Ethics News

News: Politics


>> = Important Articles; ** = Major Articles


>>Religion in American Life (PEW Research Center, 031118)

>>Did you hear the one ... ? A little humor at income tax time (, 100416)

**Engaging in Politics Does Not Distract from Gospel, Says Writer (Christian Post, 100626)

**UK Christians Question Westminster Declaration (Christian Post, 100427)

**Most Americans Say Judges Are Anti-Religious (Christian Post, 100426)

**Christians Must Be Careful Not to Engage in Political Friendly Fire (Christian Post, 071004)

**Poll: Trust in Big Government Near Historic Low (Foxnews, 100419)

**Evangelicals must stay the course (, 070909)

Polls Emphasize Growing Religious Gap in Politics (FN, 031218)

New group targets religious conservatives (Washington Times, 040622)

Evangelical surged to vote and ‘shape public policy’ (Washington Times, 040622)

Christian Conservatives a Key Bloc for Bush (Yahoo! News, 040915)

Ministers’ role in close presidential race intensifies (South Carolina The State, 041012)

Christian wins TV White House (WorldNetDaily, 041011)

Christian Wins ‘American Candidate’ (Citizen Link, 041011)

A Must-Read Election Message (Citizen Link, 041008)

Christian Faith and Public Policy—Questions Revisited (Christian News, 041018)

Is President George W. Bush a Dangerous Theocrat? (Christian News, 041101)

Hard America, Soft America: The Battle for America’s Future (Christian News, 041101)

As the Smoke Clears— What Does the Election Really Mean? (Christian News, 041104)

Francis Schaeffer’s political legacy (, 050303)

Evangelicals lobby Congress on responsibility (Washington Times, 050311)

Blair embraces faith; but not in politics (Washington Times, 050323)

Should a Church Discipline Members Over Politics? (Christian Post, 050512)

Religion and politics (Washington Times, 051004)

More than new laws needed to ‘fix’ Abramoff scandal (, 060109)

Political corruption (, 060124)

Political corruption: Part II (, 060125)

Political corruption: part III (, 060126)

A Catholic Alternative to Europe’s Social Model (Christian Post, 060126)

More than merely “off course” (, 060214)

Squeezed out (Washington Times, 060221)

Faith Group Urges Churches to Keep Religion, Politics Separate (Christian Post, 060706)

SOCIETY: Culture Determines Politics — Just Look at This (Mohler, 060928)

Marriage gap could sway elections: Residents’ status often predicts district’s vote (USA Today, 060928)

‘Fertility gap’ helps explain political divide: Analysis finds party preferences reflect marriage, parental status (USA Today, 060928)

Breeding and Believing — Linked? (Mohler, 061025)

Breeding for God (Prospect Magazine, 061100)

The Cast of Characters: Two heartbeats away from President Pelosi. (National Review Online, 061031)

Empowered by prayer (National Post, 061230)

Savvy marketers target ‘Faith and Family’ flock (National Post, 061230)

Zealotry of South shaping the world (National Post, 061229)

‘Renovated’ Catholicism attracts few tenants (National Post, 061227)

Saving souls in Quebec (National Post, 061226)

Canada’s devotion gap (National Post, 061223)

Atheism’s army of the smug (National Post, 061223)

Channel’s growth verges on biblical (National Post, 061228)

Church of tough love (National Post, 061223)

Nicety vs. Reality (, 070208)

Political Passivity—Vice or Christian Virtue? (, 070430)

Spiritualpolitique: Religion matters more than ever in global affairs. (Weekly Standard, 070511)

Evangelical Leaders Say Religion in Politics is Inevitable, Important (Christian Post, 070516)

States can put rules on use of union fees (Washington Times, 070615)

Survey: Church Attendance a Factor in Presidential Race (Christian Post, 070823)

The Politics of Social Division: How traditionalists can win and lose at the same time. (National Review Online, 071001)

Groups: Pastors Have Right to Speak on ‘Political’ Issues (Christian Post, 071003)

Keep Religion In, Not Out Of, Politics (, 071102)

Is the Religious Right Dead? (, 071104)

Why the Left is Afraid of Praying Young People (, 071105)

Bishop ‘Sorry’ Blair Felt Unable to Reveal Faith (Christian Post, 071128)

Pastors Encouraged to Preach on Political Issues During Primaries (Christian Post, 080114)

Poll: Most Americans Want a Biblical Leader as President (Christian Post, 080201)

Southern Baptist Head: Christians Should Be Involved in Politics (Christian Post, 080326)

Politics and Religion (, 080423)

Should Christians Argue Politics? (, 080930)

The Cleanest State Meets The Pushiest Person (Ann Coulter, 081203)

Liberty U Seeks IRS Probe of Church-State Watchdog (Christian Post, 090604)

Pastors to Talk ‘Politics’ from Pulpits this Sunday (Christian Post, 090926)

Most Americans Say Churches Mixing Politics Should Lose Tax Exemption (Christian Post, 090925)

Who Poses the Greater Threat? (, 100302)

Can Politics Change Our World? (Christian Post, 100325)

Weak Economy, Tax Cuts Bring Tax Freedom Day Early This Year (Foxnews, 100408)

The Limits of Power (, 100420)

National Derangement: The Political Illusion (Christian Post, 100511)

Wisconsin Veteran Must Remove Flag After Memorial Day, Wife Says (Foxnews, 100526)

Survey: Most Americans Say Christians Not Too Involved in Politics (Christian Post, 080509)

The Real Public Service (, 100601)





>>Religion in American Life (PEW Research Center, 031118)


America remains an intensely religious nation and, if anything, the trend since the late 1980s has been toward stronger religious belief. Eight-in-ten Americans (81%) say that prayer is an important part of their daily lives, and just as many believe there will be a Judgment Day when people will be called before God to answer for their sins. Even more people (87%) agree with the statement “I never doubt the existence of God.”


Clearly, views on these three statements are highly related, and when these three questions are combined into a single indicator of religious intensity, fully 71% agree with all three statements, while just 7% disagree with all three. Both of these figures are slightly higher than was the case 16 years ago, when 68% agreed with all three statements, and 5% disagreed with them all. With more people at each end of the spectrum, somewhat fewer Americans express mixed views about their religious beliefs today (22%) than was the case in the late 1980s (27%).


While attitudes toward prayer and faith have remained very stable over that period, the number expressing strong agreement has increased slightly over the past decade-and-a-half. Today, 51% completely agree that prayer is important in their lives, up from 41% in 1987. And the percentage who completely agree that they never doubt God’s existence has risen from 60% to 69% over the same period.


Growing religious intensity also is seen in how Americans, especially self-described Protestants, characterize their religious faith. In the late 1980s, 41% of Protestants and 24% of the population overall identified themselves as “born- again or evangelical” Christians. Today, 54% of Protestants describe themselves this way, and evangelical Protestants make up the largest single religious category (30% of the population). This shift has been particularly stark among African Americans. Fifteen years ago, 36% of African Americans and 23% of whites and described themselves as born again or evangelical Protestants. Today, fully 50% of African Americans give this description, compared with 28% of whites.


While the way Protestants define their faith has changed, the broader religious landscape looks much as it did in the late 1980s. Most Americans (56%) continue to identify themselves as members of a Protestant faith, with a quarter saying they are Catholic. Fewer than one-in-ten (9%) say they have no religion, virtually unchanged from 15 years ago. Judaism, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Orthodox Christianity, Islam, and other religions remain much smaller denominations.


This aggregate stability masks some relevant and important changes within subgroups of the population. For example, 56% of Hispanic Americans identify themselves as Catholic today, down from 68% fifteen years ago. And the percentage of younger Americans (those under age 30) who identify themselves as Protestants has fallen from 52% to 45% over this same time period. The number of young people who say they have no religion has increased slightly (from 12% to 16%).


This slight shift away from a denominational identification among younger Americans does not necessarily mean they are becoming less religious and more secular, however. Americans under age 30 are just as likely to report regular church attendance today as fifteen years ago, and strong religious faith is at least as widespread among younger Americans today as it was in the late 1980s: 63% of young people agree with all three religious statements about prayer, God, and a Judgment Day, which is virtually unchanged from 1987-1988 (61%).


Moreover, younger generations are becoming much more religious as they age. Fifteen years ago, 61% of people in their late teens and twenties agreed with all three religious statements. Today, 71% of people in these generations ­ now in their thirties and forties ­ express this level of strong religious faith. Over the same period, the percentage of Protestants in this age group identifying themselves as born again or evangelical has risen from 41% in the late 1980s to 55% now. As a result of these gains, people in their 30s and 40s today are considerably more religious than their 30-to-49-year-old counterparts were in the late 1980s.


There also is a small but growing minority of younger people who express more secular views. In 1987 and 1998, just 5% of the public disagreed with all three religious statements, and there was no difference between those under age 30 and older Americans. Today, 12% of young people reject all three items ­ twice as many as among those age 30 and older (6%).


Religion, Ideology Increasingly Connected


Over the past 15 years, religion and religious faith also have become more strongly aligned with partisan and ideological identification. Republicans and Democrats were equally likely to express strong personal religious attitudes in 1987 and 1988; the same percentage in both parties affirmed the importance of prayer, belief in Judgment Day and strong belief in God (71% in each). But over the past 15 years, Republicans have become increasingly united in these beliefs, opening up a seven-point gap between the parties (78% vs. 71% of Democrats).


This growing divide is even more evident in looking at the relationship between political ideology and religious faith. While there has always been a correlation between conservatism and religiosity, the relationship has grown notably stronger in the past 15 years.


Religious commitment has increased substantially among self-identified conservatives (81% agree with all three statements on faith and belief, compared with 73% in 1987-88). Liberals, on the other hand, have become somewhat less religiously oriented. Just over half of self-identified liberals (54%) agree with all three religious statements, down from 59% fifteen years ago.


This religious/political alignment can also be seen within religious denominations. In 1987 and 1988, white evangelical Protestants were split fairly evenly along partisan lines (34% Republicans, 31% Democrats). Today, there is a nearly two-to-one Republican advantage among white evangelicals (43%-22%). The partisanship of non-evangelical white Protestants and black Protestants, by comparison, has been relatively stable.


In addition, white Catholics, once strongly Democratic, are now much more politically divided. In the late 1980s, a significantly greater percentage of white Catholics identified themselves as Democrats than Republicans (41% vs. 24%). Today, partisan identification among white Catholics is divided almost evenly (31% Democrat, 29% Republican).


And again, this shift is driven predominantly by more highly religious Catholics. Among white Catholics who attend Mass regularly an 18-point Democratic identification advantage in the late 1980s (42% Democrat, 24% Republican) has turned into a dead-heat today (30% Democrat, 32% Republican). (See table on page 4.)


Social Issues: Tradition and Tolerance


Over the past 16 years, public values on most social issues have remained generally stable. Eight-in-ten say they have “old-fashioned values about family and marriage, “ and nearly as many (77%) agree that there are clear and immutable guidelines about good and evil.


The number who completely agree with these sentiments ­ about four-in-ten in each case ­ has shown only modest fluctuations over the past decade and a half.


Yet in that period there also has been a distinct shift toward acceptance of several social changes, some of which challenge traditional views of the family. There has been a broad increase in at least limited tolerance of homosexuality ­ the number who believe that schools should not be allowed to fire homosexual teachers has risen from 42% in 1987 to 62% in the current survey.


Nearly as striking is the growing societal acceptance of interracial dating (see Part Five, pp.45-50). And there has been a more modest decline in the percentage who favor women returning to their “traditional roles in society” (from 30% in 1987 to 24% now).


Consequently, an increasing number of Americans are able to accept such social changes as homosexuality and changing women’s roles while maintaining traditional religious and social values.


Religion and Homosexuality ­ Large Gaps Persist


The decline in anti-homosexual attitudes has occurred at roughly the same rate among traditionally conservative white evangelical Protestants as among more liberal religious groups and seculars. While large religious gaps remain ­ two-thirds of white Catholics and mainline Protestants (68% each) oppose firing teachers on the basis of sexuality, compared with only 40% of white evangelical Protestants ­ these gaps have neither grown nor shrunk as public attitudes have changed over time.


A similar pattern is evident in changing public attitudes on whether AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior. A generation ago, the public was closely divided on this issue: in 1987, 43% felt AIDS was a punishment from God while 47% disagreed. Now by nearly three-to-one (70%-24%), Americans reject that idea.


White evangelical Protestants (42%) and black Protestants (36%) are more likely to feel that AIDS is God’s punishment than are white mainline Protestants (20%), white Catholics (18%) and the non-religious (14%). Still, moralistic interpretations of the AIDS disease have dropped among all groups about equally.


As with attitudes about race, views on homosexuality have a strong generational component, with younger generations much less negative toward gays. However, the overall increase in tolerance toward homosexuality is not merely a result of generational replacement ­ younger, tolerant generations replacing older, less tolerant ones. There also has been a significant change of attitude within generations over time, suggesting that people’s views on this issue have shifted.


Little Change on Other Social Issues


These changes are even more notable because of the stability in the public’s values on other social issues. Half of Americans support the idea that books containing dangerous ideas should be banned from public school libraries, but there has been no change in this view between 1987 and now. A slight majority (52% currently) rejects the idea that pornography is harmless entertainment, and this view has also remained steady. And by roughly three-to one (72% to 23% currently) more agree than disagree that too many children are being raised in day care centers these days.


Abortion Views Stable over Past Decade


Most Americans (57%) say they oppose changing the laws to make it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, while 36% are in favor, and there have been only slight changes in public opinion on this question over the past sixteen years. While abortion is a significantly more divisive issue today than was the case in 1987, most of the partisan and religious divisions were firmly in place a decade ago, and have changed little since.


Partisan divisions over abortion became much more prominent in the early 1990s, and remain substantial today. In 1987, Democrats were only slightly less likely to favor stricter abortion laws (40%) than were Republicans (48%). Today, Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats (50% to 25%) to favor stricter abortion regulation. And religion remains a major dividing line in views on this issue, with most white evangelical Protestants supporting laws that would make it more difficult for a woman to have an abortion, and most white mainline Protestants opposed to such changes. White Catholics, split evenly over this issue in 1987, are now more likely to oppose (56%) than favor (37%) stricter abortion laws.


A small gender gap over the abortion issue in 1987 has gradually disappeared, as support for stricter abortion laws among women has fallen by eight points (women used to be somewhat more conservative than men on this issue.) The change among women has occurred primarily among older groups. Sixteen years ago fully half of women age 50 and older favored stricter limits on abortion, today just 35% in this age group say the same.


On highly charged issues related to reproduction and research, the public expresses ambivalence. On the one hand, a large majority ­ 72% ­ favors protecting the rights of the unborn in almost all cases. Yet, at the same time, 58% say they are more concerned about finding cures for diseases than about protecting embryos. Taken together, nearly one-in-four Americans (38%) say they believe in protecting the unborn but at the same time prioritize disease research over protecting human embryos. Smaller proportions take a consistently conservative (27%) or consistently liberal (19%) position on both questions.


Liberal Democrats are the only major demographic or political group where a majority does not agree with protecting the rights of the unborn in almost all cases (only 44%). Among religious groups, nine-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (91%), 61% of non-evangelicals, and 74% of white Catholics hold this opinion, compared with 53% of seculars. Among white Catholics, church attendance is a very important factor, with 83% of Catholics who attend church at least monthly favoring the rights of the unborn, compared with 62% of those who attend less often.




>>Did you hear the one ... ? A little humor at income tax time (, 100416)

by Marvin Olasky


When you contemplate the taxes you’re paying, are you an optimist or a pessimist? Definitions: The pessimist says, “Things can’t get any worse.” The optimist says, “Yes they can.”


This starts off my first annual joke column: I offer it as a public service as taxpayers painfully file their returns, and a tender mercy after my streak of about 100 serious columns. But Woody Allen’s riffs on death are all soberly nervous: “It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens. . . . I do not believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear. . . . I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.” So the jokes I’ll tell must have a point as well.


For example, when I think of the disjunction between evidence of God’s power and our reactions to it, this story comes to mind: A grandmother is watching her only grandchild playing on the beach. A huge wave comes and yanks him out to sea. She pleads, “Please God, save my grandson.” Immediately a big wave comes and washes the boy back onto the beach, unharmed. But the grandma looks up to heaven and says angrily, “He had a hat!”


We so much like being the center of attention that we don’t realize our foolishness. Example: Three women are bragging about how much their sons love them. The first says, “My son bought me a new car.” The second says, “My son bought me a new house.” The third says, “That’s nothing, my son every week goes into a room, lies down on a couch, and talks only about ME.”


Our illusions often make us like a man who complains to a psychiatrist that he can never get a girlfriend. The psychiatrist says, “No wonder! You smell awful!” The man said, “That’s right. I work in the circus cleaning up the elephants’ droppings. No matter how much I wash, the stink sticks to me.” The psychiatrist reasonably answers, “So quit your job and get another one.” To which the man of course responds, “Are you crazy? And get out of show business?”


And thinking of our pridefulness: What about the man who thinks his wife is losing her hearing? A doctor suggests that he try a simple at-home test: Stand behind her, ask her a question from different distances, and see when she can hear it. The man goes home, sees his wife in the kitchen facing the stove, and asks from the door, “What’s for dinner tonight?” No answer. Ten feet behind her, he repeats, “What’s for dinner tonight?” Still no answer. Finally, right behind her he says, “What’s for dinner tonight?” His wife turns around and says, “For the third time—chicken.”


But aging happens to all of us. I heard a tale of some 50-year-olds at a reunion discussing and discussing where they should eat. Finally they agree to meet at Luigi’s Restaurant because the food selection there is excellent. Twenty years later they meet again and, after a long discussion, agree on Luigi’s because they can eat there in peace and quiet. When they hit 90 they meet again and for one more time discuss and discuss where they should eat. Finally they agree . . . Luigi’s, because they have never been there before!


I can’t resist one joke on politics and one on media. The healthcare debacle reminded me of this debate among a surgeon, a designer and a politician. The surgeon says his is the oldest profession, because God in chapter 2 of Genesis removed Adam’s rib and made Eve. The designer counters, “In chapter 1 of Genesis, God turned primordial chaos into beautiful order.” The politician trumps them: “Who do you think made primordial chaos?”


Regarding the press and religion, did you hear the one about New York Times and Washington Post reporters having lunch and betting on who knows more about Christianity? Mr. NYT says, “I’ll bet you $20 that you can’t say the Lord’s Prayer.” Ms. WaPo says, “You’re on.” She bows her head and says, “Now I lay me down to sleep. . . .” Mr. NYT hands her $20, saying, “That’s impressive. I didn’t think you knew it.”


Will this be the last annual joke column? We offer, you decide.




**The Legalism of Political Christianity (Christian Post, 101122)

By Jordan Ballor


The favorite targets of lampoon and derision from progressive Christians are the icons of the Religious Right: the late Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and the like. A standard characterization of their flaws highlights their overemphasis on political power as a means toward the alignment of society with the Christian vision. But if this critique of the politicization of the faith applies to the Religious Right, then it applies equally as well to the Religious Left.


What is shared in what we might call the “legalistic impulse” of much of both conservative and progressive political Christianity is the priority of the role of the government in determining the course of our social life. Both versions of political Christianity, to one extent or another, subsume the Church under the State as a kind of activist lobby (albeit of a special religious character). In this brand of legalism, fidelity to the Christian faith is defined in political terms.


Political Legalism


It is in this sense that we can understand the calls of Jim Wallis for the government to coercively redistribute wealth as a means of better realizing God’s kingdom here on earth as exhibiting a legalistic impulse. Wallis and David Gushee of Mercer University have gone so far as to say that faithful Christians cannot in good conscience be involved in the limited-government Tea Party movements.


At the national level we see this kind progressive ideology advocated by groups like Sojourners and the National Council of Churches. But a similar progressive political agenda crystallizes on the global stage in the contemporary mainline ecumenical movement. Groups like the World Council of Churches (WCC), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and the newly-formed World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), have for the last two decades and more pursued an increasingly ideological political agenda. When the WCRC was formed earlier this year at a council in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the stated rationale for the merger was the commitment to “economic” and “environmental” justice.


Perhaps the most explicit (and egregious) example of this legalistic perspective appears in the Accra Confession, a document that raises a radical critique of “neoliberal” globalization and the corresponding environmental degradation to an article of the Reformed Christian’s faith, a response to a status confessionis. In confessing against “the oppression of the global economic system,” the Accra statement and the broader ecumenical movement it represents stand for a position definitive for the faithful Christian that privileges opposition to climate change, privatization, genetically-modified foods, and the neoliberal empire headed by the United States.


In this the progressive legalists have fully embraced the elevation of works over doctrine. There is here an historical irony. For at its genesis the modern ecumenical movement saw the doctrinal matters as those which were the most divisive and the most likely to foment conflict. It was with the Life and Work movement, engaged on social and political issues, rather than Faith and Order, focused on doctrine, that Christians of a variety of denominations and confessional commitments were thought to be able to work substantively together.


But nowadays the elevation of praxis over doctrina in progressive ideology means that it is not strictly teaching or doctrine that divides, but rather practical political agendas. We see this as the Accra Confession claims to be such not as “a classical doctrinal confession,” but rather as a “faith commitment” and “common witness.” We see it too in the statements of “communion” between denominations with as doctrinally divergent views of the Eucharist as the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). “Communion” in this sense can refer only to the shared social vision and political agenda, rather than to any historically or traditionally understood doctrinal agreement. Such ecumenical unity is not on the basis of “doctrinal confession” but rather ideological and practical political platforms.


By defining unity in terms of a specific political vision, these progressive legalists have imported an alien element into the church. Progressive social activists are fond of citing the example of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who stood for the faith against the incursion of the Nazis into the life of the church. But Bonhoeffer himself, when he addressed the question of the church’s confession, did not hesitate to characterize the imposition of a worldly ideology onto the church as a kind of “legalism.” In a stunning rhetorical move, when Bonhoeffer addresses “The Church and the Jewish Question,” he accuses the German Christians who would exclude baptized Jews from the church and ministry of Pharasaical legalism.


In this essay, Bonhoeffer describes Judaism not as “a racial concept but a religious one.” He then goes on to describe the “Judaizers” of the German church as those German Christians who let “membership of the people of God, of the church of Christ, be determined by the observance of a divine law” rather than the Gospel. He points concretely to the claim for divine status of the legal requirement of “racial unity of the members of the community.” Thus German-Christian legalism becomes in Bonhoeffer’s polemic usage a Jewish-Christian type.


While progressive Christian political activists lobby government to realize God’s kingdom of shalom here on earth, they are compelled to anathematize those within the church who disagree. As Paul Ramsey, the Princeton ethicist, similarly concluded of the ecumenical movement in 1967, “This identification of Christian social ethics with specific partisan proposals that clearly are not the only ones that may be characterized as Christian and as morally acceptable comes close to the original and New Testament meaning of heresy.” From this perspective we can say that the Accra Confession is quite literally a heretical confession, in that it sets up a foreign and worldly paradigm as determinative of Gospel fidelity.


The Need for Principled Distinctions


It is quite true that there are temptations to improperly politicize the Gospel from both conservative and progressive ideologies. But traditionally there have been institutional strictures and distinctions that prevent, or at least provide obstacles to, the cooption of the institutional church by political interests, whether from the Left or the Right. And these are precisely the kinds of distinctions that must be demolished when attempting to galvanize the church politically.


In an article in the January issue of Christianity Today, Fuller Theological Seminary president Richard Mouw relates his journey away from a position that sought active political engagement by the institutional church. He writes of his encounter with the evangelical figure Carl Henry in 1967, at a time when Mouw “had often felt alienated from evangelicalism because of what I saw as its failure to properly address issues raised by the civil rights struggle and the war in Southeast Asia. As a corrective, I wanted the church, as church, to acknowledge its obligation to speak to such matters.”


Mouw tells how Henry corresponded with him as an editor on suggestions to revise a piece Mouw was seeking to publish. As Mouw writes, Henry’s suggestions ended up with Mouw “saying that the church can say ‘no’ to things that are happening in the economic and political realms, without mentioning anything about the church legitimately endorsing specific remedial policies or practices.” Mouw’s agreement at the time to the changes was grudging, for as he says, “There were times, I was convinced, that the church could rightly say a bold ‘yes’ to specific policy-like solutions. I now see that youthful conviction as misguided. Henry was right, and I was wrong.” Thus, writes Mouw of Henry, “A constant theme in his writings was that the church as such has neither the competence nor the authority to address political or economic specifics.”


If we are to recover from the legalistic impulse of the Religious Left and Right, it will be in no small part because we have reinvigorated principled distinctions, such as the difference between clear moral imperatives and prudential judgments. This “de-politicization” of the church would mean that we largely relegate political and economic questions to the realm of vigorous yet respectful debate and disagreement. It would also mean that when the church does speak institutionally to matters of social import, it does so with a clear voice, as one “crying out in the wilderness” (John 1:23).




**Engaging in Politics Does Not Distract from Gospel, Says Writer (Christian Post, 100626)


LONDON – The author of bestseller Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine has called upon Christians in the United Kingdom to stand against threats to the Gospel by engaging in politics and increasing their influence on government.


U.S. writer and theologian Wayne Grudem, a co-translator of the English Standard Version of the Bible, addressed a packed St. Helen’s church in Bishopsgate, London, Thursday night in the first leg of his U.K. tour tackling the question of whether political involvement distracts from the Gospel.


He said God was calling Christians in the U.K. to “stand against evil” and “threats that would silence the Gospel and remove it from the public square,” particularly laws passed in recent years promoting homosexuality and attempts to loosen existing abortion regulations.


Grudem argued that far from being a distraction from the Gospel, Christian involvement in politics was necessary.


While he admitted Christians had made the mistake in the past of using government to impose the faith on the people, he stressed that the opposite end of the spectrum – excluding religion from the public square altogether – was equally undesirable.


He pointed to the proliferation of secularist campaigns in the U.S. aimed at forcing Christians to confine their religion to the home, including campaigns to silence public prayers, lawsuits against the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings and courtrooms, and moves to prevent schools from using church buildings.


Such secularism, he warned, “threatens the voice of the church and the voice of Christians” and “removes from government God’s teaching about good and evil.”


“How can government officials rightly serve God if no one is able to let them know what God expects of them?” he asked.


Such a position, he continued, “either assumes there is no God or that His morality is unknowable, or that it is not important for human beings.”


If secularism wins the day, he warned, it will “remove from an entire nation any sense of absolute moral standards” and result in the “destruction of belief in God.”


While some Christians believe that all government is bad, or that Christians should involve themselves solely in evangelism and not politics, Grudem said such views represented too narrow an understanding of government and the Kingdom of God.


He argued that government and evangelism were two tools God had given Christians to defeat evil, and that the Good News should also be Good News for government and all areas of life.


“Isn’t the Bible good news about government too? Doesn’t the Bible come to transform all areas of life?” he said.


He continued by arguing that the biblical calling upon Christians to do good to others and love their neighbors also meant caring about what laws are passed by the government of the day.


“If I love my neighbor as myself then I want good laws that protect my neighbor from evil and harm,” he said.


Turning his attention to the question of whether Christians in the U.S. and UK could expect secularism to turn to persecution, he cautioned that Christians “should not give in to fatalism and pessimism.”


Grudem concluded that the best strategy for Christians to pursue in the current climate was to “exert significant influence on government.”


He said: “If we do not have significant moral influence then from where will the government get its moral guidance? If Christians don’t speak publicly about moral and ethical issues affecting the nation, who will?”


“Might there be something that you know God’s word teaches, and you know that God is calling you to speak, but you are afraid because there will be criticism and opposition? Be sure you proclaim the whole council of God,” he added.


“Apostle Paul did not tailor his teaching in order not to offend unbelievers. He proclaimed the whole Gospel of God and today we’re going to have to do the same.”


Grudem’s tour is being hosted by The Christian Institute and ends next Wednesday in Chessington.




**UK Christians Question Westminster Declaration (Christian Post, 100427)


LONDON – Christian groups have called into question a declaration urging Christians to vote according to their conscience in the U.K. General Election.


The Westminster Declaration urges Christians to vote with three issues particularly in mind – protecting human life, protecting marriage, and protecting freedom of conscience.


It has been signed by more than 36,000 Christians, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey; the head of the Evangelical Alliance, Steve Clifford; and the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien.


The declaration has met with strong criticism from Faithworks, which has stated it will not be signing it.


The influential ministry, which resources Christians for community engagement, criticized the Westminster Declaration for suggesting that “government should be chosen according to their responses to only three issues – protection of human life, marriage and conscience – rather than the impact of the spectrum of their policies locally, nationally and internationally.”


According to The Church of England Newspaper, the group said: “The Westminster 2010 Declaration sets Christians up on a moral high ground and implicitly creates divisiveness. It does this at just the time when the church’s morality has been called into question across the world.”


Senior representatives of the three main parties will be asked to sign the Westminster 2010 pledge, distinct from the declaration, at a major hustings event in Westminster on Monday. The pledge asks that parliamentary candidates “respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold and express Christian beliefs and act according to Christian conscience.”


Cross-party group, Christians in Politics, also expressed its concerns about the declaration. It said that while there was “much to commend” about Westminster 2010, it added that there was “much to question about its timing, depth and tone.”


“It has also been inevitably hampered by the lack of consultation with Christian Parliamentarians and the main Christian groups involved in praying and serving with our political infrastructure,” it continued.


“There is also a danger that people will judge the faith of a Christian standing for election, merely by whether or not they have signed this pledge. We urge people not to do so.”


Faithworks is encouraging supporters to sign its own Faithworks Declaration, asking that the next Government take steps to ensure that faith-based groups are supported rather than treated with suspicion or discrimination.


The declarations have been issued as Christian groups seek to mobilise the churchgoing portion of the electorate to engage with the General Election.


CARE (Christian Action Research Education) said the number of church hustings events registered on its election website had exceeded all expectations.


“When we set out we hoped we might get 50, never expecting that two weeks into the campaign we would have over 200!” said Nola Leach, CARE’s chief executive.


“We continue to be unaware of any larger single source of hustings. It’s wonderful to see the church playing such a strategic role during this election.”




**Most Americans Say Judges Are Anti-Religious (Christian Post, 100426)


Sixty-four percent of Americans believe that rulings by judges in recent years have been more anti-religious than the Founding Fathers intended, a new poll shows.


Only 21% of adults think the judges’ rulings regarding religion in public life have correctly interpreted the U.S. Constitution, according to Rasmussen Reports.


Among evangelical Christians, 87% say the rulings have been too anti-religious. Those who practice other religions are evenly divided on the question.


Meanwhile, 51% of those who rarely or never attend a religious service believe the courts have correctly interpreted the Constitution.


“Legal scholars, religious leaders and politicians have argued for decades over whether the ‘separation of church and state’ is actually enshrined in the Constitution,” the report, released Friday, states. “One side argues that the Constitution merely prohibits the establishment of a government-mandated official religion, but the other reads in the document the complete banishment of religion from anything touched by the government. The courts in recent years have leaned in the direction of the latter position.”


Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the federal statute creating the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional, concluding that it connotes endorsement and encouragement of a particular religious exercise.


A majority of Americans (60%) surveyed by Rasmussen were found to favor having the federal government recognize the annual prayer day.


Lawmakers and Christian groups have called on President Obama to direct the Justice Department to appeal the decision. The Obama administration announced last week that it will appeal.


With much attention drawn to the Supreme Court as Obama prepares to find a nominee to replace retiring Justice John Stevens, the new Rasmussen survey found that 39% of voters nationwide believe the high court is too liberal and only a quarter think it is too conservative.


Forty-six percent say the Supreme Court has been too hostile toward religion and only 13% say it has been too friendly toward religion.


Evangelical Christians are more likely than other Protestants and those of other faiths to view the high court as too hostile. While 73% of evangelicals say so, only 48% of other Protestants, 38% of Catholics and 29% of those of other faiths agree.


In other findings, 61% of Americans favor prayer in public schools. They also overwhelmingly favor allowing religious symbols to be displayed on public land. Also, 77% say an opening prayer should be part of the presidential inauguration ceremony.




**Christians Must Be Careful Not to Engage in Political Friendly Fire (Christian Post, 071004)


The election of 2004 taught the Left in America an important lesson. A unified Christian conservative base means big wins for the political Right. To make sure they don’t suffer the agony of defeat again the Left launched a campaign to confuse and divide Evangelicals by minimizing the core social issues that have long kept us unified. By elevating environmental issues and overplaying the plight of those who suffer from injustice, Leftist leaders hoped to cause division in the Christian conservative base and thus neutralize one of the largest conservative voting blocks in the country.


We can expect no less from the likes of or People for the American Way. But we certainly should not be guilty of making it easier for them to reach their goal by doing their work for them. In football, one of the most frustrating events is when your team coughs up the ball at a critical moment giving possession to the other team. The frustration is multiplied if the fumble comes at a critical point in the game where a shift in momentum could lead to the defeat of your team.


Just last week, Dr. James Dobson, in an e-mail sent to supporters was critical of Republican hopeful Fred Thompson. Dr. Dobson is, without a doubt, the most influential leader in America of Christian conservatives. If the Evangelical Right has a quarterback he is the first string. If we have a field general it is Dr. Dobson and Focus on the Family who commands the most forces in the culture war. As the battle for the White House begins to rage in earnest, the last thing we should be guilty of is turning our guns on own leadership or fumbling the ball to the other team. And yet, that is exactly what some in the Evangelical community have foolishly decided to do.


Referring to Thompson Dr. Dobson said, “Isn’t Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won’t talk at all about what he believes, and can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?” Granted this is a pretty critical view of Thompson but it is Dr. Dobson’s view and he should be entitled to it without every Evangelical who supports Thompson throwing a hissy fit.


