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We can't let a Republican official use Christianity to 'lynch' someone

Maricopa County Republican official Shelby Busch told an audience that if Republican Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer were in the room with them, she would 'lynch him.'

Katie Sexton and Caleb Campbell
Opinion contributors

As pastors in the state of Arizona, we are concerned about the toxic polarization that has taken hold in our state and the weight it is adding to the souls of our neighbors.

A video recently surfaced that showed violent rhetoric toward an Arizona public servant. It deserves the rebuke of Christians in our state 鈥 and all people of goodwill.聽

Maricopa County Republican official Shelby Busch聽told an audience that if Republican Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer were in the room with them, she would 鈥渓ynch him.鈥

This was not only a call to violence. It is a term that carries a particularly disturbing connotation in the history of our country.聽

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer speaks on his relationship with Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone and the MCSO in the media room in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office headquarters in Phoenix on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.

The troubling mention of 'Christian' disagreements

Violent rhetoric of this kind has no place in Maricopa County or Arizona. With hate crimes on the rise and violent threats against public officials 鈥 especially election officials 鈥 at a dangerous high, this type of language is reprehensible and contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

Furthermore, Busch stated that there was because other officials can have "Christian" disagreements.

In the video, Busch contrasts Richer against a man in the audience who she says is a "good Christian man that believes what we believe." She said she could find "unity" with someone who agrees to "."

To be clear: No matter what types of disagreements Arizonans have, our religious tradition calls us to resolve them peacefully. Disagreements should never be resolved through violence, regardless of their extent.

Beyond the danger of this call to violence, the rhetoric of 鈥淐hristian" disagreements implies that Christians can treat non-Christians with less respect or dignity. This is contrary to the teaching of Jesus, who calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

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We can't manipulate religion to divide people

Busch鈥檚 comments can also give the impression that non-Christians should not serve in public office. This could not be further from the truth.

While we believe in strongly expressing our Christian beliefs in the public square and advocating for policies that reflect our values, religious tests for officeholders are a violation of the First Amendment.

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What鈥檚 more, we would embrace any politician who serves the public with integrity, honesty and fairness, regardless of their faith tradition.

To demand that public officials adhere to a single interpretation of a single religion is a betrayal of foundational American values.

Faith's tenets are love and compassion

The combative environment in Arizona politics stems largely from the lies about the 2020 election 鈥 and the demands that Arizona officials overturn the will of the people.

When individuals are willing to throw aside the results of a free and fair election 鈥 and silence the voices of the majority of their neighbors 鈥 these elements cultivate a dangerous environment for our democracy.聽

We are tired of this divisive violent rhetoric that manipulates our religious values, distorting the core tenets of compassion and understanding that define our faith.

As local church pastors, we invite our community to reject the path of violence and follow the way of Jesus, a path of peace, grace, love and truth.

As the Apostle Paul wrote to Christians living under the Roman Empire, 鈥淒o not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone鈥 (Romans 12:17-18).

The Rev. Katie Sexton has served as executive director of Arizona Faith Network since 2019 and has been an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) since 2014. The Rev. Caleb Campbell聽is lead pastor at Desert Springs Bible Church and author of 鈥淒isarming Leviathan: Loving Your Christian Nationalist Neighbor.鈥 Reach them at katie.sexton@azfaithnetwork.org and Caleb@dsbc.church. This column first appeared in The Arizona Republic.

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