If you don't believe religion and politics can mix, visit the volunteer fire department in Sardis, Miss. Here's how the conversation went one afternoon last month, from the jovial to the serious.
Presbyterian minister the Rev. David Smith drives up, and custom furniture builder Harry "Squeaky" Warner allows, "He'll run you over if he thinks you're a Methodist."
Jerry Sanford, the Baptist preacher, squints at Smith and says, "I got a gun and I'll shoot that Presbyterian guy over there, especially if he's talking politics."
Smith fiddles with the two Mont Blanc pens in his pocket but doesn't say much. He doesn't look worried.
About this time, Larry Davis, a sign installer, remarks to Warner: "I wish the war would end. We now got a lot of local people activated and over there. It's going pretty badly is what I read."
Warner: "You got to talk politics. A lot of young people are registering to vote. ..."
Sanford: "... How do you know that?"
Warner: "They talk to me. You know, it's all right to talk to young people. Won't kill you. Reverend, how you going to know what your congregation is thinking if you don't talk to them?"
A few amens and guffaws erupt from the gathering crowd of firefighters.
Sanford: "Baptists know better than to talk politics."
Warner: "We have to make a decision pretty soon about who we're going to vote for. We better be talking."