There has been quite a bit of ink spilled in response to Dobson’s comments. A good friend of mine who I respect very much wrote an op-ed piece which called his remarks a “cheap shot” and he went on to suggest that his the comments were “less than smart.” With all due respect to my friend what is “less than smart” is for the Evangelical community to begin to turn on each other at the precise moment in history when unity is the only thing that will save us from the complete loss of our influence in the political arena. The culture war must be fought in the market place of ideas and the political arena is where we decide whose ideas will ultimately be backed by the force of law. There should be no energy spent venting our in-house disagreements in the public square.


I begged my friend to remove the combative language and simply deal with the points Dr. Dobson made in his email. Fred Thompson’s stand on a constitutional amendment for marriage is not where I stand but I could live with his interpretation where I cannot live with either Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton’s interpretation. South Carolina, along with 17 other states has passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as possible only between a man and a woman. I strongly believe that marriage is a foundational issue that is crucial to the welfare of our Republic. Just as Abraham Lincoln realized that the Union could not long endure half slave and half free, neither can it long endure with some states upholding marriage and some allowing it to exist in some perverted form.


But for me, the key issue is whether or not the states can be protected from being forced, by the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution to honor homosexual unions from other states. I believe Fred Thompson will definitely support an effort protect conservative states from radical states and I believe he will eventually agree with an amendment to protect marriage nationwide.


The bottom line is I disagree with Dr. Dobson’s assessment of Fred Thompson but I will not attack Dobson for expressing his opinion. We must not squander our unity on the altar of our personal preferences for president during the primary. We must leave room for each other’s passions knowing that soon we will need to come together if we hope to elect a true conservative as President. So for all who would speak publically about our differences I would join the Apostle Paul to “implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all gentleness, and with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3, NASV).



Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.




**Poll: Trust in Big Government Near Historic Low (Foxnews, 100419)


WASHINGTON — Nearly 80% of Americans say they can’t trust Washington and they have little faith that the massive federal bureaucracy can solve the nation’s ills, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center that shows public confidence in the federal government at one of the lowest points in a half-century.


The poll released Sunday illustrates the ominous situation facing President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party as they struggle to maintain their comfortable congressional majorities in this fall’s elections. Midterm prospects are typically tough for the party in power. Add a toxic environment like this and lots of incumbent Democrats could be out of work.


The survey found that just 22% of those questioned say they can trust Washington almost always or most of the time and just 19% say they are basically content with it. Nearly half say the government negatively effects their daily lives, a sentiment that’s grown over the past dozen years.


This anti-government feeling has driven the tea party movement, reflected in fierce protests this past week.


“The government’s been lying to people for years. Politicians make promises to get elected, and when they get elected, they don’t follow through,” says Cindy Wanto, 57, a registered Democrat from Pennsylvania who joined several thousand for a rally in Washington on April 15 — the tax filing deadline. “There’s too much government in my business. It was a problem before Obama, but he’s certainly not helping fix it.”


Majorities in the survey call Washington too big and too powerful, and say it’s interfering too much in state and local matters. The public is split over whether the government should be responsible for dealing with critical problems or scaled back to reduce its power, presumably in favor of personal responsibility.


About half say they want a smaller government with fewer services, compared with roughly 40% who want a bigger government providing more. The public was evenly divided on those questions long before Obama was elected. Still, a majority supported the Obama administration exerting greater control over the economy during the recession.


“Trust in government rarely gets this low,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the nonpartisan center that conducted the survey. “Some of it’s backlash against Obama. But there are a lot of other things going on.”


And, he added: “Politics has poisoned the well.”


The survey found that Obama’s policies were partly to blame for a rise in distrustful, anti-government views. In his first year in office, the president orchestrated a government takeover of Detroit automakers, secured a $787 billion stimulus package and pushed to overhaul the health care system.


But the poll also identified a combination of factors that contributed to the electorate’s hostility: the recession that Obama inherited from President George W. Bush; a dispirited public; and anger with Congress and politicians of all political leanings.


“I want an honest government. This isn’t an honest government. It hasn’t been for some time,” said self-described independent David Willms, 54, of Florida. He faulted the White House and Congress under both parties.


The poll was based on four surveys done from March 11 to April 11 on landline and cell phones. The largest survey, of 2,500 adults, has a margin of sampling error of 2.5%age points; the others, of about 1,000 adults each, has a margin of sampling error of 4%age points.


In the short term, the deepening distrust is politically troubling for Obama and Democrats. Analysts say out-of-power Republicans could well benefit from the bitterness toward Washington come November, even though voters blame them, too, for partisan gridlock that hinders progress.


In a democracy built on the notion that citizens have a voice and a right to exercise it, the long-term consequences could prove to be simply unhealthy — or truly debilitating. Distrust could lead people to refuse to vote or get involved in their own communities. Apathy could set in, or worse — violence.


Democrats and Republicans both accept responsibility and fault the other party for the electorate’s lack of confidence.


“This should be a wake-up call. Both sides are guilty,” said Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. She pointed to “nonsense” that goes on during campaigns that leads to “promises made but not promises kept.” Still, she added: “Distrust of government is an all-American activity. It’s something we do as Americans and there’s nothing wrong with it.”


Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican who won a long-held Democratic Senate seat in Massachusetts in January by seizing on public antagonism toward Washington, said: “It’s clear Washington is broken. There’s too much partisan bickering to be able to solve the problems people want us to solve.”


And, he added: “It’s going to be reflected in the elections this fall.”


But Matthew Dowd, a top strategist on Bush’s re-election campaign who now shuns the Republican label, says both Republicans and Democrats are missing the mark.


“What the country wants is a community solution to the problems but not necessarily a federal government solution,” Dowd said. Democrats are emphasizing the federal government, while Republicans are saying it’s about the individual; neither is emphasizing the right combination to satisfy Americans, he said.




**Evangelicals must stay the course (, 070909)


By Ken Connor


There are reports of a growing disaffection for politics among American evangelicals. This should come as no surprise.


“Values voters”, many of whom pinned their hopes for cultural transformation on politics, have suffered a series of bitter disappointments. Some of these disappointments have names, not the least of which include Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley, and Larry Craig. Additionally, the lack of meaningful progress in eliminating abortion, the collapse of the campaign to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment, the explosion of congressionally approved “earmarks”, and wanton spending by the Federal legislature—all of which occurred while Republicans, of all people, controlled the White House and the Congress—have also contributed to the current malaise. There is also the matter of the war in Iraq which many feel is being prosecuted poorly by the President in whom they initially reposed great confidence.


The danger, of course, is that evangelicals, who are known to suffer from what Howard Hendricks described as the “peril of the pendulum”, will abandon their engagement in the public square and retreat pietistically to their prayer closets.


Lest we forget, however, it was the fruit born of a lack of civic engagement by people of faith that propelled evangelicals into the political arena. For decades in America, there was little organized involvement by evangelicals in the public square. Politics was deemed a “dirty business.” Christians were discouraged from sullying themselves with such base and worldly pursuits. Pietism prevailed over politics.


Into that vacuum crept the indicia of an increasingly secularized society—abortion on demand, an explosion of sexually transmitted diseases, public schools stripped of prayer and hostile to religious expression, to name just a few. Awakened from their slumber by the likes of Jerry Falwell, Cal Thomas, Paul Weyrich, and others, evangelicals scarcely recognized their country. The Moral Majority was born, and in its wake followed groups that proudly advertised their faith-based roots, such as the Christian Action Council, the Christian Coalition, and The Center for Reclaiming America for Christ. Evangelicals became a political force to be reckoned with and provided the decisive margin of victory in a number of elections. The efforts of this brand of faith-based political engagement were so successful, the movement was dubbed the “Christian Right” by its adversaries. Intended as a pejorative term, Falwell and others wore the moniker with pride.


As the Christian Right “matured”, however, it began to downplay its “Christian” distinctive. In order to achieve a more broad-based appeal, the movement increasingly described itself as “pro-life” and “pro-family.” And with its increasing emphasis on direct mail, grass roots organization, and get out the vote campaigns, it became more and more difficult to distinguish the Christian Right from the rest of the political pack. The names of evangelical leaders became household words, and they were increasingly in demand as political, rather than spiritual, commentators.


Evangelicals became such a large part of the political landscape that they became known as the “base” of the Republican Party. And they became inextricably intertwined with the GOP and the Bush Administration. Now, however, the Grand Old Party has become increasingly identified with serial scandals involving pedophilia and bathroom sex, and in the wake of Mr. Bush’s plummeting popularity, many evangelicals are scratching their heads and wondering how it all came to this. They are utterly embarrassed and sorely tempted to return to their prayer closets.


To do so would be a mistake.


Evangelicals would do well to remember the following:


First, notwithstanding human advances, man remains sinful and power still corrupts. There was a reason, after all, that the Founding Fathers embraced the concept of “separation of powers.” They did not want to concentrate too much power in the hands of flawed human beings. They were not naïve about the nature of human beings or politics, and we should not be either. We should expect that the results of human frailty will surface in the political arena no less so than other areas of life. As James Madison observed in Federalist #51, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” But even those who govern are infected with the same sin nature that caused us all to be in need of a savior.


Second, retreat is not an option. G. K. Chesterton rightly noted, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” He also pointed out that “[t]he fate of good men who refuse to get involved in politics is to be ruled by evil men.” (Were he here today, I am sure that he would doubtless be gender neutral and use the word “people” instead of “men.”) Human experience has proved Chesterton right over and over again. When Christians hide their light under a bushel, the world goes dark—very dark. Jesus’ admonition to his followers to be salt and light is no less applicable today than when first he uttered it 2000 years ago.


Third, Christians should be committed to principle in the public square, over party or personality. Principles are timeless and enduring (that’s why they are called principles!). Right principles do not disappoint. People and parties do. Principled engagement in the public square requires that we apply the same standard to both Democrats and Republicans. We should affirm members of both parties who affirm our principles and we should exhort members of both parties who don’t. Double standards invite criticisms of hypocrisy and duplicity. If we consistently cling to our principles, we will have clear consciences and be able to weather any political storm.


Fourth, we must not weary in well doing. It takes time to reform a culture. We didn’t get into this mess overnight and we won’t get out of it quickly. William Wilberforce labored for decades to end the slave trade in the British Empire. Though mocked and ridiculed for his efforts by fellow members of Parliament and by the powerful special interests of his time, he clung to his principles and his faith. In the end, he was successful and the world was changed for the better.


Fifth, expect opposition and ridicule. The Savior encountered it. As his servants, we are not exempt from it. The servant is not better than his master. (See Matt. 10:24)


Finally, we should reflect on Jesus’ example. The writer of Hebrews understood the natural tendency on the part of people who experience opposition or persecution for their faith to become discouraged. He offered a surefire antidote for discouragement by exhorting Christ’s followers to “fix our eyes on Jesus…who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame.… Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb. 12:2-3, NIV)


Tempting though it may be for evangelicals to drop out of the race and to repair to the sidelines, we must stay the course. There are many more laps to run. May God grant that when we have finished the race we will hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.… Enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matt. 25:21, ESV)




Polls Emphasize Growing Religious Gap in Politics (FN, 031218)


WASHINGTON — Regular attendees of religious services are more likely to vote Republican while those who infrequently attend services or belong to no assembly at all are more likely to vote Democrat, a growing body of polling indicates.


And while these figures come as no surprise to those watching the trends, it does suggest a serious “religion gap” going into the 2004 presidential elections. Critics say that spells bad news for Democrats if they can’t convince voters they aren’t afraid of the “R” word.


“They are conceding religion to the Republicans. I think that is a fundamental mistake on behalf of Democrats,” said Jim Wallis, president of the anti-poverty Call to Renewal, a national coalition of churches and faith-based organizations.


“They will never win politically,” without bringing religion into their campaigns, specifically on the issues of poverty, the war in Iraq and even the environment, Wallis said. “Their failure to do so will continue to result in polls like these,” he said, referring to a November poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.


That poll revealed that 63% of people who attend services more than once a week vote Republican, while 37% of regular attendees vote Democratic. On the flip side, 62% of those who attend a religious service only once a year or not at all vote Democrat, while 38 of these voters align themselves with the GOP.


The gap in voter preferences begins to close among occasional churchgoers — 52% said they are more likely to vote Republican while 48% said they prefer Democrats.


Marking a change from the 1996 presidential election in which President Clinton beat Republican opponent Bob Dole among weekly churchgoers 54% to 31%, according to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, the religious divide has turned around.


In 2000, President Bush, a Methodist who is popular with evangelical Christians, beat Democratic opponent Al Gore, a Southern Baptist. In that election, voters who attended religious services weekly or more frequently backed Bush. Gore won among those voters who worshipped once or twice a month, a couple times a year, or not at all.


Pew poll associate director Scott Keeter said it isn’t a voter’s denomination, but how religious one is that determines how he or she will vote.


“Increasingly, the split in our society is between the observant and the pious and the non-observant, regardless of their denomination,” Keeter told “It’s not about Catholic versus Protestant, it’s the intensity of religious beliefs and practices.”


He added that the exceptions are black Baptist and Protestant churchgoers, who attend services frequently, but vote nearly 100% with Democrats.


Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster, said too often people talk about the “Catholic vote” or the “Jewish vote” without thinking that there are liberals and conservatives among them with different views on the issues and a tendency to practice their respective faiths differently.


“You have to understand, a voter who happens to be Catholic and a Catholic who wants to vote are two different things,” she said, noting that the beliefs of the latter go way beyond opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage and support for prayer in schools. She said the conservative religious voter tends to believe in less government and often backs free market ideals.


“It’s a very important bloc of voters, people of faith, true believers” Conway said. “They are of significant numbers and they have a higher propensity to turn out to vote more than the average individual.”


But some religious individuals say actual attendance in a house of prayer does not determine religiosity or voter preference. And another poll conducted by Pew in October suggests they may be right. In that poll, 62% of those surveyed said religion played a “very important” role in their lives, but only 27% said they attend a religious service at least once a week.


Marcus Welty, a researcher with the National Council of Churches, said mainline Protestants may not equal the numbers of their Evangelical counterparts, and their members may not be as churchgoing, but they do lead religious lives demonstrated by their volunteering for causes like reducing poverty and championing certain issues in communities.


“There is a lot of disconnect between reality and what the polls tend to find,” Welty said.


Still, the November Pew poll showed that among the individuals surveyed who identified themselves as mainline Protestants, 35% said they voted Republican while 27% voted Democrat.


Of the nine Democratic candidates, only Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, an Orthodox Jew, has not hesitated to tie his faith to policy. But former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina and Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri have all been inclined to treat religion as a private matter, a big mistake, according to Wallis.


In a recent campaign stop in Houston, Texas, Dean, a Christian Congregationalist, told a crowd, “We’ve got to stop voting on guns, gods, gays and school prayer.”


Wallis said some Democrats tend to be dismissive and disrespectful of religiosity when they should be using their faith to underscore Bush’s failures on important issues like poverty and faith-based initiatives.


“The Bush administration’s failure to deal with poverty among families is a religious failure. Similarly, to fight an unnecessary war is also a religious failure,” Wallis said. “Democrats are wrong when they say faith is a private matter.”


Observers say Bush has figured out that lesson and is seeking to emphasize the gap by energizing religious voters.


Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the 16.3 million-member Southern Baptist Conventions, said evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews are among Bush’s staunchest supporters on foreign policy and domestic issues, and are mobilizing for a fight in November.


“Evangelicals look out there and see the vitriolic attacks on the president, whom they hold in high regard,” Land said. “You will see a maximum effort to re-elect George Bush.”




New group targets religious conservatives (Washington Times, 040622)


A new independent-expenditure group, backed by the John Templeton Foundation, is targeting what political analysts regard as President Bush’s electoral ace in the hole — religious conservative voters.


Let Freedom Ring Inc. will seek contributions to help “counter the millions of dollars being spent to attack and discredit President Bush by leftist organizations such as those supported by billionaire George Soros, Hollywood liberals and others,” said Colin A. Hanna, the new group’s president.


His organization has $1 million in start-up money from the Templeton Foundation, whose president is retired pediatric surgeon and conservative philanthropist Dr. John M. Templeton Jr.


Mr. Hanna, a Republican and former Chester County, Pa., commissioner, says his group “will not be simply a conservative version of and the Media Fund that attacks Senator Kerry the way those organizations attack President Bush.”


“Instead, we will reach out to patriotic Americans, especially people of faith, and encourage them not to let these mudslingers turn them off to our political process,” he says.


Some Republican political strategists have estimated that in 2000, from 4 million to 6 million frequent churchgoers did not show up at the polls on Election Day.


A number of postelection surveys suggest that religious-conservative vote as a proportion of the total vote declined in 2000 versus 1996 — for example, by as much as seven percentage points in Pennsylvania and three points in Michigan. Mr. Bush, who had the overwhelming backing of frequent churchgoers who did vote, narrowly lost both swing states.


Bush strategists hope that recapturing that lost evangelical vote and even expanding on it, especially in the battleground states, could spell success for Mr. Bush over Democrat John Kerry on Nov. 2.


“Religious conservatives are a unique kind of ‘swing voter,’ “ Mr. Hanna said. “They don’t swing between Bush and Kerry, but between Bush and not voting.”


However, the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, criticized Let Freedom Ring as an attempt to inject religion into politics.


“Some forces want the presidential race to wind up in a round of Bible ‘Jeopardy’ in late October,” Mr. Lynn said. “And this is one more massively funded effort to achieve [Bush strategist] Karl Rove’s stated goal of getting 3 [million] to 4 million more Christian evangelical voters to the polls.”


Evangelical Christians make up 7% of the population and 86% of them expect to vote for Mr. Bush this time, according to a survey last month of 1,260 registered voters by the independent, California-based Barna Research Group.


The study reports that 88% of evangelicals are likely to vote, making them the religious group with the greatest voting propensity. They also are “the population segment most supportive of the president’s performance in office — 89% give him a favorable evaluation,” according to the survey.


Most independent-expenditure groups using soft, federally unregulated donations this year have chartered themselves as “527s,” an IRS designation for a nonprofit group that cannot coordinate its advertising and get-out-the-vote activities with any candidate or political party.


These groups can devote all their contributions to political activities, but must report the names of their donors to the Federal Election Commission — something many wealthy individual and corporate donors are reluctant to do.


Let Freedom Ring, however, has formed itself as a 501c4, a nonprofit IRS designation for a group that can spend up to 49% of its donations on political activity, but does not have to publicly disclose donor names. The same restrictions on coordinating with candidates or parties for 527s apply.


Mr. Hanna said Let Freedom Ring will pay for TV commercials, videos, documentaries, Web campaigns, voter-registration drives and activist mobilization.


“We want to reinforce traditional values and inspire a new generation of Americans to participate actively in our political process,” he said.


Postelection data since 1980 suggest the increasingly important role religion has played for Republicans — which have been billing themselves as backing traditional values.


In the 1992 congressional elections, for example, exit polling by Voter News Service suggested that frequent churchgoers preferred Republican to Democratic candidates for the U.S. House 53% to 47%. By 2002, the Republican advantage with such voters had grown to a 20%age-point gap, with frequent churchgoers voting for Republican House candidates by 60% to 40% for the Democratic opponents.


In 2000, Mr. Bush won 87% of white voters who described themselves as frequent churchgoers, a group “which now represents the heart of the Republican coalition,” according to John C. Green, the director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, and Mark Silk, director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center at Trinity College.


“With non-Catholic Christians, Bush’s [vote] performance ranged from 61% of frequent-attending white Protestants to 51% of less-attending white Protestants,” the two men reported.




Evangelical surged to vote and ‘shape public policy’ (Washington Times, 040622)


America’s 50 million evangelicals have received a call “to shape public policy” and expand the role of religion in public life, according to a document produced by the National Association of Evangelicals.


Still in draft form, the 12-page document, “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” says evangelical Christians have a duty to affect society “because Jesus is Lord over every area of life.”


Written by Christianity Today magazine editor David Neff, the document chides evangelicals for inactivity, stating that only half of them voted in the 2000 election.


Evangelical Christians, who emphasize personal conversion, faith in Jesus and public preaching, make up about one-quarter of the electorate.


The report says that evangelicals are ambivalent about civic engagement because of “Christianized versions of interest-group politics” that have “produced access without influence” and discouraged many Christians from getting involved.


An earlier version of the document reported in the Sunday editions of the Los Angeles Times said “evangelicals must guard against overidentifying Christian social goals with a single political party.”


That sentence produced enough inquiries to the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) that its drafters revised it during a conference call yesterday to instead read evangelicals “must be careful not to equate Christian faith with partisan politics.”


“We say we are at a historic moment where we dare not disengage from public life,” said Richard Cizik, NAE’s vice president of governmental affairs.


Evangelical Christians have disparate viewpoints on issues like war and the environment, but fairly similar doctrines on abortion, euthanasia and the need to spread their faith through personal proselytizing.


President Bush counts himself as one of them. His re-election campaign has heavily courted this group, hiring Ralph Reed, an evangelical strategist known for his work with the Christian Coalition, as its Southeast regional chairman.


However, evangelical Christians are not always dependable when it comes to voter turnout.


Four million stay-at-home evangelicals almost cost Mr. Bush the 2000 election, Bush political adviser Karl Rove told an American Enterprise Institute seminar in 2001. The Bush campaign expected 19 million to turn out, he said, but only 15 million did.

The stay-at-home factor is what motivated a core group at the 2001 NAE convention in Dallas to draft a document urging Christians to get more involved in politics, Mr. Cizik said. About a dozen evangelical scholars contributed material.


“It’s a good document, and it’s strong,” said Diane Knippers, director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and co-chairman of the drafting committee. “It clearly identifies areas with a broad evangelical consensus — marriage being between a man and a woman, abortion and human cloning — but also treats fairly places where there are disagreements, such people who are pacifists versus those who hold ‘just war’ positions.”




Christian Conservatives a Key Bloc for Bush (Yahoo! News, 040915)


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Christian conservatives, whose lack of enthusiasm for George W. Bush in 2000 worried Republicans, could be the president’s ace in the hole in his race for re-election this time around.


According to pollster Anna Greenberg, a former public policy professor at Harvard University, religion has become one of the more reliable barometers of opinion in U.S. politics.


“In 2000, 62% of voters who attend church every week voted for George W. Bush, while 62% of voters who never attend church voted for Al Gore (news - web sites),” she said.


But Republicans, based on exit polling four years ago, believe as many as 4 million Christian conservatives may have stayed away from the polls because of uncertainty about Bush’s conservatism. Shortly after Bush took office, his top political adviser, Karl Rove, started rebuilding bridges to the group.


The Bush campaign, aided by well-organized allies such as the Christian Coalition, has made a special effort to mobilize such voters for the Nov. 2 election.


In a controversial move earlier this summer, the campaign began encouraging members of conservative churches to send their church membership directories to the campaign.


“There is much more activity from the White House and the Republican Party to capture, control and manipulate religious issues and to orchestrate partisan activity in churches,” said Jim Wallis, executive director of Sojourners, a Christian ministry that advocates spiritual renewal and social justice.


Over the past generation, Christian “born-again” fundamentalist denominations have grown faster than traditional “old-line” Protestant denominations.


Richard Land of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention said that in 1960, 22% of voters were evangelical Christians. He said the number was now about 33%.


Under federal law, churches risk losing their tax-exempt status if clergy endorse a particular political candidate from the pulpit. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives are pushing legislation to remove that limitation before Congress adjourns, possibly by attaching it to another measure.


Christian Coalition President Roberta Combs said she believed conservative Christian turnout this year would exceed that of 2000 because voters knew and admired Bush after four years in the White House.


Bush has often spoken about how his religious conversion allowed him to put his life in order and give up alcohol.




“They identify with Bush on the issues they care about, like abortion and same-sex marriage, and they know who he is and where he stands. He’s not only spoken about these issues but has acted as well,” Combs said.


Some prominent Christians go even further. Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson said earlier this year that “George Bush (news - web sites) is going to win in a walk. ... the Lord’s just blessing him.”


For Wallis, that is going too far. “There’s a difference between endorsing a candidate, which is fine, and ordaining him by saying that good Christians can vote only for him. That’s a line we’ve crossed this year,” he said.


The Christian Coalition will send out 30 million voter guides next month and is encouraging churches to download and distribute tens of millions more from its Internet site.


While they will not explicitly endorse Bush, the guides will show he stands with the Christian Coalition on its top issues such as opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage, while Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites) opposes most of them.


The Southern Baptists are distributing a voter guide encouraging voters to stress their values rather than their pocketbooks. It is being promoted by Focus on the Family, an evangelical group that controls a powerful radio network.




Ministers’ role in close presidential race intensifies (South Carolina The State, 041012)


COLUMBUS, Ohio - Before stepping forward to say a prayer at a Bush-Cheney rally, Pastor Bob Huffaker had limited his political involvement to encouraging parishioners to vote their conscience.


But on Sept. 20, before about 3,000 people jammed into a school field house in suburban Grove City to welcome Vice President Dick Cheney, Huffaker told a joke poking fun at Democrat John Kerry, then prayed that God would give wisdom and protection to the country’s leaders.


“For too long pastors, churches, have just said, ‘Well, we’re just not going to get into politics,” said Huffaker, 67, senior pastor of the Grove City Church of the Nazarene, which has more than 5,000 members.


While ministers and politicians have joined forces at campaign time for years, the level of religious involvement has intensified this year, observers say.


“When you see all these ministers and priests at these rallies, on both sides, what you’re seeing is a trend that is commonplace throughout American history but has reached a very high level right now,” said Ken Warren, a Saint Louis University political analyst.


In suburban Seattle, Pastor Joseph Fuiten of Cedar Park Assembly of God Church is the volunteer chairman of a statewide effort to rally social conservatives to re-elect President Bush. He also runs his own Web site where he advocates electing Republicans, but said he is careful to use his own money and not endorse candidates from the pulpit.


In Missouri, the Kerry-Edwards campaign hired the Rev. David Keyes as a religious outreach coordinator. Keyes, who is also married to the widow of a Swift boat veteran and Kerry friend killed in Vietnam, spends his days organizing “prayer potluck” rallies for the campaign in Missouri and other states.


“I can’t as a person of faith simply step back and say I’m above it all,” said Keyes, 59, a minister in both the Unitarian-Universalist and United Church of Christ denominations. “It’s not what Jesus would have done, it’s not what I can do. If we’re interested in people’s health and well-being, if we’re interested in the quality of human life, I feel we have to get involved.”


In Columbus, the Rev. Aaron Wheeler of the Mountaintop Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus said a prayer before a Sept. 22 speech by former President George Bush. “Before I pray, I just want to say I’m proud to be a Republican,” Wheeler said at that event.


The Rev. James Black, a Roman Catholic priest at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Chillicothe, said he believes the moral nature of the issues before voters this year - gay marriage, a war, abortion - has brought religion to the fore in a way previous campaigns didn’t.


Black was asked to give an opening prayer before a Sept. 7 rally for Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards, then found some parishioners questioning his action. He did not endorse the Democratic ticket through his prayer.


“I might not do it in the future just to avoid any confusion,” Black said.


“Moral values” will play a role in the decision of 64% of voters, according to a Pew Research Center poll that examined voters and religious issues in the campaign.


But the August poll also found that 65% of voters disagreed with churches endorsing political candidates.


Ministers are playing a role in the campaigns of both parties this year, said John Green, a University of Akron political scientist and expert on religion and politics.


“Conservative Christians are out supporting Bush, but the Kerry people are doing a pretty good job rounding up ministers on their side,” he said.


For Huffaker, a minister for 44 years, the debate over social issues in this year’s campaign forced him to take his politics public.


Before his prayer at the Cheney event, he quipped to the crowd that supporters of Bush were to drive around during the day with their headlights on. Supporters of Kerry were to drive around at night with their headlights off, he said.


“This is a spiritual thing as much or more so than political,” Huffaker said in an interview. “When you’re talking about same-sex marriages and abortions, if the church doesn’t step up to the plate, it’s going to change our whole society.”




Christian wins TV White House (WorldNetDaily, 041011)


Candidate survives Showtime reality-show vote, rakes in $200,000


The outspoken Christian who rallied fellow believers to vote for him each week has won Showtime’s “American Candidate” presidential race, receiving a $200,000 prize and the chance to give a televised speech about issues he believes important.


As WorldNetDaily reported, Park Gillespie, a Republican schoolteacher, was one of three finalists whittled down from an original group of ten people – ordinary Americans who were put through the paces of running for president, including developing platforms, giving speeches and facing focus groups each week on the cable network’s program.


After each episode, viewers and others could call in on special telephone numbers to vote for which candidate should remain in the race. After Gillespie made the cut and became one of the final two candidates, a final showdown occurred Oct. 3. The results of that vote between Gillespie and Democrat Malia Lazu, who works for a “progressive” 527 political group called Young Voter Alliance, was announced on yesterday’s show.


Says the show’s website: “The votes are in … Park is the American Candidate!”


Gillespie won even though pollster Frank Luntz, a consultant to the show, assessed his chances as slim – given that Showtime’s target demographic leans to the left, 70-30%.


But Luntz also praised Gillespie’s debating skills and willingness to stick to his core beliefs no matter what the electoral consequences might be.


Gillespie had a website that advertised the phone number people could call each Sunday night to vote for him, which allowed even those who do not get Showtime at home to participate.


The 38-year-old from North Carolina says his faith was an issue during the run of the show.


“I was counseled a lot during this show to stop using the ‘J word,’ to stop talking about how Jesus changed my life,” Gillespie told Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink. “But I couldn’t do that. It’s who I am, why I’m here. To deny Him would be like denying breathing – it’s just not possible for me.”


Gillespie’s platform includes President Reagan’s economic policies for job creation, support for Social Security privatization, and opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion.


Here is part of Gillespie’s final speech of the competition:


“Jefferson warned of an oligarchy, the rule of a few; he taught us that without the consent of the governed, those who govern have no moral or legal authority. And that’s just what we’re on the verge of creating in this country: Unelected, unaccountable judges are making laws the people would never pass. For example, wherever voters have had the chance to speak on same-sex marriage – by supermajorities in Alaska and Nevada, Hawaii and Louisiana, Missouri and California – they have affirmed the institution as the union of one man and one woman. That’s the way it’s supposed to be in a government of the people, by the people, for the people.


“Legalizing same-sex marriage – which Massachusetts did this year and which every state in the union could be forced to do if the judicial tyrants have their way – could strike a crippling blow to families. Study after study has found that boys and girls not raised by both their biological parents are much more likely to suffer abuse, perform poorly in school, abuse drugs and alcohol and wind up in trouble with the law.


“Did our founders fight and die to wrest their liberty from a tyrannical king, only to hand it to a group of black-robed judges? Should the desires of adults ever trump what’s best for kids? The needs of our most vulnerable must come first.”




Christian Wins ‘American Candidate’ (Citizen Link, 041011)


Park Gillespie battles long odds to emerge victorious in the Showtime reality series about political campaigns and public policy ideas.


Pro-life schoolteacher Park Gillespie defied the odds — and proved plenty of political pundits wrong — on Sunday when he was declared the winner of the Showtime reality series “American Candidate.”


Gillespie, 38, a North Carolina schoolteacher, defeated the show’s other finalist, liberal youth activist Malia Lazu, in toll-free phone voting conducted Oct. 3.


“If God shows me any more kindness and love that is so underserved I think I will melt,” Gillespie told CitizenLink after the results were announced. “It’s been about Him since the beginning, and I am humbled and honored by the entire experience.”


An unapologetic evangelical Christian, Gillespie was the only social conservative among the series’ 10 contestants. None of them were really running for president, but as part of the show’s “Survivor”-meets-a-political-campaign format they had to advance platforms, give speeches, film ads and engage each other in debates as if they really were.


Gillespie won even though no less a political prognosticator than high-powered pollster Frank Luntz, a consultant to the show, assessed his chances as slim — given that Showtime’s target demographic is 70-30 liberal.


But Luntz also praised Gillespie’s debating skills and willingness to stick to his core beliefs no matter what the electoral consequences might be, and in the end that was enough to secure him the show’s top prize — $200,000 and the chance to deliver an unedited speech to the nation about the issues close to his heart.


“I was counseled a lot during this show to stop using the ‘J word,’ to stop talking about how Jesus changed my life,” Gillespie said. “But I couldn’t do that. It’s who I am, why I’m here. To deny Him would be like denying breathing — it’s just not possible for me.”


Key to Gillespie’s victory was mobilizing fellow Christians to support him by phoning in their votes — even if they weren’t watching the show. Thousands of believers did just that — many of them first made aware of Gillespie’s bold stand for truth on what he called “arguably the most godless network on TV” by CitizenLink.


Nearly 200 CitizenLink readers, in fact, sent Gillespie notes of encouragement during the last leg of his “run,” praising him for being a “Dr. James Dobson Jr.” by carrying a message of truth to the world. Nearly every reader who wrote in pledged to pray for Gillespie and his family — and those prayers, he said, made all the difference.


“I could not have done any of this,” he said, “without that kind of support.”


During “American Candidate’s” 10-week run, Gillespie debated lesbian activist Chrissy Gephardt (daughter of Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt) about the evils of partial-birth abortion; challenged another openly gay rival, former Clinton staffer Keith Boykin, about whether homosexuality is a genetic condition; and told the audience at his final debate with Lazu that he would never urge one of his four daughters to get an abortion — even if she became pregnant after being raped — because “two wrongs don’t make a right.”


He also offered a passionate indictment of judicial tyranny and a passionate defense of traditional marriage in his acceptance speech, broadcast last night.


“Jefferson warned of an oligarchy, the rule of a few; he taught us that without the consent of the governed, those who govern have no moral or legal authority,” Gillespie said. “And that’s just what we’re on the verge of creating in this country: Unelected, unaccountable judges are making laws the people would never pass. For example, wherever voters have had the chance to speak on same-sex marriage — by supermajorities in Alaska and Nevada, Hawaii and Louisiana, Missouri and California — they have affirmed the institution as the union of one man and one woman. That’s the way it’s supposed to be in a government of the people, by the people, for the people.


