Political Prostitution?


I am a Republican. I’ve never made that much of a secret. I struggle, however, the sometimes blind allegiance that the right wing evangelical block seems to give to the Republican Party. We often simply toe the line (status quo, if you will) without giving thought to the ramifications of our positions. Regardless of where the candidate falls, concerning their party affiliation, it has always seemed to me that we are obligated to vote based on biblical principles and expectations rather than traditional norms.

Just as I have been somewhat uneasy with the apparent selling of our collective Evangelical souls to the Republican Party, I am equally unsettled by the recent overtures by those within the Democratic Party toward the Evangelical voting block. In this recent CNN.com article, Claire Brinberg attempts to examine the importance of”religious” voters to the upcoming presidential election, specifically as it relates to candidates within the Democratic Party. Brinberg points out the many ways that Democrats are attempting to woo these voters. There is a quote, however, from Mara Vanderslice in the article, that highlights my trepidation in regards to the recent religious overhaul by these candidates. Vanderslice is a strategist working for the Democrats who is also an evangelical Christian. In regards to Democratic attempts to recruit evangelical voters she says:

“It has to be authentic. This is not about Jesus-ing up the party, so to speak … It just won’t work if it’s seen as a cynical ploy,”

In a nutshell, she has summed up my fears. Simply put, I don’t buy it. I don’t buy Democratic candidate’s recent endorsements of faith in their personal lives, specifically if this public affirmation has not been consistent up to this point. As an equal opportunity cynic, however, I also struggle to believe in the same faith endorsements from many Republican candidates. I find previous little practical support in the lifestyles of many of these politicians. I am reticent to accept the willingness of politicians to endorse religious conversions unless a change in their lives is apparent. Endorsements are nothing more than verbal platitudes, in my opinion, unless accompanied by actual behavior that supports their claims. These recent moves smack of another in a long line of political strategies to prostitute themselves for the benefit of the upcoming election. It is difficult to convince me that this is legitimate, particularly in light of the almost wholesale commitment to religious outreach practiced by all of the Democratic candidates. Either God has worked miraculously, much like in Acts 2, bringing about regeneration in the lives of all the candidates simultaneously, or this is another feeble attempt to garner political support. Unfortunately, I am inclined to believe the latter.

John Kerry made the claim in the last election that his religious faith was important to him but also claimed that it would not influence his decisions. That is not the kind of candidate I am looking for. I want a candidate who will be honest about their predispositions and particularly transparent about the influence that their religious convictions have on their voting record. This kind of vote gathering is particularly offensive to me, as it occurs in both the Democrats and the Republicans, because it occurs at the expense of the name and reputation of Jesus. I am almost convinced that the cavalier manner in which many politicians use Christ to stump for votes (much like they use their wives and/or children) is another example of slandering the name of Christ, not to mention an example of possibly taking the Lord’s name in vain.

I don’t need or want a candidate to convince me of his/her faith through their speeches, commercials, t-shirts or slogans. What I do need, however, is a candidate to expose me to their faith through their character-filled life which translates into moral, character-based decision-making which can lead our country forward.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

8 thoughts on “Political Prostitution?

  1. I agree. I don’t want to hear meaningless God-talk from political candidates, Democrat or Republican. But if said candidate’s faith is genuine, authentic, and sincere should they leave their religion at the front door?

    No.

    Here’s the rub. You don’t believe the top Democratic candidates for President are truly Christian….

    You wrote – “I don’t buy the Democratic candidate’s recent endorsements of faith in their personal lives. As I am an equal opportunity cynic, however, I struggle to believe in the same faith endorsements from Republican candidates as well.”

    Sheesh.

    It’s rather hard for me dismiss Barack Obama’s 1985 conversion (before he was a politician) as fake or not authentic. Similarly, it’s hard for me to question the faith of Mike Huckabee or rather recent recommitment of Sam Brownback. As someone who has worshipped with Senator Clinton at Foundry, it’s even harder for me to doubt her salvation.

    What practical support in their lifestyles are you looking for from these politicians? A “pro-life” voting record? If so, I’m sure that same cyncism applies to Faithful Democrats like myself who fill the pews every Sunday but don’t support the criminalization of abortion. What basis has led you to doubt the salvation of these men and women?

