Michael Kennedy does not speak for all Christians in this community, nor does the local political figure he holds up as his theological champion represent all of the faith leaders in Bakersfield. The idea that my personal opinions, political loyalties and theological convictions as a Christian senior pastor should somehow speak for every Christian in this city is, to me, reprehensible. For anyone to believe such a thing seems to me a shameful stretch of one's sense of theological and political self-importance. Obviously, Kennedy ("We need leaders who will weigh needs of constituents honestly," Community Voices, Aug. 28) lacks this sense of shame.
Unlike Kennedy, many of us who serve as pastors from a multiplicity of mainline denominations neither consider our faith epitomized by the act of hanging the motto "In God We Trust" in public buildings, nor do we feel that our theological opinions should be forced upon those of other faiths and non-faiths. Our faith and values in this community are historically, spiritually and theologically deeper than this hanging token-of-faith, which seems to be of the utmost importance to Kennedy. If this is his opinion of what it means to uphold "conservative values," then he has no understanding of the theological bedrock that many of us in this community hold most dear: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." His theology is clear: "My way or the highway."
I know Michael Rubio. I know him as a person of faith with a deep conviction to do what is just for Kern County and the state of California. Kennedy most likely knows him only as state Sen. Michael Rubio. The difference between his knowledge of Rubio and mine is that I have watched Rubio struggle behind the scenes to do what his convictions tell him is right for the future of this county and state, knowing that one side or another will attack him regardless of what he decides is best. My faith teaches me that as a pastor I should recognize this struggle of our political leaders and that I should pray for them -- not butcher them in the newspaper.
I do not always agree with Rubio, just as I do not agree with Kennedy's opinions of him, but I deeply respect that Rubio is willing to walk away from political battles over hanging religious signs in public places and step into the wilderness of Sacramento political wrangling during a worldwide economic crisis. That to me is courageous. Rubio has done this while staying intimately connected to the social, political and economic pulse of Bakersfield. He has responded by helping prepare future leaders for local and state leadership while taking a stand, knowing no answer will ever make everyone happy.
For Kennedy, this means Rubio has a "God complex." Many of us who actually know Rubio see his actions as a clear demonstration that he cares about the community he serves. But because Rubio refuses to get involved in furthering Kennedy's theological and political crusades, he is apparently not Kennedy's kind of leader.
Kennedy "seems" to have all the answers to matters of faith, economics and politics, and he has taken it upon himself to speak for us all. I have never heard Rubio speak with such a shameless sense of self-importance and entitlement. If there is anyone with a God complex here, it is Kennedy.
Fernando Jara of Bakersfield is the pastor of RockHill Disciples of Christ and executive director of RockHill Farm. The opinions expressed here are his alone. Another View presents a critical response to a previous editorial, column or news story.