Thursday, January 17, 2008

Am I going to hell?

Just finished that book about Billy Graham, The Preacher and the Presidents (wrote about it before here). Quite revealing, and to be honest, it creeped me out a little.

Not that I have anything against Billy Graham as a person. He came across in the book as genuinely sincere, truly striving to be a servant and to witness to whomever he could. And who wouldn't witness to presidents if given the opportunity?

He also, however, came across as somewhat naïve, at least to me. What creeps me out is his allowing himself and his position and popularity to be used for political purposes—that he didn't necessarily recognize, or worse he was complicit in, the fact that he had political influence. To find out that memos are regularly written at The White House about how to use Billy Graham to secure votes just sets my teeth on edge.

This is not a new thing, either. It goes back to the days of Truman. For the last sixty years, presidential politics has been inextricably bound up with the evangelical branch of Christianity. Billy's access to the presidents also opened the door to additional access from religious leaders, who haven't always been quite as high-minded in their goals or tactics. It made it seem like it is okay for religion to have a role in policy-making.

What does this mean to me in this election year? I think I've come to one very strong conclusion: I don't want to be represented by a president who thinks I'm going to hell. If there were one question I could ask all of the candidates, it would be this: "I don't subscribe to the same belief system you do. I haven't performed the rituals or made any vows that your faith tradition would recognize. Do you think I'm going to hell because of this?"

Not that I believe in hell as a place, per se, because I don't. But I don't want my leadership to think I'm headed that way, because that would mean to me that they probably wouldn't invest any time in making my life better here. Why should they, when they think my soul is a loss anyway? Wouldn't they instead invest their time in supporting and paving the way for those they believe they're going to meet on the other side?

In other words, someone who thinks I'm going to hell is not going to care about me, or my family, or anyone of my belief system. They're not going to represent my best interests or put themselves at risk on my behalf.

And hell, that's what I'm electing them to do. So my vote is going to someone who won't be surprised to meet up with me in heaven.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 1/17/2008 01:35:00 PM, Anonymous Dennis R said...

I spent many years in the evangelical/charismatic movements, and I think your concerns are legitimate. Another problem comes up when the president pushes policies that he feels will hasten the second coming of Jesus. This affects foreign policy, and I feel that it is a factor in the current so called war against terror.

I like Billy Graham, but I prefer he stick to spreading the gospel.

At 1/17/2008 02:31:00 PM, Blogger Magdiel Martinez said...

Very well said. I am voting for a commander-in-chief, not a pastor-in-chief. I have interacted with and lived with evangelical christians for the past five years. It breaks my heart to hear them try to push their agenda at the expense of those who don't believe in their religion.


At 1/17/2008 04:02:00 PM, Anonymous Carrie said...

I really liked this post. a lot. :-) It's a whole new way of looking at the election really. as well as other important relationships we all have every day.


At 1/17/2008 05:58:00 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Really good questions and points to consider! Look at how much religion has come up in this election so far (seems like more than in other recent presidential elections), what with Romney and Mormonism and Huckabee and his background as a preacher.

I think I expect most candidates to have some sort of religious and/or spiritual perspective and that this might help them to make decisions, but I always hope that they are not making decisions explicitly based on religious ideals - or input from particular preachers.

Thanks for this post!

At 1/17/2008 06:44:00 PM, Blogger PtCakes said...

I am so with you on this. Excellent post. And truly who wants leadership that doesn't value us all.

At 1/17/2008 08:41:00 PM, OpenID redforkhippie said...

It would be naive to think that our leaders' religion does not inform their decisions. It does, and it should. But true Christianity does not demand that leaders violate the Constitution. True Christianity does not demand that leaders trample others' rights.

Here's an example: The people demanding a ban on gay marriage have always bugged me, but it's only been in the last few weeks that I've been able to put my finger on why.

Marriage is a sacrament. If we let the government decide who gets to receive the sacrament of marriage, what's to stop politicians from deciding who can be baptized, take communion, confess their sins, go through confirmation, be ordained as a minister, or receive last rites? That's an awfully dangerous precedent to be setting.

Most Christians at least claim to believe in the Golden Rule. I question the extent to which it's actually being practiced, particularly at that awkward intersection of religion and politics.

At 2/15/2008 11:17:00 PM, Blogger Heidi said...

I agree with redforkhippie - in a way, separation of church and state is what the whole marriage issue is about. The government allows religious and legal marriages.... why not just the legal? If there's a religious ceremony, great, but to specify gender and what makes a marriage a marriage?


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