When pastor takes wrong turn, church hits ditch

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By | June 19, 2005

When pastor takes a wrong turn, church hits a ditch By Charita M. Goshay It’s only May, but the Rev. Chan Chandler likely will be a finalist for my year-end “Thunk on the Head Awards.”{{more}}The Waynesville, N.C., minister caused an uproar recently after it was learned he led an effort to oust nine members of the East Waynesville Baptist Church for their refusal to support President George W. Bush. What would Jesus do?Not that.After word leaked out, a chastened Chandler invited the nine to return. A few did last Sunday, with their lawyers in tow.Never a good sign.Then, Chandler announced that he was resigning.I’m guessing Jesus left a while ago.This brouhaha is Exhibit A of why blending religion and politics scares so many people; a prime example of what happens when a church strays from its true mission.God doesn’t need bouncers. He’s seeking servants.To the chagrin of many, Jesus all but ignored Roman politics, despite its grip on most of the civilized world. Rather, he lobbed his criticism at the religious folks – people who believed themselves to be holier than the pantheistic Romans, but chose not to apply that holiness in their dealings with others.Republicans argue, and accurately so, that Democrats who stand in black church pulpits never get roasted in the media for mixing politics and religion.It’s easy to explain. A Democratic candidate speaking at a black church has become such a threadbare cliche, no one can possibly take it seriously. Who doesn’t know by now that Democratic candidates tell blacks what they want to hear, not necessarily what they need to hear? You’ll never, for instance, see a Democratic candidate pounding on the pulpit about the black community’s 69 percent illegitimate-birth rate and its correlation to poverty.The parishioners know it. They show up at such events because of a candidate’s star-power. It’s an up-close chance to see someone who might become president some day.Everyone is in on the charade.How do Democrats get away with it? Why do black churchgoers – who tend to be social conservatives – put up with it?They tolerate it because, while Democrats might be full of hooey, black churchgoers know that some of the very people who have wrapped the Bible in the flag also have declared war on public education, Headstart, Medicaid and other programs that help the poorest of the poor.They put up with it because they know that many of the Christian soldiers wailing about “activist judges” have never wielded their swords for social justice.Because they know what it’s like to be told “you don’t belong,” otherwise, churches such as the African Methodist Episcopal, wouldn’t exist.Because they assume that God loves Democrats, too.The Rev. Chandler’s blunder won’t uproot Christianity as we know it. It should, however, serve as a warning of what can happen when Christians wander off the straight and narrow path and into the bramble bush of politics.Charita M. Goshay is a writer at The Repository in Canton, Ohio.