Mountain Snail

Stuff Ballard Wrote

Tag: Conservative

How GOP conned Evangelicals

Daily Planet, 6/2016

My mother wasn’t known for surprises.   She lived on a straight line that went back to her South Georgia roots. But, oh my, did she spring one on us in the fall of 1980.

That year iIt was Carter versus Reagan, and we were all Carter people. My father was an old-time Roosevelt Democrat, and Jimmy is a distant cousin.

So Mom’s bomb at Sunday dinner shook things up.

“John says Ronald Reagan is God’s man,” she blurted into a pause in the conversation. “In his sermon he said this election is spiritual warfare.”

John was her pastor. We all knew him. My father called him a hustler, and maybe he was. He sure hustled Mom.

Looking back, we had no idea, sitting around that Sunday dinner table, that we were witnessing the beginning of something totally new in American politics. Millions of Christian soldiers were marching as to war on the side of the Republican Party.

This new phenomenon didn’t just happen by chance, though. Right-wing Republicans had coveted conservative evangelicals for years – their huge numbers, their zeal, their fundraising and direct mail capability.

Then in the spring of 1979, in a famous meeting in the coffee shop of the Lynchburg Holiday Inn, Jerry Falwell met with Paul Weyrich, founder of the pro-business, anti-tax, anti-regulation Heritage Foundation – and conservative evangelicals became Republicans. Falwell had originally said his flock wouldn’t accept religion mixed with politics, but Weyrich presented him with a poll that showed his flock definitely WOULD buy in.

That meeting marks the beginning of the “Christian Right” and the Moral Majority (Weyrich suggested the name) – and also marks the enlistment of Jerry Falwell as an activist in the Republican Party.   Falwell worked coast to coast for Ronald Reagan in 1980.

It was a marriage made in heaven, so to speak. The Weyrich right-wing faction was a clear minority in the Republican Party at the time.   Richard Nixon had been an economic moderate and accepted much of the New Deal and Great Society.

In Falwell, Weyrich found a partner already prepared. Falwell had been influenced by theologian Francis Schaeffer, who taught about America returning to its Christian roots, back to the way we were, as he saw it, back before “pluralistic secularism” (Schaeffer’s expression).  Falwell had held a series of “I Love America” rallies in 1976, mixing patriotism and “social concerns,” especially speaking against abortion and women’s liberation. Weyrich’s proposal gave him just the vehicle he wanted.

In reality, right-wing Republicans had no interest in evangelical issues. But in the Moral Majority, they had the foot soldiers to take over the Republican Party. And very soon, from precinct caucuses to state conventions, they did.

It goes without saying that the social changes that evangelicals want will never happen. The real power elites in the Republican Party – the super-rich and corporations and now Donald Trump – only give lip service. But the anti-tax, anti-regulation changes these elites want CAN happen. They just need the NUMBERS that evangelicals bring, voters ready to march.

So today we see ordinary working people out campaigning for Republican policies that are totally against their own personal well-being.

Rip Van Winkle would listen to a political discussion between conservative evangelicals in a restaurant, and he’d join them and say: “Let me get this straight. Y’all believe socialism is ‘godless’? My friends, it’s the capitalists who are paying y’all the minimum and not offering healthcare – so they can make more profit! And y’all are on the side of these greedy jerks?   Excuse me, folks, but that’s dopey.”

Why would working people back a party that favors big business and cuts budgets for education, that can help their children get ahead?

Why? To be blunt, they’ve been had, duped and hoodwinked. And worse, the scam is brought to them by people they trust.

A friend once said to me: “If I don’t follow what my pastor says, I’ll have to follow somebody else, won’t I?” To which I responded: “I guess so, Tom – unless of course you want to be responsible for your own beliefs and actions.”

 

 

 

 

Nobody owns The Flag

Daily Planet, 6/2015

A shopping website opens its display of American flags with this headline:

“Flags are a great way to display your Conservative values. Whether it’s a car flag, yard sign or traditional flag, display your values with one of our patriotic flags!”

There’s something terribly sad about this.   No, many sad things.

When a person flies an American flag, the headline says, it shows he or she is patriotic. And it implies that he’s MORE PATRIOTIC than other people. Otherwise, why make the show?

