Originally published in the Jacksonville Observer
I don’t believe that there is a separation of church and state. If you are a member of church and you vote, you know what I mean.
I have been visiting various churches for several weeks with a candidate who I am hoping will be elected to office in a few days. There is nothing is wrong with this as far as I can tell. We are both Christians, we come for church school and stay for the service. We worship and we don’t talk about politics. We are introduced as any new visitor might be and mention is made that the candidate is offering himself for public service. Other than that we a just like any other visitors. We have attended a diverse variety of churches, diverse both culturally and theologically. Everywhere we went we were welcomed, had a good time at the Bible study and the service which focused almost exclusively on spiritual matters. But last Sunday we attended the Bethel Institutional Baptist Church under the preaching of Bishop Rudy W. McKissick, Junior and, of all people, the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Things I heard there were startling.
In Bethel, I heard McKissick say a few times that I was in a “Black” church. He said that everyone had to vote because “otherwise ‘they’ were going to shut it down.” I heard Sharpton say that Obama shouldn’t be blamed and that “Obama didn’t say ‘yes I can’ but ‘yes we can.’” When I heard these things I felt that I and “my kind” were not welcome.
So no one will be mistaken, I want to say that the Bethel Institutional Baptist Church is a fine Baptist church full of wonderful Christian people. The Gospel of Jesus the Christ was solidly preached both by Bishop McKissick, Jr., and delightfully by the Reverend Al Sharpton. It was wonderful to find out that even if we disagree most strenuously on political issues yet he is my brother in Christ. As an eclectic lover of music, I found the song service exhilarating and the choir inspirational. In the Bible study I found a bunch of old men just like me who love the Lord and the Word of God. Everyone was gracious and loving and friendly.
There is an old joke about the priest, who during the homily exhorts the congregation to “not to forget to vote on re-election day.” Well fine. If a pastor wants to express his own political viewpoint around election time he should be able to, but he might consider doing it gently so as not to offend those of a differing opinion. A pastor should preach the Gospel fearlessly not caring if he offends anyone. However, when it comes to politics he would do well to remember that “there is none righteous, no not one.” James Madison writes in Federalist 51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” So in church at least I think it is a good idea to remember that neither side has all the answers.
When Bishop McKissick, Jr. says “they are going to shut it down” he cannot be talking about anybody but the Republicans unless, of course, he is only talking about the patriots. For it is becoming obvious that one way or another we are going to shut it down, before we are robbed of all our money by a government that has been out of control for decades. Now surely there had to be a few Republicans in that crowd, I think perhaps more than a few. But it is impolite to interrupt a preacher you see, when just anybody can throw a tomato at a politician.
It is offensive for an anointed believer in Jesus Christ, to be referred to as “they.” I have as much right to be in that church whether I am a Democrat or a Republican, and I am just as much a part of the priesthood of believers as McKissick or Sharpton. He knew I was there, he could have just as well said I was going to shut it down, because I am. But then of course he would have had to give me an opportunity to tell the congregation what “it” was.
Calling Bethel a “Black” church is outrageous. Should other churches start referring to themselves as “White” churches? Are we going to segregate the Fount of Living Water as we once segregated regular water fountains?
The good bishop should take note that there is no room in the Kingdom of God for black churches; any more than there is room in the Kingdom for white churches. There is only room for God’s church where all men of all colors are brothers and where each thinks the other more worthy than himself.
Ya’ll go vote now.