“Legalizing same-sex marriage — which Massachusetts did this year and which every state in the union could be forced to do if the judicial tyrants have their way — could strike a crippling blow to families,” he added. “Study after study has found that boys and girls not raised by both their biological parents are much more likely to suffer abuse, perform poorly in school, abuse drugs and alcohol and wind up in trouble with the law.


“Did our Founders fight and die to wrest their liberty from a tyrannical king, only to hand it to a group of black-robed judges? Should the desires of adults ever trump what’s best for kids? The needs of our most vulnerable must come first.”


Gillespie ended his speech by — one last time — ignoring the advice of the pundits.


“I am blessed to call myself a child and disciple of my precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” he said. “May He bless you . . . and may He continue to bless the United States of America.”




A Must-Read Election Message (Citizen Link, 041008)


Dr. Dobson and Don Hodel join more than 70 Christian leaders in urging believers nationwide to filter their Election Day decisions through their biblical values.


Three Focus on the Family executives — including founder and chairman Dr. James C. Dobson — have signed on to an open letter to the American people stressing the importance of relying on biblical values in selecting candidates on Election Day.


In addition to Dobson, Focus President Don Hodel and Vice President of Church, Clergy and Medical Outreach H.B. London Jr. also signed the letter. In all, it is endorsed by 71 ministry leaders, pastors and Christian professors from across the United States.


The text of the letter follows:


The Bible speaks to several ethical issues in this election.


Many Americans seek guidance from the Bible for important issues of life, while we recognize that many others do not. With thankfulness for the freedom of all Americans to believe whatever they think best regarding matters of religion and ethics, we offer this statement of our personal understanding of the teachings of the Bible for the thoughtful consideration of all who are interested in how the Bible might speak to ethical issues in the current election.


1. Supreme Court justices: People don’t often think of the appointment of Supreme Court Justices as an ethical issue, but it clearly is now because several decisions of the Supreme Court have imposed on our nation new policies on major ethical and religious questions.


A small majority of our current Supreme Court, and lower courts that follow their example, have gone beyond their Constitutionally defined task of interpreting laws passed by Congress and state legislatures, and have in effect created new “laws” that have never been passed by any elected body. By this process they have imposed on us decrees that allow abortionists to murder unborn babies (contrary to Exodus 20:13 and Romans 13:9, “you shall not murder”), that protect pornographers who poison the minds of children and adults (contrary to Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet ... your neighbor’s wife; see also Matt. 5:28), that redefine marriage to include homosexual couples (thus giving governmental encouragement to actions that Romans 1:26-28 says are morally wrong), and that banish prayer, God’s name and God’s laws from public places (thus prohibiting free exercise of religion, and violating Romans 13:3 which says that government should be “not a terror to good conduct, but to bad”). In taking to itself the right to decree such policies, the Supreme Court has seriously distorted the system of “checks and balances” intended by the Constitution between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.


It is unlikely that any elected body such as a city council, state legislature, or the U.S. Congress, would have decreed policies like those mentioned above, for such groups are accountable to the will of the people. Not so the Supreme Court, which is appointed for life. And democratically-elected members of Congress and state legislatures are helpless to change those Court-mandated policies unless the makeup of the Supreme Court is changed. We believe the ethical choice is for a President and for U. S. Senators committed to appointing judges who will follow the original intent of the Constitution and just interpret law and not make it, rather than for candidates who have often voted to block such judges in votes in the Senate.


2. Defense against terrorists: A fundamental responsibility of government is to “punish those who do evil” (1 Pet. 2:14) and thus to protect its citizens. We now face a unique challenge, because terrorists who will sacrifice their own lives in killing others cannot be deterred by the usual threat of punishing a criminal after he commits a crime. While Jesus instructed individuals not to seek personal revenge but to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39), the Bible teaches that governments are responsible to “bear the sword” (Rom. 13:4) and thus to use force to oppose violent evil. We believe the ethical choice is for a candidate who will pursue terrorists and, when necessary, use force to stop them before they strike us, not for a candidate who only promises to respond if we are attacked again.


3. Abortion: The Bible views the unborn child as a human person who should be protected, since David said to God, “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13; see also Psalm 51:5; 139:13; Luke 1:44), and strong penalties were imposed for endangering or harming the life of an unborn child (Exod. 21:22-23). We believe the ethical choice is for candidates who believe government should give protection to the lives of unborn children, not ones who believe government should allow people to choose to murder their unborn children if they wish.


4. Homosexual marriage: The Bible views marriage as between one man and one woman, for “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). Because our courts have shown a troubling tendency to overturn the laws that have already been passed concerning marriage, we believe the ethical choice is for candidates who support a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.


5. Embryonic stem cell research : Creating more human embryos for their stem cells is making the beginnings of little babies for the purpose of harvesting their parts, contrary to the command, “You shall not murder” (Exod. 20:13). There is a good alternative: using adult stem cells for medical research, because this does not destroy the life of the adult whose cells are used. We believe the ethical choice is for a candidate who has decided he will not allow government funds to be spent to create more human embryos just to take their stem cells.


6. Natural resources: God put human beings on the earth to “subdue it” and to “have dominion” over the animals (Gen. 1:28). We value the beauty of the natural world which God created, and we believe that we are called to be responsible stewards who protect God’s creation while we use it wisely and also seek to safeguard its usefulness for future generations. The Bible does not view “untouched nature” as the ideal state of the earth, but expects human beings to develop and use the earth’s resources wisely for mankind’s needs (Gen. 1:28; 2:15; 9:3; 1 Tim. 4:4). In fact, we believe that public policy based on the idealism of “untouched nature” hinders wise development of the earth’s resources and thus contributes to famine, starvation, disease, and death among the poor. We believe the ethical choice is for candidates who will allow resources to be developed and used wisely, not for candidates indebted to environmental theories that oppose nearly all economic development in our nation and around the world.


7. Should Christians speak out and try to influence our nation on these issues? God’s people in the Bible often spoke about ethical issues to government rulers. Daniel told the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to practice “righteousness” and to show “mercy to the oppressed” (Dan. 4:27); several Old Testament prophets speak to foreign nations about their sins (Isaiah 13-23; Ezekiel 25-32, Amos 1-2, Obadiah (to Edom), Jonah (to Nineveh), Nahum (to Nineveh), Habakkuk 2, Zephaniah 2); and Paul spoke to the Roman governor Felix “about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25).


As Christian leaders we agree that the primary message of the New Testament is the good news about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. But the primary message is not the whole message, and another significant part of the New Testament teaches us how people should live. With respect to issues like these we have mentioned, the Bible also teaches us about what kinds of laws governments should have.


The laws of a nation have a significant influence on the nation’s moral climate, for good or for ill. This is because laws can either restrain evil or encourage it, and because laws also have a teaching function as they inform people about what a government thinks to be right and wrong conduct.


Therefore we urge pastors and Bible study leaders to teach on these crucial ethical issues facing our nation. We urge all Christians that they have a moral obligation to learn about the candidates’ positions, to be informed, and to vote. We urge all Christians to pray that truthful speech and right conduct on both sides would prevail in this election. We also encourage Christians to consider doing even more for the good of our nation, such as giving time or money, or talking to friends and neighbors, or even serving in office themselves. Such influence for good on the direction of our country is one important way of fulfilling Jesus’ command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:19).




Christian Faith and Public Policy—Questions Revisited (Christian News, 041018)


How are we to relate our Christian beliefs to the political sphere? That question has demanded the most careful and faithful Christian thinking for centuries, but recent developments demonstrate that our current post-Christian age presents us with new and ominous postmodern perils.


Recent comments by Senator John Kerry provide an illustration of how not to apply Christian truth to the great moral questions of our age. The senator provided an illuminating insight into his confused and convoluted understanding of faith and politics when, in the course of Wednesday night’s presidential campaign debate, he responded to a question about abortion. Bob Schieffer of CBS News, moderator of the debate, posed the following question to Senator Kerry: “The New York Times reports that some Catholic archbishops are telling their church members that it would be a sin to vote for a candidate like you because you support a woman’s right to choose an abortion and unlimited stem cell research. What is your reaction to that?”


Mr. Kerry responded by arguing that he respectfully disagrees with these archbishops of his church. “I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views, but I disagree with them, as do many. I believe that I can’t legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn’t share that article of faith.” In other words, Senator Kerry claims to be a Catholic who is perfectly free from any responsibility to apply Catholic moral teaching to public policy, insofar as he has the opportunity to form, influence, and vote upon legislation.


In an extended commentary, Senator Kerry tried to relate his Catholic background to his public record. “Now with respect to religion, you know, as I said I grew up Catholic. I was an altar boy. I know that throughout my life this has made a difference for me. And as President Kennedy said when he ran for president, he said, I’m not running to be a Catholic president. I’m running to be a president who happens to be Catholic. Now my faith affects everything that I do and choose. . . and I think that everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith, but without transferring it in any official way to other people.” In framing his argument this way, Senator Kerry effectively argues that there can be no “transference” of his Catholic conviction to his political life. With this argument, the senator intends to absolve himself of responsibility to contend for Catholic moral teaching in his political life.


That argument, antithetical to the Christian moral tradition, would at least have the virtue of consistency. It would, that is, be considered consistent if Senator Kerry would hold consistently to it.


But Senator Kerry immediately departed from his own argument. After stating that his Catholic conviction should not be transferred “in any official way to other people,” he went on to argue that his Catholic faith is the animating motivation behind his work for justice, environmentalism, and the alleviation of poverty. “That’s why I fight against poverty,” Kerry explained. “That’s why I fight to clean up the environment and protect the earth. That’s why I fight for equality and justice. All of these things come out of that fundamental teaching and belief of faith.”


Which way is it, Senator Kerry? It would appear that Kerry is quite willing to transfer his moral convictions concerning poverty and the environment to public policy. But the transference of his self-proclaimed Catholic identity and motivations stops when the contested territory becomes sexuality or abortion. Given Senator Kerry’s characteristic confusion on this issue, those watching Wednesday night’s debate could hardly be surprised.


Yet, while Senator Kerry was arguing that his Catholic faith was a personal matter that should not be transferred to public policy, an Italian official was being booted out of his official responsibilities with the European Union simply for being a Catholic who believed in Catholic moral teaching.


Over the past weekend, the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament rejected Rocco Buttiglione, Italy’s commissioner, just weeks before he was to take office. By a vote of 27 to 26, the Committee voted against Mr. Buttiglione after the Italian commissioner stated his Christian conviction that homosexuality is a sin.


Speaking to the European Parliament just days before, Mr. Buttiglione had said: “I may think that homosexuality is a sin, and this has no effect on politics, unless I say that homosexuality is a crime.” He went on to say, “The rights of homosexuals should be defended on the same basis as the rights of all European citizens. I would not accept the idea that homosexuals are a category apart.”


Mr. Buttiglione is not a devotee of political correctness. In the midst of other comments, he argued that women with children would be best served by having “a husband nearby that can support her morally and economically.” Offended?


The statements made by Mr. Buttiglione should be neither shocking nor controversial. According to press reports, Mr. Buttiglione, appointed to his post by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berluscioni, is a conservative Roman Catholic with close ties to the Vatican and Pope John Paul II. Furthermore, these are convictions that are part and parcel of official Catholic teaching. Is anyone surprised that a conservative Roman Catholic would believe that homosexuality is a sin and that men and women should marry in order to have children?


The Buttiglione affair provides convincing proof that the European Union—which just months ago refused even to acknowledge that Christianity had formative influence in the creation of European culture, has lost all moral sanity and is firmly committed to creating a new post-Christian, post-tolerant, and post-modern culture of radical moral revolution. Johannes Svoboda, second in charge of the European Parliament’s Socialist Group, told Deutsche Welle, the official German press service, that Mr. Buttiglione would turn Europe back from progress. “If Buttiglione wants to send women back to the kitchen, if he thinks that homosexuality is a sin—these are opinions that at this time, for someone who is responsible for the realization of measures against discrimination, for freedom and equality of women—they simply don’t match,” he said.


In other words, while Senator John Kerry was arguing that he was perfectly free to believe Catholic moral teaching that he was unwilling to apply to the public square, Mr. Buttiglione was booted out of his official post with the European Parliament simply for believing what his church teaches on the issue of homosexuality and marriage.


Mr. Buttiglione’s fate is the natural outcome of Senator Kerry’s reasoning. The Democratic presidential nominee effectively argues that his personal faith must be a matter of privatized concern disconnected from his public life—at least when it comes to controversial issues of sex and morality. From there, it requires only a small jump to reach the position argued by Mr. Buttiglione’s critics, who now argue that merely believing that homosexuality is a sin disqualifies an individual from public office and public influence.


The vehemence and vitriol of the secular Left are becoming more and more evident each day. The secular outrage over Rocco Buttiglione is indicative of what will soon come to any culture that accepts this artificial and unsustainable separation of the sacred and the secular.


Anyone who doubts this assertion need look no further than Louisville, Kentucky, and the outrage expressed over an eloquent and sensitive campaign for marriage undertaken by Southeast Christian Church. One of the nation’s largest congregations, Southeast Christian Church exerts a major influence in Louisville and beyond. With Kentucky voters facing a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, the church organized a campaign intended to affirm the dignity and integrity of marriage. One phase of the project included a series of three billboards strategically placed throughout the Louisville metropolitan area. Each features a warm-hearted portrait of a married couple. Along with the portrait, the billboard communicates this message: “One man, One woman, God’s plan for marriage: To honor, to cherish.” That’s all. The billboards are attractive, positive, and eloquent. The message they convey is nothing less than the sum and substance of what virtually all persons throughout human history have believed marriage to be.


Nevertheless, the secular outrage has been extreme. In the October 12, 2004 edition of The Courier-Journal, Louisville’s newspaper, a series of five letters to the editor was published, each one condemning the church’s message. “Southeast Christian Church’s position on marriage stresses that the Bible should be our guideline for defining marriage,” one letter began. “It is this kind of overbearing fundamentalism that has produced theocracies like Iran. Fortunately we live in a country that was founded on the separation of church and state, regardless of what some Christian ‘historians’ want us to believe.” This letter writer obviously believes that those eccentric individuals who believe marriage is a union of a man and a woman—representing, we might note, the overwhelming majority of Americans—can be driven only by some form of religious extremism and “overbearing fundamentalism.”


Another letter writer expressed similar outrage: “The lovey-dovey couples hugging on billboards and buses make me so mad. These slick commercials supporting an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman mask a black-hearted bigotry. How dare they tell my sister and her partner, who is a minister in a Protestant church, what God does or doesn’t want them to do. My sincere hope is that all these couples who profess to have God on their side have a gay child.”


After arguing that a marriage amendment would be discriminatory against common law relationships, as well as same-sex unions, another letter writer got right to the point: “If religious organizations like Southeast Christian Church keep meddling in civil matters, it will eventually turn around and bite them on the butt.” Yet another writer argued that the state’s constitution “guarantees our freedom from the religion-based judgment of others.” Going further, she asserted: “Harmless religious and ethical choices are fundamental freedoms of this great country.”


Evidently, this writer is willing to accept religious liberty so long as the religion is acceptably “harmless” according to her secular sensibilities.


We are now witnessing a massive closing of hearts and minds, fueled by a radical divorce of morality and law. Behind all this stands the totalitarian aspirations of a new secular elite. Senator Kerry has given voice to their argument, and Rocco Buttiglione has felt the crushing weight of their hatred.


Think it can’t happen where you live? Just ask the members of Southeast Christian Church who wanted to remind their neighbors that marriage is to be a union of one man and one woman marked by honor and cherishing love. They can tell you what it is like to be on the receiving end of the secular onslaught.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Is President George W. Bush a Dangerous Theocrat? (Christian News, 041101)


Professor David Domke is a very worried man who has written a very worried book. In God Willing?: Political Fundamentalism in the White House, the ‘War on Terror’ and the Echoing Press, Domke, associate professor of Communications at University of Washington, is sounding an alarm—America has a dangerous theocrat in the White House.


Domke, along with other prophets of secular alarmism, is hoping to see this danger—namely President George W. Bush—go away on November 2.


Domke’s book, appropriately published by an outfit called “Pluto Press,” is a political fantasy posing as a serious academic work. According to Domke, “the Bush administration’s worldview is one grounded in religious fundamentalism—that is, it emphasizes absolutes, authority and tradition, and a divine hand in history and upon the United States.” Scared yet? As he continues, “Such a worldview is disastrous for a democratic political system, for it mandates an ideological shift away from open discussion, publicly responsive leadership, and humility, toward authoritarianism, publicly unmindful leadership, and arrogance.”


A quick trip to your local bookstore will reveal an entire constellation of books written by left-wing academics who are ready to declare President George W. Bush everything from a theocrat to a religious fundamentalist equivalent to Osama bin Laden. If you take these books seriously, it will appear that the American Left is losing its mind.


Domke’s field is communications, and he applies his expertise to analyze the Bush administration. What he finds is nothing less than a sinister conspiracy to turn America into a right-wing Christian theocracy. How is this being done? Domke suggests that President Bush is leading a religious crusade by employing “binary” communication strategies with “strategic political communications” that will combine to make America a fundamentalist republic. “From this perspective,” he argues, “the public communications of the Bush administration might be viewed as the central mechanism in propagating a religiously grounded, politically focused ideology—that is, a political fundamentalism—as the appropriate approach to fighting terrorism.”


In other words, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 afforded the Bush administration an opportunity to employ their sinister binary communications in a strategic approach that will completely reorder the American experiment, undermine our democratic system of government, and put the nation into the hands of a far-right religious fringe.


The conspiracy theory doesn’t end there, however, for Domke also blames a compliant press for allowing the Bush administration to run rough shod over American democracy. “In sum, these four dimensions—nation-challenging crisis, conservative religious political leaders, strategic political communications by the same leaders, and an echoing press—provide a conceptual framework for understanding how political fundamentalism might (re)emerge, gain wide public presentation, and receive a favorable hearing in the United States.”


God Willing? is not a book for the masses. The Bush campaign should lose no sleep over the publication of this screed, for the book’s assuredly few readers would be found among those who regularly talk in terms of “multiple binary constructions.” Don’t expect to throw that phrase around down at the local Elks’ lodge.


But Domke is sure he is on to something here. Christian fundamentalism is always in the background as the threat and precipitating cause of this crisis. Why? “Religious fundamentalism sets black-and-white boundaries through the establishment of rigid norms and behavioral codes. That is, it conceives of the world as a place of absolutist rules and relations that serve as guideposts for how people think, talk, and live. This archetypal component of fundamentalism is at the core of an administration headed by a president who once said, ‘In Texas, we don’t do nuance’.”


The “binaries” that so worry Domke include distinctions like good and evil, right and wrong, heterosexual and homosexual. Religious fundamentalists, he avers, tend to get hung up on such distinctions, while, presumably, professors of communication at the University of Washington have transcended such mundane differences.


Oh—religious fundamentalists also represent a danger to the body politic because of “a belief in a universal gospel.” Citing sociologist Bruce Lawrence, Domke points to a fundamentalist concern with “mandated universalist norms” as the source of the danger. These norms “are to be shared with all peoples—a perspective made clear by the biblical command of ‘go therefore and make disciples of all the nations’.” Alert the political correctness police at once! How shall the republic stand?


In the end, Domke’s main concern is that the Bush administration is waging a crusade by means of Weapons of Mass Communication Destruction, which are reduced to those pesky “binaries” once again. As he explains, “The centrifugal binary for the religious fundamentalist is good versus evil. A conception of reality as a struggle between these opposing forces is at the core of Christian thought, found throughout the Bible in notions of light versus dark, pure versus impure, and righteous versus sinful.” Well, he’s got at least that much right.


Nevertheless, “binary conceptions, in part because they are often rooted in fundamentalism, almost without exception have moral power, which give them a resonance with the mass public and a sustaining news value, both crucial components in the ability of political elites to shape public sentiment.”


The bottom line of Domke’s analysis? “The evidence is clear: The Bush administration brought a political fundamentalism into the mainstream of American politics in the aftermath of September 11. The president and his team did so by strategically choosing language and communication approaches that were structurally grounded in a conservative Christian outlook, but were primarily political in manifest content.”


A similar warning comes from Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media studies at New York University. He’s worried about binaries too, but he is quite certain that the Bush administration is being fueled by an even more sinister force—Christian theocrats. Miller’s book, Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney’s New World Order, is an hysterical manifesto of paranoid liberalism. According to Miller, America is threatened by a cabal of right-wing lunatics who are subverting the Constitution, undermining our democratic system of government, and using George W. Bush as a mechanism for turning America into a Christian theocracy.


After taking readers through several chapters of left-wing rant, Miller turns to attack “an elite theocratic movement of extreme commitment and considerable wealth that has fast become the most influential force on the religious right.” What is this force? Why, “Christian Reconstructionism”, of course. As described by Mark Crispin Miller, Reconstructionism is a “transdenominational ideology” that poses a great threat to the republic.


Miller has done a bit of research into Christian Reconstructionism, also known as “dominion theology,” but he has pasted together an absolutely untenable myth in order to frame his conspiracy theory. Without the slightest shred of evidence, or the faintest concern for fact, he simply accuses President George W. Bush of sharing a theocratic dream with the reconstructionists.


“The radical collapse of all distinction between church and state, and the promotion of an angry ‘Christianity’ as the USA’s official state religion, have grown increasingly apparent as the Bush regime turns more grandiose and reckless after 9/11,” Miller claims. Miller pushes his conspiracy theory to the limits of imagination charging: “A cursory survey of Bush/Cheney’s foreign and domestic innovations will make clear that this regime has, from the start, been hard at work transforming the United States into a theocratic system, and, globally, at the gradual creation of a nominally Christian New World Order.”


Did an editor read this manuscript? As evidence of the Bush administration’s penchant for theocracy, Miller points to President Bush’s advocacy for a Federal Marriage Amendment. “On gay sexuality, for instance, it is hard to see much difference between Bush and Co.’s views” and the theocrats, he insists. With this sentence, Miller attempts to link George W. Bush to a theocratic impulse he claims would lead to the execution of homosexuals. How can we take seriously a man who argues that promotion of a federal marriage amendment and the execution of homosexuals are legally, morally, or factually equivalent?


As is true with so much of this literature, the real target of the attack is evangelical Christianity itself. When Miller accuses the Bush administration of pushing for theocracy “by loading the judiciary branch with jurists who would gladly serve a ‘Christian’ order,” he singles out Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi as an example, noting that this Bush nominee “was president of the Southern Baptists in that state, allying himself with the ‘inerrantists’ who read the Bible as a factual history from the mouth of God.” According to Miller’s worldview, belief in an inspired Scripture is evidence of insanity, extremism, and insipient theocracy.


A final example of this liberal animus toward Christianity is Ron Suskind’s cover article in the October 17, 2004 edition of The New York Times Magazine. Suskind, author of the much criticized The Price of Loyalty, George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O’Neill, accuses President Bush of running a “faith-based presidency” closed to debate and given to extremism. According to Suskind’s conspiracy theory, Bush had harbored faith-based ambitions throughout the early months of his administration, but the terrorist attacks of September 11 afforded him the opportunity to seize the moment for his agenda.


Looking at the President’s address to the joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001, Suskind claims, “This is where the faith-based presidency truly takes shape. Faith, which for months had been coloring his decision-making process and a host of political tactics—think of his address to the nation on stem-cell research—now began to guide events. It was the most natural ascension: George W. Bush turning to faith in his darkest moment and discovering a wellspring of power and confidence.”


In the end Suskind’s main lament is that President Bush is a conservative and a Christian. He portrays as tragedy the fact that President Bush did not follow the advice of liberal religious figures and advisors. He condescendingly considers what might have happened if the President had chosen what he sees as the better path. Nevertheless, Suskind intends to send the nation a warning: There is a faith-based lunatic in the White House, so be very scared.


These books and articles share a common animus toward biblical Christianity and represent a chilling reflection of the secularist worldview that dominates America’s cultural and academic elites.


According to their worldview, poor deluded souls like George W. Bush who believe in “binaries” like good and evil are both pitiable and dangerous. At the same time, these authors have done us a service by reminding us all what is really at stake on November 2.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Hard America, Soft America: The Battle for America’s Future (Christian News, 041101)


The 2004 presidential campaign has been described as one of the most polarizing contests in the nation’s history. With the electoral map divided between “red” and “blue” states reflecting partisan, cultural, and ideological divisions, Americans are coming to terms with the fact that this nation is deeply divided over serious issues of meaning, morality, and basic vision.


As voters head to the polls tomorrow, analysts will watch anxiously, looking for patterns that will reveal the contours of the nation’s political and cultural divides. Will the nation divide into what John Sperling has described as “metro” and “retro” regions? Will issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and same-sex marriage drive Americans into even deeper moral divisions?


None of these questions is likely to be fully settled on Election Day. It has taken decades for America to reach this moment of social polarization, and it will certainly take some time for the issues to be clearly decided both in private lives and in the public arena. At the same time, there are some who argue for a new way of understanding the American divide.


One of those arguing for a new conceptual understanding is Michael Barone, senior writer with U.S. News and World Report and a commentator on the Fox News Channel. Anyone who cares about politics in America knows who Michael Barone is—and recognizes him as the ultimate political junkie’s junkie. In addition to his other responsibilities, Barone serves as “principal coauthor” of The Almanac of American Politics, the indispensable reference guide to the nation’s political order published every two years.


Michael Barone is nothing less than a Fort Knox of political information. Like a baseball fanatic who can roll off batting averages from eighty years ago, Barone knows American politics in such detail that he can usually talk about individual congressional districts with great insight and accuracy. When it comes to the data of American politics, if Michael Barone does not know it, it probably cannot be known.


Yet Barone’s latest book really isn’t about American politics—at least not directly. In Hard America, Soft America, he offers an illuminating analysis into the real division that marks the American cultural landscape. As he sees it, Americans are torn between two poles of cultural energy—between hardness and softness as the texture of the society.


Barone begins by looking with admiration at the young men and women of the American armed services who fought with such spectacular success in Afghanistan and Iraq. These young soldiers were incredibly competent, marked by fierce resolve, and characterized by great personal discipline. But as Barone reflected, “I could not help thinking also that only a few years earlier these enlisted men and women, and not so many years earlier these officers and noncommissioned officers, were more or less typical American adolescents.” As he continued, “For many years I have thought it one of the peculiar features of our country that we seem to produce incompetent eighteen-year-olds but remarkably competent thirty-year-olds.”


How does this happen? Barone explains that American youngsters “live mostly in what I call Soft America—the parts of our country where there is little competition and accountability.” But once these adolescents emerge into adulthood and have to work for a living in a competitive economy, they find themselves in “Hard America,” where competition and accountability are the rules of the day.


Barone sets out his distinction between Hard America and Soft America with clarity. “Soft America coddles: our schools, seeking to instill self-esteem, ban tag and dodgeball, and promote just about anyone who shows up. Hard America plays for keeps: the private sector fires people when profits fall, and the military trains under live fire.” Clearly, Barone believes that hardness is necessary for the preservation and protection of society, and the training of young people into the responsibilities of adulthood. He does not argue that all softness is bad, noting that we shouldn’t “want to subject kindergartners to the rigors of the Marine Corps or leave old people helpless and uncared for.”


Without doubt, Barone believes that Soft America offers inadequate preparation for life, adulthood, and national destiny. He places the blame for Soft America at the feet of intellectual elites pushing what historian Robert Wiebe calls “bureaucratic” ideas. Pragmatist philosopher John Dewey, whose ideas of “progressivist” education have warped the American educational establishment for almost a century, comes under particular critique. As Dewey looked to the public schools, he saw an opportunity for the transformation of society. Rather than focusing on “book learning,” testing, and personal competition, Dewey wanted to transform the schools into laboratories for social experimentation, nurturing children into life responsibilities and intellectual play. Instead of being guided by an authoritarian teacher, Dewey argued, children should be allowed to direct their own learning.


Much of the impetus towards a softening of American culture came in response to the “robber barons” and the fierce capitalism of the early twentieth century. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs represented a softening of life for many Americans, shifting much of the economic responsibility of the nation from individuals to the state.


As Barone demonstrates, the nation has moved back and forth between periods of intense hardness and softness. The successful Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite led Americans to demand an immediate hardening of public education. As Barone indicates, the impact of the National Defense Education Act, passed in 1958, was evident in significantly increased Scholastic Aptitude Test [SAT] scores in the early and mid-1960s.


Nevertheless, this hardening of the educational curriculum was not to last long, for the academic elites demanded increased softening and pushed a liberal agenda that once again looked to the schools as laboratories for social experimentation and the coddling of young people. As educational historian Diane Ravitch explains, the school curricula of the late 1960s and early 1970s reflected a loosening of standards, the marginalization of classical disciplines, and the substitution of grade inflation and social promotion for achievement. Barone points to education schools as the agents of softness in the educational arena. Leading educational theorists substituted a concern for self-esteem for learning, testing, and academic achievement.


All this leaves most young Americans unprepared for the real demands of adulthood. “The stubborn resistance to hardening America’s schools helps account for the fact that Americans up to age eighteen live mostly in Soft America,” Barone argues, “just as most Americans after the age of eighteen live in Hard America.”


Like the schools, the criminal justice system also became representative of Soft America. Criminals were increasingly not held accountable for their crimes, and “a broad swath of Americans who no longer felt morally justified in imposing hard penalties on crime deliberately and substantially softened the criminal justice system.”


Barone even argues that the war in Vietnam was a “soft war” because America’s fighting forces were prevented from applying winning strategies and battle-hardened experience to the conflict, while politicians forced them to fight a mostly “defensive” war.


By the 1980s and 1990s, Americans were increasingly frustrated with the failures of Soft America. Fed up with rising crime rates, Americans elected political leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Rudolph Giuliani, who called for tougher penalties, more police, and a more confrontational fight against crime.


As Barone sees it, the big question for America’s future is whether the nation will move in a harder or a softer direction. This means a choice between competition and coddling, between therapy and truth, between concern for self-esteem and pride in genuine achievement. Applying his skills of political and cultural analysis, Barone sees a hardening in America’s future.


Chastened by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, has America been awakened out of its softness? Do Americans still have sufficient moral resolve to face the threat of world terrorism and the hard political, economic, and moral decisions of the present age? To at least some extent, those questions will be answered tomorrow. The political decisions made by American citizens in the voting booth will reveal this general direction. Will citizens choose the presidential candidate of Soft America [Senator John Kerry] or the candidate of Hard America [President George W. Bush]? Will Americans summon the resolve to protect marriage, defend the nation, and return personal responsibility to the center of America’s public life?


Tomorrow’s electoral results will not answer all of these questions conclusively, but the nation’s voting patterns will tell us much about who we really are and what we really believe. One way or another, we will see a clearer vision of our future.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




As the Smoke Clears— What Does the Election Really Mean? (Christian News, 041104)


The 2004 presidential race defied expectations and surprised at least the majority of analysts in both parties. The conventional wisdom held that a large voter turnout spelled disaster for the Republican candidate, but a massive voter registration and mobilization effort on the part of the Bush campaign actually turned that maxim on its head. Furthermore, many Democratic analysts discounted the impact of values issues, and so failed to detect an enormous unrest among conservative Americans that would be transformed into a tidal wave of voting on Election Day.


One thing is now certain: Both parties now recognize the strategic, indeed determinative, impact of evangelical voters and others concerned primarily about moral and social issues. As the initial electoral data is compiled, the pattern is absolutely clear. The role of voters motivated to preserve marriage, restrain an activist judiciary, and protect unborn human life was decisive, massive, and indisputable.


If demography really is destiny, the demographic data revealed an ideological and sociological divide. As reporters John Harwood and Jacob M. Schlesinger reported in The Wall Street Journal, “White voters turned out to cast ballots for President Bush by double-digit margins. Hispanics backed Mr. Kerry by a similar margin, while blacks backed him by 10 to 1.” Beyond this, “regular churchgoers were rock-solid behind the Republican incumbent. So were married voters with children and Americans who own guns. Those who care most about the threat of terrorism and issues related to moral values voted overwhelmingly to give the 43rd president a second term.”


But, on the other hand, “voters who say they never attend church services sided just as strongly with the Democratic senator from Massachusetts. So did gay voters, single voters, union members, and those most concerned about health care, jobs and Iraq.”


With so much attention given to the electoral map with states divided into red [Republican] and blue [Democratic] designations, many wondered if these designations were more artificial than real. That question was put to rest on Tuesday, when the divisions between red and blue America were demonstrated to be even more extreme than previous elections had indicated. When the red and blue map is broken down at the county level, the nation is revealed to be a massive sea of red interrupted by isolated pockets of highly-populated blue.


Religious faith—and Christian faith in particular—is the most effective predictor of red and blue identity. As the Harwood and Schlesinger research indicated, churchgoers voted overwhelmingly for George W. Bush, with the rate of church attendance being the single most effective predictor of a vote for the Republican candidate.


The reverse was equally true, with secularists voting as a bloc for John Kerry. This clear electoral divide should remind us of sociologist Peter Berger’s research measuring the relative religiosity of world cultures. In his study, Berger found that the nation of India registered the highest level of religious fervor, while Sweden came in dead last, registering highest in terms of cultural secularism. Looking at America, Berger famously observed that we are “a nation of Indians ruled over by an elite of Swedes.” On Tuesday, the Indians asserted themselves politically in a powerful way, and sent the Swedes packing. This will serve as a wake up call for both parties, with Republicans now reminded that moral issues matter most to their most committed voters and with the Democrats wondering how they can ever build a bridge to a population now alienated by the party’s liberal secular values.


Added to all this is the realization that state measures defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman—most in the form of constitutional amendments—all passed by huge margins. Even as gay advocacy groups prepared to contest the provisions in court, Lambda Legal, one of the most active groups litigating for gay rights and same-sex marriage, warned gay couples to turn to the courts only if victory appeared to be a reasonable outcome. “We’ll discourage additional litigation if it runs a serious risk of resulting in a loss that could set us back many years,” said Lambda Legal attorney David Buckel.


