28 October 2004

Mixed messages

The following statement was widely circulated within Northwest Yearly Meeting, and we are urged to "forward it to everyone who prays, and all who vote!"
From: Charles Mylander [mailto:cmylander@yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 1:05 PM

Subject: EFI Election statement

Dear praying friends,
This excellent statement was just issued from the EFI Superintendents. (John Williams, Jr. was the primary author with input from some of the other Superintendents leaders). We encourage you to forward it to everyone who prays, and all who vote!

Chuck Mylander

Our witness on marriage and sexual integrity

As we approach our national elections next week, our nation faces some of the most significant moral and spiritual issues in our history. Not only will we elect a President, we will be making decisions that directly affect the appointments of future judges and the direction our country will take regarding the most primary of our social institutions, marriage itself.

As Evangelical Friends, we affirm the clear message of Scripture that God has created and blessed marriage to be the union between one man and one woman and that same sex marriage violates God's purpose and plan for marriage and families.

We acknowledge that in our fallen and broken world, men and women may struggle with issues of sexual identity and sexual integrity. We issue a call to holy living, empowered by the Spirit of God, for fidelity in marriage and abstinence from sexual relations outside the bonds of marrage. Sexual purity in all of life sets us free to see the highest and best in one another.

Although none of us can fully embody Christ's perfect fullness of truth and grace, we desire to minister with clarity and compassion in the name of Christ to those - both heterosexual and homosesxual - who wrestle with issues such as sexual temptation, pornography, marital faithfulness and personal purity.

In this moment of moral cloudiness in America, we would open our eyes and our hearts to the testimony of God's word: "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." (Proverbs 14:34) May we humbly and gratefully seek to live as witnesses to our Lord's redeeming and transforming grace, aware of our own fallibility and His infinite power to re-shape in his image those who fully rely upon Him.
I entitled today's note "mixed messages" but maybe I really mean "mixed agendas." Or maybe the agenda isn't mixed at all, but I'm not yet that cynical. There is much I agree with in the statement, but...
  1. What does this have to do with the election? Am I supposed to be making a connection between the the difficult ideals, fairly tenderly expressed, and particular candidates? In other words, is there something I'm supposed to be reading between the lines? Or, more positively, does the raising of certain issues of morality in the context of the election simply give the EFM superintendents a logical time to insert teaching into the Quaker consciousness? I want to believe the latter, but the behavior of many evangelicals this election season (as documented in that highly flawed CNN program, The Fight for Faith last week) has been very different.

  2. "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." AMEN! If this election season provokes Friends leaders to speak out on national righteousness, I would hope that the imperial behavior of our country on the international stage, our complete abandonment of any pretense to global moral authority, might be part of that teaching.
When I write about American loss of moral authority, I am not claiming that we are the moral equivalents of tyrannical or massively corrupt nations. I am not about to reject the reality that we have carved out of this troubled world a nation unusually and blessedly characterized by freedom, creative energy, and high idealism. To an important extent, the heritage of Christian intellectual thought and spirituality, including the history of Christian debates with government and with non-Christians, is the foundation for these blessings, whether they are enjoyed by Christians or anyone else. Our own version of corruption is often to enjoy these blessings in ignorance of the global context, without engagement in the hard work of global stewardship, and with growing dependence on leadership that exports the costs of maintaining these blessings. The result: We enjoy an amazingly free and wonderful and attractive land at the expense of the rest of the world; and in defense of the lifestyle we've grown addicted to, our leaders actually promote corruption and tyranny in other countries, they preach and practice skullcracking police methods that would not be countenanced anywhere in the USA, and they create and abandon alliances for transparently self-serving and cynical reasons in full view of an intelligent world audience. It is entirely timely for American leaders to preach "righteousness exalts a nation" but we need to preach it with global awareness to ourselves, not limiting our perspective to our favorite individual sins but including those we practice corporately and as a nation.


Kenneth said...

Thanks, Johan. None of the sentiments expressed in the sups' letter are new, but it is disheartening to me to see them inserted into politics in such an unfocused way.

It is inescapable for me not to read this as a "vote for Bush, because he'll save heterosexual marriage" letter. Of course there is no such explicit endorsement, so that interpretation is deniable. The idea of a coded message to those already in the know makes it even worse. I'd hope that religious leaders would have the courage to be plain-speaking. (But that might endanger the churches' tax exemptions, wouldn't it?)

While I'm on a rant, I also wonder which "praying friends" it's intended for. Did they, I wonder, think of me, or people like me? Was this letter intended to help me turn to God for direction when voting?

I'm glad you raised up the verse from Proverbs, which I hope all Friends could agree with. Like you, I would have appreciated a pastoral letter addressing the righteousness (and sins) of our nation with a broader scope.

Kenneth Sutton

Johan Maurer said...

As I just wrote to Chuck Mylander and a couple of the Northwest Yearly Meeting lists where the EFI statement appears, the statement is especially disappointing in contrast with the "confessing Christ" statement that I mentioned a week earlier and that was the subject of a full-page ad in USA Today.