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June 09, 2008


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What I've noticed about the religious right is that they are all for a truncated version of the Ten Commandments but seem embarrassed by the Beatitudes, the Sermon On The Mount. 'Blessed are the peacemakers', what was Jesus thinking?

This will, I am afraid, immediately come off as an impertinet and personally offensive question, but here goes anyway...

How many church services has Jack Lessenberry attended in, say, the last 20 years?

I ask that not because there is a right or a wrong answer to the question. Jack Lessenberry has every right to not attend church of any kind. If he is an atheist or an agnostic, it has no bearing on his skill as a journalist or his moral bearing as an American.

But the one thing that all good journalists do before writing is that they gather the facts. They visit their subject(s). Talk to them. Listen to them. Study them. Understand them, for good or bad, better or worse.

The reason that I bring this question up, is that of all of the metro Detroit churches that I have attended (mostly mainstream protestant churches), I have a very hard time remembering the last time any overtly political subject was preached or exorted from the alter. The main things that you will hear at most mainline churches are confessions of sin, prayers of forgiveness, reading of scripture, and an offering. And hymns.

I wonder if Jack Lessenberry knows that the church of which Laura Bush has been a lifetime member, and to which she brought her lapsed-Episcopalian husband, George (aka the 43rd President of the United States) is the same church of which Hillary Clinton is also a lifelong member. The three of them are United Methodists. At its national level, the Methodist church has a notoriously liberal cadre of administrators and leaders, often in polite disagreement with its wider membership. This microcosm is more or less repeated with the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians. The United Church of Christ is the denomination that ordained Rev. Jeremiah Wright in Chicago. You get the idea.

And just about all of these churches are remarkable for one particular thing that links them with mainstream Catholocism, Southern Baptists and Mormons, and apart from most other American sects; they are all remarkably generous sources of missionary services and relief funding around the world, for schools, for medical aid, and for hunger relief.

But since Jack Lessenberry seems (and I am the first to admit I do not know) to get his religion from the Sunday New York Times and the networks' "sabbath gasbags" (so named by Calvin Trillin), we can all be assured that Mr. Lessenberry knows a great deal of politics and political history, and not so much about churches.

My guess is that if someone is looking for "politics in church" in Southeast Michigan, it will be very hard to find anywhere along Maple Road in Birmingham. But you'll find one helluva lot of it in Detroit churches, where there may not be a lot of preaching about abortion or prayer in schools, but there will be more than a passing mention of who is running for mayor, or city council, or congress, or president. Oh, and some of those inner-city Detroit churches might not be any more hospitable to gay marriage than the conservative churches in Jack Lessenberry's imagination.

Of course, darling. In hoc signo vinces, y'all

Amusing observing 'Anonoymous ' attack Jack for engaging in speculation and asserting unproven inferences about church members since he did not provide us with any proof of those Detroit churches which preach politics and worship services against abortion and prayer in school etc...

Dividing worship services into zip codes,subject matter, sexual orientation, political party loyalty is apparently what the church that hypocrites like 'Anonymous' attend..

I am glad I will not be genuflecting with 'Anonymous" at his worship home. Once I get on my knees I have a hard time getting up and leaving .I am sure my not leaving would be a problem for venue where 'Anonymous ' worships ..Plus I am a pagen ..lol,lol,lol

Anonymous, (is that your real name?) one can't attend every church in the country in order to form an opinion. One must judge by their public face. The public face of many of the more conservative churches is not a very attractive one. I'm afraid the Catholic Church is rushing to join that group.

I know I'll hate meyself in the morning for responding to one of Greg Thrasher's missives, but here goes:

I didn't say that Detroit's black churches are preaching against abortion and for school prayer. What I said that you wouldn't see those kinds of politics. Precisely the opposite of what you apparently took away from it.

I said the kind of politics you will see in Detroit, and more or less regularly, as appears to be the case in Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United on Chicago's South Side, is for favored city candidates, and for state and national Democrats.

That just does not happen in the churches that I frequent. The idea that a suburban church would make mention of an Oakland County Executive race, or a Birmingham mayoral race is mostly laughable to me.

I don't know if Greg Thrasher is trying to be contrarian, or is just so defensive about any mention of Detroit and its suburbs that he can't help himself.

What I suggested is hardly remarkable. That the black churches in the city of Detroit are one of, if not the most, powerful social and political organizing forces in the community. That's not neccessarily good, or bad. It is what it is. My guess is that on balance, the black churches of Detroit are a net positive, even if they supply us with politicians like the Kilpatricks.

But I do think that recent history demonstrates that a Detroit politician seeking higher office, or seeking to pass an important city initiative, pretty much has to obtain the assent of the Detroit pastors.

One cannot say the same of the suburbs; it is basically inconceivable that any church, denomination or group of churches could swing a suburban election. Can anyone think of such an example?

In this light, it seems increasingly dubious that Jack Lessenberry would pick on "Conservative Christianity" to the exclusion of "Urban Democratic Machine Politics Christianity."

I am the in-house subject expert on any Black topics in here whenever an intellectual coward posts under 'Anonymous'

It is a myth that a Black Pastors regardless of denomonation have the clout to 'swing' an election . Many can influence but none can command and design an outcome.

Jack suffers from the same shortcomings 'Anonymous' does as a white media person he lacks depth and expertise on Black subject matter at best he simply follows a vague script.

To the larger issue the impact of religion in our political venues is overated and something I would not pray on for a desired result...

You know, from reading these comments, one would think Mr. Lessenberry had written an essay about pastors brainwashing their flocks with the church's political agenda. The fact is that many religious folks vote for candidates based on religious preferences. That does not mean that their spiritual leaders are preaching politics. I know people who are religious but don't attend church often, and they still vote based on faith.

In my experience, religion and right wing politics are like peanut-butter and jelly.

Joe, I fully agree, and expect that personal religious beliefs and tenets form at least part of the basis for voting patterns. And why not? If your own economic circumstances, your own ethnic background, your own community interests all form a part of the basis for your electoral choices, why shouldn't religion be a part of that too?

If someone likes to kayak, we'd understand their voting environmental issues. If someone is a union steward, we'd understnd their voting for the union's endorsed candidate. If someone is disabled, we'd understand their voting based on promises of concern for the disabled. We would understand it if wage-earners voted against income taxes, and the poor voted for more public services.

So why is religion an off-limits personal preference? Why not vote your values and your morals?

When you say that "religion and right-wing politics are like peanut butter and jelly," I wonder what the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Minister Louis Farrakhan and Fr. Michael Pfleger might say in response. Or is it that some religion is okay and some is bad, depending upon its adherence to the Democratic Party Platform?

Yes, there are some left-wing religious figures, but they are far less prevalent than their conservative counterparts.

I think it is fine for people to "vote their morals". If you don't like abortion being legal, don't vote for a pro-choice candidate, etc. ad infinitim. What I find annoying is that people want to know that the candidate is specifically a Christian. If you like a candidate's stances on core issues, his or her piety should not be an issue. It's not like your candidate is going to show up to preach at your church, for goodness sake!

Comparing religious preference with things like economic situation is illogical. A politician's fiscal policy has a direct impact on you as a citizen, but his or her religion does not.

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