International observers were almost apoplectic in the face of President Bush’s decisive win. One British observer noted that with moral issues playing such an important role in the election, Americans appeared closer to societies like Nigeria and Saudi Arabia than secular Europe. Europeans were shocked and puzzled at the role of “God, guns, and gays” in the 2004 U. S. election, demonstrating once again the reality of “American exceptionalism” that sets this nation apart from the liberalism and secularism of its European allies.


Some American observers seemed to be as shocked as the Europeans. Michelle Cottle, writing in The New Republic, was flabbergasted that “Bush’s reelection was driven by a bunch of folks freaked out over the thought of gay marriage and stem-cell research.” In a twist of clearly unintended irony, “God save the republic,” was all she could say in response.


The election data revealed some more humorous aspects as well. Citizens of Alabama voted to allow the state government to promote the shrimp industry and Alaskan voters rejected a provision that would have outlawed hunters using doughnuts and pizza to lure bears out of the forest. Democracy lives on.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Francis Schaeffer’s political legacy (, 050303)


Marvin Olasky


Who’s the major figure behind the election and re-election of George W. Bush? On one level, the visionary Karl Rove. At a deeper level, a theologian most Americans have never heard of: Francis Schaeffer, who 50 years ago this month founded an evangelistic haven in Switzerland, L’Abri.


Over the next quarter-century, Schaeffer changed the lives of many disaffected young people who stopped at L’Abri and found an intellectual pastor who dealt with their hardest questions. He summarized his answers in notable books like “The God Who is There” and “Escape from Reason,” and then turned to political matters in his book “How Should We Then Live.”


Published in 1976 and then turned into a film series, that book — along with the impetus of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision — pushed many evangelicals into political and cultural involvement. Schaeffer brilliantly summarized the history of Western civilization and explained problems in philosophy, science and culture. He concluded that if Christians stayed aloof from political and cultural debates, Western civilization would go down the drain.


In a follow-up book, “A Christian Manifesto” (1981), Schaeffer argued that:


The people in the United States have lived under the Judeo-Christian consensus for so long that now we take it for granted. ... We have forgotten why we have a positive balance between form and freedom in government, and the fact that we have such tremendous freedoms without these freedoms leading to chaos. Most of all, we have forgotten that none of these is natural in the world.


Schaeffer went on to describe two tracks, and did not predict which would be dominant down the road. He wrote:


The first track is the fact of the conservative swing in the United States in the 1980 election. With this there is at this moment a unique window open in the United States ... and we must take advantage of it in every way we can as citizens, as Christian citizens of the democracy in which we still have freedom.


He made it clear that: “We are in no way talking about any kind of theocracy. ... In the Old Testament, there was a theocracy commanded by God,” but now “we must not confuse the Kingdom of God with our country.” He emphasized that “the United States was founded upon a Christian consensus,” and that “we today should bring Judeo-Christian principles into play in regard to government. But that is very different from a theocracy in name or in fact.”


He emphasized the importance of working politically to maintain first track opportunities, because otherwise we’d be on a second track: movement toward an authoritarian government with rule by a legal and technological elite. On the second track, some people would engage in civil or even forceful disobedience, and that would contain its own dangers:


Speaking of civil disobedience is frightening because there are so many kooky people around. ... Such people will in their unbalance tend to do the very opposite from considering the appropriate means at the appropriate time and place.


Schaeffer died in 1984, at a time when some hard-line Christian separatists still looked down on political involvement as cavorting with Satan, and a few romantics yearned for the second track. Many evangelical thought leaders, though, had absorbed Schaeffer’s teaching, which then trickled down to millions more. The result was political organization and pulpit exhortation that propelled evangelicals to the polls, where they overwhelmingly voted for conservative candidates, including George W. Bush. Karl Rove is one among many who said the evangelical vote made the difference.


Since Schaeffer welcomed the election of Ronald Reagan, he would have applauded the 2004 results. He would see great dangers in genetic manipulation and would mourn the continuation of the abortion holocaust. But I believe he would advise us to work hard for first track political success, because neglecting politics and law is “absolutely utopian in a fallen world.”




Evangelicals lobby Congress on responsibility (Washington Times, 050311)


America’s top evangelical Christian organization yesterday released an ambitious plan to influence public policy, to be sent to every member of Congress.


According to “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” Christians have a duty “to help shape the actions of the world’s lone superpower,” especially in “this moment of opportunity” after the 2004 election.


The document was published by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Seventy-eight percent of white evangelicals voted for President Bush in the past election. Evangelicals number about 65 million, or 23% of the U.S. population.


Not only should evangelicals keep to their traditional stances on abortion and marriage and on family issues, the document stated, but they need to do more regarding the poor, the environment, refugee resettlement, disaster and AIDS relief, and need to work against sexual trafficking, prison rape, slavery and human rights abuses.


Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and Orthodox Jew, spoke briefly to the group about global warming, and quoted the Bible — Psalms and a verse in 1 Corinthians, a New Testament book — in his speech.


He also called global warming “a moral issue which causes us to exercise moral leadership before the worst consequences are seen.”


However, “global warming” is not mentioned in the NAE document, which spells out evangelical concerns only in generalizations.


Eighty-seven Christian leaders signed the document, although some said privately at the meeting they feared politicians could morph environmental concerns into population-control legislation.


“I don’t want to be a grouchy evangelical,” said one of the 153 evangelical leaders who attended the statement’s release at the Hart Senate Office building. “But over 25 years, I’ve seen us getting co-opted over and over again.”


America’s evangelicals were “by far the single most potent voting bloc in the electorate last year,” according to a “Trends 2005” background report by the Pew Research Center.


The NAE, which represents 30 million evangelicals in 45,000 churches, also distributed “Toward an Evangelical Public Policy,” a 375-page book that spells out a biblical basis for political involvement.


“This is the beginning of serious communal evangelical reflection on public policy,” said Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action and co-editor of the book.


Despite long-standing differences on political issues, “I believe it’s possible for evangelical Christians to expand their agreement and enlarge their political impact,” Mr. Sider said.


Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and a Roman Catholic, urged that more evangelicals take on less-popular causes, such as prison reform and “genocide” in Sudan.


“Friends tell me you can’t build a nationwide constituency for what’s happening in Africa,” he said. “But what more noble thing is it to do than break the chains of the oppressed?”


The rest of the world copies what happens in the United States, he said, adding, “If we get the basics right, we’ll have a magnification around the world.”


In an effort to forge ties with black evangelicals, the NAE had three on the speaker’s platform, including Barbara Williams-Skinner, president of the Skinner Leadership Institute in Tracy’s Landing, Md., who chided the group for not doing enough to combat racism.


“It was not evangelical Christians who stood next to Martin Luther King,” said Mrs. Skinner, who identified herself as a “pro-life Democrat” and a former top staffer with the Congressional Black Caucus.


“If we think 100 million Christians, with their spotty commitment to social justice will take their commitment to pro-life issues and the sanctity of marriage and translate that to other issues, I don’t think so.”


NAE President Ted Haggard, who followed her, quickly agreed.


“We made a mistake by not standing with Martin Luther King,” he said.




Blair embraces faith; but not in politics (Washington Times, 050323)


LONDON — Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a rare open foray into matters of faith, said yesterday that religion should play a greater part in his nation’s life, but he warned against allowing it to assume the same role in British politics that it has in the United States.


Mr. Blair told an audience of religious and community organizations in London that although religion can make a “visible, tangible difference” in British society, it would be “unhealthy” if it moved to center stage on the country’s political scene.


“I do not want to end up with an American style of politics, with us going out there beating our chest about our faith,” the prime minister said — a remark not likely to go down well in the United States, where religion traditionally figures prominently in politics.


“Politics and religion — it is not that they do not have a lot in common,” Mr. Blair added, “but if it ends up being used in the political process, I think that is a bit unhealthy.”


His lecture was organized by the Faithworks Movement, which is pushing to make faith a hotly contested issue in Britain’s upcoming general election, widely expected to be set for May. Mr. Blair is seeking election to a third consecutive term as prime minister.


Political experts say that Mr. Blair is far from keen on making religion a political issue, but that he has come under pressure from political opponents and church leaders to make so-called “life issues” such as abortion, euthanasia and stem-cell research part of a national debate.


Michael Howard, leader of the major opposition Conservative Party, has turned abortion into a contentious issue by calling for a reduction in the maximum pregnancy period at which a termination would be allowed — from 24 weeks to 20 weeks.


Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor want abortion to become a major issue in the election campaign — the latter seeking an outright ban.


In his address to the Faithworks audience, Mr. Blair sidestepped any such specifics.


Religious institutions, he said, already make a “visible, tangible difference” in British society, adding, “I would like to see you play a bigger, not a lesser, role in the future.”


But the role of religion in politics came to the fore when, during a question-and-answer session, the prime minister was asked about a remark once made to an interviewer by his former communications chief, Alastair Campbell, that Mr. Blair and his Labor government “don’t do God.”


Mr. Blair replied that Mr. Campbell’s comment was actually a warning about the danger that politicians could be misunderstood or misinterpreted if they began talking openly about their religious faith.


The prime minister is often described by associates as a committed Christian, a member of the Church of England, who often attends Roman Catholic services. His wife, Cherie, is a practicing Roman Catholic.


But he seldom makes public comments about religious matters. Yesterday’s Faithworks address was an exception, although, even then, he avoided mentioning topics such as abortion — he touched on it indirectly during the question-and-answer session in discussing the controversial issue in Britain of single mothers.


“We are piling up problems for the future,” when teenage — and sometimes sub-teenage — women begin families when “very, very young.”


“It is important,” Mr. Blair said, “that they get role models at school and in the community, where they see it is not a great life, trying to bring up a single parent family aged 17 or 18. Actually, it is pretty miserable.”


Still, some concerns were voiced that Mr. Blair’s speech was an attempt to win over religious voters in the run-up to the spring election.


The religion correspondent for the Times of London newspaper, Ruth Gledhill, reported that although churchgoing in Britain is on the decline, the most recent census showed that more than seven out of 10 people identify themselves as Christian.




Should a Church Discipline Members Over Politics? (Christian Post, 050512)


The controversy centered in a small Baptist church in North Carolina may well be a sign of things to come. A congregational meeting on May 10 led to the resignation of Pastor Chan Chandler of East Waynesville Baptist Church and the departure of an estimated 40 church members with the pastor. “For me to remain now would only cause more hurt for me and my family,” he told The Associated Press. The localized firestorm became a focus of national media attention after various media reports indicated that Pastor Chandler had expelled several members of the church because they had voted for Democratic candidates, or against President George W. Bush, or for John Kerry—or however the press chose to characterize the issue. As expected, there is more to this story than meets the eye. This is almost always the case in congregational controversies, especially in small churches. By last night’s meeting, the disgruntled members who had been expelled had consulted an attorney, and the embattled pastor found himself staring down network news cameras and a frenzied press. To be honest, my first response was sheer frustration that this issue had been framed so awkwardly. I did my best to withhold a quick judgment, even as my inclination was to grant this young pastor the benefit of the doubt.


We may never know the precise circumstances of this messy congregational affair, but significant issues have been raised—issues that demand a closer look regardless of the Waynesville situation. At first glance, most of us would argue that the practice of expelling church members for voting for candidates affiliated with the Democratic Party is, at the very least, an exercise in poor judgment and a dangerous conflation of church discipline and secular politics. None of us wants to see churches identified as “Republican Baptists” and “Democratic Baptists.” Such partisan identifications violate the autonomy of the church as the Body of Christ. We do not check voter registration cards in the church membership process, and deacons do not accompany members into the voting booth in order to ensure political orthodoxy.


And yet, blithe reassurances that this issue is ridiculously superficial simply will not do. Such reassurances may have made more sense decades ago, when George C. Wallace (then running for president as an independent) was crisscrossing the country declaring, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.” On fiscal and economic matters, along with issues of trade policy and many aspects of foreign policy and national defense, the two parties are both essentially centrist. Contemporary debates may obscure the reality, but the economic policies of John F. Kennedy and Ronald W. Reagan were very similar, as were the domestic policies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. The real issues of division are moral and cultural—and have everything to do with issues of life and death, authority and autonomy, marriage and sexuality. There the divide is wide and growing.


Conservative evangelicals, awakened to political responsibility by a sense of crisis, have in recent years voted for Republican candidates in overwhelming numbers. Liberal Protestantism has been just as solidly identified with the Democratic Party and its candidates. There are no political innocents here. Evangelicals undoubtedly run the risk of identifying the Republican Party as the source of national virtue and the salvation of a culture in crisis. At the same time, the Republican Party has taken stands, made commitments, and demonstrated leadership in defense of what animates millions of Evangelicals in the political process. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, has taken stands (through formal platform statements and political actions) that formally put it in opposition to those same commitments. Though a few brave Democratic candidates buck the trend of their own party, the Party itself maintains these commitments. Abortion has been the most significant issue of division for decades. Now, marriage and sexuality rise to similar levels of concern.


During the 2004 presidential election, leaders of the Roman Catholic Church debated whether Catholic candidates who support abortion rights and same-sex marriage should be denied Communion. There was no corresponding debate among Evangelicals. The virtual disappearance of church discipline among Evangelicals—a symptom of a larger loss of biblical ecclesiology—left many Christians simply scratching their heads. Now, the controversy in Waynesville, North Carolina emerges as a flashpoint of confusion. What should we think of this?


In the first place, we should quickly assert the autonomy of the Church as the Body of Christ. Though missiologically located within the secular world, the Church knows only one Sovereign—the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, the church is located within a political context—a context it cannot deny. For most of U.S. history, this has not been an issue of difficulty for the church. This is no longer the case. At first blush, the actions of the East Waynesville Baptist Church appear to be out of bounds. A political judgment of this apparently partisan nature does not seem to be justified by the political context—at least not yet.


Honesty compels me to state that I could foresee a political context in which such a decision, made in extremis, could well be both justifiable and necessary. The church has faced this before. In the context of Nazi Germany, it was an unavoidable issue. Writing to Christians in France, Karl Barth lamented the sin of the German Christians who allowed the Nazi Party to assume power (through democratic elections, we should be reminded). Looking back to the political passivity of the German church, Barth reflected: “At the time and in Germany it implied a retreat of Christianity from responsibility in ecclesiastical and political spheres to the inner sphere of a religious attitude which, in order to maintain itself, no longer concerned itself with, or at least was not willing to fight and suffer for, the right form of the Church, let alone that of the State.”


The right form of the church requires a common commitment to certain shared convictions. These commitments are irreducibly theological, but come with inevitable political consequences. Until recently, our domestic political debates have failed to reach a point of crisis with regard to these consequences, but crisis cannot be rejected as a possibility. In such cases, the church must maintain its witness and convictional commitments. A church should exercise discipline against a member who, while claiming to be a Christian, would vote for Adolf Hitler—or David Duke.


We must hasten to make clear that our political context is not that of Germany in the 1930s. The Democratic Party cannot fairly be compared with National Socialism, Maoism, or analogous evils. Furthermore, there is room for hope that the Democratic Party can be reformed. A decision in extremis assumes that the situation is beyond all hope of remedy. Still, the issues of abortion and marriage lie at the heart of what it means to respect and defend human life, and Christians are certain to face even more excruciating political decisions in days ahead.


Christians can place no final hope in any political party, nor can we evade our political responsibility. We must assume that a political party can always be trusted to do what it understands to be in its own best interest—and this applies to both major American parties. The church must do what Christ would call us to do, and Christians must encourage each other to faithfulness in every sphere of life—including the political. The situation in Waynesville will soon calm down and slip from the nation’s attention. Most will assume that this was a clumsy overreaction to a political circumstance and a well-intended attempt to recover church discipline. These may be safe assumptions for now. But for how long?




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Religion and politics (Washington Times, 051004)



By Jim Wallis

Harper, SanFrancisco, $24.95, 384 pages


Democrats have discovered religion. Unless they can engage people of religious faith who worry about cultural decline, the Democrats will continue to lose elections — even in the midst of an increasingly unpopular Bush-led war. Unfortunately for the Democrats most of them simply don’t “get it,” as Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourner’s Magazine, puts it. Mr. Wallis is both an orthodox evangelical and a political liberal.


Although he takes aim at those on the religious right who see themselves as the Republican Party at prayer, he demonizes neither President Bush, whom he likes personally, nor religious conservatives.


The fact people may join the latter, he writes, has “less to do with wanting to take over the country than being desperate to protect their kids from the crass trash and degrading banality” produced by America’s mediaconglomerates. “God’s Politics” is his worthwhile but not entirely successful attempt to get beyond a politics that pits the faithless left against the faithful right. Mr. Wallis advocates a nonpartisan God and desires to retake a faith that has been “co-opted by the right” and “dismissed by the left.” He contends that “the best public contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable or a loyal partisan.” Instead, raising moral issues “will challenge both left- and right-wing governments that put power above principles.”


It’s an ambitious undertaking. But Mr. Wallis fails to surmount two serious obstacles. His first assumption is that there is an obvious third way. For instance, his solution to Iraq was to indict “Hussein and his top officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” setting “into motion both internal and external forces that might remove him from power.” This for a regime that survived war, insurgency, sanctions and more. In fact, I joined Mr. Wallis in opposing the war and believe that the bloody aftermath has vindicated my arguments. But there really was no third way. One either had to forcibly eject Saddam or contain him. Neither choice was necessarily correct in biblical terms.


Mr. Wallis’ second problem is that he also politicizes the Gospel message. In his view, Jesus’ sermons rule out much of the conservative agenda. How could a savior who lifted up the poor support tax cuts for the rich? Thus, the political vision that he advances is largely indistinguishable from that of the average Democrat. Not entirely, since Mr. Wallis opposes abortion, worries about preserving family values, and does not endorse homosexuality. But most of his policy positions conflict very little with Democratic Party orthodoxy.


That does not mean Mr. Wallis is inherently wrong. But it suggests that he has not developed a nonpartisan political vision for people of faith. One can make prudential policy arguments on behalf of all of his positions. But while God says much about people’s relationship to Him and each other, He says very little about when people should coerce each other — that is, what government should do. This failure to distinguish personal moral imperatives from prudential political concerns places him squarely where he does not want to be: standing between Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.


Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than Mr. Wallis’ rejection of “tax cuts for the rich.” However, the money is not a “public good” to be spent either on government projects or gifts for the wealthy. In fact, the rich pay the vast majority of income taxes: The top 1% account for more than one-third of revenues. One can justify progressive taxation and social spending, but one must make the argument.


Similarly flawed is Mr. Wallis’ discussion of poverty. No faithful Christian can ignore the challenge of poverty. A requirement that one help the poor does not authorize one to force others to help the poor. But experience demonstrates that good intentions are not enough. The perverse incentives of government programs did much to destroy families and communities. Indeed, many of the problems that Mr. Wallis addresses grow out of misguided government policies. He worries about inadequate affordable housing, but zoning and building codes have done more than anything else to raise housing costs. He pushes hard for foreign aid. Yet foreign aid has devastated poor nations, strengthening governments that themselves pose the primary barrier to economic growth.


Still, the author deserves praise for his effort. Christianity does not mandate conservatism. Neither the religious right nor the religious left understands that God is nonpolitical as well as nonpartisan. Instead of giving us policies, He gives us wisdom so we can work together to develop good policies. Using that wisdom is our responsibility.


Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of “Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics.”




More than new laws needed to ‘fix’ Abramoff scandal (, 060109)


by Star Parker


There is so much about the breaking Jack Abramoff scandal that should sicken every American it’s hard to know where to start.


Many in the Washington establishment are shaking in their Gucci shoes wondering who will be nailed now that the once high-powered lobbyist has pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud. Abramoff will wind up with a lighter sentence in exchange for fingering those who were part of his influence-peddling circle.


Perhaps we should hope first that the right conclusions are drawn about the nature of the problem and the nature of the solution. It’s difficult to be optimistic given what I read and hear so far.


Already there is talk in Washington about “lobbying reform legislation.” Washington has seen many scandals over the years, followed by a lot of reform legislation that was supposed to close the gaps allowing improper influence and corruption. Yet, despite a lot of laws about what lobbyists can and can’t do, along came Abramoff to show what a truly talented, creative, and energetic liar and charlatan can accomplish.


There are two themes here to remember.


First, excessive government is a big part of the problem. The more of our lives that we turn over to politicians and bureaucrats, the more we expand the scope of the culture of power and influence that emerges from this. When we address corruption with new laws, we just make government bigger and therefore expose ourselves to more, not less, of the same problem.


Second, the more we choose to believe that our problem is not enough laws, the more we distort the truth that the problem is corrupt people, not a corrupt system.


There is a great incentive to write new laws. After all, politicians always want to be perceived as “doing something.” As the saying goes, for a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail. Politicians’ hammer is legislation and they’re always ready to use it. Scandals provide great opportunities for those who appear to not be involved to be self-righteous and heroic. The white horse that politicians will always jump on is a new law designed to “fix” the problem.


We should also recall that one of the principal platforms upon which Abramoff was generating the millions with which he was enriching himself and peddling influence was his representation of Indian gambling casinos.


The Indian gambling industry is another grotesque product of ill-conceived social engineering. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed by Congress in 1988 was supposedly going to generate new economic opportunities for the American Indian community by staking out a piece of regulatory and tax protected turf for casinos operated by tribes.


The concept of using gambling as a vehicle to cure poverty and attendant social problems like alcoholism is sufficiently bizarre. However, like all social engineering, the results wind up doing little for those who the programs are supposed to help and do a lot to enrich those with skills to milk the programs.


Estimates have been made that something on the order of 75% of the jobs that the casinos have created go to non-Indians. And, of course, once government programs start, new interest groups are created to keep them going and lobbyists like Abramoff get into the picture to skim the fat.


Particularly instructive is the insulting and condescending sense that Abramoff had of his Indian clients. His e-mails showed him referring to them as “monkeys,” “morons” and “idiots.”


I might be accused of overstating my case, but in fact attitudes such as these characterize the attitudes that create and drive government programs aimed at communities that are thought too pathetic to get on their feet and take care of themselves like everyone else. Abramoff simply stated this implicit attitude in a particularly bold, straightforward and obnoxious way.


There’s a lot of talk in our country today about the role of religion. It’s frightening to think that the banishment of the Ten Commandments from the public square is really a symptom, not a cause. The fundamental problem is that these commandments have disappeared from so many of our hearts, and particularly those of the nation’s elites.


Jack Abramoff came from a background of privilege and is a product of America’s best schools. We should recall, before we start trying again to fix corruption with new laws, the famous words of George Washington:


“Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”




Political corruption (, 060124)


by Thomas Sowell


The Jack Abramoff scandal has put political corruption front and center in Washington but this particular scandal, or even this particular kind of scandal, barely scratches the surface of corruption in government.


It is not that all members of Congress, or even most members of Congress, are taking outright bribes. Government is corrupted whenever it is diverted from its avowed purpose and directed toward some other goal, especially goals that conflict with its purpose.


This more general kind of corruption is much bigger than a few bribes and has far weightier consequences. Staggering as it is to think of the trillions of dollars in runaway spending by the federal government, that is just part of the story.


There are still more trillions of dollars being promised in Social Security pensions and Medicare payments, for which there is not enough money in the till. It is like writing checks without enough money in the bank to redeem them.


Present members of Congress win votes by promising such goodies. That leaves it up to future members of Congress to figure out how to welsh on those promises, which could not be met without jacking up tax rates to unprecedented levels.


Even that probably wouldn’t provide enough money, since confiscatory tax rates confiscate the incentives needed to keep the economy going. An alternative political ploy would be to pay people the amount of money that was promised but in dollars so inflated that they won’t buy anything close to what dollars bought when they were paid into the Social Security system.


Getting millions of people to rely on pensions that are not going to be there is corrupting government on a scale that makes bribing a few Congressmen look like minor league stuff.


Misuse of the powers of government is widespread at every level of government.


Confiscating homes for which people have worked and sacrificed for a lifetime, in order to turn the property over to someone else who is expected to pay more taxes, is a corruption of the power of eminent domain, which was put there to enable government to do things like build a dam or highway to benefit everyone.


In Burbank, California, the local politicians forced Home Depot to build a little shelter in which illegal aliens can wait to be picked up for work as day laborers — for other people. The power to grant or withhold building permits was another power meant to be exercised for the public good, not to impose arbitrary extortions. But that kind of corruption is common in many communities.


What can be done about such corruption?


Some people think we need higher standards of behavior among public officials and/or stricter scrutiny by voters. Both would of course be wonderful, if they happened. But what are we to do in the meantime — say, the next few centuries or the next millennium?


Anyone familiar with ancient history knows that people have been the way they are for thousands of years. Do not look for a change in human nature in 2006.


What we can change are the incentives and constraints.


At the heart of much government corruption is one simple thing: Re-election. It takes big bucks to run a political campaign and all that most politicians have to sell is the power of government that they control. That is what they do sell in various ways to various special interests.


Term limits try to deal with the problem of re-election but the fatal weakness of term limits is the “s” at the end of the word “limits.” So long as there are multiple terms, the first term is going to be spent trying to get re-elected to a second term — instead of devoting that time to serving the public interest.


What really needs to be done is to put a limit of one term in one office and a waiting period of several years before being elected or appointed to another office in government. In other words, make political careers impossible.


Can people who are not career politicians run the government? People who were not career politicians created the government and the Constitution of the United States of America.


It was one of the most incredible achievements in history. Who among our career politicians today would be capable of such a feat?




Political corruption: Part II (, 060125)


by Thomas Sowell


The over-riding quest for re-election is at the heart of the corruption of public officials who betray the public trust in order to get the money needed to pay for their political campaigns. It is hard to see how that corruption can be ended, except by ending re-elections with a limit of one term and a ban on running for another office for several years.


That way, the one term can be spent taking care of the duties of the office instead of taking care of promoting a political career in that office or other offices.


There are, of course, other sources of corruption. Members of Congress whose work puts them in the rarefied company of movers and shakers in the private sector, who make ten or a hundred times what Congressmen are paid, may find it tempting to accept perks like free flights on corporate jets or weekends at expensive watering holes. Some may hope for lucrative jobs after leaving politics.


Maybe that won’t influence Congressional votes. But maybe it will.


The stakes are too high for us to be penny-wise and pound-foolish by putting trillions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money in the hands of elected officials who are paid less than the beginning salary of a top student from a top law school.


If we paid every member of Congress $10 million a year, that would not increase the federal budget by one percent.


Chances are that it would reduce the federal budget considerably, when members of the Senate or the House of Representatives no longer needed campaign contributions or the personal favors of special interest groups and their lobbyists.


One term in the Senate would bring in $60 million, which most people could live on for life, without being beholden to anybody and without having to seek a job afterwards for special interests, much less having to sell their soul to continue a political career.


Money is not the only thing that corrupts. Power also corrupts and some people go into politics for power.


Nothing can be done about such people — except force them to compete with other people, drawn from a far larger pool, including top people in highly paid professions who today can seldom afford to serve in Congress at the expense of their family’s standard of living and financial security.


Do we want laws made by people who would sacrifice their families in order to get their hands on the levers of power? Or people who can serve in Congress because they inherited wealth — and therefore have never had to personally experience what ordinary people experience and learn from, including government red tape?


We need laws written by people who have confronted life in the real world, not in the sheltered world of trust fund recipients or the insulated cocoon of academia. Nor do we need people who have nothing to offer in the private sector that would earn them more than what they currently receive in Congress.


Inexperienced power seekers include not only members of Congress but also their staffs, who are often fresh out of academia, with little experience in the real world, many untested notions, and often a touch of vanity as one of the anointed.


The idea of paying the kind of money that would attract the kind of people we need in government runs against many prejudices. Just plain envy is one. Some people feel that those they elect should not make so much more than they do.


But think about it: If your child had some life-threatening condition that required some very demanding surgery, would you worry about whether the surgeon who saves your child’s life had an annual income that was several times what you make?


Members of Congress have not only trillions of dollars of our tax money in their hands, they also have in their hands our lives and the lives of our children and our nation. Are you going to worry about their incomes or about what caliber of people we can attract to make the momentous decisions that have to be made?


Yes, it would be nice if all public officials were self-sacrificing individuals who had no other thought than doing their best for their country. It would also be nice if voters watched elected officials 24/7. But the best is the enemy of the good. The road to Utopia has repeatedly turned out to be the road to hell, in countries around the world.




Political corruption: part III (, 060126)


by Thomas Sowell


Some people fear that term limits for members of Congress or other elected officials will just put more power into the hands of the permanent government bureaucrats and the Congressional staffers.


This overlooks the fact that the powers of bureaucrats are set by elected officials, who can abolish whole bureaucracies if they wish, as the Civil Aeronautics Board was abolished, ending its protection of airline cartels. As for staffers, they are hired and fired by elected officials.


To judge any proposed reform, it should be compared with what currently exists. As things stand today, Congressional staffers are often young people with little or no experience in the real world outside of politics, and often their skills are largely confined to political skills, with their highest priority being to get their bosses re-elected.


The power and the glamour of politics may attract many young people, even at salaries less than those available in the private sector. Yet it is an extreme example of being penny-wise and pound foolish to let people like this influence the destiny of the nation.


That influence can be considerable when members of Congress are too busy with public appearances and other activities designed to promote their political careers to personally read and master the often complex legislation that they have to vote on.


Staffers, like members of Congress, need to be paid salaries that can compete with what seasoned and top-level professionals receive in the private sector. Someone with 20 years of experience in the private sector has far more to contribute to legislation than someone who has barely been in the world 20 years.


Someone who has spent 20 years in the real world seeing bright ideas come and go — and often end in disaster — is not likely to be as susceptible to the kinds of bright ideas hatched in academia or in various movements of true believers.


People with years of real world experience are likely to also have real world obligations, like supporting a family, paying off a mortgage, sending children to college, and putting something aside for their own retirement.


You can’t hire such people as cheaply as you can hire some hotshot fresh out of college who sees being a Congressional staffer as a golden opportunity to apply the heady notions he picked up on campus. But you are not likely to get more than you pay for.


The costs of government include not only the salaries of government officials and other direct outlays, these costs include the devastating impact of half-baked policies that can stifle economic activity or even lead to national destruction from within or without.


Some people still have Utopian ideals of a government run by ordinary folks. But when making serious decisions in real life, we go to people who know what they are doing — whether what we want is a transmission fixed or medical treatment.


Nowhere is it more important to have people who know what they are doing than in Washington. And nowhere is it more important that what they are doing is carrying out the duties of the job, not spending their time focussed on getting re-elected.


Many people fear that government has gotten so complex that only the permanent bureaucrats can cope with it, so that turnover among elected officials would make the bureaucracy the real rulers of the country.


But the “expertise” of bureaucrats, like the expertise of Congressional staffers, is largely an expertise in personal political survival.


Do you seriously believe that FEMA has expertise in dealing with natural disasters, despite all their own disasters? Or that the Department of Education has expertise in education, when it has presided over decades of dumbed-down education?


These and other bureaucracies have expertise in political survival amid the cross-currents of special interests. Such “expertise” has caused more problems than it has ever solved.


One of the benefits of attracting a higher caliber of elected officials is that they can curtail or eliminate such counterproductive and corrupting “expertise.”




A Catholic Alternative to Europe’s Social Model (Christian Post, 060126)


When John Paul II published Centesimus Annus in 1991, the encyclical opened new vistas for the understanding the relationship between markets and morals, between respect for private property and consumer habits tempered by Christian moderation. He called for exploring new ways to combine the operation of the market with the support of the weak. John Paul’s challenge is even more urgent today when people understand that communism is not a viable strategy for achieving either economic growth or solidarity with the poor.


Now, the more urgent task is to show that Western European socialism has also failed. Although some aspects of the Western European model originally claimed Christian inspiration and objective, it is now clear that the modern Western European welfare-state is collapsing. And while many modern countries share some of the problems loosely categorized under the “European social model,” it is Europe that most desperately needs a genuinely Catholic alternative.


The simplest way to see the failure of the extended welfare state is to look at the demography of Western Europe. The demographic implosion of Europe has both economic and spiritual causes. And the demographic problem illustrates the most basic flaw of the system: It is not sustainable. The modern welfare state or social assistance state can not replenish itself because it has marginalized the family.


The raw demographic facts are these: Europeans are not having enough babies to replace themselves. The fertility rates in the western industrialized countries are well below the replacement rate of 2.1 babies per woman. For the European Union as a whole, the estimated 2005 fertility rate was 1.47 babies per woman. In some countries, the rate is even lower. However, in France, approximately one birth in three is to a Muslim family. Stripped of the Muslim influence, the fertility rate of the native-born or traditionally European French would be 1.2, similar to the rates in Italy and Spain.


The Social Mandate

In addition to the high tax rates necessary to fund the social benefits, the labor regulations impose heavy costs on the young. Most European countries regulate wages and hours, requiring relatively high wages and mandating relatively low working hours. The European social model also requires employers to provide generous benefits such as health care, paid vacations, paid parental leave and the like.


These regulations and mandates have a negative impact on young workers by increasing the employers’ cost of hiring workers. The productivity of a skilled, experienced worker can justify this generous compensation package. But a young person, just starting out, may not produce enough to pay for the minimum required wage, much less the entire compensation package including health care, and paid time off. The result is that the young and the unskilled are less employable.


The high unemployment rate contributes to the delaying of marriage and child-bearing. It is estimated that 70% of unmarried Italians between the ages of 25 and 29 live with their parents, where they benefit from subsidized housing and where their poor incomes amount to pocket money.


So the European social model provides high wages and excellent benefits — for the few who have jobs. The system excludes those who are not skilled enough to be economically productive. But everyone begins their lives being not very economically productive. In practice, this means that the young are kept out of the labor market precisely at the time they are most biologically suited to begin forming families. It also means that those who are intrinsically poor, due to disability or low intelligence, are also excluded from participation in the labor market.


The welfare state has also contributed to the marginalization of marriage. Living with parents is not conducive to starting a family. Age at first marriage is an important determinant of family size: A person who gets married at the age of 35, is not going to have as many kids as one who marries at 23.


