The decision by former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore to enter the race to be Alabama’s next governor ensures that the campaign will be filled with lots of God talk. Though Moore has stated the Ten Commandments will not be part of his campaign, it will be hard for him to keep that promise. After all, the only reason he has a platform from which to run for governor is the notoriety created by his public stand on the issue.
The present governor, Bob Riley, also brings a fairly visible faith to the contest, though not nearly as colorful and loud as Judge Moore’s. However, that may change. If the race for governor becomes a contest of piety, it will be hard for the governor not to flash his own creedal credentials.
It will be interesting to see how all this will impact the Democrats in the race. Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley, a United Methodist, and Don Sielgeman, a Catholic, are even more reticent than Riley about using their faith in political contests. If the Scriptures start flying, however, they may be forced to disclose their favorite memory verse.
Here’s an idea. Since everyone in the governor’s race so far is a Christian, why not allow Christian virtue and ethics to shape the tone and the content of the contest. If folks are intent on wearing Jesus on their sleeves, then let’s insist that Jesus be their guide.
For instance, since Christians are instructed to “love one another,” why don’t we call upon candidates in this race live up to that high ideal? No mean-spirited ads, no baseless accusations, no mudslinging. To do so would create the most atypical political campaign in <Alabama history, but it might be refreshing.
Also, since all the candidates are also Bible believers, why not get together with all the parties, open the New Testament and put together a platform that conforms to the teaching of Jesus.
For instance, remember the rich young ruler? Jesus told him that before he could become a follower he would need to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor.
Now I admit that is probably too radical for Alabama politics, but it does seem to suggest that Jesus was concerned about economic inequity. Those who have means should be willing to share with those who do not.
In that sense, the story could serve as a starting point for us to articulate a faithful response to Alabama’s grossly unfair tax code. I’m not suggesting that the top 20 percent of wage earners be forced to sell all they have and give it to the poor, but the percentages could be adjusted so that those who are least able to pay do not pay the most.
One of the by-products of Alabama’s sorry tax structure is its poorly funded public school system. Perhaps we should remind the candidates that Jesus had harsh words for anyone who causes a child to stumble. It seems to me that if we send children out into a difficult world poorly educated and ill-equipped to make a life simply because we want low property taxes, there may be a millstone in our future.
Of course, there are risks in politicizing the faith, even for justice causes. After all, the last time Jesus went out with a bunch of politicians, they killed him. One way or another, I worry that could happen again.
James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.