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Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Guest columnist

Question what you're told about faith-driven voters

Special to The Times

I was standing at the edge of the soccer field watching my daughter's game when another parent launched a post-mortem commentary on the election and those "right-wing Christian wackos."

That got me thinking. Would he lump me into that group because I go to church, read the Bible, pray, try to live a Christian life, and even — don't leave me now — vote for Republicans sometimes?

Commentators have been debating what the Democrats should do to reach people like me: Use more faith language, screen candidates for acceptability to red-state voters.

Nonsense. The wisest course for Democrats — and Republicans, too, for that matter — is to get to know and understand people who are driven in life by their faith beliefs. People who believe that truth can be discerned, that some things transcend this physical realm we touch and see every day.

Unfortunately, the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have helped create an image of Christians as narrow-minded, exclusionary, hate-filled loonies who don't understand the nuance and realities of life. Thankfully, Falwell and Robertson don't speak for most Christians — not even close.

So, who are Seattle's faith-driven values voters? How can we be "reached" by political candidates?

We take our faith and citizenship seriously. In fact, for many of us, our political views are shaped and guided by our religious faith.

We're not Bible-thumpers, but we read it, study it and believe it.

We don't preach hellfire and brimstone, but we acknowledge the power of sin in our lives, and its cunning ability to destroy relationships. Confession is something we do every week because we know who we really are and what the grace of God offers. This perspective gives us pause when we engage politically; we try to listen hard and seek understanding. We're well aware of our faults and biases.

We believe the core fundamentals of the Christian faith — that a loving God made the universe, created us in his image (we don't have a clue how he did that), and sent his son, Jesus, to be our savior. We easily embrace reason and science and see no conflict in that with our faith.

We look back at what Christians sparked in this country — the anti-slavery movement, women's suffrage, prison reform, the civil-rights revolution — and then ask ourselves what we should be doing today to make our city a better place.

We place significant value on personal responsibility and contributions to the community.

We try to teach our kids these things.

We worry about the vulgarity and coarseness of our culture and the "values" preached to our children day after day on television, in movies and magazines, and through music lyrics. We despair at the level of coarseness in our political discourse, too.

Admittedly, we struggle with a lot of pressing issues. We don't like abortion. We value the sacredness of marriage between a woman and man. We recognize that not everyone agrees with us and we know the law isn't a good mechanism to resolve these issues, but moral persuasion is.

We abhor racism and desire justice and fairness for all, especially in our courts, but also in our personal relationships. We're conflicted about capital punishment because all life is sacred. We value truth-telling and integrity.

We worry about America's foreign policy while, at the same time, we love our country.

We're leery of politicians who use God-words and quote Scripture. We can sense the natural sincerity of religious expression that comes from a deep, abiding faith. Yet, we have no problem with religious influence in our culture; in fact, we value it. Our religious pluralism is our strength.

Prior to the election, we held some classes at my church on Queen Anne Hill with the title, "How Would Jesus Vote?" We discussed God's special affinity for the poor and what that means for economic and social policy. We examined God's demand for justice. We talked about our responsibility as environmental stewards.

Is this what you thought so-called "values voters" talked about? Does the profile here fit with your notion of faith-driven voters?

Don't be alarmed, but there are faith-driven values voters living right here in this politically blue city. We don't have an eye in the middle of our foreheads; we're not foaming at the mouth. We vote Democrat and Republican. We love our city. We're your neighbors and co-workers.

The politicians who successfully engage with us on these values and ideals will win our votes, be they Democrats or Republicans.

Timothy Burgess is co-founder of a Seattle-based international advertising agency. He served 12 years on the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, is a former Seattle police detective, and a past chairman of the Queen Anne Community Council. He can be reached at tim.burgess@thedomaingroup.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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