Jim Carlin Invited Me to Lunch

On Sunday morning, I walked into my office to see the message light on my phone calmly blinking away. I expected it to be a message from someone in my congregation. Instead, it was a message from a staffer for Iowa State Senator Jim Carlin. She was inviting me to a lunch with other clergy, at the Pizza Ranch in a nearby city, to meet the candidate.

And she kept emphasizing that he is a Christian. And he’s a conservative. And he’s a Christian. And he’s inviting pastors from all over the area. And he’s a Christian.

She had a list of churches to call. She called those churches and spoke to the pastors, or she spoke to the administrators, or she left a message. And that list assumed that pastors would be interested in having lunch with Jim Carlin. A man who is a Christian. And a conservative. And a Christian.

A man who is sponsoring IA SF167, which prohibits kindergarten classes from teaching about gender identity.

A man who is sponsoring IA SF224, which requires the people in schools to use the bathroom that matches their birth certificates.

A man who is sponsoring IA SF377, which prohibits the vast majority of abortions after twelve weeks.

A man who is sponsoring IA SF402, which prohibits state entities from entering contracts with companies that “censor” online content.

A man who is sponsoring IA SJR2, which “clarifies” that the state constitution does not include anything that might be understood to protect the right to an abortion.

A man who has said, in public, that the 2020 election was stolen:

“Most of us in my caucus, the Republican caucus, believe the election was stolen,” Iowa Republican State Senator Jim Carlin said during a debate over the bill that Reynolds eventually signed. “Who believes that Joe Biden got 12 million more votes than Barack Obama on his best day? I don’t.”
State Senator Jim Carlin
State Senator Jim Carlin

And so on.

None of that is to say that he isn’t also sponsoring good bills. It’s just that this is the candidate who thinks that he should invite clergy to lunch at Pizza Ranch so that we can all meet. And he thinks that because he thinks that most churches—and most clergy—would be okay with this.

And I think that, by itself, is a sad commentary on the state of the church.

I appreciate that a candidate has reached out. And I appreciate that some poor staffer had to call a lot of churches and extend these invitations. But I am irritated that that this is the candidate who reached out. And I am irritated that I am so certain that this candidate reached out precisely because he believes that most churches—and most clergy—are just as homophobic, transphobic, anti-abortion, and so on as he is.

And I am irritated that he’s probably right.

Now, here’s the thing: I am not going to go to this lunch. I’m not going to go because, while I sometimes go to partisan events as a person, I do not go to partisan events as a pastor. I believe in the separation of church and state; I believe that I have a duty to minister to Republicans and Democrats and everyone else with neither fear nor favor; and I believe that attending partisan events as a pastor would make people think that I won’t live up to that duty.

But, if I did go, it would not turn out like this candidate or his poor staffer are expecting. Because I would not applaud many of the bills that he is sponsoring or that he has voted for. I would speak against them. And I would ask him the questions that I wish that every candidate who is claiming to follow Christ would answer:

What is your good news for the poor? How will you proclaim release to captives? How will you free the oppressed? How will you feed the hungry and ensure that the thirsty have something to drink? How will welcome strangers and clothe the naked? How will care for the sick and embrace people in prison?

Where, in short, will I find Christ in your platform?

And also, just out of curiosity, why are you expecting me to pay for my own lunch at Pizza Ranch?

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