Back in another election year, 1932, an article in Messenger generated enough letters that the editor wrote a response. The original article was written by Rufus D. Bowman, secretary for the Board of Christian Education, who outlined the issue at stake (bonus points if you know what it was). He said he couldn’t tell readers how to vote, but observed delicately that “there is weight in favor of” the incumbent.
The follow-up editorial, by Edward Frantz, explained that the criticism fell into three camps: The article expressed an opinion. It didn’t prefer a different candidate. It didn’t express the opinion decisively enough and urge it on the church. These responses were “interesting,” he observed with remarkable understatement.
Messenger in 1932 was more willing to state a political position than Messenger of 2016 is, but people still disagree on where to draw the line between religion and politics. How should religious conviction influence public policy? One might expect more convergence between the Christian admonition to care for the least of these and the political goal of caring for the common good, but that’s not the case.
Dr. William Barber, a prominent civil rights leader and Disciples of Christ pastor, is urging people of faith to see where these two must intersect. Our country is in pain, he says, and needs a new heart to replace its heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26). Barber provides this context from a few chapters earlier:
Prophets sure don’t worry about being popular.
As we emerge from a particularly bruising and divisive campaign, a word from 1932 is worth repeating. In a Nov. 5 editorial titled “After the Election,” Frantz writes, “Life will still be worth living after Tuesday.”
Wendy McFadden is publisher of Brethren Press and Communications for the Church of the Brethren.
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