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July 01, 2006

"Church Politics"

by Mark Silk

A vivid portrait of the internal dynamics of evangelical church politics was sketched by a woman in suburban Atlanta whose Baptist church became one of the organizational cogs for the 2002 Republican victory. Here, from my e-mail correspondence with her, is some of what she described:

The “in crowd” at my church is all Republican and regularly encourage [sic] others in the church to attend the Christian Coalition meetings and rallies. They also ask for volunteers to help them in the election campaigns of Republican candidates. The Deacons and Pastor invite Republican candidates to come speak at our church, but never invite Democrats . . . .

In all meals or meetings in the Church Fellowship Hall, whenever talk turns to politics and current affairs, the Church leaders always point out that the Republican Party is the one that represents “Christian values” and “Christian people” should always support them. During the Clinton presidency, there were 8 years of demonizing him and all things Democratic. If I ever spoke up in defense of a Democratic politician, I was talked down and sometimes actually yelled at by red-faced Deacons saying that the Democrats are the work of the devil . . . .

Sunday morning before an election day, the so-called Christian Coalition’s Voter Guide is distributed in the vestibule of my church. The preacher always makes an announcement about it and exhorts everyone to be sure to pick one up as they leave the sanctuary. There is always a stack of these “voter guides” (which amount to Republican tickets) left in the vestibule, easily available to voters when they come to vote on Tuesday . . . .

The Republican political activities continue year-round, no matter whether an election year or not. For an example . . . a so-called “Families & Freedom Rally” was held at Mt. Vernon Baptist [January 25, 2003]. This was a fundrais er for “little people” at a cost of $20 per head. The program consisted of all Republican elected officials . . . . The Mt. Vernon Baptist Church is used for many of the “Christian Coalition” meetings; it is a huge church (about 3,000 members I believe) and has plenty of room to accommodate these sorts of Republican political rallies . . . . My own church actually sent a church van to carry people to this event, as they do for most of these things.—MS

As published in Human Rights, Summer 2006, Volume 33, Number 3, p.10.

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is director of the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. He edits the center's magazine, Religion in the News.