That’s the first sadness of the website headline:   that flying a flag says anything about a person’s political identity. In fact, 59% of Americans fly the flag – far, far more than the number of conservative Republicans. How do we know who is right-wing and who is other-wing?

Conservative Republicans are out there making a show of flying the flag, and everybody is supposed to understand they’re unusually patriotic.

It’s like saying the brass section of an orchestra, because they make the most noise, loves music more than the other, more subdued, musicians.

Conservative Republicans imagine they’re communicating their super-patriotic message to a waiting audience.

In fact, polls find that almost ALL Americans consider themselves patriotic. A Pew Research Center survey showed that only 6% of Americans see themselves as less patriotic than other Americans.

It would seem that conservative Republicans who display American flags to show something to the world are only showing to other conservative Republicans – a recognition symbol like the Red Strings in North Carolina during the Civil War.

Most Americans don’t see conservative Republicans as more patriotic – at least not as they understand patriotism.

That’s an important point. Many conservative Republicans DO understand patriotism in a different way from most people. And the dictionary does indeed recognize two meanings of the word “patriot.”

The first: “a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.” This applies to almost all Americans, including conservative Republicans.

The second definition: “a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.” The “patriots” in the American Revolution fit here. They were rebels and revolutionaries.

Many conservative Republicans also go under this definition. It’s a constant theme in the words of right-wingers.

In April, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz wrote: “The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution….serve(s) as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny – for the protection of liberty.” (Senator Lindsey Graham quipped, “Well, we tried that once in South Cartoon. I wouldn’t go down that road again.”)

This talk of insurrection fits in with regular right-wing messages, such as: “A patriot must always be ready to defend his freedom against his government.”   (Ironically, a quote from environmentalist Edward Abbey)

This kind of patriotism shouldn’t be called patriotism at all. Real patriots love their country, flaws and all. We’re citizens of a great democracy. We are of one soul around our great flag.

When somebody uses the American flag to DIVIDE us, he is not being patriotic. He is a selfish partisan.

I still the remember the rush I felt in the movie theater on Wallace Air Station in the Philippines many years ago. My family had lived for years in the mountains west of there and had come to feel that was our home. We were on vacation on Lingayen Gulf and decided to go over to Wallace for an American hamburger and shake. We also went to their movie, True Grit (John Wayne version). The theater darkened – and suddenly the American flag fluttered on the screen, with the Star-Spangled Banner.

We were far from America, but it was MY FLAG.   The awful war in Vietnam couldn’t dim the glory of MY COUNTRY! That wonderful flag stood for America’s long history of greatness – welcoming the world’s “tired and poor,” giving our young men to liberate others, helping our conquered enemies find democracy, making faraway disasters our own, greatness upon greatness.

Almost all Americans share that beautiful emotion.

The sadness of conservatism

Daily Planet, 3/2015

The word “conservative” doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

And 20 years from now, it won’t mean what it means today.

Let me give an example. A photograph came in my email. It had “gone viral,” as they say. (But then everything of a gee-whiz nature has gone viral before it reaches me. I’m the end of the viral line.)

The photo showed a young woman. She’s holding a thick “Holy Bible” crooked in her left arm and a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle pointing to the sky in her right hand.   An American flag hangs as backdrop.   She’s wearing a low-cut dress and a smirk.

She was described as a “conservative activist.”

In the months since the viral photo, the woman has been discredited in multiple ways – but the photo maintains its message.   An activist’s job is to light fires, and she chose her props to ignite her conservative audience: Bible, assault rifle, flag. She caused a stir because she was “in your face.”

Conservativism is, by nature, backward-looking and defensive.   The dictionary has this for “conservative”: “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.”

When we take a long, historical look at conservatism, we see many old lines that were drawn in the sand and abandoned, many gashes in the earth where heels were once dug in deep.

This is the essence of conservatism: strong opposition that melts away over time, followed by strong opposition to something else.

Conservative Republicans opposed Social Security in the 1930s. They called it “socialism.”

How many conservatives do you know today who would oppose Social Security? Not many.

Then in the early ‘60s, when Democrats proposed expanding Social Security to include what we now call Medicare and Medicaid, conservatives mounted campaigns to stop it.

In 1961, Ronald Reagan told his audience:   If President Kennedy’s early proposal of Medicare passes, he warned, “federal programs will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country.”