But this is not the only impact of the social assistance state on fertility and marriage. The life-time assistance of the state displaces the economic function of the family. The elderly don’t need adult children to support them in their old age. Women don’t need a husband to support them if they do have a child. Husbands become a nuisance, because the government will provide financial benefits without the inevitable difficulties of dealing with a flawed human being as a partner. In this environment, children become consumption goods, an optional life-style appendage to acquire only if one happens to enjoys children.


The social model’s attempt to offset declining fertility levels by increasing family allowances has not succeeded and is not likely to succeed in the future. The range of government benefits offered to families is truly staggering. Among the EU countries, parents receive benefits for their children, allowances for a parent who has ceased or reduced employment, single parent allowances, new school year allowances, and housing allowances.


Marital Problems

These economic subsidies to child-bearing have failed because they are attempting to replace the father. But economic security offered by taxpayers cannot replace the deeper support that a lifelong marriage can provide a woman and her children. Non-married child-bearing is inherently more risky and more expensive than raising children inside a functioning lifelong married partnership. It is hardly surprising that people choose to have fewer children in a social situation where marriages are unstable.


The social model has failed even in the cultural and social arena. For marriage is now considered optional for childbearing. Couples have a child first, see whether their relationship works, and then, perhaps, get married after the birth of their second child. High levels of social assistance make this casual attitude toward marriage possible.


The understanding and even definition of marriage have been radically challenged. In the late 1990’s, some demographers considered “the Dutch model” to be the new model for Europe. The Dutch had combined a liberal family law with a generous welfare state with a surprisingly traditional attitude toward marriage. But no more. Since the agitation for legalizing same-sex unions, the Dutch propensity to marry has fallen, and the percentage of out of wedlock births has increased from 18% in 1997 (when the law first began to permit Registered Partnerships) to 31% in 2003.


Needless to say, a genuinely Christian social model would not have allowed itself to become so muddled about the meaning of something so basic as marriage. The combination of secularism, which discourages people from seeking meanings deeper than the material, and socialism, which attempts to satisfy the merely material needs, has led to this wide-spread social confusion.


What’s more, the presence of a powerful Islamic minority within Europe itself adds to the urgency of solving the demographic problem. Europe is importing workers from the Islamic world, to do the jobs that are intrinsically so low-paying that they cannot be accommodated within the social safety net. These immigrants are not assimilating into European culture. And they are reproducing at a faster rate than the traditional Europeans.


This is the final blow to the European social model. Islam believes in itself in a way that secular Europe does not and cannot. France seemed unable to really confront the rioting Arabs of last fall. The Dutch were nervous about the murder of Theo Van Gogh, but the authorities seemed frightened to confront the fact that the perpetrator was an Islamic extremist who thought himself justified in nearly beheading an “infidel” in the streets.


For at its heart, secularism is a compromise. It is a way of avoiding conflict by avoiding confrontation of the issues that really matter. But no one can truly give their lives, their hearts and minds, to a compromise. Islam has no such reticence. Islam may win because it believes in itself, and the secular European West does not.


This article was adapted from a speech Jennifer Roback Morse gave on January 21 for the Acton Institute Lecture Series Commemorating the 15th Anniversary of Centesimus Annus at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. More on Dr. Morse’s speech will be published in a future issue of Religion & Liberty.




Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse is a Senior Fellow in Economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and the author of Smart Sex:




More than merely “off course” (, 060214)


by Rebecca Hagelin


Imagine, for a moment, you’re back in 2000. A visitor from the present day arrives and tells you that Washington is spending almost $22,000 per household, the most since World War II and one third higher than it was in 2001. Your reaction?


If you’re like most conservatives, you’d probably say, “I guess the liberals won.”


We know otherwise. And that makes the spending impossible to explain. In fact, some people wind up sounding a bit foolish. They’ll sheepishly admit that, yes, budget mistakes have been made. But, they say, we’ve simply drifted off course.


Sorry, but that explanation (or, I should say, rationalization) won’t wash with Mike Pence. The third-term congressman from Indiana and head of the Republican Study Committee recently delivered a hard-hitting address to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that demolishes such misguided thinking. Among the highlights:


It’s one thing to drift off course. It’s another to continue that course when half the crew and passengers are pointing out that nothing looks familiar, not to mention the tens of millions of Americans lining the shoreline screaming, “You’re going the wrong way!”


In short, we’re no longer adrift. We might’ve been when we started, but now “off course” is the accepted course.


The evidence is overwhelming. While President Bush has called for increases in non-defense spending of 4% for the last five years, Congress has delivered budgets spending more than twice that each year. Congress has spent $380 billion more than the president requested under Republican control.


We are in danger of becoming the party of Big Government. And for the sake of our party and for the sake of the nation, we must say, “The era of big Republican government is over!”


When I think of the state of our movement in Washington, it reminds me of a story:


There was this construction worker, Mac, who’d bring his neatly and lovingly packed lunch to work each day. Mac would sit down, open the brown paper sack and pull out a cheeseburger, chocolate cake and peanut butter cookies. He’d look at his fellow workers and complain, “I can’t believe it! A cheeseburger, cake and cookies again! How am I ever going to lose weight?!”


After about a month of hearing him complain, one of his buddies finally said, “Come on, Mac! If you’re so concerned about your weight, just ask your wife to send you off with something different.” To which Mac replied, “What you talkin’ about? I pack my own lunch!”


The key question to remember is: Who’s in control here?


Congress might ask itself the same question. We control the spending and the process ... and we wonder how the things got to such a state?


Fiscal integrity and moral integrity are inseparable issues. You can’t complain about the sharks while you’re holding a bucket of chum.


We are not, as a party, bereft of ideas, we are bereft of will — the will to even consider ideas that might touch on the sacred cows of federal spending. If we are still on the wrong course, it is because we choose to be.


Every day, we sail further into the dangerous waters of Big Government Republicanism ... perilous straits for a society built on personal responsibility and freedom. We risk finding ourselves past the point of no return on the Road to Serfdom.


If we must look over our shoulder to see that shining city on a hill, we are sailing in the wrong direction.


The answer is not mutiny. It’s not time to abandon ship. It’s time for a major course correction!


We need to stop, set anchor and reset our heading based on what we know to be true about the nature of government:


• That government that governs least, governs best.

• That as government expands, freedom contracts.

• That government should never do for a man what he can and should do for himself.

• That societies are judged by their treatment of the most vulnerable: the aged, the infirm and the unborn.


But it’s not enough to know these truths. We need to choose to put them into practice.


The conservative movement is at a crossroads. Are we committed to the ideals of limited government, fiscal discipline and traditional moral values or not?


These are hard questions to face. But we ignore them at our peril. The time to address them is now, before the ship drifts so far off course that we find ourselves — and the future of our country and children — wrecked on the rocks of Big Government.




Squeezed out (Washington Times, 060221)



By Joel Miller, Nelson Current, $24.95, 232 pages


Decade after decade, libertarians have argued against the untrammelled expansion of the federal infrastructure. Despite generations of politicians mouthing platitudes about fiscal responsibility and government’s need to operate within its means, the fact remains that for most of them, the easiest road to power is to promise everything and deliver much more than the federal treasury can actually afford.


We see evidence of this all across the United States — Sen. Robert Byrd’s career exemplifies the tendency as well as anyone’s, as he has delivered more than 50 years of pork-barrel projects to West Virginia. But the venerable Mr. Byrd is far from anomalous in this tendency.


Politicians in both houses of Congress, from both parties, have embraced Big Government and the unlimited spending that comes with it in order to ensure their political viability. This tendency is shameful, predictable and ultimately a threat to the American way of life.


If a reader is interested in considering the perils attendant with the current federal policy of spending money the treasury does not have, a great place for him to start is the just-released “Size Matters: How Big Government Puts The Squeeze On America’s Families, Finances, and Freedom.”


This succinct volume from Joel Miller, a widely published journalist of the libertarian right and senior editor for the Nelson Current publishing house, has many virtues, and arguably stands as the first genuinely viable libertarian manifesto for the post-September 11 new reality.


Mr. Miller succeeds where many who have come before him have failed, in part because he avoids the common academic libertarian’s mistake of boring the reader to sleep with esoteric references.


The author establishes his comfort with “soundbite culture” early on by summing up the problem with the current federal arrangement as “Big Government, Huge Problem,” adding that as “government increases in quantity, our lives decrease in quality.” Augmenting this problem is the truth that “carce resources can only be stretched so far” when those resources are funnelled into a governmental apparatus as overstretched as that in Washington.


Much of the volume considers the size of the federal government — 1,300 agencies, claims Mr. Miller, with nearly 17 million employees all told — and how that government grew as it did.


The author lays much of the blame at the feet of two “activist politicians,” Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, who embraced “unconstitutional” measures that expanded government, inhibited the domestic economy for the bulk of the 1970s, and spawned the “Carter malaise.”


While some readers may chafe at the book depicting President Nixon as the scapegoat for the Carter legacy, Mr. Miller here makes a remarkably plausible case for that proposition.


Mr. Miller devotes a considerable portion of the book to the pernicious effects government interference in the commercial sphere has had on the consumer, especially regarding the inhibition of technological advances making their way to the marketplace.


An extended anecdote about the federally-imposed difficulty of bringing mobile phones to the market is the strongest example provided here of a government so overly empowered that it has lost touch with those it purports to serve, and acts against the interests of everyday people.


Along those lines, Mr. Miller renders a bracing critique of the perils of “overcriminalization,” which, he correctly notes, often undermines the very construction of law as a formalized expression of the social contract.


When governments rush to criminalize commerce in the pursuit of nominal power, inhibiting free exchange, the business of America itself is stifled. The consequences? To quote Mr. Miller, “What stifles commerce, stifles life [to the point that] the American Dream itself becomes a calcified, regimented, joyless thing.”


The conclusion of the book is appropriately pessimistic about Washington willingly downsizing governmental operations in favor of individual liberty and commercial prerogatives. Those in power are loathe to relinquish their prerogatives, and nothing save a systemic cataclysm will change that.


That said, this book is a must-read for anyone looking for a concise and engaging assault on all those vainglorious politicians currently stripmining America’s “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” With threats mounting from Asia, and serious problems threatening the U.S. infrastructure, politicians need to finally understand that much of the federal government must be downsized. Our national sovereignty hangs in the balance.


A.G. Gancarski is a freelance writer from Jacksonville , Fla.




Faith Group Urges Churches to Keep Religion, Politics Separate (Christian Post, 060706)


AUSTIN (AP) - Saying partisan politics are tearing apart people of faith, a group of clergy members [KH: liberals] launched a campaign on Thursday urging their fellow ministers to ensure all political viewpoints are respected in their congregations.


The [KH: liberal] Texas Faith Network wants religious leaders to sign a pledge saying they will refrain from endorsing or appearing to endorse candidates or political parties and avoid involving their congregation with partisan organizations or campaigns.


Their actions are aimed at groups like the Texas Restoration Project, which mobilized 2,000 conservative pastors to win the passage of a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.


“Dragging churches into partisan politics endangers the integrity of our houses of worship and is disrespectful of the faith and beliefs of all congregants,” the Rev. Samuel Hose of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Round Rock said.


The 600-member Texas Faith Network is affiliated with the Texas Freedom Network, a group that calls itself a watchdog of the religious right.


Hose and three other religious leaders unveiled the campaign outside the sanctuary of the University United Methodist Church in Austin.


Rabbi Neal Katz of Congregation Beth El in Tyler said clergy members should encourage their congregants to vote and should speak from the pulpit about moral issues. But some ministers have crossed the line into advocating political agendas, he said.


The Texas Freedom Network has accused the Texas Restoration Project of being an adjunct of the Texas Republican Party and of campaigning for Gov. Rick Perry’s re-election in November.


A secretary for the Rev. Laurence L. White, the director of the Texas Restoration Project, said he was out of the office on Thursday and could not be reached for comment.


But White told the Houston Chronicle in September that he imagines there are “a good many Republicans who wish we would go away so that they could get on with their wishy-washing and compromising.”


Federal tax law forbids churches from participating or intervening any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. Violators risk losing their tax-exempt status.


But other than that, it’s hard to say how much political involvement is too much, said John Green, a religion and politics expert at the University of Akron.


“Many religious people would argue that their faith compels them to speak out on certain issues because God wants justice or God wants morality,” he said. “But you can go too far in that and go beyond what the Lord requires to just actual politics.”


Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said it’s moral issues, not partisan alliances, that are galvanizing evangelical Christians.


The Family Research Council has sponsored a series of religious conferences called “Justice Sunday” where political and spiritual leaders have spoken at churches in defense of religious liberty and in favor of reforming the federal courts.


“I think pastors realize that they can no longer be silent, that what is happening in the public policy world around them is ultimately going to affect what goes on inside the church,” Perkins said.


Perkins stood alongside Perry last summer as he signed a bill at a church school gymnasium that imposes more limits on late-term abortions and requires minors to get written consent for abortions.


Perry was criticized for the venue choice and the religious references that filled the ceremony, and the Rev. Timothy Tutt of Austin’s United Christian Church said Thursday he doesn’t think it’s appropriate for lawmakers to sign legislation anywhere on church property.


But Perry campaign spokesman Robert Black said the Texas Freedom Network just wants to put up roadblocks to keep religious people from being involved in the political process.


“I don’t think the people of faith need the Texas Freedom Network protecting them,” Perry said.




SOCIETY: Culture Determines Politics — Just Look at This (Mohler, 060928)


What will determine the outcome of the 2008 elections? My interest is less in the politics than in the worldview issues revealed in the political process. As for the politicians — they care about the votes.


Wednesday’s edition of USA Today contained two blockbuster reports on the link between family structure, fertility, and political decisions. The bottom line of both reports is this — the rates of marriage and childbearing in a congressional district almost invariably reveal the district’s politics.


In its front page report, “Marriage Gap Could Sway Elections,” the paper argued that the “wedding band could be crucial in this fall’s congressional elections.” Why? “House districts held by Republicans are full of married people. Democratic districts are stacked with people who have never married.”




Republicans control 49 of the 50 districts with the highest rates of married people.


Democrats represent all 50 districts that have the highest rates of adults who have never married.


The political tug-of-war is between people who are married and those who have never been.


The “never married” group covers a variety of groups who form the Democratic base: young people, those who marry late in life, single parents, gays, and heterosexuals who live together.


This is an incredibly important angle on today’s political context. Marital status is revealed to be one of the most significant factors in the political equation. Married couples and unmarried persons vote in different generalized patterns — a fact also revealed in the 2004 presidential vote.


In the second report, “Fertility Gap’ Helps Explain Political Divide,” the paper argues that fertility rates also point to partisan identification.


As reporter Dennis Cauchon sets out the case:


Republican House members overwhelmingly come from districts that have high percentages of married people and lots of children, according to a USA TODAY analysis of 2005 Census Bureau data released last month.


GOP Congress members represent 39.2 million children younger than 18, about 7 million more than Democrats. Republicans average 7,000 more children per district.


Many Democrats represent areas that have many single people and relatively few children. Democratic districts that have large numbers of children tend to be predominantly Hispanic or, to a lesser extent, African-American.


This “fertility gap” is crucial to understanding the differences between liberals and conservatives, says Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University. These childbearing patterns shape divisions over issues such as welfare, education and child tax credits, he says.




Marriage and parenthood define what’s different about Democratic and Republican districts even more clearly than race, income, education or geography, USA TODAY’s analysis of Census data found.


For example, Republicans represent seven of the 50 districts that have the highest concentrations of blacks. Both parties are well represented among affluent and well-educated districts.


Democrats control only one of the 50 districts with the highest marriage rates.


In the words of Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg, “The biggest gaps in American politics are religion, race and marital status.”


G. K. Chesterton once explained that the government often looks to be a more important institution than the family, but that this is a lie. As he argued, looking at the rise of the industrial age: “In those conditions, the family seemed the frailest thing in the world, and the state the strongest thing in the world. But it is not really so. It is not so, when we take the life of man over large areas of time or space.”


In other words, the family is primary and the state is secondary. When it comes to voting patterns, those who are married and have children vote differently, in general terms, from those who are unmarried and have no children. After all, married persons have something precious to protect, and by their entry into the sacred covenant of marriage they have entered a deeply conservative institution — the institution that conserves trust, fidelity, and mutuality.


To an even greater extent perhaps, those who are married and have children find that their political, social, and cultural horizons are decisively transformed by the experience of parenthood. Virtually by definition, parents have a concern that the culture should be a healthy place for the nurture of children. Beyond this, the horizon of time is longer for parents, who must think in terms of the world their children and grandchildren will inherit.


Once again, culture is revealed to be determinative of politics — not vice versa. From a Christian worldview perspective, there is something very reassuring here. The realities of marriage and rearing children make a decisive different in our lives. Now, even the politicians must take note of this fact.




Marriage gap could sway elections: Residents’ status often predicts district’s vote (USA Today, 060928)


The wedding band could be crucial in this fall’s congressional elections, according to a USA TODAY analysis of 2005 Census data.


House districts held by Republicans are full of married people. Democratic districts are stacked with people who have never married. This “marriage gap” could play a role in the Nov. 7 congressional elections. Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to take control of the House of Representatives.


Twenty-seven of the 38 Republican-held districts with seats considered vulnerable by independent political analysts have fewer married people than found in the average GOP district. The USA TODAY analysis also shows that:


•Republicans control 49 of the 50 districts with the highest rates of married people.


•Democrats represent all 50 districts that have the highest rates of adults who have never married.


The political tug-of-war is between people who are married and those who have never been.


The “never married” group covers a variety of groups who form the Democratic base: young people, those who marry late in life, single parents, gays, and heterosexuals who live together.


The marriage divide drew attention in the 2004 presidential race. President Bush beat John Kerry by 15%age points among married people and lost by 18%age points among unmarried people, according to an exit poll conducted by national news media organizations.


Most serious Democratic challenges this fall are in Republican-controlled House districts that have lower marriage rates.


For example, the two seats most likely to switch from Republican to Democratic are Arizona’s 8th District and Colorado’s 7th District, according to the non-partisan National Journal. The districts — in which Republican incumbents are not seeking re-election — rank 251st and 307th respectively in marriage rates among the 435 districts.


Of the five Republicans who have the lowest rates of married people in their districts, four are in tough battles with Democrats. On the other side, Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill., whose district has a high marriage rate, faces a strong GOP challenge.


Rep. John Linder, R-Ga., whose district has the highest marriage rate (66.1%), says the gap exists because “people get more conservative when they settle down.” Democratic pollster Mark Mellman says the gap is magnified because a greater percentage of married people vote than unmarried people.




‘Fertility gap’ helps explain political divide: Analysis finds party preferences reflect marriage, parental status (USA Today, 060928)


House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic mother of five from San Francisco, has fewer children in her district than any other member of Congress: 87,727.


Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, a Mormon father of eight, represents the most children: 278,398.


These two extremes reflect a stark demographic divide between the congressional districts controlled by the major political parties.


Republican House members overwhelmingly come from districts that have high percentages of married people and lots of children, according to a USA TODAY analysis of 2005 Census Bureau data released last month.


GOP Congress members represent 39.2 million children younger than 18, about 7 million more than Democrats. Republicans average 7,000 more children per district.


Many Democrats represent areas that have many single people and relatively few children. Democratic districts that have large numbers of children tend to be predominantly Hispanic or, to a lesser extent, African-American.


This “fertility gap” is crucial to understanding the differences between liberals and conservatives, says Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University. These childbearing patterns shape divisions over issues such as welfare, education and child tax credits, he says.


“Both sides are very pro-kids. They just express it in different ways,” Brooks says. “Republicans are congenial to traditional families, which is clearly the best way for kids to grow up. But there are some kids who don’t have that advantage, and Democrats are very concerned with helping those kids.”


Children in Democratic districts are far more likely to live in poverty and with single parents than kids in GOP districts.


Rep. José Serrano, D-N.Y., has 227,246 children in his Bronx district, the 10th most in the House. Only 29% of those children live with married parents.


By contrast, 84% of children in Cannon’s central Utah district live with married parents.


“These numbers are amazing,” Cannon says. “I see now where José is coming from.”


Cannon used to have a locker next to Serrano at the congressional gym and considers him a friend. “The needs of kids in his district are just not the same as the needs of children in my district,” Cannon says.


Marriage and parenthood define what’s different about Democratic and Republican districts even more clearly than race, income, education or geography, USA TODAY’s analysis of Census data found.


For example, Republicans represent seven of the 50 districts that have the highest concentrations of blacks. Both parties are well represented among affluent and well-educated districts.


Democrats control only one of the 50 districts with the highest marriage rates.


Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who represents the most-married Democratic district (32nd overall), discounts the importance of the marriage rates. “It’s a statistic without meaning,” he says. “If you look at numbers from enough different angles, you can see almost anything.”


Pelosi says in speeches that her most important concern is “the children, the children, the children,” says her spokesman, Drew Hammill. That’s why she wants to raise the minimum wage to help low-income parents, he says.


The stay-at-home mom is uncommon in all congressional districts. Mothers work at the same rate — about 71% — in Republican and Democratic districts.


Nevertheless, a big difference in family life is clear:


•Democrats represent 59 districts in which less than half of adults are married. Republicans represent only two.


•Democrats represent 30 districts in which less than half of children live with married parents. Republicans represent none.


“The biggest gaps in American politics are religion, race and marital status,” says Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg.




Breeding and Believing — Linked? (Mohler, 061025)


Prospect is one of Britain’s most intelligent magazines, and its writers take on some of the most interesting issues of the day. This is certainly the case with “Breeding for God” by Eric Kaufmann. In his article, Kaufmann argues that secularization is now in decline in Europe. Furthermore, this is partly due to the fact that it is the believers who are having the babies, he explains.


“The modern western world is inseparable from the idea of secularization,” he explains. Yet, this modern world is witnessing a return of belief in God, he asserts. “This religious revival may be as profound as that which changed the course of the Roman empire in the 4th century.”


What catches Kaufmann’s attention is the fact that the more orthodox groups are growing — not the liberal churches. And they are breeding too. In his words: “Three quarters of the growth of white conservative Protestant denominations is demographic, since they have maintained a fertility advantage over more liberal denominations for many decades.”


Note this:


The share of the world’s population that is religious is growing, after nearly a century of modest decline. This effect has been produced by the younger generations in the developing world rejecting secularization, combined with higher religious fertility levels. Throughout the world, the religious tend to have more children, irrespective of age, education or wealth. “Secular” Europe is no exception. In an analysis of European data from ten west European countries in the period 1981-2004 I found that next to age and marital status, a woman’s religiosity was the strongest predictor of her number of offspring. Many other studies have found a similar relationship, and a whole school of thought in demography—”second demographic transition theory”—suggests that fertility differences in developed countries are underpinned by value differences, with secular men and women unwilling to sacrifice career and lifestyle aspirations to have children and have them early.




I found that the classical secularization trend does not work as it used to. The case of the US sheds some light on this. Much of the 20th-century growth of conservative Protestant denominations could have been lost to secularism or to more liberal, higher status sects like the Episcopalians, as conservative Protestants became better educated, wealthier and more urban. What impeded such an “assimilation” of conservative Protestants into more liberal theologies was a disruption of the pattern linking social and religious mobility. Conservative Protestants, once content to be led by an urbane liberal-Protestant elite, became increasingly conscious of their group identity. They began to reject the leadership of liberal Protestants, starting in the 1920s with their secession from the Federal Council of Churches. This intensified after 1970 with the so-called “culture wars.” Liberal theologies and secularism came to be typecast as the malign “other” against which true Christians should mobilize. As evangelicals gained in self-consciousness, they increasingly erected communal boundaries—such as their own media—which could bind the generations regardless of education or wealth.


Kaufmann offers a most interesting analysis. As he looks to the future, he suggests that Europe will adapt a more American form of modernity — one less dismissive of belief in God. He explains:


Demographic currents are carrying Europe towards a more American model of modernity. They also signal that current theories of secularization need revision. Fertility in the developing world is falling rapidly due to urbanization, but the World Values Survey finds that religiosity in these countries shows no sign of declining. The religious continue to have higher fertility than their secular brethren in the developing world, regardless of income or education. Though China will probably remain more secular than western Europe, this is unlikely to be true of Latin America, south Asia or the middle east. For them, modernization is more likely to result in a US-style religious society.


There are other interesting issues raised in Kaufmann’s article. How will a resurgent Islam be received by secularized Europeans? Will modernized Europeans raise their birth rate? Will Europe become more culturally conservative? Kauffman makes this observation: “Though we are unlikely to see the rise of evangelical Christian politics in Europe, we may find a long-term drift towards more conservative social values. Europeans will become more ‘traditional’ on moral issues like abortion, family values, religious education and gay marriage.”


It will be some time before these questions are answered. In the meantime, it is important to recognize that worldview commitments — not economic factors — eventually determine birth rates. Decisions about marriage and children reveal worldview presuppositions. Most centrally, these presuppositions deal with the meaning of life, the purpose of sex, the nature of the family, the blessing of children, and the promise of the future. Those who see marriage and raising children as God-ordained functions of human existence will, not surprisingly, have more children than those who do not. By and large, the believers are the breeders.




Breeding for God (Prospect Magazine, 061100)


In Europe, the fertility advantage of the religious over non-believers has historically been counterbalanced by the march of secularisation. Not any more. Secularisation in Europe is now in decline, and Islam continues to grow. Europe will start to adopt a more American model of modernity


Eric Kaufmann is a senior lecturer in politics at Birkbeck and the author of “The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America”


The modern western world is inseparable from the idea of secularisation. From Socrates’s refusal to acknowledge the Greek gods to Copernicus’s heretical idea that the earth revolved around the sun to the French revolution’s overthrow of religious authority, the path of modernity seemed to lead away from the claims of religion. In our own time, the decline in church attendance in Europe is seen as evidence that secular modernity has entered the lives of ordinary people. Some optimistic secularists even see signs that the US, noted as a religious exception among western nations, is finally showing evidence of declining church attendance. But amid the apparent dusk of faith in Europe, one can already spot the religious owl of Minerva taking flight. This religious revival may be as profound as that which changed the course of the Roman empire in the 4th century.


In his remarkable book The Rise of Christianity, the American sociologist of religion Rodney Stark explains how an obscure sect with just 40 converts in the year 30AD became the official religion of the Roman empire by 300. The standard answer to this question is that the emperor Constantine had a vision which led to his conversion and an embrace of Christianity. Stark demonstrates the flaws in this “great man” portrait of history. Christianity, he says, expanded at the dramatic rate of 40 per cent a decade for over two centuries, and this upsurge was only partly the result of its appeal to the wider population of Hellenistic pagans. Christian demography was just as important. Unlike the pagans, Christians cared for their sick during plagues rather than abandoning them, which sharply lowered mortality. In contrast to the “macho” ethos of pagans, Christians emphasised male fidelity and marriage, which attracted a higher percentage of female converts, who in turn raised more Christian children. Moreover, adds Stark, Christians had a higher fertility rate than pagans, yielding even greater demographic advantage.


Some of the sources which Stark draws upon are open to question. What is not contestable is that many latter-day religious groups have thrived thanks to high fertility. The Mormons, for example, like Stark’s early Christians, have maintained a 40 per cent per decade population growth rate for 100 years. They remain 70 per cent of Utah’s population in the teeth of substantial non-Mormon immigration, and have even expanded into neighbouring states. In the 1980s, the Mormon fertility rate was around three times that of American Jews. Today the Mormons, once a fringe sect, outnumber Jews among Americans under the age of 45.


Demography is also critical to explaining the rise of the religious right in America. An important recent article in the American Journal of Sociology by Michael Hout, Andrew Greeley and Melissa Wilde examines trends in American religious denominational growth in the 20th century. The authors find that conservative Protestant denominations increased their share of all white Protestants from one third among those born in 1900 to two thirds for those born in 1975. Three quarters of the growth of white conservative Protestant denominations is demographic, since they have maintained a fertility advantage over more liberal denominations for many decades. As with the rise of Christianity itself, slow-moving sociological pressures created the conditions for a political “tipping point” to occur. This time, Republican strategists played the role of Constantine’s advisers, who saw which way the wind was blowing and moved to exploit the new social trends.


Outside the US, there is further evidence for this thesis. In Israel, the growth of the ultra-Orthodox proportion of the Jewish population is all but assured because of their threefold fertility advantage over secular Jews. Elsewhere in the middle east, the relative decline of Arab Christians—especially in their Lebanese heartland—has nothing to do with conversion and everything to do with demography.


The share of the world’s population that is religious is growing, after nearly a century of modest decline. This effect has been produced by the younger generations in the developing world rejecting secularisation, combined with higher religious fertility levels. Throughout the world, the religious tend to have more children, irrespective of age, education or wealth. “Secular” Europe is no exception. In an analysis of European data from ten west European countries in the period 1981-2004 I found that next to age and marital status, a woman’s religiosity was the strongest predictor of her number of offspring. Many other studies have found a similar relationship, and a whole school of thought in demography—”second demographic transition theory”—suggests that fertility differences in developed countries are underpinned by value differences, with secular men and women unwilling to sacrifice career and lifestyle aspirations to have children and have them early.


In a series of controversial articles, Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation has drawn attention to the political ramifications of religious demography in the US, pointing to the sizeable fertility advantage enjoyed by more religious “red” states over the Democratic “blue” states. As Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That’s a ‘fertility gap’ of 41 per cent. Given that about 80 per cent of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections.” Many liberals challenge this logic. Surely many of the children of the religious in the US will become secular, as they have in western Europe for generations. In Europe, religion counts for less in elections than it ever has, and Catholic Europeans from Dublin to Barcelona are still embracing secularism with gusto. Even in the US, there has been an appreciable growth in the “no religion” population over the past decade to 14 per cent. Seizing upon this evidence, Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, two leading political scientists, advance the argument that the world is still heading in a more secular direction. They accept that the reverse is occurring in the short term, but claim that modernisation will result in increased wealth and security in the developing world, lowering religiosity and fertility. Secularism will eventually trump religious fertility.


They have a point. Phillip Longman is correct to identify religious fertility as important, but has neglected the “apostasy” side of the equation. If fertility is always the main mechanism of social change, we would expect much higher populations of Amish, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other sects with very high fertility. Yet we know that these sects suffer high “defection” rates—even the Mormons lose a higher percentage of their children than most American denominations. A religious population is more porous than an ethnic population, because conversion or abandonment of the faith can take place rapidly and easily. And as long as the rate of abandonment is high enough to compensate for the religious fertility advantage, there is no threat to secularism. European data show that the religious have had a demographic advantage over their secular counterparts for several generations, but also that this advantage has been balanced out by the secularisation of many of the children of Europe’s faithful. Bearing this in mind, I developed a more nuanced model of religious change that accounts for both religious fertility and abandonment of faith in Europe.


I found that the classical secularisation trend does not work as it used to. The case of the US sheds some light on this. Much of the 20th-century growth of conservative Protestant denominations could have been lost to secularism or to more liberal, higher status sects like the Episcopalians, as conservative Protestants became better educated, wealthier and more urban. What impeded such an “assimilation” of conservative Protestants into more liberal theologies was a disruption of the pattern linking social and religious mobility. Conservative Protestants, once content to be led by an urbane liberal-Protestant elite, became increasingly conscious of their group identity. They began to reject the leadership of liberal Protestants, starting in the 1920s with their secession from the Federal Council of Churches. This intensified after 1970 with the so-called “culture wars.” Liberal theologies and secularism came to be typecast as the malign “other” against which true Christians should mobilise. As evangelicals gained in self-consciousness, they increasingly erected communal boundaries—such as their own media—which could bind the generations regardless of education or wealth.


The value changes of 1960s America proved a high-water mark of cultural mobility that has been replaced by a cold war of value stasis. The pool of unselfconscious or moderately religious people is on the wane as the “extremes” of fundamental religiosity and secularism grow. When battle lines become firmly drawn, potential converts, like floating voters, dry up. A similar process seems to be occurring in Europe—as the religious become increasingly self-conscious of their unusual identity in a secular society, they become more resistant to secularisation.


Europe—especially western Europe—is seen as the world leader in secular modernisation, and is used as the model by Norris and Inglehart for their theory of secularisation. But if western Europe really is the trend-setter for secularism, there is a problem: secularisation appears to be losing force in its own backyard. Western Europe can broadly be divided in two. On the one hand are Catholic countries like Spain or Ireland, where religiosity is still high—around 60 per cent of the Irish population regularly attend church—and secularisation arrived only in the second half of the 20th century. On the other are the largely Protestant nations (including Britain) and Catholic France, which secularised earlier. But survey data from 1981-2004 show that in these latter nations, on average, postwar generations are no longer becoming more secular. It seems as though western Europe, with the possible exception of Italy, will converge towards a church attendance rate of little more than 5 per cent. However this will mask a much larger proportion—around half—who continue to describe themselves as religious and affiliate with a religious denomination.


These people, described by Grace Davie as “believing without belonging,” are seen by some as carriers of a flimsy faith which will soon disappear, and which doesn’t affect behaviour or attitudes. But if this is the case, how do we explain the fact that the fertility of these non-attending believers is much closer to church attenders than to non-believers? The non-attending religious are also significantly more likely than non-believers to identify themselves as ideologically conservative, even when controlling for education, wealth, age and generation. And the religious population has two demographic advantages over its non-believing counterpart. First, it maintains a 15-20 per cent fertility lead over the non-religious. Second, religious people in the childbearing 18-45 age range are disproportionately female. Offset against this is the much younger age structure of secularists.


The pivotal question is where the balance lies between religious fertility and religious abandonment in the secular cutting-edge societies of France and Protestant Europe. The population balance in these countries stands at roughly 53 per cent non-religious to 47 per cent religious. My projections, based on demographic differences between the populations and current patterns of religious abandonment, suggest that the secular population will continue to grow at a decelerating rate for three or four more decades, to peak at around 55 per cent. The proportion of secular people will then begin to decline between 2035 and 2045. The momentum behind secularisation in the most secular countries is a reflection of the religious abandonment of the pre-1945 generations, which overwhelmed the fertility advantage of the faithful. The end of apostasy in more recent generations means a population more religious at the end of the 21st century than at its beginning. As in the case of the Mormons or early Christians, demography rather than mass conversion will be the main agent of change.


