In my humble opinion, the congressmen who first came up with the idea of allowing churches to sanctify one political party over another without losing their tax-exempt status have been standing in the sun way too long.
I can think of nothing that could destroy a church quicker than indulging in partisan politics, including making donations to a particular party or candidate.
Yet our own Congressman Walter Jones, who usually has his head on straight, is one of the sponsors of such a bill.
According to the proposed legislation, churches could donate up to 20 percent of their revenue to political causes or up to 5 percent to particular candidates.
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Dr. William Simpson, retired minister of Edenton Street United Methodist Church, when asked what he thought of the proposal, said, “I see it as a violation of the separation of church and state. Some conservative churches have come very close to endorsing particular candidates. I do think it would do irreparable damage to many congregations. “
Even under the best of circumstances, partisan politics from the pulpit would be poisonous, if not fatal.
As many a minister can tell you, it doesn’t take much to split a congregation and sometimes consequently doom a church financially.
I remember an anecdote involving a motorist who stopped for gas at a service station in a Tennessee town.
As he gassed up, he noticed two Baptist churches across the street from the station.
He asked the station attendant for an explanation.
“Well,” the fellow drawled, “there used to be just one church. But the congregation split up. Now, one of the churches believes that Pharaoh’s daughter found the Baby Moses in the bulrushes. The other church believes that Pharaoh’s daughter SAID she found Baby Moses in the bulrushes.”
Political preferences can be as divisive as religious beliefs. When I announced to my almost universally Baptist relatives that I was marrying a Methodist, there were some misgivings. I didn’t dare mention that she also came from a strong Democratic family.
Mixing politics and religion would soon find one side of the church occupied by Democrats, with Republicans sitting together across the aisle. And the first time a preacher was foolish enough to endorse a candidate, either openly or subtly, half the members would bolt from the church, taking their pledge cards with them.
My wife, the retired English and speech prof, almost fainted away when she saw the error.
I had misquoted the line from Shakespeare. I had written that “The quality of mercy is not strain’d. It droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven.” The line should have read “It droppeth AS the gentle rain from heaven.”
Exasperated, I said, “For every reader who catches that misquote, I will give you $50!!”
Her purse is not bulging with $50s.
Anyway, the quote prompted reader Terry Henderson to respond.
“The Durham police officer’s kindness should have been on the front page,” he wrote. “The quote I would match it with reads: ‘How far that little candle throws its beams; So shines a good deed in a weary world.’ ”
I love small towns.
A favorite is Beulaville on our path to Indian Beach. On the way home, we usually stop there for lunch.
Beulaville is spotlessly clean, free of traffic jams and exudes an air of tranquility. The natives we encounter in the restaurant are consistently friendly.
One of my favorite small towns, of course, is my own hometown of Dobson, in the foothills.
One of my readers once left U.S. 52, which leads to Mount Airy and beyond, just to visit the little town of less than 2,000 souls.
“You’ve written so much about your hometown we took a detour just to see it,” he wrote. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but there’s no THERE there.”
I reminded him that when it comes to someone’s hometown, the THERE is not visible. It resides in the heart.
I recently visited the Dobson website to read the visitor reviews and was amused by one that read simply, “Will someone please give me the name of a good Dobson lawyer who plays golf with the local judge?”