Barry Goldwater made fun: “Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, why not food baskets….why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink?”

These conservative heroes were talking about Medicare, folks. Medicare!

How many elderly conservatives do you know who feel that way about Medicare today? Not many. Medicare and Social Security have lifted enormous burdens from our elderly and their families.

To me, that’s the great sadness of conservatism.   They react out of a narrow ideology, retreat and then look silly in the next generation. They take stands today – but their stands are TEMPORARY. They don’t stand the test of time.

Shouldn’t they have stepped back in the 1930s and measured the gain of Social Security instead of frothing about “Socialism”?

Shouldn’t they have stepped back in the 1960s and measured the gain of Medicare instead of screaming “loss of freedom”?

And…shouldn’t they step back today and measure the gain of Obamacare? Is there any doubt that America will have universal healthcare 30 years from now?   None whatever. It will certainly happen. The rest of the world (58 countries) provides healthcare coverage for their citizens. We will follow. Yes, follow.   Always follow.

Rather than ideology, shouldn’t we all seek WISDOM?   Ideology is flimsy. Shouldn’t we ask: What is best? What is wise?

We started with a photograph. The lady had props intended to fire up conservatives:   Bible, gun, flag. Each is symbolic of some piece of conservatism in this century.

In future columns here, we will discuss each of these in turn.

May we all – writer and reader alike – seek wisdom

Real fiscal conservatism

Daily Planet, 7/2014

In a recent fit of self-inventory, I was surprised to discover that I’m an economic, or fiscal, conservative.

My family lives within our means, below the lifestyle we possibly could afford. Our budget is balanced and we avoid debt like there still were debtors’ prisons.

And what’s more, my beliefs carry over to politics.   I’m a fiscal conservative there, too, albeit on my own terms.

But then that seems to be the way it is with most fiscal conservatives.

The Constitution definitely calls for limited government. That was the Founder’s vision. Then Jefferson wanted to buy Louisiana, and that meant debt. Then Madison had the War of 1812. Real hard-nosed fiscal conservatism doesn’t show its head again.

Ronald Reagan tried. He started in 1981 with massive tax cuts, good fiscal conservatism right out of Edmund Burke. Unfortunately, after eight years of raising and lowering taxes, the net loss in federal revenue tripled the national debt. He wanted defense spending more than he wanted a balanced budget.   Beating Russia was his Louisiana.

That’s not my kind of fiscal conservatism.

Then George W. Bush, after inheriting a budget surplus, cut taxes, passed a prescription drug plan and fought two wars – and paid for none of them. Dick Cheney famously said to the Treasury Secretary, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” So like Reagan, Bush multiplied the national debt while in office.

It seems that Republicans only get upset when tax money is being spent on Democratic programs. That’s bogus fiscal conservatism.

Today’s GOP is political abstract art. On paper, its various factions all want to reduce the size of government and government spending. But for their own ends.

The Tea Party, a diverse collection of angry anarchists, wants really small government. They have no plan for actually governing. Libertarian types (like North Carolina’s own Art Pope) want government out of the way to clear the way for 19th century whoopee capitalism. Social conservatives (whom Libertarians scorn as wanting to restrict freedom for morality’s sake) ride the GOP wagon in order to crush abortion and homosexuality.   They aren’t fiscal theoreticians.   And then there are the so-called “moderates” who actually want to govern.

While a thread of fiscal conservatism does run through them all, I wouldn’t be seen dead in that fabric.

No, my man is Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City. He says balance the budget – something Reagan and G.W. Bush didn’t do but Bill Clinton did – is what’s important. This is best done, he believes, by improving the efficiency of government so government spending can be cut. That’s his definition of “small government.” That’s where I am. Like my family, government should live within its means and pay as it goes.

Ideological government-cutting is naïve. If government were to be powerless, the vacuum would be filled by smart, slick, greedy…bad people. Everybody knows that.

Where I break with Republicans altogether is their willingness – no, their desire – to cut government spending at the expense of alleviating the people’s pain. Cutting Medicaid spending, school budgets, services to the mentally ill, etc., etc., is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I believe in a balanced budget, and I know government can spend its money more effectively. After all, the biggest enemy of government efficiency is the appetite that all politicians have for government slush in their districts. I like tough-minded lawmakers who look at staff jobs, new bridges, anywhere waste might be lurking. But I want this tough-minded person to have a soft heart toward the people. They come first.