This slow shift against secularisation would have only a gradual impact on the spirit of European society were it not for immigration. Immigration from Latin America has enabled American Catholics to grow despite losing far more believers to other denominations than they get in return. In Europe, immigration will similarly drive the rise of the religious population, especially its Islamic part.


In the US, we know that the population will be less than 50 per cent non-Hispanic white by 2050, but it is difficult to predict what proportion of Europe’s population will be of non-European descent in the future because few European countries collect census data on ethnicity and religion. The occasionally cited figure of 30 per cent ethnic minorities in western Europe by 2050 is little more than an educated guess. One of the few countries to collect ethnoreligious census information is Austria, where a recent projection—based on a conservative estimate of 20,000 immigrants a year and various assumptions about religious abandonment and fertility—predicted that Muslims would make up between 14 and 26 per cent of the population in 2050, up from 4 per cent today.


Muslim secularisation would certainly alter this picture and forms a cornerstone of the Norris-Inglehart thesis. But a glance at the surveys of ethnic minorities in Europe reveals little evidence of this. In Britain, second-generation Afro-Caribbeans and eastern European Christians tend to be less religious than their parents but more so than the wider population. Yet there is virtually no change at all in the religiosity of Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslims between the first and second generations. A recent study of Dutch ethnic minorities paints a similar picture of religious retention among Muslim groups.


The future response of Europe’s lapsed Christian population to the growth of European Islam is difficult to gauge. Muslim growth may prompt a more strident secular nationalist response, as it seems to have done in France and Holland, or it may lead to a renewed emphasis on Christian identity (see the recent speeches of Pope Benedict). David Voas and Steve Bruce have found evidence for the latter in the 2001 British census, where the proportion of white British respondents describing themselves as Christian (rather than “no religion”) was higher in districts with large Muslim populations. Christian identity does not equate to growing religious belief, but it eventually might. In ethnically divided Northern Ireland, sectarian conflict fuels far higher religiosity than in other parts of Britain. In either case, the combination of a fast-growing Muslim community and a stable or slowly growing Christian population will squeeze the non-religious, causing a major reversal of the secularising trends of the past 50 to 100 years.


Western Europe will initially emerge as a more religious society, but not a fundamentalist one. Even so, religiosity—as belief rather than attendance—significantly predicts a more conservative ideological orientation. Though we are unlikely to see the rise of evangelical Christian politics in Europe, we may find a long-term drift towards more conservative social values. Europeans will become more “traditional” on moral issues like abortion, family values, religious education and gay marriage. Inter-faith co-operation between Christians and Muslims on these issues is quite possible since ecumenical structures are already in place in most countries to facilitate it. The ease with which conservative Protestants and traditionalist Catholics and Jews have co-operated in the US may be taken as evidence. Much will depend on how these ideological synergies are channelled by parties and electoral systems in different countries, but by the mid-21st century, the peak of secular European politics will be long past. As in America, politicians will need to stay on the right side of religious sentiment to ensure they are not outflanked by their opponents.


Over the longue durée, the fundamentalist component of Europe’s population may begin to increase for the same demographic reasons as in America. The diversity of religious groups in Europe will guarantee a separation of religion and state, but this cannot protect secular public policies from being eroded by a coalition of religious groups who have agreed to submerge their differences. Religious lobbyists, couching their claims in the rhetoric of relativism and diversity, will ask why the secular point of view on issues like abortion, blasphemy, pornography and evolution is the only one taught, aired or “respected.”


Much will depend on whether conservative political parties opt for a multi-ethnic religious platform or instead mobilise a white nationalist majority across the secular/religious divide. The religious path is currently viewed as the more acceptable one. For the past 20 years, the Republicans have tried to unite whites and non-whites under the banner of religious conservatism and traditional values. Notwithstanding the current illegal immigration furore in the US, the party elite will almost certainly continue with this agenda. Many European conservatives will advocate a similar strategy as the only acceptable face of cultural conservatism in an increasingly multicultural society.


Demographic currents are carrying Europe towards a more American model of modernity. They also signal that current theories of secularisation need revision. Fertility in the developing world is falling rapidly due to urbanisation, but the World Values Survey finds that religiosity in these countries shows no sign of declining. The religious continue to have higher fertility than their secular brethren in the developing world, regardless of income or education. Though China will probably remain more secular than western Europe, this is unlikely to be true of Latin America, south Asia or the middle east. For them, modernisation is more likely to result in a US-style religious society.


Taking a step back from the figures reveals how the revival of religiosity in the west in the 21st century may reconfigure the Enlightenment belief in rational individualism. Thus far, liberal optimism has soundly defeated the naysayers. Marx’s warning of cataclysmic economic contradictions between capital and labour proved as wide of the mark as Daniel Bell’s fears a century later of the cultural contradiction between workplace discipline and consumer hedonism. Even rising crime rates and the breakdown of the traditional family do not threaten the liberal order. Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history,” in which liberal democracy and capitalism prevail, is premised on the superiority of western military technology, which enables individualistic societies to inoculate themselves against the challenge from more cohesive “barbarian” ones. Fukuyama is right. We may suffer terrorism, but terrorists cannot destroy our complex societies. Yet all this assumes the demographic sustainability of liberal capitalism. If Fukuyama’s “last men” cannot replace themselves, they will be succeeded by those with a more traditional outlook.


The liberal-capitalist idea spread widely in the 19th and 20th centuries in part because it reduced mortality and freed the minds and resources of societies, allowing them to develop the advanced technology with which to defeat their religious and socialist rivals. It also enabled the demographic expansion of the west as infant mortality fell, prosperity resulted in earlier marriage and family formation, and new lands were settled. A recent study by Vegard Skirbekk shows that wealthier (presumably more “modern”) individuals had higher fertility than the poor in Europe until the late 19th century. But starting in the late 19th century, the authors demonstrate that the European poor began to have larger families than the wealthy. Today, many of the demographic advantages that once accrued to liberalism have fallen away. Infant mortality is largely conquered, technology is globally diffused and the secular west is losing its demographic weight.


Perhaps we are entering a new stage in history in which the demographic flaws in liberalism will become more apparent, paving the way for the return of a communitarian social model. This may still leave democracy, liberalism and mixed capitalism intact. But it will challenge modernism, that great secular movement of cultural individualism which swept high art and culture after 1880 and percolated down the social scale to liberalise attitudes in the 1960s. Cultural modernism has accompanied technological modernisation in the west, while the non-western world has usually modernised its technology rather than its values. Daniel Bell prophesied that modernism’s antinomian cultural outlook would prompt a “great instauration” of religion as people sought spiritual solace from the alienation of modern life. Bell has so far been proved wrong, but history may yet vindicate him as we bear witness not to spiritual revival, but to a religious reconquista based, ironically, on the nakedly this-worldly force of demography.




The Cast of Characters: Two heartbeats away from President Pelosi. (National Review Online, 061031)


By Thomas Sowell


Perhaps nothing so captures the superficial, frivolous, and irresponsible spirit of our times like the sudden boomlet for Barack Obama as a candidate for president of the United States.


He is a bright, personable and articulate young man but what has he ever actually accomplished that would qualify him for the highest office in the nation and the leadership of the free world?


This is no criticism of Senator Obama. He has been in the Senate only a couple of years. Maybe a decade from now he will have crafted enough important legislation, or distinguished himself in some other way, as to be someone worth considering for president. But today, just because he is fluent, smooth, and black?


Similarly for Congressman Harold Ford, who is running for the Senate in Tennessee. However moderate he may seem, his election could turn the Senate over to extremists like Ted Kennedy & Co.


Both Ford and Obama are probably better than most congressional Democrats, but that is a very small claim in a high-tax party that has been irresponsible on national defense for decades and has fought against even modest attempts to control illegal immigration.


Contrary to what you might think from the way the media cover politics, elections are not about the careers of politicians but about the fate of the country. That fate is definitely on the line now with a nuclear Iran and a nuclear North Korea looming over our children’s future.


The time is long overdue to get serious about the caliber of people to whom power and responsibility are to be entrusted. That is especially important if and when the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives after this election.


They can be vague about their agenda but they can’t hide the facts about who will stand to wield power if they take over the House.


Everyone seems to be talking about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as a new Speaker of the House after this year’s elections. But is anyone interested in what she has actually done in the past, as a guide to what to expect from her in a powerful position that also puts her next in line to become president of the United States after the vice president?


On immigration, Congresswoman Pelosi voted against tightening border security. Current House Speaker Dennis Hastert voted for it — and also led the fight that stopped the Senate amnesty bill from gaining approval in the House of Representatives.


On taxes, Congresswoman Pelosi has paid no attention to their actual economic consequences and instead repeated the standard Democrat’s line about “tax cuts for the wealthiest few, causing red ink as far as the eye can see.”


Cuts in tax rates have been followed by increases — repeat, increases — in tax revenues. This has happened not only during this administration but also as far back as the Kennedy administration.


Red ink comes from runaway spending, which can always exceed any increases in revenues. When a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to cut federal spending on welfare, Pelosi voted against it.


Upper-income earners — most of whom are not rich — have in fact paid more total taxes after the rates were cut because these cuts have spurred economic growth and higher incomes. But to admit this would be to abandon the twin pillars of liberalism, higher tax rates, and class-warfare rhetoric.


As regards the war on terrorism and the terrorists’ war against the west, Nancy Pelosi has opposed having international phone calls to and from terrorists monitored by American intelligence agencies.


The liberal spin is that this is “domestic spying” when someone on one end of the line is within the United States. Pelosi also doesn’t think we are treating terrorists nice enough at Guantanamo. She wants to give them “rights” that neither the Constitution nor the Geneva convention gives them.


This is from someone who, as Speaker of the House, would be two heartbeats away from becoming president of the United States. We can only hope that the president and vice president never travel in the same car or fly on the same plane.


— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.




Empowered by prayer (National Post, 061230)


With interest in spirituality on the rise and church attendance in a freefall, the National Post concludes a week-long series considering the state of Canadian Christianity and whether the way forward may in fact be the way backward. [KH: what kind of comment is this last clause?]


Every Wednesday morning when Parliament is sitting, a group of about two dozen federal MPs and senators from all parties meet in the parliamentary cafeteria for a prayer breakfast that has been led, in recent years, by such improbable kindred spirits as a Tory Baptist and a Liberal Mennonite.


The gathering is Christian but non-denominational, a chance to reflect in an open but private environment about religious faith, and how it plays out in the lives of parliamentarians.


“The key is it’s non-political. They talk instead about personal struggles, and faith, and the things you might talk about in church anyways,” said Jonathan Malloy, a Carleton University professor who studies the political influence of Christian evangelical groups. “It’s never been a secret, but it’s not talked about too much.”


Such is the story with religion in general on Parliament Hill.


Canada’s elected representatives are as religious as the general public, possibly more, but they are often reluctant to discuss their faith openly for fear that it will be caricatured by their detractors or exaggerated by their supporters. This is a fear that has only grown, Prof. Malloy said, since the rise to political power of Christian evangelicals in the United States.


“There is too much to lose and not much to gain by MPs declaring their religious beliefs,” said John Stackhouse, a theology and culture professor at B.C.’s Regent College. “Until the electorate decide that religious identity and religious observance matter, why would politicians mark themselves off from potential voters?”


This reticence reflects a peculiarly Canadian discomfort with one of the deepest unsettled questions of parliamentary democracy — whether a representative should exercise their own moral judgment, or reflect that of his or her constituents, and what to do when they are in conflict. And it reveals one of the starkest differences between the governments of Canada and the United States — that public faith is a political asset south of the border, but a liability to the north.


“There’s quite a stigma over the relationship between religion and politics in Canada,” Prof. Malloy said. “Politicians only see a downside in talking about their religious faith? They’re worried that too much might bemade of it.”


In an effort to sketch the religious behaviour of federal MPs, the National Post conducted an informal and unscientific poll, which seems to show that religion is a powerful force in the private lives of representatives, but a moderate one.


Of those who replied to the anonymous survey, four out of five consider themselves religious, with a strong majority of them Christians. The respondents pray privately an average of once a day, and in some cases more than three times daily, and they attend religious service an average of three times per month. Only one in four said they never attend religious services. All of these results suggest a stronger religious devotion than the average Canadian. [KH: a comment from perhaps a non-religious write as less than 15% (or even 10%) never attended religious services.]


“It’s surprising how many [politicians] do have a strong faith,” said Guy Lauzon, Conservative MP for Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry in Ontario, who attends Catholic mass as often as three times a week.


“I actually think that makes me a better politician,” he said. “What my faith helps me with is putting things in perspective and looking at things less selfishly, more globally.”


The survey, conducted before the House broke up for the holidays, suggests the historical political association of Liberals and Catholics remains in place; the odds that a Catholic MP is a Liberal are three in five, compared with one in five that they are Conservatives. It also confirms some stereotypes of religious observance and political affiliation.


Odds were better than 50-50 that a non-religious MP was a New Democrat, and a Conservative was more likely to be religious than a Liberal was. More than half of the United Church members were NDP, and two thirds of Mennonites were Conservative. Every Anglican was a Liberal.


Roman Catholicism was the most common faith, at 30% of respondents, followed by equal numbers of United Church members and unspecified Christians. One in 10 said they are Anglican, with the remainder being Sikh, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Muslim, Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Ukranian Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Christian Missionary Alliance. No respondents said they are Jewish. [KH: secular Jews]


The results are unscientific, and because of a relatively poor response rate, do not represent an accurate picture of the entire House of Commons.


Nearly half the MPs refused to respond to repeated e-mail and telephone requests, and of the 163 who did respond, 100 declined to participate. All Bloc Quebecois MPs but one refused to participate, which likely skewed the total number of Roman Catholics downward, although the one who did respond is not religious.


Of the 63 responses, however — representing 20% of Canada’s MPs — fully 50 said they were religious. And of those 13 nonreligious members, six nonetheless volunteered a religion with which they identified. Four replied, unprompted, that they were “spiritual” but not religious. One Ontario MP even said he was religious but has no specific religion.


The results, and several interviews with MPs about their religious influences, run counter to a growing perception of a U.S.-style “religious right” establishing itself in Canada.


Predictions of Canadian political evangelicalism are increasingly common. Just before last winter’s election, the [KH: obviously liberal] Toronto Star wondered “Is religious right poised to set Harper’s agenda?” More recently, The Walrusmagazine devoted a cover story to a “shift in the landscape” that could transform Canada into a “stern, narrow-minded theocracy.” Even The Nation, the highminded journal of the American left, fretted that Stephen Harper is “rapidly building an alliance with the worst elements of the U.S. Christian right.”


But little of this has come to pass. A free vote in Parliament this month failed to revive the same-sex marriage debate, and Mr. Harper has proved to be much less of an ideologue and much more of a political opportunist than was predicted before his election.


“We do not see a religious right in Canada. We see a fear of a religious right in Canada,” said Stuart Macdonald, professor of church and society at the University of Toronto. “We see a few people trying to create one, but they have not succeeded, and most evangelicals are not where the Republican right is in the United States, they’re far more moderate. On one or two issues they might have some sympathy, but we have to really dig to find extremists, where in the United States they’re all over the place.” [KH: obviously very liberal professer, yet teaching church and society at UT]


Prof. Malloy said he has “yet to meet a Canadian politician who gives a biblical justification for anything but same-sex marriage or homosexuality or abortion.” And Reginald Bibby, Canada’s foremost chronicler of religious trends, agrees that most of these fears are “completely false.”


As Prof. Malloy notes in a recent paper about the role of evangelicals in last year’s election, “the Harper government may turn out to be more disillusionment than deliverance, much as the Mulroney years were for many evangelicals.”


Part of the reason that evangelicals formonly a small portion of Canada’s politicians may be that politics is an uncomfortable place for the faithful, especially those who are strongly devout.


“Peopleof traditional and devoted faith are trying hard to learn to tell the truth better, to compromise less, and to live in fuller conformity with their faith, as a rule. So the world of politics can be negotiated by such people only with considerable strain, even if they have a sophisticated approach to it,” Prof. Stackhouse said.


Harold Albrecht, the Conservative member for Kitchener-Conestoga in Ontario, is an exception to that rule. Before his election earlier this year, he was Reverend Albrecht for the Pathway Community Church, a Brethren in Christ denomination.


“It’s certainly what I would refer to as a horizontal change,” he said of his switch to politics. “It’s just another avenue enabling me to serve.”


He said his faith plays an important role in his political life, including his vote against samesex marriage, and that to vote against one’s faith “fundamentally lacks integrity.” He keeps on his parliamentary Black Berry an inspirational quote attributed to Sir Thomas More, the 16th-century Catholic martyr, in Robert Bolt’s 1960 play A Man For All Seasons: “I believe that when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties they lead their country by a short route to chaos.”


Jim Karygiannis, the Liberal member for Scarborough-Agincourt in Toronto, who is Greek Orthodox, takes the opposite and more common view. “My religion is my religion, my MP work is my MP work,” he said.


He voted against same-sex marriage because the letters he received were running “4,000-to-1” against it, not because of any personal conviction.


Peter Stoffer, the NDP member for Sackville-Eastern Shore in Nova Scotia, finds it “absolutely offensive” that moral and legal questions, such as same-sex marriage, are argued on religious grounds, but nevertheless says he prays regularly about both his work and private life.


“Me, I’m praying all the time, my son. I’m praying all the time. Go Habs Go. I hope my horse finishes first, I hope I win the lotto, I hope I get a question in the House of Commons,” Mr. Stoffer said. [KH: gambling, obviously not a Christian] He grew up Calvinist but now describes himself as a spiritual Christian, and said he has never been into organized religion but finds the United Church closest to his own views.


“I’ve always had an open mind towards other beliefs and other religions,” he said. “My personal view is more in line with what the Dalai Lama says — believe in what you believe in, as long as that belief remains true to the inner spirit of being good to your fellow man. I believe in God, but I believe God represents every single human being that’s out there, and I believe it’s whatever interpretation you want him to be.”


To him, a prayer is closer to a hope than a formulaic expression of devotion.


“I think a prayer is that you’re looking inside. What I do is, two or three times a day, I’m sitting there going, ‘C’mon big guy, I need some advice here.’ I’m seeking inner guidance, I guess.”


Mr. Stoffer, like many of his parliamentary colleagues, seems to have found a comfortable middle road between the religious fundamentalism that many Canadians fear and the strict secularism that politics often demands. He considers faith a purely personal matter, not open to the charge of right or wrong. He even thinks atheists have a faith that should be respected. His is a flexible, almost secular approach to religion — a classically Canadian compromise.


[KH: extensive quote of Stoffer indicates clearly the writer is against evangelicals]




Savvy marketers target ‘Faith and Family’ flock (National Post, 061230)


Cracking U.S. Christian — particularly evangelical —markets demands differing strategies, one expert says, but the payoff can be ‘a very loyal audience’


Larry Ross is a man with a lot of passion. A former public relations spokesman for General Motors Corp., the Dallas-based Mr. Ross has spent the past 26 years spreading the word about the Word, marketing Christian based products and films.


“There are 190 million Christians in this country and that represents a largely untapped new market,” says Mr. Ross, who also acted as front man for Billy Graham, the world’s most recognizable evangelical preacher.


In the advertising and marketing world, it is called the “faith and family” market, and it is quickly becoming the most sought-after niche by U.S. corporations looking for innovative ways to reach consumers.


The “faith and family” market covers a huge range — books, films, music, radio and television shows aimed directly at the devoted attending the 300,000 Protestant and 20,000 Catholic churches in this country.


Christian-themed radio has grown from a handful of stations to more than 1,600 outlets with a doubling of total radio market share to 5.5%. Religious CDs and concerts generate more than US$1-billion a year. Evangelical Christian authors Tim La Haye and Jerry B. Jenkins are publishing superstars, famous for the after-the-rapture “Left Behind” thrillers that have sold more than 62 million copies in the past decade.


The Christian Booksellers Association says Christian-book sales are expected to jump 15% a year with no end in sight. “Our sales are only limited by our ability to execute,” says the Colorado based association.


Packaged Facts, a New York based market research company, says the market for religious products will grow to US$8.6-billion by 2008 from US$6.8-billion in 2003.


And one only has to look at Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, which grossed more than US$600-million for its biblically literal interpretation of the final hours of Jesus.


“Films like Passion focus on value-added entertainment with a purpose,” says Mr. Ross, a devout Christian.


Mr. Ross should know. He headed the Christian public relations campaign that helped send Passion to box-office success — a campaign that essentially involved marketing directly to parishioners through their preachers.


“You have to look at the Christian community as a series of overlapping concentric circles — there are evangelicals and all kinds of Presbyterians and Catholics,” he says. “They all overlap in the broader Christian community, yet it is not one single homogeneous market.”


Tapping into the market, especially the 70 million-strong evangelical market, involves a different strategy than reaching mainstream markets, he says.


“In the evangelical community, there is a very loyal audience,” he says.


Calling it “bell cow” leadership, Mr. Ross’s strategy to getting an inspirational film into the Christian community is to screen it first privately to the local pastor. (A bell cow is usually the lead cow in a herd.) If the minister felt it accurately represented the biblical version, he would pass that information along to his congregation. Then Mr. Ross would arrange for the film to be shown to the congregation at the local church. “Word of mouth will take care of the rest,” he says.


Mr. Ross is not alone in faith based marketing of the The Passion of Christ.


Motive Marketing of California is a marketing company that focuses on the Christian community and was also a key part in the marketing success of the controversial film.


The strategy was so successful that Motive Marketing was hired by Walt Disney Co. to promote its own faith and family films, including C.S Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, which was dubbed “ The Passion of Christ for kids.”


Mr. Ross’s company, A. Larry Ross Communications, just finished working with Hollywood based Gener8 Xion Entertainment’s film One Night with the King, using that same church strategy. The company is working on several other film projects.


“Now, we have a network of 3,200 churches in the country showing films,” he says. “That is the largest movie chain out there, if you exclude the multiplex theatres.”


The faith and family market has attracted the attention of some of America’s largest corporations.


Coca Cola Co., Daimler Chrysler AG and McDonalds Corp. are among the giant U.S. corporations that have begun tapping into the Christian market, largely through the “mega-church” phenomenon sweeping largely through the southern states.


Coca-Cola and McDonalds have given away free samples at the 25,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga. Target Co. won praise from the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn for donating 2,000 backpacks to children in a low-income housing project.


GM’s Chevrolet division has just sponsored evangelical singer Michael W. Smith’s recent tour, while Chrysler ponied up for Patti La Belle’s recent gospel tour that included her Dec. 2 concert at Jericho City of Praise in Maryland. GM also made donations to a cancer cause for parishioners at the Maryland church who test drove their cars.


“We try to go out to our best prospects in their environment à and in the African-American community, one of the opportunities is the church,” says David Rooney, director of Chrysler brand marketing.


But it would wrong to see this as just another cynical way for corporate America to sell products.


“We don’t just want them to put up their logos,” says Anthony Meyers, director of development at the Bishop T.D. Jakes’ Ministries outside Dallas. Mr. Jakes’ Potter’s House has a congregation of 30,000 and is one of about 1,200 mega-churches across the United States.


Last year, Coca-Cola, Clorox Co., KF Holdings’ Kraft Food, Bank of America, Delta Airlines and others were sponsors of the huge Mega Fest conference in Atlanta.


“People don’t live in churches, they live in the community,” says Mr. Meyers. “Although we do church very well, what we don’t do is other things that people need in their lives.” That is where the corporate sponsors come in, he says.


Since mega-churchs can often appeal to congregations that may not be financially well off (one-third of Americans make less than US$30,000 a year), Mr. Meyers says they may not have all the life skills they need.


“There are three components to a person’s life — spiritual, physical and financial,” says Mr. Meyers.


The church takes care of the spiritual, Coca-Cola comes in to introduce people to its healthier products — such as its bottled water line — and the Bank of America helps teach parishioners about basic banking, he says.


“These companies are here not just to sell products,” he says. “We want this all to be content rich.”


Not everyone is impressed, however, with this so-called “prosperity gospel” direction of corporations trying to reach consumers through the pulpit.


When a company tries “to enrol people’s support for a commercial product in a setting that is sacred it can backfire,” Christophe Van Bulte, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania, warned recently.


Still, you have to feed the body. And even atheists have to eat.


Truett Cathy founded his “biblical-based” Chick-fil-A chain of 1,280 restaurants in 1946 on the principle that every outlet must close on Sunday for a day of rest for all workers.


“We have based our business practices on biblical principles,” Mr. Cathy, the 85-year-old chairman of Chick-fil-A, said in an interview from his Atlanta head office.


Besides being closed on Sunday — something he says attracts better quality workers who know they will get a guaranteed day off even if they don’t go to church —Mr. Cathy says his training program is based on basic biblical themes.


“I tell my people to treat customers like you would like to be treated,” he says. “It’s unusual in the fast-food industry to be treated kindly.”


He likes to tell the story of a woman who had driven 320 kilometres from her home, stopped in a Chick-fil-A for lunch, only to find she left her pocketbook behind.


Not only did she get her meal for free, but the staff each donated enough money so she could buy gas to go on her way.


“Those kinds of things mean you have a customer forever,” he says, calling it “going the second mile.”


“It doesn’t cost you anything to be kind and the Bible teaches you that,” Mr. Cathy says.


The biblical business strategy appears to be paying off. In late November, Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A reported annual sales of more than US$2-billion, after opening 76 new outlets.


“I see no conflict between biblical principles and good business practices,” says Mr. Cathy, who still teaches Sunday school every week. “You’ve just got to stick to your convictions.”




Zealotry of South shaping the world (National Post, 061229)


With interest in spirituality on the rise and church attendance in a freefall, a week-long National Post series considers the state of Canadian Christianity and whether the way forward may in fact be the way backward.


The most surprising thing for many about the international religious scene at the beginning of the 21st century is that there is an international religious scene worthy of investigation. Early 20th-century progressive thinkers thought that by now, religion would have long been shuffled off the main stage of history, relegated to the purely private sphere. There would still be religious believers, but religion would cease to be a major force shaping culture. It would be more akin to a hobby.


That turned out to be true for Western Europe, but not so almost everywhere else.


Religion has been a near dominant factor in world politics since 1979, the year in which Pope John Paul II made his epic visit to Poland, and the Ayatollah returned to Iran.


Since then, Islam has risen to a new prominence in the West, a sort of reverse missionary movement where religion from the East and the South is establishing a presence in Europe and North America. The Islamic phenomenon is oft-remarked, but the same thing is happening in Christianity, with the more orthodox and biblically faithful churches of the South, or what was known as the developing world, becoming the new centre of world Christianity.


The major religious story in the Christian world over the next two years will likely be the fracturing of the Anglican Communion. A formal schism is expected at the decennial Lambeth Conference in 2008, with the issue of homosexuality the proximate cause of the division. The more liberal churches in the North will be broken away from by the much larger and traditional Anglican churches of the South, led by Africa. Given that more Anglicans in Nigeria attend church on Sunday than the combined attendance in Canada, the United States and England, it is valid to ask who is breaking away from whom.


Indeed, the Anglican story could easily be told as the breaking away of dwindling heterodox churches from the more vibrant, orthodox mainstream — except that the mainstream is not Canterbury and Toronto, but Lagos and Kampala.


The same shift to the South can be seen in the Catholic Church. There is hardly a diocese of Canada that does not depend upon priests from Eastern Europe, India and Africa to keep parishes open that would otherwise be without a priest. In Europe, the situation is even more advanced.


“African dioceses have made gestures for the centenary or 150th anniversary of their creation by sending priests to the dioceses from which their first missionaries came,” explains Father Maurice Pivot, director of the French Pontifical Missionary Works office, calling it “a sign of the Church’s catholic dynamic” to return priests from missionary countries to the home countries of their evangelizers.


The number of foreign clergy working in French parishes increased six fold in the five years between 1997 and 2002. This year, the number reached 1,060, two-thirds of whom are from outside Europe, mostly from France’s former colonies in Africa and Vietnam.


The Catholic Church’s membership has already shifted to Latin America, Africa and Asia, away from the situation a century ago, when the majority of the world’s Catholics were in Europe. As those burgeoning Catholic populations develop their own schools, colleges and seminaries, they will increasingly assume roles of global leadership. Catholics in India, for example, are already more numerous than Catholics in Canada, have much higher levels of church attendance, far better catechical formation and a more evangelistic outlook. As religious orders of men and women die out in North America and Europe, the growing religious communities of Africa and Asia will fill the gap. It is indicative of the future that the largest new congregation of religious sisters in the 20th century was founded in India — Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.


The international picture also includes perhaps the fastest growing segment of world Christianity — Pentecostal Protestants. Highly decentralized and loosely organized compared with Catholics or mainline Protestants, Pentecostalism (or evangelicalism) broadly understood is attracting thousands of converts daily. Commenting on this trend recently, The Economist noted that, “Los Angeles’ most successful export is not Hollywood but Pentecostalism.”


According to a recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, there are an estimated 500 million “revivalists” in the world, including members of stand-alone Pentecostal and evangelical denominations as well as charismatics within established denominations. Revivalists now represent one quarter of the total Christian population of two billion, compared with just six per cent of the Christian total 30 years ago.


Pentecostals, who emphasize fidelity to the Bible along with the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, were thought to be, a century ago, an exotic eruption of religiosity in far-out California. Today, it has already made large inroads in the Catholic countries of Latin America, where it is generally agreed that Pentecostals emphasize personal conversion and upright living in a way that a lax Catholic culture does not.


More than one wag has noted that the Pentecostal explosion in Latin America -some 15 per cent of the population in Brazil, perhaps 30 per cent in Guatemala -is making good Protestants out of bad Catholics. An observant Protestant means a more robust Christian presence, if the alternative is a lapsed Catholic. In terms of global trends in religion, the phenomenon matches the experience elsewhere: The more demanding religious communities attract the new adherents.


In response, Catholics in Latin America, Africa and Asia have had to expand their own religious instruction programs and be more demanding in living up to the moral teachings of the Church. The result has been, in certain respects, a competition in orthodoxy and moral rigour -the exact reverse of the competition in the West between churches who outdid each other in modernization.


Given that the future of world Christianity is in the South, the striving for tradition and orthodoxy that marks many of those churches will have a major impact on the world Christian agenda. And if for several generations that agenda has been dominated by the varied questions of liberalization in doctrine, morals and liturgy, the rise of the South likely means new questions — not about the latest novelties of a more secular culture, but about the old faith.




‘Renovated’ Catholicism attracts few tenants (National Post, 061227)


With interest in spirituality on the rise and church attendance in a freefall, a week-long National Post series considers the state of Canadian Christianity and whether the way forward may in fact be the way backward.


Picture, if you can, a Roman Catholic renegade.


If the image you summon is that of a portly white man in a plaid shirt, a man who hugs strangers and cracks wise from behind a makeshift altar, then you have summoned up the brand of religious subversion embodied by Gary O’Dwyer, the face of Mass at what may be Canada’s only truly schismatic Catholic Church.


“Sisters and brothers,” Mr. O’Dwyer begins on a recent Sunday morning, addressing the 50 or so parishioners who have gathered to worship at a community hall in this village 100 kilometres east of Toronto.


The service is unlike any Catholic Mass I have ever attended. There is no kneeling on the hall’s scuffed hardwood floor, no pressing of fingers into sponges of holy water, no stiff handshakes when it comes time to offer each other the sign of peace. (That part of the service descends into a 10-minute hugfest.)


And when it comes time for Communion, the congregation forms a circle, accepts the Host and swallows at the same time.


Throughout the service, Mr. O’Dwyer continues to transpose the phrase “brothers and sisters” so that it is always sisters first. Subtle, but significant — it was, after all, displeasure at the place of women in the church, and the example of a priest who insisted women deserved better, that brought this group of unlikely rebels together in the first place.


“Sometimes you have to take a step forward and be willing to be alienated or criticized,” Mr. O’Dwyer later said of his decision to leave the Roman Catholic Church and help found a breakaway parish.


“I think it’s very much connected to what’s been happening in the church as well in the broader society,” says John Huot, the chair of the Catholic New Times Publishing Group.


“There’s been a retreat from social justice.”


The seeds of Christ the Servant were planted in August of 2005 when Fr. Ed Cachia, a warm and well-loved priest at St. Michael’s Church in Cobourg, wrote an editorial in the local paper praising the ordination of nine women on the St. Lawrence River, calling it, “the beginning of a new and awesome change in the life of the church.”


He later celebrated Mass with female priests in the United States. Fr. Cachia was summoned to speak with Peterborough Bishop Nicola De Angelis and was later given a month’s leave to reflect on his stance.


He refused to bend. The Bishop suspended him, prompting him to deliver three emotional farewell Masses.


The church’s 9 a.m. folk choir resigned en masse that morning, deepening the rift that separated Fr. Cachia’s supporters and detractors.


“It was very emotional,” said Lyn Smith, 75, who stayed at St. Michael’s, and disagrees with the stance taken by those who split. “Some of the rest of us were absolutely dismayed and disbelieving ... There were tears shed by lots of people at the time just because they thought they were losing a friend.”


For a few months, Fr. Cachia and a core of families who left with him worshipped in private homes, traipsing from living room to living room. The experience was so positive they decided to formalize it and stick with it after the loss of their leader.


Almost a year to the day after he left St. Michael’s, on Sept. 24 of this year, Fr. Cachia again provoked tears with an announcement that he was leaving.


After a week-long spiritual retreat, he decided to see if the Roman Catholic Church would take him back.


He continues to live in Grafton, but many messages transmitted to him through friends went unanswered. He has not spoken to the media since leaving Christ the Servant.


The bishop, too, is not divulging much about the situation. In a statement e-mailed to the National Post, the bishop’s spokesman, Father Ray Rick, said: “The Bishop of Peterborough, the Most Rev. Nicola De Angelis, considers his relationship with Father Ed Cachia to be analogous to that of a father and son.


