On March 26, a television station interviewed me right after I heard the debate at the Riffe Center in downtown Columbus between Christian-right Blackwell supporter, Rev. Russell Johnson of the Ohio Restoration Project and pastor of Fairfield Christian Church in Lancaster, Ohio, and Washington, DC based Left-wing Christian author and editor of Sojourner’s magazine, Rev. Jim Wallis. When pressed Wallis said he thinks Barack Obama exemplifies the progressive views he espouses, and he supports John Edwards for President in ’08. I truly hope I did not appear on TV and that they destroyed the tape. I think I was under the influence of euphoria of walking around in the enemy’s camp, being fed with tasty snacks from the Lancaster Church, and remaining alive. As proof that I was under some kind of “mushy let’s all just love each other” spell, as soon as I got to my truck, I snapped out of it, and thought. “Whoa! There is something more than meets the eye going on here!”

When I got home and read the glossy literature which the Restoration Project people handed out, that nagging feeling grew to outright concern, just short of a queasy feeling. This is definitely a get-out-the-vote for conservative/aka Republican candidates and punish those who do not agree with “our values.” (There were three glossy graphics of Ohio legislative regions, which I ripped out of their game plan notebook and am finding useful in my own political work.)

Yet there was some reconciliation and common ground expressed between the two sides. And clearly there were two sides, as were heard quite vocally whenever one side’s champion made a rhetorical point, such as Wallis saying, “ Of course Sadam Hussein at one point had weapons of mass destruction: we had the receipts!” or Johnson, “ No taxation without representation” in letting our children’s schools not teach intelligent design, which is against “academic freedom.”

There were also sincere efforts at finding common ground and destroying myths the sides hold about each other. Johnson said that his pro-life stance goes beyond birth, but his view that Iraq is a just war and that the “liberal media” has painted it as evil, and that even Abu Grab has been misrepresented (which elicited a loud and emotional outcry from a World Can’t Wait audience member, calling “torture an abomination”), makes me question how he determines just who has this right to life. He denied that he was in favor of theocracy for America but he wants the “Christian voice to be heard in the marketplace.” Johnson also gave ample evidence that his church people do, in fact, care for the poor and needy both locally and abroad.

While Wallis agreed that addressing poverty is central to a Christian biblical ethic, individuals and churches giving to the poor is not enough; poverty is a systemic evil related to the economy, health care, racism, and education, and must be rooted out with legislation and government involvement, as well as with individual compassionate actions. Wallis said that the biblical view, in his perspective, is that all life is sacred, at all stages of life. Regarding marriage, which Johnson finds weakened by the idea of gay marriage, Wallis said one could have a Christian ethic that allows all people civil equality, including gay people. He said that marriage is also sacred and he supports efforts to strengthen commitments in marriage, without scapegoating other people.

So what do I find truly scary and nausea-making about Johnson and his Restoration Project? It’s a marriage thing. An unholy alliance between his version of Christianity and right-wing politics. An unquestioning loyalty to Ken Blackwell while Johnson proclaims that he decries corruption in politics, blaming the media for smearing Republicans as dishonest. A commitment to politicians with whom they share their most important moral rules, which they somehow find in their bibles: homosexuals are perverts, abortion is murder, Islam is against God, the Iraq war is for spreading liberty, and creationism is theory that should be taught in the public schools. Since these are the most important values, then killing in war, tolerance toward others, creating legislation that gives all people equal rights and respect, protecting the environment, and peaceful co-existence within the world community don’t even come up in the moral playbook.

As a Christian pastor, I have read and studied my bible many times but I just can’t find much of anything to support these right-wing “values.”

What I do find is lots of passages about taking care of , and providing justice for, the poor, the stranger, and the disenfranchised—which, incidentally, gives us a biblical basis for stopping election fraud! I am hard-pressed to find this one man-one woman marriage; it seems that biblical examples are much more frequently a man with many wives or concubines, a man and a woman loving each other without a formal ceremony, single mothers, confirmed bachelors such as St. Paul, group living arrangements, grown brother and sisters, orphans, communes, eunuchs living together, aunts and nephews, mothers-in-law and children, owners and slaveboys, and even a few same-gendered primary relationships. I find a lot about one’s duty to honor and love friends, strangers, and family members of all sorts, and even to love oneself. And to love Jesus, whether one is male or female.

I find a few scriptures that say that male same-gendered sex, (never female, even in the oft right wing quoted Roman 1 passage, which does not state that the sex was between two women), as well as heterosexual sex, is wrong in the context of idolatry, and that idolatry is worshiping anything created rather than the creator. Idolatry is the big sin of both the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the New Testament. It is mentioned in the first two of the Ten Commandments and is condemned by Jesus, the Prophets, and the Christian Apostles. Idols can be institutions, which would include the church, laws of church or state, the bible itself, politicians, marriage, science itself, lofty ideas, businesses, wealth, status, forms of government, leaders, self, and even democracy itself. People of faith do not owe ultimate allegiance to anything other than their God. Of course these institutions and entities can be, and should be, tools for doing the work of God, which is always the work of love, in the world.

Wallis, while seeming to be an advocate for left-wing politics, clearly separates church and state, by saying that one’s faith should never be the servant of one’s politics. He notes that, “the biblical agenda is large, how large is our agenda?” Wallis says that the Democrats do not have an agenda that is clearly God’s either, and that like ML King, who never endorsed a candidate, prophets should stand in the “presence of the king” (or political leader), but never be “in the pocket of the king.”

My fear is that some political candidates and leaders have these right-wing people of faith in their pockets and that those who are sincere in their faith are being boondoggled. If they suspect what these leaders and candidates are really up to and yet still acquiesce by offering them their pulpits and unquestioning loyalty, God help them.

If even the faithful can be this deceived, perhaps the Fundy’s are right: the end of the world is near!

Marj Creech is a left-wing activist, voting reform fanatic, ordained minister, and pastor of a house church in Licking County.