I can’t go back to the dark days of small government and unprincipled capitalists in the 19th century. I’ll balance the budget with taxes if necessary.

 

Social conservatism is temporary

Daily Planet, 4/2014

The 19th Amendment, the one that gave women the right to vote, was passed by Congress in June, 1919 and went out to the state legislatures for ratification. Fourteen months later enough states had voted yes, and it became part of the Constitution.

But along the way…Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Maryland and Delaware voted no.

Let me repeat that: these Southern states voted against giving women the right to vote.   (North Carolina apparently didn’t vote on the amendment in this time period.)

Viewed 95 years later, these votes look ridiculous. But we shouldn’t just cluck our tongues and shake our heads. There’s a lesson here for our time. The lesson is about what has come to be called “social conservatism.”

Conservatism is part of our heritage as Southerners. And the votes against women’s suffrage were pure-and-simple conservative votes – in the dictionary sense: “a disposition in politics to preserve what is established.”

Preserving what is established implies that somebody wants to un-preserve what is established. That somebody are liberals.

I grew up in a conservative home in Georgia.  Preachers talked about “modernists.” The world around us was teeming with “liberal” ideas:   modern dancing, lipstick, movies, playing cards, women bobbing their hair and wearing men’s clothes.

The no votes on the 19th Amendment were driven by this same anti-liberal sentiment . The Bible is clear that Christian women are to be subservient to men. For example, First Corinthians 14:35: “If [women] will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

Did Southern conservatives think they would actually win their fight against women voting?   I don’t know. But I’m sure it didn’t matter. They had to dig in against liberals who were threatening to topple the world as it was supposed to be forever, changing the role of women.

Does anybody today feel that women shouldn’t vote? Not many.

This is a powerful clue for me in understanding today’s social conservatives. They fiercely oppose change that threatens their traditional ideas of right and wrong.   But over time, what was “wrong” is accepted.

For example, the Christian college I attended no longer forbids students’ going to movies or dancing, or female students’ wearing slacks.   Generations that came after me – most notably those that donate to the college – embraced change.

In the 19th century, Southern preachers found abundant support for slavery in the Bible – Ephesians 6:5, for example, where slaves are told to obey their masters as if they were obeying Christ. (Interestingly, abolitionists argued more from the American principles of liberty and equality than from the Bible.) I remember the biblical arguments I heard as a kid in support of segregation.

Nobody but kooks today think Negro slavery was appointed by God, and most Southerners now realize the evils of segregation.

So it will be with homosexuality.  As time passes now, and more and more gays come out of the closet, people will discover that they know homosexuals – people they love and respect. Opinions of church members will change, and the issue will pass.

Social issues are by their very nature temporary. Society changes over time until a new consensus is reached. And issues cease to be issues.

Why do I care what social conservatives think and do? My next column in this space will be about politics and social conservatism – how their bloc voting is impacting the future of us in North Carolina.

Classic liberalism vs. classic conservatism

Citizen-Times, 9/2012

I deeply believe that America’s future depends on our coming to a strong liberal majority.

Not the fringe that the media loves for their sign-waving and shouts of anarchy. I mean historic liberalism.

A speech by John Kennedy in 1960 describes historic liberalism well (Google “pbs kennedy if by liberal”). And one piece of that speech is particularly relevant to the choice we face in November:

“I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities….When [government] has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.”

And that’s precisely what happened in the 20th century. Liberals were in power when all the great and positive changes in American life took place: women’s suffrage, Social Security, minimum wage, GI Bill, Medicare, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, 40-hour work week and overtime pay, unemployment compensation, child labor laws, school lunch program, Fair Pay Act, Medical Leave Act.   (Nixon enacted the Clean Air Act, but by today’s standards he too was a liberal.) We assume these benefits in our lives every day ─ but almost all, if not all, were opposed by conservatives (plus the Marshall Plan, FHA mortgages, Interstate highways, the TVA, rural electrification).

That’s been the pattern. Conservatives want government to stay out of the way and let “the market” solve problems in whatever way it will. Liberals get things done. Our great presidents, like the Roosevelts and Truman, understood the proper role of government. They solved problems. Indeed, that’s the great difference between historic liberalism and historic conservatism that’s relevant in 2012: problem-solving.