He is unprepared to discuss publicly anything that may be considered delicate, confidential or internal. I can tell you that the Bishop has met with Fr. Cachia on at least one occasion this fall. The Bishop considers their conversation to be a matter of confidence.”


Meanwhile, dedicated supporters of Christ the Servant keep the church going in both Peterborough and Cold Springs.


They are in the midst of drafting a statement of faith and they have struck a search committee with the aim of finding a parttime priest, preferably one who follows the “Apostolic succession” — the line of priests that can be traced back to Peter — but who is, like them, disaffected with the church hierarchy.


In the meantime, faithful members such as Mr. O’Dwyer have offered to lead services.


“I feel at the end of [a service] such a tremendous sense of spirituality,” he said.


“I think the Holy Spirit has probably moved me to this. Those aren’t phrases I had ever used in my lifetime before. So this has been a very new experience in that respect because I’ve always been very, very private.”


To an outsider, one of the great mysteries of Christ the Servant is why members simply do not join an established Christian church that shares their beliefs, such as the United Church.


The Peterborough congregation actually holds its services at the city’s Mark St. United Church, which has offered its space, and once a month, the services of its pastor, Reverend Bob Root.


In a fascinating, two-hour conversation with seven members of the Peterborough congregation, the answer became clear: The Catholic Church, with its rituals, its liturgy and its sacraments, is home.


“I’m an incurable Catholic,” laughed Joan Lee.


That is why she and her friends do not want to assume a new faith. They would rather renovate the house they grew up in, with Rome. While somewhere between 180 and 300 people attended Christ the Servant’s first Mass, attendance has dwindled to a core of between 50 and 60 for the 10:30 a.m. Sunday service in Cold Springs and about 30 for the 5:30 p.m. Saturday service in Peterborough.


For Catholics advocating for change, the saga of Christ the Servant is part cause for celebration, part cautionary tale.


It shows that disaffected Catholics can pull together to find a path to God they believe is more community-oriented, inclusive and — as the 13 parishioners interviewed for this story kept repeating — more awash in joy than the official church.


But the breakaway church’s struggle to bring in fresh blood, and even retain its spiritual leader, also suggests that bucking the Vatican’s hard line, discarding traditional teachings and generally going liberal is not a guaranteed way to fill pews.


Although Christ the Servant has brought Mr. O’Dwyer and his fellow parishioners profound joy, the church has struggled to attract new members and has, in fact, lost members since its founding priest left in September to seek a reconciliation have been reared in the faith that even the disaffected are loath to switch to another church.


The bottom line? A softening in the Vatican’s stance on female ordination or other controversial issues would be unlikely to usher in a flood of converts to Roman Catholicism.


“If there was a change there, the [women] who were already actively involved would probably feel more comfortable with where the church is relative to their particular views,” Mr. Bibby says. “But I doubt very much we would suddenly see all kinds of people from the outside coming in.”


The struggles at Christ the Servant mirror those of Catholic New Times, a 30-year-old independent left-leaning newspaper that wrote in support of the breakaway church’s cause and several other positions anathema to Rome.


The newspaper published its last edition last month, after subscriptions declined steadily from a peak of 12,500 in the late 1980s to about 4,100.


Michael Swan, associate editor of The Catholic Register, Canada’s largest weekly Catholic newspaper, says there is simply “no evidence” that people return when the Church bends its traditional rules.


“People used to say, ‘if only the Church wasn’t so silly about meat on Fridays,’ then everybody would become a good Catholic again, the numbers in the church would go up,” he says.


“Well, Church discipline on meat on Fridays has been forgotten for a generation, it has not caused a huge influx of people.”




Saving souls in Quebec (National Post, 061226)


With interest in spirituality on the rise and church attendance in a freefall, a week-long National Post series considers the state of Canadian Christianity and whether the way forward may in fact be the way backward.


JOLIETTE, Que. -When Francois Verschelden envisions the focal point of the thriving Baptist ministry he is trying to build in this small community, he has his building already picked out.


It is an abandoned government building in the centre of town, just up the road from the century-old Roman Catholic cathedral — a location with a symbolic significance that is not lost on Pastor Verschelden, a bespectacled minister who grew up as a Catholic in this province and who knows that his life’s work is all about supplanting the dominant religion here.


“In Quebec, if you change religions, they have the impression that you are rejecting the culture, the two are so intertwined,” he says.


“And they don’t consider evangelical churches as credible, simply because they have no knowledge of what it is.”


The 43-year-old is the rancophone church planting co-ordinator of the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists, an organization whose mission is “1,000 healthy reproducing churches by year 2020.”


The goal is certainly daunting on a national scale but sounds particularly improbable in a region that remains Catholic at heart, if not in practice, and where many consider evangelical churches on a par with cults.


So alien is the U.S. version of evangelism to people in this area that the kindly-looking father of two, who became a born-again Christian when he was 19, has been ridiculed, threatened and even had parents warn their children to stay away from him for his proselytizing since returning to his home province.


So how can a single Baptist preacher turn around the prevailing attitude toward the evangelical movement?


The answer is that Pastor Verschelden has some big American backers in his campaign for religious conversion, who for a range of reasons have settled on this small Quebec community of about 50,000, about 75 kilometres northeast of Montreal, as the unlikely focus of their efforts to boost the presence of evangelismin Canada.


The movement has already had some quick success: In just four years, Pastor Verschelden has founded a church in St. Felix, north of Joliette, called Eglise du Rocher Vivant, and another, Renaissance Bible Church, in Rawdon, northwest of Joliette, and has recently started what is known as a “kitchen-table church” in the town proper.


But those, along with regularly handing out Bibles at a local flea market and putting pamphlets on car windshields, are modest ventures compared to what is planned for the new year.


Beginning in March, six successive waves of Baptist mission teams — the largest, a group of 50 —from Texas, Kentucky, the Carolinas and British Columbia will roll into Joliette and proselytize in God’s name.


By then, the first of four one-hour DVDs explaining the gospel, hosted by Pastor Verschelden in his native tongue, will have been mailed out to each of Joliette’s 18,000 homes.


He says this kind of multi-media mass blitz is an entirely new way of building a church where none existed before.


“It’s the largest population and target, and most expensive piece we’ve ever put together,” says Pastor Phil Young, director of Global Reach Foundation, the south Florida Baptist ministry that is backing Pastor Verschelden in his efforts.


The foundation is an off shoot of The First Baptist Church at the Mall, a megachurch so named because it has a 37,000-square-metremall as its home.


Its congregation is 7,000 people strong, which provides the fundraising base that allows Global Reach to finance the US$100,000 cost of Pastor Verschelden’s DVDs, in addition to his salary and the lease on the new building.


Its aim is to embark on what it calls “a worldwide church planting effort” that in a five-year period would establish at least 30 new evangelical congregations in “the most un-reached places on Earth” — or what Pastor Young describes in an interview as a mission to “prayerfully hunt for places that we consider dramatically under-churched,” a criteria that puts Quebec alongside such places as Albania, Moldova and Tanzania.


The decision to focus on Joliette (one of six ministries to be established by the group in 2007, bringing the total to 27 in only four years,) came after Pastor Young and a team of student missionaries toured eight areas in Quebec that they deemed statistically to be dramatically in need of an evangelical church.


After a day of walking and praying through town, the American pastor and his team experienced an “unusual spiritual experience,” he says.


“It was a place where the seeds of the gospel had never been sown, at least in a long time. There was desperate void.”


The irony, of course, is that the Catholic Church colonized Joliette long ago.


But by the year 2000, when weekly church attendance in Canada had dropped to around 20%, the decline was particularly pronounced among Roman Catholics, especially in Quebec.


By 2005, in another survey of monthly-plus attendance of religious services by leading sociologist Reginald Bibby, Quebec was the lowest in the country, at 22%, compared to the highest attendance by those in the Atlantic region (50%) and Manitoba/Saskatchewan (49%).


-Tomorrow: What the fate of a renegade Ontario priest and a radical Catholic newspaper say about the way forward for Canada’s Catholic church.




Canada’s devotion gap (National Post, 061223)

Suburban Churches Cater To Immigrants


A doctrinally conservative but liturgically liberal approach to worship suits the immigrant experience, one university professor says.


Of all of the churches in Toronto’s suburbs that cater to the city’s various Christian immigrant communities, one in particular has followed Jesus’ parable about the kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, which from tiny origins grows to great strength.


The Ghanaian Presbyterian Church, which now occupies a massive warehouse in the northern suburbs retrofitted to look like a church, complete with a false-fronted steeple, was founded 12 years ago in the west-end living room of a Ghanaian immigrant.


From there, the dozen original members upgraded to a garage, but 48 people showed up. From there, they got some space in a local Presbyterian Church, and after several more moves because of growing numbers, last year they bought a church of their own for their 500 members.


“Most of the members were really rooted with the church when they were back home in Ghana, and then as they move out, they decided to behave like the Israelites, decided not to forget their God, irrespective of them being in an alien land. And so, the church serves a dual purpose for them. It is a church, and at the same time it is a family gathering point,” said Rev. Enoch Pobee, the minister.


Outside, it does not look like Ghana. High-tension wires crisscross the landscape, and the city’s main north-south highway is within earshot.


But inside, last Sunday on the one-year anniversary of the first service in this new church, little boys in suits lined up politely for Sunday school, and little girls wearing parkas over crinoline were dancing even before the music started.


When it did, it raised the roof. Drums, guitars and a trumpet took the place of the traditional organ, and a conga-line of worshippers formed spontaneously along the aisles.


“That’s how we know how to worship, with all your might,” said elder Kingsley Owusu.


Stuart Macdonald, a University of Toronto professor of religion and culture, says this church is an example of the most successful type of parish — the suburban immigrant community church. By taking a doctrinally conservative but liturgically liberal approach to worship, it meshes well with the immigrant experience, he said.


Another is the Roman Catholic Chinese Martyrs in Markham, which like the Ghanaian Presbyterians attracts worshippers from as much as an hour away.


Both churches, in fact, were designed by the same architect, Simon Ng, and neither looks traditionally churchy. But the message from the pulpit is as conservative as anything on offer on Canada’s mainstream religious scene.


“We live in a society that seems to take care of everything, but in fact gives us nothing,” Father Victor Agius told his congregation on a recent Sunday. Later, in an interview, he recounted his belief that “behind every homosexual, I’ve never found one who did not have a very sad story in their childhood.”


These are messages that would turn off much of the Canadian population, but to the Catholic families who have immigrated in the last 15 years from Hong Kong or mainland China, they are reflective of the church’s moral strength.


Both churches have succeeded where many Canadian churches before them have failed, by establishing themselves and growing, not so much in a neighbourhood, but in a culture.




Atheism’s army of the smug (National Post, 061223)


This time of year makes atheists especially cranky; O Little Town of Bethlehem, played in a shopping mall, does nothing to lift the spirits of an unbeliever. But even by seasonal standards, the letters attracted by my column last week on The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, demonstrate astonishing vehemence. They leave the impression that atheists are sensitive about their non belief and easily hurt by criticism. [KH: true, because their “faith” is weak]


A friend of mine, who used to run a radio program about religion, noted recently that “militant atheists were our most intolerant and angry listeners.” The atheists I’ve lately heard from bring such passion to their hatred of religion that they can be fairly classed as religious fanatics.


Dawkins and people like him pour ridicule on believers. But, as evolutionists, they can’t credibly explain why hundreds of different civilizations across the globe have felt the need to believe in a divine force. Billions of people have accepted what Dawkins considers are stupid, easily refutable and harmful ideas. How did those beliefs evolve? Were they an evolutionary advantage?


Dawkins thinks they may be the result of a misfiring or by-product similar to the reason moths immolate themselves in candles. Over eons, moths evolved a system of navigation based on light from the moon; this still usually works, but sometimes light from a candle (or another source) fatally tricks them. In the same way, Dawkins suggests, humans evolved a system of thought that has led them astray.


Children who obey adults have a “selective advantage” in evolution. They are more likely than disobedient children to survive because they won’t have to learn on their own that, for instance, crocodile-infested rivers are dangerous. “Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal elders tell them.” But this valuable quality can go wrong, allowing parents to pass on their crazy religious ideas to the young. Dawkins has more trouble explaining how, in each civilization, the first wave of parents acquires religious convictions.


Atheists (my atheists, anyway) think that if you do not accept atheism outright then you’re likely to accept the Bible literally — which hasn’t been true, in the case of most Christians and Jews, for generations. One reader demands to know whether I believe human life began 6,000 years ago when God created the first man and woman. No, I don’t, and I hardly know anyone who does. [KH: obviously another biased non-Christian]


Atheists are arguing against a literalism that has never been accepted by anyone who is likely even to hear of Richard Dawkins. One reader demands I ask myself why I’m so sure of my beliefs. But I’m not. In fact, my beliefs hardly deserve the word “beliefs” and I’m certainly not religious in any traditional sense. My strongest belief is that a gigantic mystery still dominates this entire realm of thought.


Dawkins, and apparently most militant atheists, don’t seem even slightly interested in the fact that something almost inconceivably mysterious happened at the birth of the universe. As a result, they can bring little of interest to any conversation about the origins of life.


Last March, astronomers (working with data from a NASA satellite circling the Earth since 2001) concluded that time began 13.7 billion years ago, a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. At that instant the universe (as a New York Times writer put it) expanded “from submicroscopic to astronomical size in the blink of an eye.” Why would it want to do that?


I have no idea, but we now know that at least one planet that developed in the universe, Earth, would develop elements of genetic material that would make life possible though not, of course, inevitable.


Thomas Nagel, the philosopher, recently pointed out that if we are to believe evolutionary explanations, and therefore that the necessary seed material existed at the time of the Big Bang, we have to realize that there is no scientific explanation for the existence of that material in the first place. A complete understanding of evolution would involve answering a question as complex as evolution itself: “How did such a thing come into existence?” We have done nothing but push the problem one step back.


Or, as Stephen Hawking put it, “Why does the universe go to the bother of existing?” On that point we are all ignorant — and only a little closer to knowledge than our ancestors who believed that sacrificing a goat would bring good crops. The profound intellectual failure of atheists lies in their fundamentalist-like aversion to the words, “We don’t know.”




Channel’s growth verges on biblical (National Post, 061228)


LETHBRIDGE, Alta. -Bev is dying of cancer and her heart problems prevent her from getting the treatment she needs. The doctors have given her no hope and her family has given up. She needs a miracle.


Annie is 93 years old and her serious bowel problems have convinced her she’s about to die. She needs a miracle, too.


And Silvie is trying to shake a bad cold.


They have all come to the Miracle Channel for help, a place that is in the business of miracles. Requests from thousands of Christians in varying degrees of distress pour in every week by phone, e-mail, fax or letter.


Whether the need is dire or minor, each one gets prayed for. Fervently. Over the telephone, with a “prayer partner.” Then, in a weekly meeting, where staff gather to say a prayer for every single request. Then, as part of the bundles of prayer requests sent to the homes of volunteers, who will gather with friends and neighbours to appeal yet again to God. The prayers are added to a pile, where they’re prayed over again and again, indefinitely.


“We’re not going to go on TV and tell them we’re going to pray for them and then not do it,” explains prayer co-ordinator Jill Matis, who runs the station’s prayer headquarters in a small room just off the main broadcast studio.


The most hopeless cases, like Bev’s, go into a wooden trunk with a cross carved on the front nicknamed the “God Box,” which gets extra special prayers.


Once in a while, with a little help, says Ms. Matis, smiling, miracles happen. Surveying the streak of luck this operation has had in its 10 years of existence, it is tempting to believe her.


Having begun as a struggling local television station working out of a church, the Miracle Channel overturned a 70-year-old government ban on religious channels, became the country’s first national Christian network and now makes its way into more than four million Canadian homes via cable and satellite.


“It’s kind of an unlikely story ? Lethbridge isn’t exactly the centre of broadcasting in Canada,” chuckles Dick Dewert, the station’s founder, president and host of its flagship ministry program, Lifeline, which generates most of the prayer requests.


“We always make the comparison to Nazareth in John, Chapter Two.”


Told that the Messiah had been found in what was then a “backwater of Israel,” Mr. Dewert says, skeptics asked: “What good thing comes out of Nazareth?”


While this southern Alberta town of 79,000 has yet to produce anything as big as Jesus, the Miracle Channel is attracting followers worldwide.


Stations from Australia to Europe have been bringing Mr. Dewert’s programming to millions of international viewers. One Indian broadcasting mogul, an enthusiastic evangelical, is beaming the Canadian-made Christian programming into the Middle East, in an effort to turn Muslims toward Jesus. There are two American affiliates, making the Miracle Channel the only Canadian station exported in its entirety.


“It’s just part of the mission,” says Gordon Klassen, the station’s vice-president of corporate affairs. “We believe it’s what we were sent to do.”


The Miracle Channel’s growth, however, is more a product of demographics than divine intervention.


Evangelicals make up a huge segment of Canadian society, after all, comprising the third largest religious grouping at 12% of the population, says Andrew Grenville, senior vice-president of Ipsos-Reid in Toronto, who conducts an annual survey of Christian fundamentalism.


And given the Miracle Channel’s contention that it attracts viewers from other Christian faiths as well, including Catholics, you have to figure there’s at least as many potential viewers for a Christian ministry channel as there is for, say, a gay one.


In Canada, the channel has built up cable and satellite distribution primarily by writing cheques to carriers such as Rogers or Bell in exchange for distribution. Usually, the arrangement works the other way around, with cable firms paying stations for the right to resell programming.


It may not seem like the soundest business model — even for an explicitly non-profit operation.


But skeptics would have a hard time arguing with the results: a multi-million dollar broadcasting complex that Mr. Dewert’s station bought and converted from a cellular phone factory five years ago and a $7-million annual budget paid for mostly by cheques from viewers ranging from a few dollars to, in at least one case, $1-million. (The station also generates a minor portion of its revenue by selling broadcast time to other ministries.)


Under its licensing terms with the CRTC, the Miracle Channel is prohibited from selling ads.


“And we’re not interested in it either,” insists Mr. Dewert. “This way, we are a lot freer to pursue what would be in our eyes the right message, as opposed to pandering to ratings.”


But if Mr. Dewert has been free to speak his mind, he has stayed clear of the kind of controversies stirred up by evangelical broadcasters such as Pat Robertson or Jim Bakker. He is careful about avoiding their showy excess — he is proud to point out that he still drives his 10-year-old Forerunner to work — as well as their brash public stances on political issues.


While America’s televangelists call for the assassination of foreign leaders and rail against the alleged immorality of homosexuality, Mr. Dewert publicly opposed Canada’s same-sex marriage law on procedural grounds, citing concerns that the federal Liberals were foisting it on Canadians without democratic consideration.


“Did we preach against homosexuals? No. Or vilify them? No,” he says. “Did we express concerns with the [government’s] agenda? Yes.”


But it was the success of U.S. televangelists that first convinced Mr. Dewert of the necessity of using the electronic medium to spread the Good News on a larger scale.


The revelation came in the mid-1980s, while he was a pastor for the local Victory Church.


“I began to pray. And I said, ‘God, give Canada a Christian television network.’ And what I meant by that was I wanted a fully Canadian network. I didn’t want to just import American Christian television networks.”


Since the 1920s, Ottawa had prohibited any religious organization from owning broadcasting stations.


Because they seemed to have no similar qualms about gangsta rap videos or X-rated movies, Mr. Dewert protested what he called a “discriminatory policy.” He picked up a U.S. Christian channel and rebroadcasted it, illegally, on a UHF signal in Lethbridge.


Ordered by the CRTC to stop, he insisted he would do so only once the regulator ended the double standard.


Within five years of issuing its cease and desist order, the regulator folded. Other religious stations have followed, such as Toronto’s Crossroads Television System, which features ministry programming mixed with syndicated family sitcoms and conservative talk shows.


The Miracle Channel still stands alone as the most evangelical, concerning itself with actively preaching the Gospel — through ministries, children’s shows or Christian rock videos for the teen set — virtually 24/7.


Whether the channel will succeed in its mission to spread the faith outside of that core group, however, remains to be seen.


Lynn Shofield Clark, a professor at the University of Denver’s School of Communication, specializes in studying how religious groups use electronic media.


She says that while evangelicals may see television as a proselytizing medium, generally they end up preaching to the converted.


“We know from media studies, people don’t tune into media programs out of a general curiosity,” she says.


“Somebody who’s predisposed to reading The New York Times is not going to say, ‘Oh, gee, I wonder what they’re doing on The 700 Club.’ So, it tends to be the case that religious broadcasters talk to people who are already predisposed to be interested in religious broadcasting ? They’re able to raise money by kind of claiming that they are talking to people who are outside the fold, when really what they’re doing is something completely different.”


But Mr. Dewert believes that his audience is destined to grow.


“You’re going to see a change in the years to come — the expression of views that have been typified as evangelical are going to get more prominence.”


Historically, religious revivals, or “great awakenings,” alternated in the 18th and 19th centuries with cycles of secularization and loose morals.


“The history of Christianity is that there are numerous awakenings that follow awakenings that follow awakenings,” says Mr. Dewert, who believes that since Canada has largely turned away from God, we will soon turn back.


He believes it is also the job of Canadian evangelicals not simply to keep the Gospel alive at home, but to bring the teachings of Jesus to the world.


He cites a biblical passage that he believes singles Canada out directly for that mission: “And he shall have Dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the Earth,” which Mr. Dewert says “is an accurate description of our borders” (Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean, St. Lawrence River to the North Pole).


In Zachariah, that passage appears with the prophecy about speaking peace to the world.


And so next year, Canada’s first Christian TV network plans to launch an international version of its broadcast, similar to other global channels such as CNN International, taking the Miracle Channel message to every corner of the Earth.


Mr. Dewert admits he isn’t yet sure where the millions he’ll need annually to buy the global satellite time will come from. But he knows where he’ll start: by praying for yet another miracle.




Church of tough love (National Post, 061223)


Like starlets at a casting call, Canada’s Christian churches are prettying themselves up this weekend, rehearsing their lines and bracing for scrutiny.


Priests and ministers have their widest possible audience on Christmas Day, and the best opportunity of the year to strengthen the devotion of their congregations, to reclaim their Christmas-and-Easter prodigals, and to pitch salvation to those reluctant worshippers who have been dragged along by families.


It is a rare and valuable opportunity. New polling numbers suggest Canadians are increasingly open to religion, but disenchanted with or even ignorant of the current offerings. Contrary to common wisdom, Canadians are not becoming more secular, says University of Lethbridge sociologist and long-time religious trend-tracker Reginald Bibby. Faith and spiritual longing are as widespread as ever. It is only church attendance that is down.


This is the devotion gap, that space in Canadian life between faith and observance, between personal spirituality and communal religion.


For the churches, it demands a reaction, at Christmas especially. The natural and long-standing assumption is that they must become more accessible, modern and relevant. Ever since Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, this has been a productive and rewarding strategy in Christianity, and it underpins most modern Protestantism.


But because it means taking a more relaxed approach to liturgy, scripture and tradition, the experience of the past 40 years shows there comes a point when these liberal churches no longer represent a strong spiritual authority.


With a flimsy and changing message, they are less able to attract new members or retain their old. Modernizing reforms might get good headlines, but in the long run, no one seeks shelter under a tree that bends with the wind. [KH: great analogy]


The problem today, according to a survey of Canadian clerics, sociologists and political observers, is that many Canadian churches have taken the modernization strategy too far. They may be in danger of becoming cults of positive thinking, with too many questions and not enough answers, too much social justice and not enough personal morality, too much humanity and not enough God.


“There’s no doubt that the religions that are growing are the ones that hold fast to certain answers, and are more definite in their answers, that are more clear in their doctrine and their teachings about what’s right and wrong. For better or for worse, that’s what people want to hear, that’s what attracts them,” said Jonathan Malloy, a political scientist at Carleton University who studies the rise and political influence of Evangelical Christianity.


“A lot of people, particularly young people, will say, Well, I’m not interested. I want to hear some answers. I can explore things on my own. I don’t need to join the United or Anglican Church to ask the questions, I can ask them on my own.


Prof. Bibby agrees that this is the “basic formula,” best embodied in the success of the Evangelical movement, but also evident in the constant strength of the Roman Catholic church, Canada’s largest, which is famously intolerant of modern heretics, such as renegade priests who try to ordain women. The growing churches tend to be strict and conservative, Prof. Bibby said, “ones that hold the line.” The pattern is global. In England, increased immigration from Africa has coincided with a decline in church attendance among native-born Britons, so that today Evangelical Pentecostals have overtaken the more liberal Methodists.


In Virginia, several wealthy Episcopalian parishes voted last week to split from the American Episcopal Church over its ordination of gays and women, and instead join the more conservative African Anglican Church. In a story about the schism, The Economist magazine noted that “Conservative congregations are convinced they have history on their side. The balance of numbers in the global Christian community is shifting towards the conservative developing world. In America conservative churches are growing, while the mainstream churches are stagnating.”


As more and more churches adapt to the changing times, the call for modern relevance is starting to ring hollow. For modern Christianity, the way forward might in fact be backward.


John Stackhouse, a [KH: conservative] theology and culture professor at B.C.’s Regent College, refines the thesis: He says the churches that grow best are those that “combine conservative doctrine and conservative personal ethics with a complete freedom for innovation in almost everything else in church life,” such as the style of mass, the taking of communion, or the use of music. His own Alliance church in Vancouver, for example, provides a podcast of its services.


It is unclear how the more liberal Canadian churches —United, Anglican, Lutheran, among others —should respond to this sociological trend. What if it is just a crude secular calculus? Maybe bums in pews do not matter to God. Religion is not democracy, a church is not a theme park, and Jesus did promise to be present where even “two or three” are gathered in his name.


But for churches that aspire to more than this bare minimum, attendance is an unavoidable problem, from which many others stem.


So, as they welcome their curious congregations on Monday with sermons heavy on tolerance and light on dogma, the leaders of Canada’s liberal churches must come to terms with the most salient pattern in church attendance over the last 40 years, known as the Paradox of High Demand. In short, the more a church asks of its members, the more they give.




More than four decades ago, just before Canada’s churches began to exhibit the declining attendance that continues to plague them, the 1963 Anglican Congress appointed Pierre Berton, the journalist and historian, to kick-off a debate about the way forward for Canadian churches.


The result was The Comfortable Pew, a bestseller treatise that argued institutional Christianity had become “a comfortable creed, a useful tool for Peace of Mind and Positive Thinking, a kind of sugar-coated pill that soothes those who fear to face the traditional Christian concerns of evil, suffering, and death.” Mr. Berton’s prescription was for churches to strive for modern relevance, to stir the hearts of their faithful through concrete acts of faith and charity, to take inspiration from secular organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous, and to become “a new kind of ecclesiastical Peace Corps.” [KH: how wrong an advice!]


In the face of criticism from Christians, the late Mr. Berton later wrote that he “didn’t set out to write a ‘good’ book. I set out to write an effective book.” Today, after 40 years of declining church attendance — during which conservative churches have better weathered the storm, and those churches that took his advice to heart, most notably the United Church, suffered the deepest losses — Canada is now left with the conclusion that Mr. Berton was effective but wrong. [KH: right on!]


“This outcome was exactly not what mainline Protestant leaders expected when they tried to accommodate their churches to modernity,” said Prof. Stackhouse.


“They thought that if we become more and more like the culture around us, we will be more relevant, more accessible, less offensive and people will want to come, unlike those conservative churches, which preach an old fashioned gospel in an old fashioned way and seem to maintain barriers between themselves and society.” Prof. Stackhouse said liberal churches today are in danger of becoming “just one more social service agency in a fairly elaborate welfare state and not even as good as other NGOs.”


Stuart Macdonald, a professor of religion and society at the University of Toronto’s Knox College, said it is an open question whether the well-intentioned liberalizing reforms of the 1970s and 80s actually caused the drop in attendance. [KH: a liberal reverend from the United Church, employed by Knox College]


“One thing that seems to be true is that the Baby Boom generation wants quality in their churches ... If they walk into the nursery of a church and it’s not well-painted, looked after and well-staffed, they’re likely to leave. [KH: disagreed, perhaps some but not most; most come to church to find God] They expect that the church will not be amateur hour.” Part of the problem with the most divisive and difficult reforms —ordination of women and gays; a focus on social justice over personal ethics and sexual morality —is that many Canadians barely noticed.


“The United Church became known for championing the rights of gays and lesbians, but it hardly at the same time became known, for example, for ministering to little kids in Sunday Schools, in Christian education, and so on,” said Prof. Bibby. “The irony is that during all that time right through now, we know that among United Church people in the country, there’s nothing more important than, frankly for most of them, fairly conventional family lifestyles.”


Rev. Macdonald agrees that the United Church today is “struggling with the fact that even though they have a more progressive policy on sexuality, the reality is that most Canadians are not even aware of that.” [KH: but the church members knew and left, just like the Ottawa Chinese United Church] The United Church’s own polling numbers back this up. Moderator David Giuliano said the current advertising and outreach campaign, which is whimsical, came about to combat findings that people had barely heard of the church.


It seems to have targeted potential recruits — by the beginning of December, an online chatroom had received 3,000 new profiles, 38,000 distinct new visitors, and 240,000 page views. But long-term church members have complained the campaign is offensive and sends the wrong message, such as one with a can of whipped cream and the tag-line: “How much fun can sex be before it’s a sin?” “Some say the bobble-head Jesus trivializes Jesus, which is ironic because that particular little bobble-head Jesus was bought from a magazine that is subscribed to by fairly conservative Christians as a rule,” said Rev. Giuliano.


But he is not concerned about driving away real members in order to attract potential ones.


“No doubt some people will take their ball and go home, but I don’t know what you can do about that. You can’t have a tyranny of a minority of people. I think one of the most dangerous things for a religious community is to shape their religious life based on what’s going to be popular. We’re not called to be popular or even successful. We’re called to be faithful.” This is the dilemma faced by liberal Christian churches in Canada, the competition between idealism and realism. [KH: funny cycle: liberal churches try to follow the culture; they lost their true faith; attendance drops; they continue their policy; then claim that they are not called to be popular. The fact is: true faith demands difference from the secular society; God will make sure these churches succeed; thus higher attendance]


Popularity might be a poor measure of piety, but an empty church is a dead church. And those churches best positioned to fill the devotion gap are not the ones that expend all their energy trying to resolve the inequalities of the age, but the ones with a fresh coat of paint on the nursery wall, and new robes for the choir. At the moment, those churches are the conservative ones.


“I think we’ve been misreading the religious scene in Canada over the last 25 years,” said Prof. Bibby. “And I’ll be audacious enough to say I’ve contributed to it, in the sense of documenting the big decline in participation since 1945. The fascinating thing is, if you look at Canadians right now, forget about where we were in 1945, and just look at things like our involvement in religious groups, the extent to which we identify [with religions], our belief levels and so on, well then, if there ever was a Golden Age, I don’t know when it would have been, over against where we are right now.” [KH: Is he saying that the Golden Age is here and now?]




Nicety vs. Reality (, 070208)


By Marvin Olasky


Did you hear the joke about a debate among three engineers as to the occupation of the Creator?


The first says, “God is a mechanical engineer. Look at the beauty with which our joints are constructed. Only a mechanical engineer could put together our bodies with such flair.”


The second counters, “No, God is clearly an electrical engineer. Consider the elegant use of electrical charges by the millions of neurons in our brains. This is the handiwork of an electrical engineer.”


The third says, “You’re both wrong. God is obviously a civil engineer. Who else would put a toxic waste pipeline right through a recreational area?”


The problem of politics — maybe even the problem of life — is that recreational areas are always next to toxic waste pipelines. The heavens, as well as tender mercies such as marriage, declare the glory of God, but the streets declare the sinfulness of man. That’s one reason people ask religious questions: We want to discern the origin of our mess and at least wipe down the counters.


Over the next 21 months running up to the 2008 election, columnists and candidates will twitter about the role religion is playing in American politics — as if that development were something new. But religion has always been a big-time influence.


Without the Great Awakening in the 1730s and the political thinking it generated, we would have had no American Revolution a generation later. Without the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century and the abolitionist movement that it spawned, we would not have seen the end of slavery a generation later.


Similarly, without the courage of many pastors and of groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference we would not have seen the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Without the pro-life movement Ronald Reagan would not have been elected in 1980, and the Cold War might have gone on.


More recently, George W. Bush would not have been elected and reelected without massive evangelical support. Without some neutralization of that vote, Democrats will not be able to win the presidency in 2008.


And that leads us to the big question — not whether religion will continue to play a role, but which religion? A religion that describes the reality of the human condition, or a religion based upon utopian hopes and claims?


For example, regarding poverty-fighting, believers in the religion of nicety state that poor people everywhere want to do the right thing, so solving the poverty problem is like solving a math problem: Move dollars from X to Y and the job is done. Believers in the religion of reality, though, see poverty as a complex tangle of spiritual, psychological, political, social, historical, institutional and technological factors.


Regarding foreign policy, those who subscribe to the religion of nicety believe that leaders and nations essentially want peace, so if only we clear up misunderstandings and sign treaties or arms control agreements, all will be well. Adherents to the religion of reality, though, understand that leaders and people often covet their neighbor’s homes, industries and wealth, and if they can grab such by force they often will. Those who want peace need to stop aggression and terrorism, by force if necessary.


The Bible presents a religion of reality. Worldviews battle other worldviews, and even a David who gets it right theologically finds sin crouching at his door and yanking on his heart. With paradise lost, we must now work hard for our daily bread, and even that — let alone our daily steak — depends on God’s grace. We cannot beat our swords into plowshares until, in God’s timing, paradise is regained.


The religion of nicety doesn’t take into account the sewage pipes. That’s why believers in the religion of reality cannot abstain from politics.




Political Passivity—Vice or Christian Virtue? (, 070430)


By Gregory Koukl


It’s not only the left that sounds the alarm when Christians “jeopardize the separation of church and state” by engaging in political action. Some Christians object, too. One evangelical leader offered this stern warning: “There should not be even a hint of anything political in our public discourse.”


