Nacogdoches pastors, JFK's niece debate religion, politics

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
Dr. Allen Reed
Dr. Allen Reed
Rev, Steven Newton
Rev, Steven Newton

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - After several days of lecturing and special engagements at Stephen F. Austin State University, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the niece of President John F. Kennedy and the daughter of Robert Kennedy, is no longer in Nacogdoches.

She leaves behind a number of topics still worthy of discussion, including religion and politics.

Townsend, a Roman Catholic, talked about her book, "Failing America's Faithful."

"I criticize the right wing churches for shrinking God, so that they seem to care only about three issues; same sex marriage, stem cell research and abortion," Townsend said.

A sermon Dr. Allen Reed delivered in 2004 to Nacogdoches First Baptist Church was titled "Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage. It sets next to hundreds of other messages delivered over the years.

"If conservative, right-wing churches have only addressed those three issues it's because that's what the media has focused on," Reed, the pastor of Nacogdoches' First Baptist Church, said. "We're just responding to what is being shoved down our throats you might say."

To be fair, Townsend also had something to say about other churches.

"I criticize the left wing for not using the religious traditions to talk about what, how our country could be better," Townsend said. "Every progressive movement has had a religious underpinning."

The Rev. Steve Newton, the pastor of Nacogdoches' Westminster Presbyterian Church, said, "In the reformed tradition of Presbyterian Churches, we are very involved in social issues, and the reason we do it is because of our faith."

But Newton said he intentionally avoids controversial topics at the pulpit for a couple of reasons.

"Democrats in the church want to think their preacher is a democrat," Newton said. "Republicans in the church want to think the preacher is a republican, so I live on the fine line."

Newton said he discusses political issues when the listener can talk back.

"You want to talk about those things? Then do it in more of a public forum where people have the opportunity to share," Newton said.

Townsend left one more thought with a quote from her father, Robert Kennedy.

"Suppose God was black because usually people create God in their own image."

It's important to point out both First Baptist Church and Westminster Presbyterian in Nacogdoches are extremely active in social issues. Both organize, participate, and fund numerous social service missions locally and elsewhere, which may lead to another topic of discussion.

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