This is not a time for conservatives. We have problems, and conservatives have historically refused to confront problems head-on. Oh, they occasionally make a show of problem-solving ─ as George Bush did with prescription drug coverage, to take an issue from Democrats in the 2002 election campaign ─ but their heart is in the 19th century, when government trained an army and delivered the mail. They make a show of government restraint, but under both Reagan and Bush, the federal bureaucracy and budget deficits grew like weeds. It was Bill Clinton who brought budget surpluses.

I’ll give John Kennedy the final word: “Liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.”

Amen.

Brad Paisley & Obama

Citizen-Times, 9/2012

Country singer Brad Paisley wrote his song, “Welcome to the Future,” to celebrate the election of Barack Obama as President ─ and he sang it for the first time in Obama’s White House.

Well, this upset some of his fans who strongly dislike Obama. In a CBS interview, Paisley was asked about this. Paisley explained that “it was less about politics for me and more about things that just seemed right and wrong.”

When I heard him say that, I said softly, “Yes, exactly.” Supporting Obama is more than politics.

Paisley was probably talking about racism. He said in the interview that he’s happy his children’s first president is an African-American.

But Paisley’s “right and wrong” can be applied far broader than racism. And I invite the reader of this letter to look beyond politics and apply his or her own personal values to positions the candidates have taken in the current campaign.

Most important, ask: Who will the candidates serve if elected? Obama’s commitment is to ordinary people ─ working people, the elderly, the poor, the powerless. In their budget and platform, it’s clear that Republicans will give more power to the powerful.

There’s right and there’s wrong.

Natural selection & the poor

Daily Planet, 6/2011

I read the May Planet in my wife’s hospital room. I was humming along in the letters when I came to Carl Mumpower’s “Mother Nature is a conservative.” I said to my wife, “Baby, I think we’ve got a Smoky Mountain Limbaugh.” Here’s the paragraph that stopped me:

“There are no rights in nature, only responsibilities. Nature provides boundless opportunities, but offers no assurances on outcomes.”

“No rights in nature.” Sound familiar? Sure it does–high school biology. It’s called natural selection. All organisms have the same chance, but individuals that are more “fit” have better potential for survival.

Mumpower is drawing an analogy between nature and American society as he would like it to be. Survival of the fittest. And we all know who the “fit” ones are in our society. Not poor kids with ambition who believe they can do great things but need an education. Not the single mom crying in frustration over a sick child. Not the small farmer who depends on Cooperative Extension services.

When Mumpower talks about “no assurances on outcomes,” he’s not talking about the privileged people in our society. They do have assured outcomes. They will be educated and live well. They will never need food stamps or Medicaid. Their children will never need Smart Start. Down through history, privilege has always tilted toward those who already have privilege.

But America is different. America’s greatness is seen not only in the few people who claw their way to success, through hard work, luck and advanced degrees (even if they’re quickie online Ph.D.s). No, the greatness of America lies in equality. America was born with this promise and she blossomed in the 20th century. Ordinary people go to college today because of government help. Labor gained a voice through fair labor laws. We no longer fear poverty and ill health in old age because of Social Security and Medicare.

Mumpower writes, “Conservatives–real ones–recognize the important difference between harvesting and pillaging.” This scary-liberal straw man is a Limbaugh leftover of course. But it’s really the way these “real conservatives” think. It’s not hyperbole or metaphor. In their world, everything since Franklin Roosevelt is “pillaging.” But ordinary Americans–whether they’re ordinary conservatives, ordinary liberals or ordinary in-betweens–don’t see things that way. They appreciate the safety net that “real conservatives” despise. Living life with a measure of security, in our definition, is not “pillaging.”

 

 

 

Pick your commandment

Citizen-Times, 5/2012

Interesting thing about the Ten Commandments: we get to pick and choose the ones we want to obey and the ones we don’t. People take “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” for example, very seriously. “Thou shalt not covet,” not much. Coveting, after all, is what drives capitalism.

Which brings me to an email I received from a friend, a fellow Christian. But first, some background. For my friend and his wife, abortion is the number-one political issue, and they use the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” as a scriptural basis for their position. Now the email comes to me in his distribution. The email is an event-by-event summary of Barack Obama’s life, leading to the logical punch line that Obama is planning to set up a socialist dictatorship. I asked my friend if he thought the conclusion is true, that Obama plans a dictatorship. He answered that he didn’t write the email, he was just passing it along. Another way of saying uh, probably not.