  2. BDW-

    I guess, in all transparency, that I don’t actually question their salvation but rather I am cynical of them constantly trotting out their faith as it often appears to be a political ploy.

    What causes, for me anyway, the greatest level of cynicism towards the Democratic candidates, is the previously held aversion to candid spiritual discussion that seems to have so conveniently disappeared in the face of political polls that support its disappearance.

    I realize that I have probably painted with too broad a brush to simply attempt to deny that any of the candidates have legitimate faith. However, I despise the use of their faith (legitimate or not) for political gain.

  3. BDW and Micah:

    Did either of you watch the CNN-YouTube Dem debate last night? I found it to be very enlightening in this area: CLinton, Obama, and Edwards were willing to pronounce their faith and their faithfulness to faith (forgive the allitteration), but were not willing to go all the way with it.

    I think this paraphrase (I’m not good at quoting from listening) of Edwards says it the best: “I have trouble with the gay marriage issue personally, but I won’t let my faith dictate my political policies.” I have a problem with this level of compartmentalization!

  4. Andy-

    I didn’t see it. Monday night is one of my significant sermon prep nights and I was buried in study last night. I read the reviews, however, and thought the same thing about Edwards response. It sounds oddly similiar to Kerry’s statements in the last election.

  5. Andy,

    I caught the rerun late last night. After getting hit with the gay marriage question posed by the Reverend, Edwards seemed to have difficulty articulating a cogent response. His answer was a nonanswer not to mention weak and confusing.

    Micah notes that Edwards sounded like Kerry. Maybe he did last night. And that was his fault. In a recent interview with David Kuo of BeliefNet, Edwards was asked the following:

    K: In 2004, John Kerry said that he wouldn’t let his faith affect his decision making. Does it affect yours?

    E: “Yes, it does. I do believe in the separation of church and state. But I don’t think separation of church and state means you have to be free from your faith. My faith informs everything I think and do. It’s part of my value system. And to suggest that I can somehow separate and divorce that from the rest of me is not possible.”

    I appreciated Obama’s thoughtful answer last night. He stated:

    O: “I am proud of my Christian faith. And it informs what I do. And I don’t think that people of any faith background should be prohibited from debating in the public square. But I am a strong believer in the separation of church and state….

    By the way, I support it not just for the state but also for the church, because that maintains our religious independence and that’s why we have such a thriving religious life. But what I also think is that we are under obligation in public life to translate our religious values into moral terms that all people can share, including those who are not believers. And that is how our democracy’s functioning, will continue to function. That’s what the founding fathers intended.”

    To me at least, it seems appropriate and necessary for an elected official to translate his or her religious values into moral terms that people can sure and that will further the common good.

    The statements made by the Top-Tier Democratic Candidates especially Obama clearly suggest that their thinking on the role of faith in the public policy process is completely in line with Democrats of the past like Mario Cuomo who displayed a coherent political philosophy regarding religious belief and public morality. See this recent post from Ben Cole on the same subject.

  6. BDW-

    Thanks for those quotes. I appreciate Obama’s claim that his faith colors his decision making. Faith that doesn’t seems less than genuine to me.

    I’m also not making a claim about Edwards in general, but am rather simply referring to the statement he is said to have made last night. In that particular instance he sounds frighteningly “Kerry-esque”

  7. Micah,

    Great post. You wrote, “In conclusion, I don’t need or want a candidate to convince me of his/her faith through their speeches, commercials, t-shirts or slogans. What I need, however, is a candidate to expose me to their faith through their character filled life which translates into moral, character based decision making which can lead our country forward.”

    If I understood you right, you’re looking for someone who acts on their faith (presumeably faith in Christ), and whose actions clearly resemble what they say their faith entails.

    Do you think that is discernable when looking at national elections? I kind of think that it is clearer to see real actions at the local level but when trying to discern what a national player believes, we are at the mercy of either the press or soundbites that the candidate gives.

    What do you think?

  8. Guy-

    I think you may be, unfortunately, right. I think the presence of too much spin and so many handlers may negate the opportunity to ever see through political smokescreens to really, honestly know a candidate.

    That’s sad, in my opinion.

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