"I won't tell you how to vote. Just vote Christian," the Midwestern mega-church pastor announced from the pulpit to his flock of thousands.
The year was 2004 and unease had begun to blanket the nation. Questions regarding the "axis of evil" rhetoric were being raised. Many were surprised to learn that other countries considered America itself to embody the label.
We had a pro-life president and found ourselves engaged in a tremendously complex war. Believers were faced with the dissonant feeling that, in some ways, the truth had been stretched and our patriotism had been exploited.
It was a time when many felt our faith became unnecessarily tangled (and mangled) in the political arena. Evangelical Christians were expected to vote Republican, leaving believers who preferred the Democratic candidate scratching their heads, wondering where they might fit.
Four years have passed, but it doesn't appear that much has changed.
Ever since presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama took to the stage at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, the airwaves have been buzzing. Faith is being battered around the political arena once again.
But it will be a little more difficult for the same pastor to encourage his congregation to "vote Christian" in this presidential election. This time around, the candidates are not easily packaged.
John McCain is a pro-life candidate who, for the most part, has kept his personal faith private. His church attendance appears to be nominal.
Barack Obama is an evangelical Christian who supports a woman's right to choose an abortion. His church attendance at Trinity United Church of Christ, under the controversial leadership of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, has gotten Obama into some very hot water.
We all seem to be groping the proverbial elephant, deciding from our often limited perspectives what it means to be a person of faith. We latch onto issues and values we feel are most important and vote accordingly. But the issues ? like the candidates themselves ? are not easily categorized.
Many Christians use a candidate's stance on abortion as their religious/political "litmus test." While we should be deeply concerned about the choices women (and men) make regarding abortion, we need to consider other life-sustaining issues. We should be equally concerned about those throughout the world who ? because of poverty, war, ignorance, oppression or disease ? do not have access to health care, education or adequate nutrition.