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Friday, July 1, 2011

Politics of Pious Pandering

                        "For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ,
                         but they're own belly; and by good words and fair speeches
                         deceive the hearts of the simple." - Roman 16:18 KJV

Herman Cain said that his fellow Republican presidential candidates were pandering to Christian voters when Michelle Bachmann recited a lengthy prayer and Tim Pawlenty quoted a scripture verse in their speeches during the Faith and Freedom Conference last June. Was Mr. Cain correct to say that? Yes. Were Ms. Bachmann and Mr. Pawlenty wrong to do what they did? No. The event was an appropriate mix of politics and religion and both candidates, as with Cain, are Christians. They're free to express their faith just like anybody else. These two are professional politicians and they played well to the crowd peppering their speeches with religious references.

Appealing to the voters' faiths builds an instant personal connection to the audience. People like to hear that their leaders share the same moral values and virtues with them and politicians willingly oblige in their speeches. They unabashly share stories of their altar-boy days or the afternoons spent with their children reading the Scripture, or their involvement in their local churches in helping the poor and feeding the homeless.  All true stories maybe, and they do give that feel-good, righteous- and morally-upright aura to the candidates stumping for votes.

As varied as the religious groups in our country, so are the ways that politicians have displayed their faiths, in both their private and public lives.

Americans were wary of JFK's Catholic faith, as they are today of Republican Mitt Romney being a Mormon as they ran for president of the United States. Although I am not a fan of Mr. Romney, it was admirable that he never backed away from his religion nor sought to diminish his affiliation to the group even if he knew that  it would cost him some votes.

Sarah Palin is an unapologetic Christian woman, whose opposition to abortion was put to a test when, during a prenatal screening, her son was diagnosed with Down syndrome. She chose life, consistent with her faith. She has practiced what her religion teaches yet as a public official remained conscientious to not let her moral beliefs influence how she carried out her public duties.  As governor of Alaska, when a bill that prohibits domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples came to her desk, she vetoed it. Her Republican colleagues lambasted her for it but the State Court had ruled it unconstitutional. Although homosexual marriage is against her Christian faith, she was true and firm in her oath to uphold her State Constitution. For Governor Palin, the Bible is to her personal life as the Constitution is for the State affairs.

Barack Obama was convincing back in 2008 when he insisted that he is a Christian and declared that Jesus is his Savior. He reveled the voters with stories of his attendance for 20 years at the Trinity United Church in Chicago, that his friend Pastor Jeremiah Wright officiated his and his wife's wedding and baptized his children. During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama was the pious and devotional Christian yet after becoming President he has been anything but. He has developed the habit of omitting the word "Creator" when  quoting the Declaration of Independence. In a speech in Indonesia, he replaced America's motto, "In God We Trust" with  "E pluribus unum". His 2010 Easter statement reached out to the Jews, Muslims, Hindus and people of no faith yet there was no mention of Jesus at all - striking especially in this all-encompassing Christian day of celebration. One can easily conclude that his omission of references to the Christian faith has been both deliberate and glaring. His spokesman at the White House insists that the President is a devoted Christian yet in his two years and a half at the White House he has golfed 75+ times while you could count in one hand the times he's attended Sunday mass. The days that he went to church, interestingly enough, coincided with the release of  polls that say a good portion of Americans still believe that he is Muslim. I take the President's words that he is a Christian and not a Muslim but he is, without a doubt, one LOUSY Christian.

Religious groups are some of the biggest voting blocks in America so pandering to them is nothing new but rare is a politician who so publicly sheds the holy cloak used during campaign stumps as soon as it was no longer politically expedient.

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