what New Salem folks focus on when they go to church.

"We can't just live any which way we want to," Elder Agee told the congregation not long ago as he paced back and forth behind the pulpit between the stained-glass windows. "We're God's children and the Lord wants us to live right and do right. This world is not eternal. God has said he's going to destroy it one day after a while. God doesn't want us to be in sin and sickness. God's not that a way.

"I'm saying some pretty powerful stuff here. Don't nobody leave here mad."

Nobody did.

David Waters is the religion columnist at the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

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