Wednesday, September 20, 2006

All Saints vs the IRS

Two days before the presidential election in November 2004, a guest pastor at All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA delivered what the IRS is calling an anti war sermon. It could cost the church it's tax exempt status.

The dispute centers on a sermon titled "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush" that Regas delivered as a guest pastor. Though he did not endorse a candidate, he said Jesus would condemn the Iraq war and Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war. "I believe Jesus would say to Bush and Kerry: `War is itself the most extreme form of terrorism. President Bush, you have not made dramatically clear what have been the human consequences of the war in Iraq,'" Regas said, according to a transcript.

Of course Jesus would! Love thy neighbor and all, when is war the preferred choice?

It's been too many years to count since I was a regular church goer. I blame that on my Catholic upbringing and those in the church that never inspired. So, when you meet a pastor who does inspire, you kind of wish you lived nearby. That's what I told the Reverend Ed Bacon of All Saints when I was fortunate enough to meet him in Crawford, TX in the summer of 2005. He had made the journey to the camp outside the president's ranch as so many others of us had. What is the Noble Cause? Why are our children dying? Bring them home NOW!

Reverend Bacon was there to present a petition to Gold Star mothers signed by members of his church supporting our trip to Crawford, supporting the pace movement that we were a part of. He found Lynn Braddach, mother of Travis, Michelle DeFord, mother of David and me, mother of Ken. He explained the petition and told us that his church sent love and warm wishes and support. We talked a bit about the antiwar stance that his church had made. I told him that I was still mad at God about Ken's death. He told me he understood. He is the kind of man you could trust with your faith; he's one of those people you meet along the journey who touches you and you will always remember that brief moment.

When I read about the IRS action against this church, this kind man in June 2005, I was annoyed. Less than 2 weeks before that same presidential election back in November 2004, I was in Washington DC to bury my only child at Arlington National Cemetery. 4 of us fallen away catholics who were in town for the funeral decided it would be a good idea to attend mass that weekend.

We decided we would go to the magnificent Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate on Michigan Avenue. This Catholic church is impressive and I know I felt uncomfortable being there. I wasn't sure I belonged. The altar boys were dressed alike. I wanted to shout at them "RUN! Run while you can!" remembering the horrendous molestation charges that the Catholic church was mishandling at that time. The priests (plural) were wearing matching outfits, too. The altar clothes matched the priests garb. The marble was imposing. I felt like the little kid I was when we visited one of the many massive European churches when my family lived in Europe. I did not, however, wear anything to cover my head as I had done so long before.

When the priest stood up before us and started his sermon, he told us that this was a week to honor missions. We all had a mission, he said. His voice boomed throughout the church telling us that our mission in the coming weeks was to vote. When we considered where to place our vote, we should listen to the voices of the unborn children and remember who supported a woman's choice and which candidate did not. My first thought's were that Kerry was the catholic and wasn't he playing on *our* team? I knew we were in a red part of the country, but this priest was clearly telling us to vote for Bush as sure as anything he said that day. I knew I did not belong to the catholic church anymore.

When I heard about the IRS investigation of All Saints Church in June 2005, I couldn't understand the disconnect. I still don't. California church speaking of moral issues = bad. DC church speaking of moral issues= good. Of course war and abortion are moral issues and they are both political, but the church is where people check in about their faith and seek guidance. These political judgments about moral issues is no surprise, of course. It's part of this administration's double standard. What's good for them is good even if it isn't good for anyone else.

When the IRS reprimanded the church, they asked that it promise to be more careful. Church officials refused. All Saints has been known as "a headquarters for political activity" since the 1970s. We need more churches and more brave pastors like this. It would be good for the soul of this country.

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