By Ken Satterfield
Word&Way Advertising and Marketing Coordinator
Elections are only a month away. Can you feel the excitement? Maybe not.
In Missouri, a tight senatorial race means we have a bit more exposure to political races (read: more ads) than much of the country.
Lack of a presidential race makes it hard to have a national focus. Even the Ad Council has a series of ads (PayAttention.org) combating voter apathy through mock campaigns to elect a bag of leaves or a broken filing cabinet.
Not that information is not out there. Political junkies can feast at sites such as www.politics1.com or www.electoral-vote.com. You can follow who gives and receives money at www.followthemoney.com or PoliticalMoneyLine (www.tray.com). Project Vote Smart (www.vote-smart.org) and Missouri government (sos.mo.gov) provide ballot initiatives and voting records.
Most major news organizations have Web sites. Many major ones are listed at GovSpot (www.govspot.com/news/political.htm).
Want to check accuracy? The Annenberg Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania sponsors the non-partisan www.factcheck.org.
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (www.bjcpa.org) and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (www.ivotevalues.com) both contain information about religion and politics. Along with the IRS (www.irs.com), all three list how much political involvement is permissible by churches and other non-profit organizations.
However, many novelty and humor sites (such as fundrace.org) that appeared during the 2004 election are now either out of date or dead links. Politicalhumor.about.com is a treasure trove of humor, but most has little to do with this election cycle, and some of the links are not recommended.
I wonder if a column to keep politically informed is really a waste of space. There's a lot of disagreement. Even a recent survey by LifeWay's "Facts & Trends" (snipurl.com/churchpolitics) shows a significant divergence between ministers and congregation members about political involvement and views.
Please don't misunderstand. I am passionate about certain subjects, too. But the late Bob Briner pointed out in "Deadly Detours: Seven Noble Causes That Keep Christians from Changing the World" (Zondervan, 1996) that Christians can spend too much time, energy and money on political issues, such as abortion, the homosexual agenda, prayer in schools, television and family values. As uncomfortable as he admits he was to write the book, he argues that the end result is we waste resources that can be better utilized in sharing Christ with and being Christ for a lost world.
What if our churches were scrutinized in the same way we look at candidates? How is your church seen in your community? What is its track record? Is it attractive? Is it a warm church? Does it care for, even fight for, all people? Does it sling mud at those who oppose it? (Ouch.) Is it primarily known as the anti-(place an issue here) church? My fear is to one day find myself before the throne of God, having fought for and against political issues, and have Him ask, "But, what did you do for Me?"
This political season, each of our churches is a polling place, even if not in a physical sense. Let's encourage people to vote and not be afraid to discuss issues. Let's remember to pray for our leaders, regardless of who is elected, and keep in mind to not lose sight of our true first allegiance.