With the official start of the 2008 presidential race on Labor Day weekend, the Baptist Center for Ethics today released an educational DVD challenging a prevailing myth that GOP stands for “God’s Only Party.”
“Golden Rule Politics: Reclaiming the Rightful Role of Faith in Politics” challenges a political myth constructed over 25 years by the Christian Right that the Republican Party is <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />America’s moral party and the party of God’s favor. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
The 36-minute documentary–produced and directed by Baptist Center for Ethics Executive Director Robert Parham and EthicsDaily.com Culture Editor Cliff Vaughn–has an accompanying discussion guide for use in church, civic or home discussion groups.
Rooted in the theological conviction that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat–and that neither party is thoroughly moral or completely immoral–the DVD explores the rightful role of faith in politics through interviews with clergy and politicians in Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee. It expands the moral agenda from the narrow list of issues prioritized by the Christian Right to the fuller expression of issues found in the Christian tradition, beginning with the biblical priority of doing justice.
“Golden Rule Politics” features interviews with pastors and faith leaders who discuss how party politics have sometimes attempted to co-opt religion and trample on the separation of church and state. It eschews the more familiar faces and shouting heads of partisan politics and instead interviews four faithful Democratic politicians in red states who know the religious and political landscape better than many.
In an online video clip from the DVD, William Buchanan, pastor of FifteenthAvenueBaptistChurch in Nashville, Tenn., terms efforts to identify God with any political party a “major spiritual distortion.”
“God is Spirit, which means if God is Spirit, then God is neither Democrat nor Republican,” Buchanan says. “I think we have attempted to place God on one side or the other of this political battle. But if God is Republican or God is Democrat, then we have reduced God to humanity. We know humanity has its weaknesses and its frailties, and we have made God like us. If God is Republican or if God is Democrat, the world is in a major fix, because both parties have proven their vulnerabilities.”
Judy Baker, a Democratic legislator in Missouri and a pastor’s wife, describes her public service as extending a call to ministry that led her to earn a divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Because I’m a Baptist minister’s wife, I’m seen as quite the anomaly,” she says in this clip. “I’m actually looked at with a lot of mystery. They want to know, ‘How can you be both a Baptist minister’s wife and a Democrat?’ And I got that question over and over when I first went down to the Legislature a couple of years ago.”
Baker says she still attends numerous events where she introduces herself as a Baptist minister’s wife with a master’s degree in divinity. “And they will say, ‘Then you’re a Republican?'” she says. “I’ll say, ‘No, I’m a Democrat.’ It’s just shock in the eyes of people. For some it’s really difficult to make the transition.”
Congressman Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., says one reason he remains a Democrat is because of what the Bible says about concern for the poor.
“My father and mother were staunch Democrats,” Davis says. “As a kid growing up I watched my mother and father literally wear a Bible out. So for me, probably one of the reasons I stay a Democrat is because of the Matthew 25 part, of what the government ought to be doing: the sick, the hungry, the naked, the thirsty, the oppressed, the homeless. I mean when you read the Scriptures you’ll find over 2,000 instances and quotes where we are to reach out to the lesser amongst us and to the poor, not the wealthiest.”
“When you look at how the Religious Right has used our faith and driven a wedge politically in this country, it frightens me somewhat,” he says.
Between an introduction and conclusion on the rightful role of faith in politics, the video offers four chapters: Politicians Speak to Faith; Clergy Speak to Politics; Wall of Separation Protects All; and Expanding the Moral Agenda.
Politicians and clergy appearing in the DVD include:
–U.S. Congressman Artur Davis from Alabama’s 7th District
–U.S. Congressman Lincoln Davis from Tennessee’s 4th District
–State Representative Judy Wall Baker from Missouri’s 25th District
–State Senator Roy Herron from Tennessee’s 24th District
–Pastor Jim Evans of FirstBaptistChurch, Auburn, Ala.
–Pastor John Baker of FirstBaptistChurch, Columbia, Mo.
–Bishop Henry Parsley of the Episcopal Church of Alabama
–Pastor William Buchanan of FifteenthAvenueBaptistChurch, Nashville, Tenn.
–Pastor Tim Alexander of SmithSpringsChurch of Christ, Antioch, Tenn.
–Associate Pastor Carol Richardson of FirstBaptistChurch, Memphis, Tenn.
–Susan Pace Hamill, professor of law at the University of Alabama Law School
–Robert Parham, executive director of BaptistCenter for Ethics, Nashville, Tenn.
“Golden Rule Politics” is available for ordering online here. An introductory price of $20 includes a license for public viewings. Each DVD comes with a pass code for downloading a free discussion guide.