I stay away from answering those questions, but I had to perk up when I heard about Jane Norton, Republic primary candidate for one of Colorado's U.S. Senate seats against incumbent Michael Bennett.
Aside from the press packaging and comparisons to Sarah Palin, Norton appears to be a run-of-the-mill Republican who has adopted (seemingly) every party plank from start to finish. What made me curious is Norton is also a member of the Smoky Hill Vineyard in Centennial, Colo.
I'm not aware of any current Vineyard members in U.S. Congress. There could be one but I've not heard of it. Conceivably, if elected (and there is some doubt she will win the primary, much less the election), she would become the most politically powerful Vineyard member I know of. Only Bill McCartney, founder of Promise Keepers and former Colorado football coach, might've had more political influence.
I'm not really in favor of this because it causes the Vineyard to answer political questions I don't think our organization is really meant to answer. For example, here's how Linda Hirshman portrayed Norton and our organization:
Like Palin, Norton actively participates in a Pentacostal house of worship; she belongs to the Smoky Hill Vineyard Church. The pastor, Greg Thompson, says “of course” the church “is pro-life” and “believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.” The Vineyard movement has produced much writing and speaking against abortions and in favor of loving homosexuals so strongly that they'll abandon their sexual "attractions."Have we? I was not aware of that.
One of the things that made me feel comfortable with the Vineyard was what I perceived to be an apolitical stance, unlike a certain denomination that likes to make headlines each year by trudging into the political arena with bold statements. I could never tolerate that. Politics tend to skew the Gospel message. I want an unadulterated Gospel message, one that does not require you to adopt a political view to assure salvation.
So it's surprising to me that (a) a pastor would be allowed to speak on politics for the entire movement and (b) the Vineyard has been positively identified with a political position.
I'm vaguely aware that Anaheim Vineyard was home to many pro-life rallies in the 80s, but to my knowledge that relationship is no longer there. I'm fully aware of the Vineyard's relationship to ex-gay organizations like Exodus International, part of a practice I find somewhat dubious and possibly harmful. But I don't want to get off point here. That's ministry. What the blogger above mentioned is akin to a political arm of my church affiliation, and that's discouraging if true.
Back to Norton ...
It's neither here nor there to me if she wins, and it won't have any impact that I can foresee on the Vineyard. But it did make me think what it would be like to be in that church, having someone I'm in fellowship with basically define who I am politically. Not on purpose, but that's how the media would work. I think that would be a great challenge for me and I confess, if it become a bright focus, I would face a difficult decision on how much I would want to be a part of that church.
One of my heroes, Greg Boyd, wrote an outstanding book called Myth of a Christian Nation. Before any of my Calvinist friends jump on me here, I'm still (still!) not endorsing Open Theism. But Boyd made so many strong points in favor of the Gospel I am happy to recommend that book to anyone who wants to understand my apolitical point of view.
Boyd aptly sums up the entire book in a few quotes:
The picture I get of God's kingdom is of people—tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen—following Jesus. If we understood that our one job is to replicate the outrageous humility of Calvary, I think we'd begin to see the world in a different way. Instead of other people being our enemies, we would see them as the very people we are called to serve .... You have to put down the Cross to pick up the Sword.
And that's the challenge I face when I see my own kind entering the field of politics. Not only do I have no interest in the sword, I don't want anyone to perceive me as carrying the sword. I don't want any mixed messages concerning what I'm about.