Saturday, October 30, 2010

30 OCT 10: Our Benediction?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following items humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

"A good name is more to be desired than great riches." When a political candidate begins a commercial with those words, it might not seem unusual. But when a candidate points out it's a quote from the Bible, that's different - and it's a reminder we're in the "Bible Belt," not the Washington Beltway.

That verse from Proverbs 22 is mentioned in one of the newest campaign ads by Georgia gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal. It's an ad that comes across like the "closing argument" of a long debate - where the attacks and lampooning stop and the candidates make one last appeal for your vote. Remember my sincere TV face, not the one with critical words plastered across it.

Deal's opponent Roy Barnes has a similar "closer" commercial on TV, where he sits at a desk. If you look carefully, there's a Bible on the desk - and a smaller book on top of it. Could he possibly have a "concealed-carry" weapon hiding in there?

(As it happens, Proverbs 22 also has been quoted by a local candidate in recent days. Theresa Garcia mentioned it to deny rumors that she's been writing the "Truth About Teresa" blog concerning the Columbus Mayor's race. Garcia is running for director of a soil and water conservation board - so obviously she's against all forms of pollution.)

Roy Barnes doesn't quote the Bible like Nathan Deal does - but I imagine somewhere at the "Roy 2010" headquarters, staff members are mocking Deal's reference to Proverbs 22. The Republican nominee is losing his riches to help his family. And they want the Georgia Ethics Commission to check that "good name" stuff, too.

Christian values also have come up in last-minute Congressional ads. Have you seen the Calhoun County farmer who calls Rep. Sanford Bishop a "God-fearing Christian"? Of course, Republicans wish Bishop would remember another verse in Proverbs 22 -- about borrowers becoming "servant to the lender."

Then there's the radio message I heard Friday promoting Congressional challenger Mike Keown. The Baptist minister is endorsed by the "Faith and Freedom Coalition" - a project started by Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed. It gives Sanford Bishop a nine-percent score on ten big issues. That's so low, I'm amazed Bishop hasn't been stripped of his title as a church deacon.

There's another "F-word" on my mind this weekend, besides faith and freedom - one I think candidates and campaigns on all sides need. I read in a Christian magazine today is National Forgiveness Day, culminating an entire month with that theme. If you didn't know this day existed -- well, I forgive you right now for that.

A "Pledge of Forgiveness" associated with this day challenges you "to forgive others, forgive myself, and ask for forgiveness each day." The middle of those three points clearly is the easiest - especially after you've just opened the package of chocolate chip cookies.

The timing of National Forgiveness Day is amazing to me. Wouldn't it be great if the political candidates used this day to forgive their opponents, and seek forgiveness for campaign claims that "bear false witness"? Then simply run the "closing argument" ads until Election Day, and a lot of annoyed TV viewers will be a lot less angry.

But the dilemma with forgiveness is that other people usually want you to go first -- and they want it on their terms, before they return the favor. I heard a pastor say earlier this year you shouldn't forgive someone unless they say, "I repent." That phrase is used about as often in political campaigns as "my opponent is right."

Even the church association where I worship is having a problem with forgiveness right now. Ministers are divided over the association's future direction. Some leaders have been forced to resign, others have left in a huff - and if the group didn't have a doctrine against military service, a few members might be praying for a coup.

So even church organizations could benefit from this National Forgiveness Day. But I want to focus on the candidates, since they're seeking and getting all the attention. Will they commit to forgiving each other, and asking for it themselves -- even if loudmouthed opponents verbally slap you in the face, anyway?

After the ballots are counted and the campaigning ends, candidates often talk "coming together" - as a city, state or nation. But history shows that seldom really happens, as party divisions reemerge. May at least one candidate think deeply about this day, and apply the advice of Jesus: "Forgive and you shall be forgiven." Maybe not until Judgment Day, but someday....

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