I try so hard to understand them. Really I do.
We were discussing the upcoming election — specifically the tight race for North Carolina’s 9th District congressional seat. I said I was pleased that Mark Harris, a good conservative, was running for the post after beating a wilting Republican insider, Robert Pittenger, in the primary.
“Oh, I could never vote for Harris,” my liberal friend said. “He’s a pastor, you know!” She whispered the word as if he were a secret child molester.
Taken aback, I asked what that has to do with anything. Why can’t a pastor be elected to a public office? “Oh, I believe in separation of church and state. It’s in the constitution, you know.”
“Where in the constitution does it say pastors can’t run for office?” I asked.
“Well, it doesn’t. But he shouldn’t be elected, because we need separation of church and state, ” she answered.
I had to press on. “The first amendment says the government can’t force any religion on citizens, but it doesn’t say there can’t be any sign of religion in public life. What do you mean by ‘separation of church and state?'”
“Well, you know, we can’t have religious people who will have an influence on government,” she said, her mental gears starting to clank.
“Why not?” I countered.
“Well, umm, you know, they will have influence.” Giving her credit, my leftist neighbor really did like to engage with me on our political differences, but she never seemed to put the brain in gear before letting out the clutch. “You know he thinks women should be subservient to men!” The “s” word was whispered again, like it should be a secret just between me and her.
I knew she was referring to the anti-Harris attack ad on television where that one sentence was pulled from one of Harris’ recent sermons. “Were you in church the Sunday that Harris gave that sermon?” I asked, knowing she wasn’t. “Well, I was [different church] and I can tell you that pretty much every pastor in the USA was giving the same sermon on the same day. It was a special nationwide effort to teach the Bible’s lesson about the relationship between men and women, and the role each plays in marriage. It was a beautiful message, and very supportive of women. He was doing his job, like every other pastor that Sunday. You just reacted to a sound bite clipped out of context.”
“Oh, well I didn’t know that, nobody knows that,” she mumbled. “But nobody should vote for him because of his Christian influence.”
I was just getting warmed up. “So it’s only Christian pastors who can’t be elected to office? What if a Muslim cleric ran for Congress? Would that be okay?”
“Well, that’s different . . . ” she started, but was unsure how to defend her apparent bias against Christians. “Separation of . . . “
“Let’s try this,” I continued. “What harm do you think a Christian pastor could do if elected to a public office?”
“Well . . . influence, er, policies . . . ” she stumbled, looking for a safe space.
“Isn’t that what every elected official does? Influence policies? Wouldn’t a teacher influence policies? Or a farmer? Or a business person? Don’t you want your representative to influence policies? Why not a pastor?”
I knew what was bouncing around in the back of her head – abortion! abortion! abortion!
“Are you worried about losing the right to kill babies?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t believe in killing babies,” she wobbled. “I just think women should have the right to choose.”
“Choose what? Do you mean the right to choose to kill babies?” I admit, I was starting to get growly.
“If you really believe in separation of church and state,” I said, “do you think it’s fair for the government to force a business owner to do something that is against his religious beliefs? Like bake a cake for a gay wedding?”
“Well, um. I’m going to have to think about that.”
Mission accomplished, I headed off to coach my grandson’s little league game. With another liberal friend, the assistant coach.
Sigh. A conservative’s work is never done.
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
The only one who could ever reach me
Was the son of a preacher man
The only one who could ever teach me
Was the son of a preacher man
Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield