A politician’s promise

politicsreligionPastor who opposes homosexuality may get Chicago City Council seat,” the Chicago Tribune reported with a mouthful of a headline (and that’s the shortened version).

I’m not sure what’s more unusual: an ordained minister being selected to fill a vacant council seat or a Chicago politicians who opposes extending marital rights to gays.

And there is plenty we could discuss in this article — from the copy editing of the lede (it’s the Rev., not Rev.) to the suggestion that a pastor’s sermons on homosexuality should be “uplifting.” But I want to focus on something more subtle.

First, though, the background.

Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus, pastor of New Life Covenant Church, is one of Chicago’s most influential Latino pastors and he’s looking at making the jump to a life in, but not of, politics. The current council representative for the 26th ward is leaving, and he’s picked De Jesus to succeed him. The reverend is waiting on mayoral approval, a mere formality, but already he’s stirring up a storm.

But, in a complicated blending of morality and politics, the pastor’s possible appointment has drawn protests from gay activists who object to other rhetoric used in De Jesus’ church that they say is not as uplifting — messages equating homosexuality with drug addiction and other social ills.

The activists call De Jesus “homophobic.” They worry that his appointment would give him the ability to control funds for agencies that serve gay clients and a platform to shape broader debates such as same-sex marriage.

De Jesus says that he has never preached hatred of gay people and that his church’s opposition to homosexuality is rooted in a literal interpretation of the Bible.

Fascinating, but not what grabbed my attention. A few paragraphs later, after building up that De Jesus’ religious beliefs make him too controversial, the Tribune reporter writes:

In an interview, De Jesus vowed to not let his religious beliefs influence his policy making. To reinforce his point, he even pledged to seek city funds for a proposed homeless shelter for gay teens in Humboldt Park.

“I would tell [critics]: Isn’t it ironic that you’re asking me to be tolerant and you’re intolerant to my beliefs. How is that?” he said. “We already know there are differences. Let’s put that to the side. What’s hurting our community today? Let’s focus on that.”

Granted, reporter Oscar Avila has asked De Jesus whether his reading of the Bible would play a role in his policy making and is merely putting De Jesus on the record as saying it would not. But that’s not enough.

It may be true that De Jesus would not vote against measures beneficial to gays simply because he believes that homosexuality is a sin before God. But that is different than saying De Jesus would leave God at the steps of City Hall.

When considering the consequences of citywide policies, how could a man who every Sunday, and throughout the week, separates right from wrong completely shut out the values from which he makes those evaluations? Whether As I stated in my introductory 5Q+1, religious beliefs influence everything. Sometimes indirectly, other times overtly. But the impetus is always there, even when a person won’t acknowledge that that is where their opinions are coming from.

And I think that goes double when you’re talking about a minister.

What, then, did De Jesus mean when he “vowed to not let his religious beliefs influence his policy making?”

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  • Jerry

    This story strikes me as people asking him to be a hypocrite. If he promises(?) to be one, then he’s OK (I guess). That’s my backward way of writing that I agree with your frame-of-reference in reviewing this story.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    There’s at least one other ordained minister involved in Chicago politics who is opposed to marital rights for gay couples: James Meeks.

  • dalea

    Finally, press coverage of a gay related issue that lets actual gay people speak. From the Trib:

    Julio Rodriguez, president of the Association of Latino Men for Action, a Chicago gay advocacy group, disputed De Jesus’ statements that his religious views are irrelevant when it comes to funding programs or events for gay constituents.

    “We don’t see how someone who has such a strong foundation with his church can separate his belief system [from] his public role, even though he thinks he can,” Rodriguez said.

    A former City Hall liaison to gays and lesbians, Kit Duffy, wrote the Windy City Times to warn: “If energized by this man’s hatred, [gays and lesbians] will most certainly organize in 2010 against anyone who has advocated for this misguided appointment.”

    This is a clear threat from a major Democratic voting block. I would argue that this same issue underlies all the Prop8 religious issues we have been discussing.