Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Just in case y'all didn't know, I'm going to hell. So said a candidate for U.S. Senate in Oklahoma.

I interviewed Dennis Lopez, R-Thackerville, Okla., about his quest for a seat on the U.S. Senate. His run ended Tuesday night, when he came in fourth place among Republicans, with about 2.75 percent of the vote. I interviewed him a few weeks ago for our election coverage. When I asked him on what issues he would be running, he asked if I was a Christian.

"Excuse me?" I said.

"Are you a Christian?" he said. "Because if you're a Christian, you'd know what those issues are."

The interview did not go well. He continually asked about my soul, and whether I was saved. I told him the status of my soul didn't matter, because the voters of Oklahoma weren't interested in that. He said he was. I told him about my mom, who was a pastor with the United Methodist Church, and who has already done considerable work helping me understand God. He suggested that she might be mistaken on some things.

Eventually, those "Christian issues" came out. His intelligent, well-spoken thoughts about energy (we need to diversify, can't rely on just oil, we need to develop alternative energy sources, etc.) were drowned out by platforms of declaring homosexuality illegal, getting evolution out of classrooms and banning abortions. The conversation ended with him warning me that unless I was saved, I was destined for the fiery pits.

"At least the music is good down there," I said.

"That's a lie," he said.

I give Lopez a lot of credit. You'd think that a guy running for one of the highest offices in the land against an established incumbent would be a political machine. Instead, he spent a majority of the interview worried about whether I was going to heaven. In other words, he stayed true to his beliefs, and did what he thought he should, not what was the best for him. He didn't tell me to "go to hell," like he was ticked off. He didn't talk to me like I was an inarticulate heathen, or a college student walking between classes who has stopped to listen to a street preacher. He was genuinely worried about me. He sounded like he was going to pray for me.

Religiously, I'm a cross between an agnostic and a Methodist -- and what good Methodist doesn't have a strong agnostic side? I have felt the emotional rush from being "saved." I'm not so big on organized religions, however. I believe that no person on Earth can come between one and God. But my biggest struggle is with believing -- just believing. I've always been a skeptic at heart. My views on things change regularly, especially when presented with new information. I'm a trust-yet-verify kind of guy. A part of me wishes I could just believe without getting facts and truth. But I can't. That's not the way God made me, I would argue.

It's very easy of me to be jaded and skeptical about the actions of a loud minority of Christians -- especially when it comes to efforts of trying to control thought (i.e. the theory of intelligent design). It would be easy for me to dismiss Lopez as a wacko, religious Bible-thumper. But I can't believe that. Though I found his anti-homosexual, on-the-verge-of-fascism views repugnant, I can't shake how he sounded genuinely concerned about me and what would happen to my soul. Not everyone is willing to do what he did.

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Geez Joe, You always see the bright side when there isn't one. The guy should be worrying about his own soul and get out of politics. These kind of people don't want a democracy they want a theocracy--we've had this discussion. And its not your soul he's concerned about, it is power that he wants.
Hi Son: It's OK if you have trouble with believing because God believes in you!

Love, mom
It's people like donnao which foster intolerance. This man has as much rights to be involved in the political process as the biggest anti-God, anti-religion person. However, you can bet your house that donnao wouldn't say the anti-God person should get out of politics.

You wouldn't see someone standing up saying that a black person should get out of politics because they're a minority. They'd be called a bigot or racist. There's no difference if someone says that strong Christians shouldn't be able to be in public office.

As to your point, if that's his actual beliefs and he stuck with them then he was being more Christian than many in politics who compromise their beliefs for the sake of votes. It would be better for that guy (or anyone, really) to lose because of what they really believe than to win by going with the flow.
Jason: Donna was spot on. Lopez said as much in the interview. The things which he proposed were tantamount to a theocracy. Of course, that doesn't deny him his right to get involved.
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