WAYNESVILLE, N.C. May 7, 2005 —— Some in Pastor Chan Chandler’s flock wish he had a little less zeal for the GOP. Members of the small East Waynesville Baptist Church say Chandler led an effort to kick out congregants who didn’t support President Bush. Nine members were voted out at a Monday church meeting in this mountain town, about 120 miles west of Charlotte.

“He’s the kind of pastor who says do it my way or get out,” said Selma Morris, the former church treasurer. “He’s real negative all the time.”

During the presidential election last year, Chandler told the congregation that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry should either leave the church or repent, said former member Lorene Sutton.

Some church members left after Chandler made his ultimatum in October, Morris said.
The head of the North Carolina Democratic Party sharply criticized the pastor Friday, saying Chandler jeopardized his church’s tax-free status by openly supporting a candidate for president.

“If these reports are true, this minister is not only acting extremely inappropriately by injecting partisan politics into a house of worship, but he is also potentially breaking the law,” Chairman Jerry Meek said.

“He went on and on about how he’s going to bring politics up, and if we didn’t agree with him, we should leave,” Isaac Sutton told The News and Observer of Raleigh. “I think I deserve the right to vote for who I want to.” Sutton, a deacon who worshipped at East Waynesville Baptist Church for the past 12 years, said he and his wife were among the nine voted out.

Nine members were “excommunicated” and 40 other members of the 405 member church resigned in protest.

“One of the local women who got excommunicated said on TV that it was like a cult. Another man who got excommunicated said that the rest of the congregation stood up and applauded as the Democrats were told to leave.”
During last Sunday’s sermon, he acknowledged that church members were upset because he named people, says he’ll do it again because he has to according to the word of God.

[…] A former church treasurer says she’s at church to worship God and not the preacher.

Gee, I don’t know why people read news items like this and then hold Christians and the church up in ridicule. This has been an ongoing debate on my message board, so I thought that I would write about it. Once again, I’ll point out two things: one, we–as a church–are in danger of being defined more by who we are against rather than who we are for. Two, don’t make me apologize for idiots. Idiots who insist on getting behind a microphone and making it harder for the rest of us.

Look, I don’t believe in separating my politics from my spirituality. I am perfectly comfortable believing that one should inform the other, but it should be my spirituality informing my politics. Many problems arise when it is my politics informing my religion, a problem that has been plaguing this country for a while now, leading to a brand of religion that I’ve taken to calling “Imperial Christianity”.

Now, I’ve been on both sides of this issue. There are black churches that condemn Republicans as evil (and black Republicans as sell outs) and white churches that proclaim that the Republican agenda God’s agenda, and anyone against it amoral, irreligious, or anti-God. I’ve been to Republican and Democratic meetings and found them both attended by people who love this country and seek its best interests. And both opened their meetings in prayer, but this is Indiana.

I find “two-issue” thinking fairly boring. This country, and the world, are bigger than two issues. If we are going to have a platform based on our various Christian claims, we should have a broad platform that I bet crosses political lines. For example:

-God created us and tasked us with being stewards of creation. Shouldn’t environmentalism be a high priority then, politically?

-the Bible has hundreds upon hundreds of verses that say we are to be concerned about the poor, the widows, and the orphans. If we are to claim politics in the name of religion, shouldn’t our political agenda reflect an emphasis on helping the poor?

-homosexuality is a sin, I get that. However, isn’t adultery? If we are going to shape a true Defensive Marriage Amendment, which is the bigger threat to marriage: homosexuality or rampant adultery?

-abortion as birth control is heinous. Now, should we be lining up to yell at and condemn women who are in agony over this decision, or should we be putting feet to our faith and lining up to adopt “unwanted” children?

The important thing is that you’ve given honest and critical thought to who you’re voting for, as well as what you feel is (truly Biblically) correct when you decide to cast. Too often it boils down to a matter of picking the lesser of two evils on any candidate. However, I maintain that it takes more than two issues (abortion and an anti-homosexual agenda which smacks of legal bigotry) to form a moral platform.

Like I said, just a few thoughts. I’ve been told that I ought to read God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. From what I’ve learned about it, and in my continuing mission to please no one on either side of the aisle, I think I’ll be getting to this soon.