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Bradley  Whitford

Bradley Whitford

Posted: December 4, 2005 04:47 PM

Get The IRS Out of My Church


I have been a member of the All Saints Church in Pasadena for over ten years. The recent revelations of an IRS investigation into its non-profit status as the result of a sermon given a week before the last presidential election by Rector Emeritus George Regas has outraged and galvanized our congregation.

The support we have received from across the spectrum of faith communities, including traditionally conservative evangelical leaders, has solidified our resolve—the United States government has no place in our houses of worship, and the selective targeting of churches who speak out on the issues of the day sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the religious freedom of every citizen.

The sermon in question explicitly refused to endorse a particular candidate. It did, however, hold George Bush and John Kerry up to the high standard of Christian values. Both were found wanting.

Values not put into action are meaningless, no matter how lofty they are. It is the obligation of our spiritual leaders to not just articulate those values, but to make them a reality.

We live in an age where describing oneself as a “person of faith” carries with it a tremendous political advantage. But too often in the public arena, being “religious” is defined only as a search for personal salvation and a willingness to adhere to dogma.

Declaring oneself a Christian is easy. Putting Christian values to work in a dangerous and violent world is not.

Perhaps the best response to the tragedy of 9/11 was a preemptive war against a country that had nothing to do with the attacks. Tens of thousands of deaths later, perhaps it is still the right decision.

But it is not Christian.

Perhaps it is good economics to give me, an actor on a television show, over a quarter of a million dollars in tax relief over the last five years as the poverty rate climbs, as we burden our children with structural budget deficits and cut services for our most vulnerable citizens.

But it is not Christian.

Perhaps the death penalty is an acceptable way to punish criminals.

But it is not Christian.

Jesus Christ was the Prince of Peace, not the Prince of Preemptive War. He was an advocate for the poor, not of supply-side economics. And let’s not forget that Jesus himself died in a bogus death-penalty rap. His was the original “bleeding heart,” yet I am afraid he would be described pejoratively by many today as a “do-gooder.”

President Bush proudly proclaims himself a Christian and tells us that his faith has changed his heart. Perhaps one day his faith will change his policies. Until then, I am proud to be a part of a congregation that seeks to hold all public officials to their easy— and too often empty—proclamations of faith.