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Church and politics

Christianity Today’s weblog sheds a little light on the, ahem, big story about political conflict in a N.C Baptist Church. You know the one getting headlines for supposedly expelling Kerry voters. Here’s a side of the story you probably hadn’t heard:

As it turns out, though, the debate is more about the new demographics of the congregation than it is about IRS standing.

"The storm that hit the church … divided it along generational lines," The News & Observer’s Yonat Shimron explains. "Many of the older members are traditionally Democrats, though some have voted Republican in recent elections. Many of the newest and youngest members have always been Republicans. In this, the church reflected Southern voting habits that have dramatically embraced the Republican Party in recent decades."

Chandler, by the way, is 33. Those reportedly "kicked out" of the church are about twice his age, and they’re not crazy about these kids today, what with their conservative ideas and such.

"A lot of these young people had not been in the church more than a year," Maxine Osborne, 70, told The News & Observer. Chandler and his wife, she said, "brought in a lot of young people, but they also brainwashed them."

Chandler, by the way,
resigned, apparently taking a number of church members with him.

Gee, generational conflict in a church? Never heard of such a thing! No wonder it was front page news!

Discussions - 7 Comments

You just gave this a hell of a whitewash. The things you mentioned have no bearing on the issue. Sure there is a generational conflict revolving around politics. Hardy interesting. However, that the pastor made such provocative statements is the key. This isn’t a young versus old issue. It’s a pastor handing down a political mandate.

Mr. Pelger,

I assumed that everyone had read the other stories, which focused almost exclusively on the alleged political conflict, about which (apparently) there’s somewhat less clarity than the stories would have us believe. We seem to have a "they said"/"they said" conflict about what he actually said. Did he cross the line? I don’t know. Did the national press make a mountain out of a molehill? Without a doubt.

There is, by the way, conflict in a local (Atlanta), quite liberal church over whether or not to tear down an arguably historically and architecturally significant building on the church property. The "preservativionists" in the congregation were apparently invited to leave and told not to set foot on church property again. Since this doesn’t fit the storyline about conservative evangelical "politicization of religion," it gets only local attention.

It’s unfortunate but inevitable that there is conflict in churches and that there are fallible human beings (including preachers) who get carried away by their passions. That little Baptist church in North Carolina doesn’t merit the national attention it has gotten, but it does provide an anecdote for those hostile to or suspicious of the conservative side of our current culture war.

Mr. Knippenberg, I don’t think that your comparison of the Atlanta church issue to the N. Carolina church issue is a good one. A large portion of Americans have some interest and concern about who became POTUS in the last election, and the tax-exempt status of the N.C. church is also at issue. Now, it might well have been very wrong for the leadership at the liberal Atlanta church to give the boot to its parishioners over the bldg. demolition issue (if this is what occurred - let’s be equally skeptical of the claims in both cases) but, seeing as most papers can’t be 300 pages, with an entire section divided to locally-oriented church issues, and the fact that few people outside Atlanta would find this story very interesting or of earth-shattering significance compared to partisan presidential politics, I think the press coverage it received may have been pretty reasonable. And the hints at liberal-MSM bias in filtering out the story just don’t wash. You say that the N.C. case "does provide an anecdote for those hostile to or suspicious of the conservative side of our current culture war." Sure it does - and I think that, to play along with your black/white assessment, those hostile to or suspicious of the "liberal" side of our current culture war are more than happy to utilize their own pieces of anecdotal evidence as well, for better or worse.

Mr. Knippenberg just filled in some of the details. Why the fuss?

M.E.S.,

My post was intended to suggest that the whole story did not come out in the national press and that, indeed, the whole story is still far from clear. The alleged behavior of a preacher in a small congregation has received more attention than anyone bargained for because it can be cast so as to fit a storyline: conservative evangelical politicization of religion. Too bad for the preacher and the congregation, whose all-too-human faults have been magnified and distorted by those looking to score political points.

The apparently much more complicated truth is certainly less newsworthy.

I would like to see the MSM take a look at certain Black Baptist and AME Churches that essentially cross the same line that this NC Church crossed. Don’t even tell me they don’t do it.

Here’s what the Rev. Chan Chandler said. I think it speaks for itself -

"Let me just say this right now. If you vote for John Kerry this year, you need to repent or resign."

It’s despicable!!

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