Interview: Talking about God and running for office, what it is about...by Peter Menkin
by Peter Menkin 11/21/2010 / Leadership
Many have asked of others and themselves if God and political office mix in the United States. Mostly, this issue as a question is formed when discussing separation of Church and State. Yet Americans expect their elected representatives to have a sense of faith, and even hold to a religion.
Not all do hold to a religion that is popular. In recent months there's been doubt about Barak Obama holding to the Christian faith, there's the charismatic and dynamic personality of The Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jr. (celebrated man of the cloth) who was friend and companion of The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (Christians, both.)
To go on with examples, the common belief is the American founding fathers were Christians, not Deists. In fact, frequent polls ask, is this a religious country, a Christian nation, this United States? Not to belabor the point, the reality is we like our religion private, but we believe our representatives and even President of the United States must be holders of Christian values that built Western Civilization.
Even in this Century, this decade, Americans continue the dialogue of religion and faith, goodness of national purpose, and being the good guys on the world stage. Has not even the Pope recently offered to the World that Europe was built on Christian values? It is a civilization we speak of here. Why can't the United States continue the dialogue of being the good guys?
In a quest to determine if God is still present in the United States' public office arena, this writer had the good fortune to interview a Reverend who steps forward testifying that the main strength in his life as person, candidate, and family man is with God as central focus. In fact, The Reverend Isaac Hayes in the Chicago, Illinois area in his interview by phone while in the midst of his campaign, and in the night of October just before the coming election, framed his run for Congressional office as a Reverend who is running for political office and God is important to him.
For this reason he is excellent candidate for answering questions on the lengthy series of topics that spring from questions like does God and political office mix, has faith a place in running for office, and where must Americans be when it comes to separation of Church and State--and seeking a Congressional seat.
In his own words, The Reverend Isaac Hayes tells us something about himself:
I am Isaac Hayes a community faith leader and candidate for U.S. House of Representatives in Illinois' 2nd Congressional District.
I grew up in the Woodlawn community on the South Side of Chicago. Ideals of faith, hard work and liberty influenced my childhood and would become the foundation of my passion for service. My mother was a choir director, my grandmother a Sunday school teacher and my dad was both a Reverend and a soldier in the United States Marine Corps.
Just before calling Reverend Isaac by phone, this writer perused the internet for news and discovered that in San Francisco, California gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown had made a statement on the subject of this same interview regarding his own God and political office mix. Quoted by the morning paper in San Francisco, The San Francisco Chronicle, Jerry Brown said:
"Well, there's a certain missionary component to trying to do good in the public realm that is parallel to doing good in the religious call. And civic engagement and public service at its best reflects the Christian commitment to do justice, seek mercy, and to be compassionate and to create a more just society. So those things -- they're certainly very different, profoundly different -- but there is a fundamental base in my earlier training that guides me as I do things in government and public service."
The reader may agree the answers to questions given below by The Reverend Isaac are more complete, even hold an authority of genuine belief, and comes to a response to the issue at hand (does God and public office mix, and importantly, is there legitimacy or even evidence of faith and running for office being practiced).
That you are running for Congress in the Chicago area against Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jr. is interesting, but that you are a Reverend as well makes it more so for it opens questions like, what brings a Reverend to run for political office? My understanding is you believe God is active in ways in your life that contribute to your running. Tell us something about these ways God is active?
I believe that as scripture says God orders the steps of his people, when I was an undergrad at Illinois State U, I cut my teeth in public service--as a member of the Black Student Union and the leading voice on campus for black students. So it was then that I knew that God had called me to be a public servant.What brought me to where we are today as a candidate for Congress was my involvement in the 2008 election for Illinois 1st Congressional District. You could liken it to a Call, like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah. It was a feeling. I didn't have a mystical experience. It was God's way of showing me what he called me to do and was to be long term.
Just to get some facts straight, what District are you running out of and do you know if there are other ministers of the cloth in Congress, especially ones you would be simpatico with? Any you admire particularly, and why?
I am running in Illinois' Second Congressional District. I am not certain there are any current Reverend's in the House of Representatives. My former pastor passed on this last Friday Bishop Arthur M. Brazierhe modeled for me how to be a religious and civic leader. He was one of the few Pastors in Chicago who welcomed Dr. King, he opened his Pulpit to Dr. King, and he pastored one of the largest congregations in the country with 20,000 parishioners. (The Apostolic Church of God. Barak Obama spoke there Father's Day 2008a Pentecostal church.) That's where I attend and work. I've been there three and a half years. He (Bishop Brazier) always emphasized our serving God through spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and our civic responsibility of equity and justice that the scripture calls for.
Tell us something of the Church you serve--like: Where is it located, how big is it, do congregants support you? And while we're talking Church in specific, do you have a favorite hymn, and does it speak to you in a special way in your campaign? How so?