What’s the Ninth Commandment again? Oh yes: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” The Sixth Commandment is convenient. Hatred of Obama makes the Ninth Commandment optional.

Christian? Conservative?

Mountain Express, 7/2011

Back in my missionary days, I heard the pastor of one of my supporting churches thunder from the pulpit, “I am conservative!” The man was later to be a mover in the formation of the theologically conservative Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  Their issues were such things as the authority of Scripture and the Person of Jesus Christ.  They felt the Presbyterian denomination they belonged to was subverting traditional Christian beliefs.  Their conservatism was theological.  I can say that from 1959-1978, in regular company with conservative evangelicals, I never heard one sermon, not even one conversation, about homosexuality or abortion.  Our concern was the Gospel.

Then two huge things happened in the 1970s. First in 1971, the IRS pulled the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University (BJU) for their discriminatory admission policies, and in 1973 came Roe v. Wade.  Then–to paraphrase Robert E. Lee after Antietam–up came Jerry Falwell.  Falwell was already influenced by theologian Francis Schaeffer, who wanted to see America return to its Christian roots, before massive immigration and what he called “pluralistic secularism.”  The IRS-BJU issue and Roe v. Wade got Falwell on the road.  In 1976 Falwell held a series of “I Love America” rallies, mixing patriotism and “social concerns,” especially abortion and women’s liberation.  (It should be noted that Schaeffer at this time thought abortion to be “too political” to be a proper Christian issue.)  The rallies made Falwell famous.

But what Falwell had started was a social movement in American evangelicalism–not yet a partisan political movement. That came in a famous 1979 meeting between Falwell and Paul Weyrich, founder of the pro-business, anti-tax, anti-regulation Heritage Foundation, and other Republican activists.  That meeting marks the beginning of the “Christian Right” and resulted in the Moral Majority (Weyrich suggested the name)–and also marks the enlistment of Jerry Falwell as an activist in the Republican Party.  Falwell worked coast to coast for Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The evolution was complete. Conservative theology had first become overlaid with social issues and finally had become a partisan political force.  It happened quickly.  In the election of 1980 my mother said her Presbyterian pastor had told her, “Ronald Reagan is God’s man.”  Jimmy Carter was, of course, a born-again evangelical who lived his faith–but he was “liberal.”

From then to now it’s become harder and harder to distinguish social concerns of evangelical churches from Republican politics. I remember the night when our church answering machine took a message during a Bible study.  The voice said there was to be a “Christ-centered” rally in Charlotte featuring Sean Hannity and Ralph Reed.  I may have said out loud, “Has it come to this?”  Christ-centered Hannity and Reed!  Reed at the time was chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.  “Christ” had taken a new meaning.

One has to wonder, Who captured whom? Did evangelicals take over the Republican Party, or have Republicans given political influence to evangelicals to enlist them in Republican objectives?  When I see evangelicals supporting tax cuts and the elimination of trade unions, when a Bob Jones professor gives biblical support for George Bush’s war in Iraq, I do indeed wonder.  When a friend from an evangelical church sends me emails that President Obama is a radical Muslim or that he’s about to declare martial law–things my friend knows aren’t true–then I know that a segment of the Christian church has been swallowed whole.

This all seems sadly similar to what happened when Constantine took over the Christian church early in the 4th century.  For his own purposes Constantine wanted church and state to merge, and Christians were happy to oblige, in order to “Christianize” society and gain some secular power.  The church didn’t regain the fire of its faith for over 1,000 years.

There is evil in the world, and there is good. Good does not belong to Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative.  Nor does evil.  At this point in our country’s history we desperately need thinking people who challenge the ideas of their leaders.  In surveys I tag myself “moderate” because, to me, extreme positions are destructive.

My friend who sent me emails said once, “If I don’t follow what my pastor says, I’ll have to follow somebody else, won’t I?” Well, I guess you will–unless of course you want to be responsible for your own beliefs and actions.  And that pastor, I’m guessing it’s a whole lot easier for him to preach “Love not the homosexual off yonder” than it is to preach “Love not the world neither the things that are in the world.”

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