My Church is in the South Side of Chicago, near the Museum of Science and Industry. I wouldn't say there is anything specific about a minister running. I don't think there is something special about my district that would make a Reverend run, but people just want honesty and integrity in their elective officials because the last three congressmen, including the current one, have had scandals. That's probably where the Christian values help out.
Absolutely: I have overwhelming support from members of my congregation. Absolutely: the religious community as a whole supports my candidacy.
How Great Thou Art has to be one of my favorite hymns. I would say Yes, this campaign has always been a leap of faith and I knew the only way I could win it is with an act of God. The revelation regarding my opponents extra marital affair would be in the category because it was information previously unknown, but led to many Christians supporting my campaign as a result.
Of course there are issues in the campaign, and you have spoken to them on a number of occasions. I believe honesty in office is one of them. Will you tell us something of that, but more, tell us what your faith and Church teachings say of the meaning of honestyas value, of course. But will you tell us where we might look in the Bible to find a reference to your meaning of honesty as you've used it in the campaign?
My campaign slogan is honesty-integrity. I believe honesty is encapsulated in integrity.I promote Christian character and values, and so the integrity piece of that is to live consistently with the values I am promoting. So the benefit to my future constituents is that what they've experienced the last thirty years will come to an end. Honesty is being truthful when it benefits you and when it doesn't benefit you: There was Christ when his life hung in the balance, and he was asked are you the Christ; the disciples in Acts who faced persecution stood up for what they believed. In the context of public service where politicians embellish the issues, people who have embellished their records have lost the trust and confidence of some of the voters. The practice of the Church at the time of Ananias, who at that time was a member of the Church community when members would sell their possessions and give the total proceeds to the Church Community Ananias and Sapphira said they'd given all their proceeds to the Church Community, but in fact did not. The result was they were struck dead.
Does Christ play a part in your campaign?
Yes, he does because I try to live my life according to his teachings. His message about when we help those in need, when we visit the sick and those who are in prison he considers those acts of kindness given unto him. The character parts of Christ's teachings are how I try to live my life, and help the least of us in our society. I suppose also a way [Christ plays a part in my campaign is] this idea of rewarding risk and hard work as played out in the Parable of the Talents.
In visiting the website of your ChurchI note you are listed as an Elder. What is an Elder? Why are you not listed as Reverend? Where were you ordained, and did you go to seminary?
In the organization that we were originally a part of, which was the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World,ordained Ministers are given the title Elder. The organization had its own training curriculum you are required to go through to receive ordination. I am currently a student of M.Div. at Moody Theological Seminary, previously called Moody Bible Institute. It is north of the Loop in downtown Chicago.
Tell us something of your family, and how they support you in your campaign work. Is it possible to keep your Church work if you are elected, and what does your wife and family think of this change? Is there something special or additional a minister can bring to an elected office, in particular that of Congressman?
My family does support me 100%; they have contributed financially, they volunteer, and they are constantly lifting me up in prayer. [As a Congressman]I would no longer have my job as an employee of the Church, but I would still be an ordained Elder in the Church. I would still be home in the District (home on Sundays), instead of in the District.
The heart of my argument is that a minister can bring values that will protect the sanctity of human light, the sanctity of original marriage.
If you have given a sermon during the campaign, did you mention your run for office to let the congregation know what you were doing? Tell us something of that sermon, or if not a sermon, tell us what you've told the congregation about your reasons for running for Congressman in the Chicago, Illinois area.
Not a sermon, but I did speak about my run for office in the context of God having plans for our lives that we would not have anticipated for ourselves.
If there is another value based reason for your running, and you've said something about it in public, tell readers about that value set, please. Have you had any questions regarding values from the public, especially the instance of honesty, and can you tell us about what was said?
My whole election has been about honesty and character as related to the ex-Governor Rod Blagoyevich scandal. In the context, that was one, and his extra marital affair.My statement has been, if his opponent cannot keep his commitment to those he says he loves, how can he keep his commitments to people in whom he has no vested interest. I've been asked why do I want to run for this seat considering the last three congressmen. I asked myself the same question, jokingly. But that's the reason I am running, because of all the controversy that is taking place.
That covers the questions I have for you Reverend Isaacs. If you want to add something more, or have some other answer or statement you'd like to make, please do.
I liken my run for congress to the story of David and Goliath. I believe I'll be victorious as David was--on November 2.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jr., Democrat and incumbent Congressman holding the seat The Reverend Isaac seeks, was just recently a visitor to the Apostolic Church Of God to say a few words concerning the death of its longtime Pastor, Bishop Arthur M. Brazier (a fine preacher who died in his 80s). Because it is the Church The Reverend Isaac Hayes serves (he works there as an employee), and because Bishop Brazier is an important figure in Chicago and mostly important to Reverend Isaac, herewith a YouTube is posted with the interview showing the Bishop giving a sermon.
Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA where he writes poetry. He is an Oblate of Immaculate Heart Hermitage, Big Sur, CA and that means he is a Camaldoli Benedictine. He is 64 years of age as of 2010.