This may sound spiritual in some circles, but it can be devastating to the public good. Without question the Gospel has supernatural power to change lives, and those changed lives can change the world. William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, and Mother Teresa come immediately to mind.


Some Christians wrongly conclude, however, that political involvement is therefore a waste of time. This is a mistake. The Gospel is never communicated in a political or cultural vacuum.


“The effective and mass communication of the gospel depends upon the freedom to proclaim it,” wrote Hugh Hewitt. The Apostle Paul told Christ’s followers to pray for those in authority so believers might lead a tranquil, quiet life in godliness and dignity. In a democratic society those prayers can and should be augmented by action.


The doctrine of political passivity is flawed in its understanding of the function of law, the changing definition of “politics,” the role of the Christian citizen in the moral education of a nation, and the original intent of the First Amendment.


The First Function of Law


Laws are not meant primarily to change hearts. They are meant to change behavior, and they accomplish that very well.


The New Testament tells us that government is for “the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” The book of Proverbs reminds us that, “The king gives stability to the land by justice” and, “The execution of justice is joy for the righteous.”


Biblical teaching is clear: God intends government to use law to enforce morality. Informed Christian people are essential to that process because the concept of justice that grounds good government can be twisted by evil men in power. If the Church doesn’t stand in the gap giving substance to the words “good” and “evil,” then nothing prevents leadership from reversing the definitions, praising evil and punishing good. Tragically, this is already happening.


Pinning Down “Politics”


Second, the term “politics” is vague. What specifically does it mean to say that Christians should avoid “politics”? Initially it meant that churches shouldn’t campaign for a particular candidate. “Keep religion in the domain of theology, morality, and family relationships,” we were told, “and leave politics to the pros.”


Little by little, though, more things have been included under the broad rubric of “politics.” One by one the secularists co-opted the moral issues, called them political, and told us to get off of the playing field.


The Church was told, “Abortion is not merely a moral issue anymore. It’s political.” What about the morality of alternate sexuality like lesbianism, homosexuality, man-boy ‘love,’ and incest? “That’s ours, too.” Same-sex marriage? “A civic concern. No place for the church.” Family issues like divorce and child support, reproductive technologies, and the education of our children? “Back off.” Stewardship of the environment, the care of the poor, sex education, birth control, sexual harassment, pornography—including child porn? “All politics.”


Notice the outcome. When Christians follow a policy of “no politics,” it’s easy to silence the moral voice of the Church. Simply label any issue “political” and followers of Christ wave the white flag.


This policy is tantamount to surrender. When we are pushed out of the public square, there’s nothing left to talk about but purely sectarian issues: manner of worship, methods of baptism, music in the sanctuary—and angels dancing on pins. We are allowed to have our parochial discussions behind the closed doors of our churches, but we can speak of nothing that—in the minds of those we are trying to reach—has anything to do with the real world. Is it any wonder our faith is called irrelevant?


Does the Scripture teach we should be silent on anything that doesn’t have to do with saving souls? Is it God’s desire that we abandon everything this side of the grave as profane and utterly lost? Is nothing in this life valuable, important, or worth redeeming?


Ironically, the church is still being blamed for the moral silence of its past, including its uneven response to Abolition and, later, to the Civil Rights movement. Christian inactivity in the face of injustice then didn’t communicate purity, but approval of slavery and racial prejudice. Past unwillingness to be involved in “politics” has been a blight on the Church ever since.


Laws Can Change the Heart


Third, a properly constructed set of laws can change the heart. David Lewellyn has observed: “Laws begin by imposing norms of conduct, but conclude by teaching morality and values. As these values are inculcated, the coercive power of law recedes as its moral force rises to govern the conduct of the people.”


How does this happen? A sound moral code—one that’s consonant with the internal capacity for moral development God has given each person—tutors us by adding clarity to our innate sense of right and wrong.


The same process also works in reverse, Lewellyn points out. Because Christians have been silent, “debased public standards which are destructive of life, faith, family, personal morality, and social responsibility are now protected by new, coercive laws and constitutional principles.” Simply put, to paraphrase Proverbs, bad laws corrupt good morals. People are tempted to think if it’s legal, it must be ethical.


When someone tells me that laws can never change a fallen person’s heart, I ask them if they apply that philosophy to their children. Does the moral training of our children consist merely of preaching the Gospel to them? Wouldn’t we consider it unconscionable to neglect a child’s moral instruction with the excuse that laws can never change a child’s rebellious heart?


Proverbs instructs us to “train up a child in the way he should go.” So we give our children rules to obey. We expect that a faithful and judicious application of moral guidelines—with appropriate rewards and punishments for behavior—will develop habits of moral virtue.


If this works to build children, why can’t it work to build citizens? If it works to raise a family, why can’t it work to raise a collection of families known as a community? Why do we believe in the transforming power of moral instruction at home, but consider it powerless to inform the moral conscience of a country made up of families just like ours? Same people. Same laws. Same rules. Same process.


The “Separation” of Church and State


The current understanding of separation of church and state—the view that the state is thoroughly secular and not influenced by religious values, especially Christian ones—was completely foreign to the first 150 years of American political thought. Clearly the Founding Fathers did not try to excise every vestige of Christian religion, Christian thought, and Christian values from every facet of public life. They were friendly to Christianity and encouraged its public practice and expression.


It wasn’t until 1947 that the United States Supreme Court first used the concept of “separation” to isolate government from religion. In Everson v. Board of Education, the court lifted a phrase from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a Baptist church in Danbury, Connecticut. The Court ruled, “Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another....In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and state.’”


The Infamous Danbury Letter


In the Everson decision, the Supreme Court quoted Jefferson’s separation language as a normative guideline for understanding the First Amendment. But Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a member of the Constitutional Convention, and the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear anywhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Where did it come from?


On January 1, 1802, Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, to quell the fears of the Danbury congregation who were concerned that a national denomination would be established. Here is the text in question:


I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state.


What did Jefferson have in mind here? Is there an impregnable barrier erected by the founders that excludes religious-minded people from the political process, an ideological enmity between church and state?


The First Amendment


By contrast to the present confusion about separation, the First Amendment is startling in its clarity, offering no limit to the impact of religious and moral conviction of individual citizens on public policy. It is worth reading often. Here it is:


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Please forgive me for stating the obvious: The First Amendment restricts the government, not the people. Jefferson’s wall is a one-way wall. Any religious person, any religious organization, any religious conviction has its place in the public debate. It’s called pluralism, in the classic sense of the word.


Notice there are not two distinct provisions here, but one. Non-establishment has no purpose by itself. Freedom of religion is the goal, and non-establishment is the means. The only way to have true freedom of religion is to keep government out of religion’s affairs. This provides for what Steven Monsma calls “positive neutrality.” This view, in Monsma’s words, “defines religious freedom in terms of a governmental neutrality toward religion in which no religion is favored over any other, and neither religion nor secularism is favored over each other.”


The First Amendment was rewritten twelve times to make its intent clear. The concept set forth in the Bill of Rights is “non-establishment,” not isolation. We should strike the “separation” language from our vocabulary.


Calling a Vice a Virtue


Followers of Christ should not be suppressed from without by a notion of separation foreign to the Constitution. Neither should they be silenced from within by misguided piety.


The Church can never replace the work of the cross with civic works of righteousness. This is beyond dispute as far as I’m concerned. The goal of Christian political activity, though, is not to make a nation acceptable to God. It’s to insure a just society.


Christian author Philip Yancey writes, “We have no mandate to ‘Christianize’ the United States—an impossible goal in any case. Yet Christians can work simultaneously toward a different goal, the ‘moralization’ of society. We can help tether the values and even the laws of society to some basis in transcendence.”


The myth of political passivity unwittingly makes a Christian virtue out of the vice of negligence. When we ignore our obligation to morally instruct the nation merely because someone labels it “politics,” then it won’t be long before the country teems with injustice as every man simply does “what is right in his own eyes.”




Spiritualpolitique: Religion matters more than ever in global affairs. (Weekly Standard, 070511)


But don’t count on the experts—or the State Department—to know that.

by John J. DiIulio Jr.


Speaking last December before journalists assembled by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Peter Berger had some explaining to do. Berger, an emeritus professor at Boston University, is a rightly esteemed sociologist of religion. “We live in an age of overwhelming religious globalization,” he began. But, as late as a quarter-century ago, neither he nor most other academics saw it coming. Most analysts, he explained, had the same stale orthodoxy about religion’s inevitable demise. “The idea was very simple: the more modernity, the less religion. . . . I think it was wrong.”


Except in Europe, where it has proven half-right, the idea was all wrong. This year marks the European Union’s 50th anniversary. Next year is the 40th since Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. Europeans mocked the pope’s warnings about family planning cultures that promote abortion and produce few children. As a result, a fitting inscription for the European Union’s gold watches would be “World’s largest unfunded pension liability land mass.”


Europe still has more Christians (over 500 million) than any other continent. In Rome and several other European cities, Catholicism, but not its practice, still permeates local culture, while its architectural pageantry promotes foreign tourism. But post-1968 survey data on European beliefs, church attendance rates, and more show that postindustrial modernity has indeed loosened if not broken Christianity’s grip on the continent’s diverse peoples. Still, this decades-in-the-making European vacation from Christianity is not a permanent vacation from religion itself. From Scotland to France, Christianity’s slide has been accompanied by growth in other faith traditions including Islam. And it is not entirely clear that Europe’s Catholics have fallen so far from the cradle that their children or grandchildren (if they start having some) will never return.


Most countries once ruled, in whole or in part, by Europeans have modernized to varying degrees, but without religion losing its hold. Christianity, in particular, is growing in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. One cannot begin to understand post-colonial Africa, for example, without knowing how profoundly religion matters—and which religions matter where and to whom. Nigeria is one small case in point. There are now about 20 million Anglicans in Nigeria, on the way to 30 to 35 million over the next generation. In 1900, Nigeria was one-third Muslim and had almost no Christians. By 1970, the country was about 45% Muslim and 45% Christian.


Outside of Nigeria, Anglicanism is hardly the wave of the future, but Pentecostalism and other charismatic varieties of Christianity might be. Throughout the 20th century, various Pentecostal sects crept or swept through Latin America and Africa. In each continent, Pentecostals are now an estimated one-tenth to one-fifth of the population. In Asia, Pentecostals now number well over 150 million, with concentrations in places like South Korea.


No matter what the host country or culture, Pentecostals tend to start fast but remain concentrated in one city or region for a generation or two before spreading. Here in America, the century-old Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, a predominantly African-American denomination, now stretches from traditional storefront “Holy Ghost” or “blessing station” ministries in the South (still its home base) to a 26,000-member congregation in Los Angeles, the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, where Hollywood celebrities crowd into cathedral pews next to the inner-city poor.


In 2005 and 2006, the cathedral’s presiding pastor, Bishop Charles E. Blake, traveled extensively in Africa and met with top government leaders in Zambia and other nations. Through a new nonprofit organization called Save Africa’s Children, he expanded the church’s HIV/AIDS ministries in sub-Saharan Africa. Via satellite broadcasts, he and other U.S.-based Pentecostal pastors are heard by poor people in Africa and other places. When Blake goes to these countries, he is mobbed like a rock-of-ages star.


Most international relations experts, however, know little about Pentecostals in America or abroad. Many journalists who cover global affairs could not tell you who Bishop Blake is. A few might even have trouble identifying another California preacher who has partnered with Blake on several international initiatives, Rick Warren. In 2005, at the same Pew-sponsored event that featured Berger in 2006, I was the opening act for Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? I joked that the conference organizers wanted the day’s first two speakers to average 15 million in book sales (his 30 million and my next to none). Most laughed, but some were puzzled, apparently unaware of Warren’s massive success.


First published in 2002, and since reissued in many different languages, Warren’s prayer-and-meditation manual has sold globally in volumes few nonfiction books have ever achieved. (Warren co-pastors a megachurch in California called Saddleback, with more than 80,000 members.) The goateed, born-again baby-boomer boasts a Bible-believing pro-life, pro-family theology. True to stereotype, a few journalists at the gathering looked for Pat Robertson beneath Warren’s Hawaiian-print shirt but could not find him. In fact, Warren has long since fallen out with many fellow white evangelical leaders. To them, his sins include cavorting with Pentecostals and others they consider to be theologically incorrect; tooting “creation care” (environmental protection); and nonpartisan hobnobbing with pro-choice politicians, including Democrats, who share his global antipoverty and public health agendas.


At the Pew gathering, the purpose-filled pastor got relatively few questions in the session and over meals about his international ministries and other globe-trotting adventures. His various training programs and “tool kits” have reached an estimated 400,000 ministers in more than a hundred countries. His interfaith antipoverty and public health (most recently antimalaria) programs have purportedly reached millions. His biggest battles to date have been over how he has used his global bully pulpit. For instance, last November he saddled over to Syria and sounded off on human rights, but seemed dangerously naive about the regime’s terrorist ties. In February he was scheduled to preach in North Korea but postponed the trip. (Good call.)


Still by far the single biggest “megachurch” presence on the global scene is the Catholic church. Roman Catholicism claims a billion followers and growing. America’s Catholics, roughly a quarter of the U.S. population, are just 5% of the church’s global flock. Pope Benedict XVI is “too strict” for many Catholics in America, not to mention Catholics in Europe. But he is generally viewed as a moderate by the conservative Catholic leaders and throngs in Africa.


All in all, there are today two billion Christians worldwide, and Christianity in various orthodox forms, from Pentecostalism to Vatican-certified Catholicism, is the world’s fastest-growing religion. Take it from Penn State’s superb global religions watcher, Philip Jenkins, who has established beyond any reasonable empirical or historical doubt that, for decades now, Catholicism and many other Christian sects have been growing rapidly in the southern hemisphere. By or before 2050, Africa will supplant Europe as home to the most Christians. In 1900, Africa had an estimated 10 to 15 million Christians. In 1959, the Catholic church had not yet appointed a single black African cardinal. By 2000, however, Africa had some 350 million Christians, including well over 100 million Catholics.


Some demographers would bet that Latin America will outdistance Africa, and that South America will be first to succeed Europe as the continent with the most Christians. It has long had the heaviest country-by-country Catholic concentrations. Even as Pentecostals and other Christian sects have made converts, South America’s Catholic seminaries have grown (up more than 350% since 1972). The Vatican counts some 60,000 priests, 100,000 lay missionaries, and 130,000 nuns on the continent.


So, from Brazil to Belize, from Beirut to Boston, religion in over a hundred forms and in a thousand different ways has outlived “modernity” and “postmodernity,” too. And whenever religious individuals, ideas, and institutions get newly mobilized into politics and public affairs, at home or abroad, look out, because they have the power to transform things, and fast.


For example, just consider how the late Pope John Paul II changed both the Church and Latin America by throwing Catholicism’s weight behind democracy movements there (as he also did on other continents). In 1987, the pope confronted Chile’s dictator, General Pinochet, with these words: “I am not the evangelizer of democracy; I am the evangelizer of the Gospel. To the Gospel message, of course, belong all the problems of human rights; and, if democracy means human rights, it also belongs to the message of the Church.”


History teaches that democracy has not done well in countries dominated by Catholicism, Islam, and Confucianism. But as I argued in Rome before the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in 1998, Catholicism changed after World War II. I invoked the political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset, who, writing that same year, agreed that the Church had changed “in ways that positively affected the potential for democracy.”


Similarly, writing in 1991, Harvard’s Samuel P. Huntington explored the global fortunes of democracy during the period 1974 to 1990, which he termed democracy’s “third wave.” Huntington identified 33 instances of democratization (versus just three of “democratic reversal”). Religion, he argued, was critical to this wave: “In many countries, Protestant and Catholic church leaders have been central in the struggles against repressive [governments]. . . . Catholicism was second only to economic development as a pervasive force making for democratization in the 1970s and 1980s.”


Correct, but after The Third Wave, Huntington half-forgot how best to think about religion. In a controversial 1993 article and 1996 book, he speculated about the conditions under which the world might witness (or avert) a “clash of civilizations.” He argued that ideology, economics, and nation-states would be far less central to future international conflicts than they had been in the past. The “principal conflicts of global politics,” he predicted, “will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations.” He stressed that Western democracies did not have all the answers, and scolded those who graded other “civilizations” by how kindred they were to American political norms.


But Huntington’s conceptual framework was a sweeping, multivariable mess that loosely related religion to ethnic, racial, regional, and other history-moving forces. His provocative prediction was not warranted by such empirical data as he mustered. When it came time to delineate “civilizations,” he created his own categories: “Islamic” covered places from Albania to Azerbaijan; “Sinic” included China and Vietnam; “Japan” was its own “civilization.” And so on. Ostensibly well-informed people describe the situation in Iraq in relation to Huntington’s “clash” thesis. But it should be obvious that the contest between Sunnis and Shiites is an intra-religious conflict with deep roots in Islamic history. It is not unlike the conflict (receded but not forgotten) in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants, an intra-religious conflict with centuries-old roots in Christian history.


You know that you are skirting rather than seeing important realities when you are using identity concepts that are nobody’s actual identity. You do not need to go globe-trotting to understand why. For example, New Orleans is home to Mary Queen of Vietnam Church. Its Catholic members are not Creoles or Cajuns. The church’s “Post-Katrina Recovery News” website is in Vietnamese. Since the biblical-sized floods receded, its leaders have deepened ties to many English-speaking churches and community groups, Catholic and non-Catholic. To understand these leaders, their people, and their institution, to map their community relations, or to gauge their present or potential civic role, it would not help to categorize them as either “Sinic” expatriates or “Westerners” on the make.


Huntington’s big-think Harvard colleague, Joseph S. Nye, has been less controversial and more cogent conceptually. Nye is famous for his 2004 work on so-called soft power, meaning how nations get what they want through attraction rather than coercion (multilateral ties, not military tussles; economic incentives, not muscle-bound sanctions). America, he claims, has squandered opportunities to amass and use soft power. He does not deny that religion can pack a soft-power punch, but religion gets only a few passing mentions in his magnum opus.


Nye opens with Machiavelli, who wrote that it is better for a ruler to be feared than to be loved. Nye challenges that dictum by claiming that soft power often succeeds where hard power fumbles or fails. Fair enough, but as Nye also knows, the medieval Italian for all seasons counseled that rulers need both hard-power swords and soft-power plowshares (or swords that rulers can opt to beat into plowshares as circumstances may dictate).


As Nye might have emphasized, history teaches that when religion is used as hard power, it sooner or later destroys those who wield it. Christianity’s hard-power-wielding religions, including king-making Catholicism, had their days (even centuries) but resulted in ruins (and, in Catholicism’s case, a junior role in North America). Protestant-inspired church-state separation doctrine is a prudential prohibition against using religion as hard power at home, and a caution against using religion as hard power abroad. It is also an invitation for the state to be faith-friendly, promote religious pluralism, and avoid sectarian strife.


Thus, what I hereby baptize as spiritualpolitique is a soft-power perspective on politics that emphasizes religion’s domestic and international significance, accounts for religion’s present and potential power to shape politics within and among nations, and understands religion not as some abstract force measured by its resiliency vis-à-vis “modernity” and not by its supporting role in “civilizations” that cooperate or clash. Rather, a perspective steeped in spiritualpolitique requires attention to the particularities that render this or that actual religion as preached and practiced by present-day peoples so fascinating to ethnographers (who can spend lifetimes immersed in single sects) and so puzzling to most of the social scientists who seek, often in vain, to characterize and quantify religions, or to track religion-related social and political trends.


Consider how this perspective might inform the ongoing debate on Iraq. Some have advocated increasing the U.S. presence in Iraq and staying there until violence is well under wraps. Others have devised or advocated various draw-down or get-out plans. Although it took a few years, almost all now acknowledge that the struggle behind most homegrown bombings that have killed innocent civilians in Iraq has specific religious roots. But some on both sides in the debate over U.S. policy seem not yet to know that any conflict-ending compromise or resolution, no matter its military, economic, or other features, will not last unless it takes those particular religious differences very seriously. It is not a “civil war.” It is “sectarian violence,” complicated by the region’s wider religious rifts and their intersections with state-supported terrorism networks.


Spiritualpolitique lesson one is that even in stable representative democracies, intra-national religious cleavages, whether long-buried or out in the open, always matter to who governs and to what ends. The religious cleavages in Iraq existed long before the U.S. occupation. And the sectarian sources of the violence there will persist even if the country somehow, some day becomes a textbook, multi-party, stable parliamentary democracy. (If you doubt it, just study the Israeli Knesset in action.)


Spiritualpolitique lesson two is that constitutionalism, not democratization, matters most where religious differences run deepest or remain most intense. It was good to hold elections in Iraq. Majority rule via free and fair plebiscites is often among the first steps toward a more humane polity, whatever its official form and legal formalities. But majority rule can also mean the proverbial two wolves and a sheep deciding what is for supper. Constitutionalism, democracy or not, means that a government’s powers are limited and any law-abiding civic minority’s fundamental rights—starting with religious rights—are legally sacred.


Nothing, however, complicates the march to constitutionalism like religious differences, especially when, as is almost always the case, those differences are fodder for what the Founding Fathers denounced as “foreign intrigues.” Consider what James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, and reflect on America’s own history. When Madison discussed how political “factions” could tear a people apart, the very first source he mentioned was “a zeal for different opinions concerning religion.”


The Constitution’s ratification was threatened by Protestant true believers who cursed the clause forbidding any religious tests for federal office-holding. They rejected, but Americans now happily live, Madison’s vision—a “multiplicity of sects” (Methodists, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Quakers, and others) that each shape but do not dominate life in this large, commercial republic “under God.”


Madison and company cut a political deal known to us as the First Amendment’s two religion clauses: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....” This meant that, for the time being, each state could have a tax-funded and ceremonially favored religion if it wanted, but the national government would remain forever neutral on religion. In the early 20th century, the Supreme Court erased the deal’s last legal traces by holding that religious liberty is so “fundamental” that no religious establishments by the states are constitutionally permissible.


Until midcentury, not much changed. But then, in the early 1960s, tradition-minded Protestants, largely self-exiled politically since the Scopes “monkey trials,” became convinced that the Court was going too far in ridding religion from the public square (the 1962 decision banning state-sponsored school prayer was the watershed moment). They entered the political fray. Thus began the evangelical mobilizations that revolutionized our two-party politics and shaped several recent presidential elections.


Interestingly enough, the single biggest program to result from born-again President Bush’s push for faith-based initiatives has been international, not domestic: a $15 billion, five-year effort to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. In May 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with the aforementioned Bishop Charles Blake and other church leaders with ties to religious nongovernmental organizations abroad that could help to get the job done.


Targeted mainly at 15 countries, and zeroing in on Africa (where two-thirds of the more than 3.5 million yearly deaths from the disease now occur), the soft-power program was championed inside the West Wing by Michael Gerson, the chief speechwriter who became the president’s “compassion agenda” czar. Gerson is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He and his council colleague Walter Russell Mead are two foreign policy wonks who take religion seriously. And the council’s president, Richard N. Haass, has publicly opined that religion matters in world affairs today more than it has for centuries.


But Gerson, Mead, and Haass remain exceptions to the expert rule, and not only at the council. In fact, to a remarkable degree, most foreign policy elites remain not only ignorant but also reluctant when it comes to discussing religion. In November 2006, the Pew Charitable Trusts (parent to the Pew religion program cited above) published in its magazine, Trust, a feature essay by a freelance writer named Sue Rardin. Entitled “Eyes Wide Shut,” Rardin’s article quoted numerous thought leaders and policy makers who expressed reservations about focusing on religion. She summarized their core concern as follows: “Addressing religious differences means entering discussions where moral values—our own as well as those of others—may not be governed by reason alone, but may be held more fiercely than if they were.”


There is only one word for American foreign policy elites, Democratic and Republican, left and right, who downplay or disregard religion to their peril, ours—and the world’s—in deference to the dogma that being faith-free promotes objectivity: preposterous. Or, as Rardin editorialized well: “It’s as imprudent to ignore the role of religion in foreign policy as it is to pretend that the elephant is in some other room, rather than right here.”


It is bad to doubt the overwhelming empirical evidence that religion matters to domestic politics as well as the delivery of social services. But it is far worse to treat religion as a back-burner reality in global affairs when it is boiling over in so many places. The State Department needs to wake up and smell the incense. There is already an international legal framework for thinking out loud and acting in concert with other nations on religion’s role in global affairs. Religious freedom is addressed in the 1948 United Nations “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Article 18, which encompasses “teaching, practice, worship, and observance.” Its terms are echoed by several other U.N. Declarations, including a 1981 General Assembly-backed document calling for ending all state-sponsored religious discrimination.


This international legal framework is reinforced by several federal statutes that were passed with bipartisan support. For instance, a 1998 federal law, signed by President Clinton, puts America firmly on the hook to support religious freedom abroad (the International Religious Freedom Act). Subject to that act, the State Department and other federal agencies are required to report any relevant information they have regarding “countries of particular concern.” The 2006 list included Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.


Not much, however, is actually done by Washington to act on these concerns, end religious persecution, or support nations that abide by both U.N. and U.S. standards governing respect for religious pluralism. Just how little can be glimpsed by comparing the federal government’s faith-based funding at home and abroad.


At home, domestic sacred places serving civic purposes have been discriminated against in myriad ways by grant-making federal agencies. Things have gotten a bit better since the first relevant federal laws protecting their rights went on the books in 1996. The Bush administration boasts that more than $2 billion a year in federal grants now goes to qualified, community-serving faith-based organizations. Even if that figure is accepted at face value (many experts dispute it), $2 billion is still a relative pittance: The federal government gives out hundreds of billions of dollars in such grants each year, and over a third of all organizations supplying certain social services in big cities are faith-based.


It is, however, a bishop’s ransom compared with the $591 million that the United States Agency for International Development granted faith-based organizations operating abroad in Fiscal Year 2005. Last September, Terri Hasdorff, the agency’s faith-based center director, testified before the House Subcommittee on Africa. She noted that “the vast majority of faith-based awards are made to a small number of groups.” Judged against both the more than $20 billion a year in bilateral foreign aid and the government’s professed goal of providing better public health and other services around the globe, it is an astonishingly low sum.


Totalitarians, secular or religious, who know what they are about have always gone beyond merely banning this or that religion or establishing a state religion (Mao’s little red book and cult come quickly to mind) to killing religious leaders, gulag-ticketing or terrorizing religious followers, and destroying (physically in many cases) religion’s last traces (books, buildings). Religion, however, almost always proves resilient, often reasserting itself in its very pre-revolutionary or dictator-forbidden forms.


Thus, today’s democracy-loving, constitutionalism-forging leaders in America and other nations should acknowledge, respect, and, where appropriate, boost religious good works both at home and abroad. When it comes to spiritualpolitique, God will help those who help others.


John J. DiIulio Jr., a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD, is author of Godly Republic: A Centrist Blueprint for America’s Faith-Based Future, from which this essay is adapted, forthcoming this fall from University of California Press.




Evangelical Leaders Say Religion in Politics is Inevitable, Important (Christian Post, 070516)


WASHINGTON – The late Rev. Jerry Falwell is largely remembered as a leader in the religious right movement in America. Although not everyone agreed with him politically or theologically, Falwell’s contribution to engage Christians in the public square has left a legacy, evangelical leaders commented.


“Jerry Falwell leaves a spiritual legacy that is lasting. During a tumultuous time in our culture, he took a stand on the Word of God that emboldened evangelicals to come together to speak in a common voice for the protection of our country’s moral and spiritual values,” said Morris H. Chapman, president of Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to Baptist Press. “He will be known not only for his leadership on issues debated in the public square, but also for his tireless work to establish ministries to the hurting and those in need.”


Falwell, who founded Moral Majority – a political lobbying organization – died at age 73 on Tuesday just as Republican presidential candidates for the 2008 race went under fire in a televised debate at the University of South Carolina.


“An American who built and led a movement based on strong principles and strong faith has left us. He will be greatly missed, but the legacy of his important work will continue through his many ministries where he put his faith into action,” said former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney of Falwell before the debate, according to Fox News.


The death of a prominent evangelical figure whose political impact was monumental comes as more questions are being raised on the role of faith in politics.


According to the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, 17% of Americans characterize themselves as members of the religious right.


“They do have a very clear set of principles that they would like to have adopted as a matter of law,” he said on Larry King Live Monday night. “They’re people who have frankly and essentially given up the power of moral suasion and now what they’re trying to do is to turn their often narrow religious ideas into the law that applies to everyone in the United States. And that’s the great danger of that movement.”


However, “America is the most religious country in modern industrialized Western world,” said David Gergen, former White House adviser to President Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. “Over 90% of Americans express a belief in God.


“And religion and politics have often intertwined.”


The question of faith in the public square is an inevitable one, according to one of America’s pre-eminent Evangelical leaders.


“The most important thing is for persons to know what they believe and what they would expect of candidates. Since America is a land of religious freedom, inevitably, issues that are related to faith, to Christianity, to whatever faith is held by the [presidential] candidate or the voter, these things are going to become a matter of public conversation,” the Rev. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Larry King.


The Rev. Jim Wallis, best-selling author of “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It,” said the “moral compass” of a candidate is important.


“We need to know what guides them, what shapes their leadership, what might be a factor in ... the policies they advocate,” he said.


What Americans need to know about a presidential candidate, however, should not go beyond the values they hold, Lynn indicated.


“Talk about values, talk about how they connect to specific policies. But I don’t think we need to know how many times you go to church,” said Lynn.


Expressing a similar view, Wallis commented, “[T]he issue is not whether faith will shape public life, but how. There are good ways to do it and very bad ways to do it.”


As for the 2008 election, Gergen believes religion is going to play “an enormous factor” in determining the Republican nominee for presidency. And he believes the three current leading candidates – former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Romney – may be vetoed by the religious right.




States can put rules on use of union fees (Washington Times, 070615)


The Supreme Court yesterday ruled unanimously that states may require public-sector labor unions to get permission from workers before using their union fees for political activities.


The 9-0 decision applies to government workers who have chosen not to be members of the union. About 21 states, including Washington, allow unions and government employers to enter into “agency-shop” agreements under which the union can collect fees from the nonmember workers whom it represents in labor negotiations.


At the time the case was brought, however, Washington also required the union to get explicit prior consent from those nonmembers before using their fees for lobbying or other political purposes. The Washington Supreme Court ruled that this requirement violated the First Amendment and infringed on the union’s “expressive associational rights,” but the Supreme Court disagreed.


“The notion that this modest limitation upon an extraordinary benefit violates the First Amendment is, to say the least, counterintuitive,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the court. Because it even would be constitutional for Washington state “to eliminate agency fees entirely,” this “far less-restrictive limitation” is acceptable, he wrote.


At issue was whether it is adequate for unions to simply give nonmembers the chance to opt out of their fees being used for political purposes — as the Washington Education Association had done in this case. Under this standard, the burden is on the nonmember to object, and if no objection is heard, the union can assume consent.


The high court yesterday reaffirmed that standard, saying that it’s permissible for a state to put the onus on the nonmember. But the court also said that standard is a “floor,” not a “ceiling” — meaning that states may impose further restrictions on unions, as Washington did.


The man who brought the case said the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the idea that unions have a constitutional right to spend nonmember dues on politics.


“We’re very pleased with the decision,” said Gary Davenport, a former high-school teacher who sued on behalf of about 4,000 teachers and school employees who chose not to be WEA members. “It’s a good thing for First Amendment rights” that the justices rejected the Washington panel’s belief that unions can essentially “trample on an individual’s rights.”


But he said more changes are needed to ensure that teachers aren’t forced to pay any dues to a union they don’t wish to be a part of.


“Right now who has the power is the WEA, the NEA and the organized traditional unions,” he said.


National Education Association general counsel Bob Chanin downplayed the ruling as having “no practical impact.”


He said Washington was the only state to have such an “affirmative consent” requirement — on the books since 1992. But he said that no state has copied it since and that Washington itself had recently changed its law to water down and essentially eliminate the “affirmative consent” requirement.


He also claimed victory in the justices’ refusal to push the envelope further and force all states to follow Washington in requiring unions to get affirmative consent from nonmembers.


“The court refused to do that and reaffirmed the constitutional standard that’s in place,” he said, referring to the opt-out standard. “On both of the big issues, they lose.”


Officials at the National Right to Work Foundation — which helped Mr. Davenport bring the suit — also downplayed the ruling, saying that the Supreme Court passed up an opportunity to change the union rules.


“America’s workers laboring under compulsory unionism are little better off after today’s ruling,” said Stefan Gleason, the group’s vice president. “No one should be forced to join or pay dues to a union in the first place.”


Nevertheless, Paul S. Ryan, associate legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, said he’s “very happy” with the ruling because had the Supreme Court not ruled as it did, unions and their supporters may have tried next to overturn the even more restrictive federal campaign finance laws that govern union dues.


“Our fear was that if the Supreme Court had ruled the other way, the constitutionality of federal campaign restrictions on unions would be next,” he said.


In effect, he said, the high court kept “the status quo.”


Meanwhile, Charles Hasse, president of the WEA — which represents more than 80,000 public-school employees — said his group had not violated the Washington law in the first place because “we had not used nonmember fees for political purposes.”


He noted that the high court didn’t rule that Washington’s law was a good law or that the WEA violated it.


“We’re disappointed because now this seemingly-never-ending litigation will continue,” he said of yesterday’s ruling. “But we remain confident that at the end of the day, courts will show that WEA acted in good faith to comply with a very vague and poorly written law.”


Despite Washington’s recent move to change the “affirmative consent” requirement, the Supreme Court said its decision yesterday still matters because the teachers who brought the case are seeking monetary compensation. All parties involved said any financial details will be decided by state courts.




Survey: Church Attendance a Factor in Presidential Race (Christian Post, 070823)


WASHINGTON – Religious voters do not simply have the tendency to vote along religious affiliation, but a new survey reveals how members of this group also cast their ballots according to the frequency they attend church.


While it has long been known that white evangelical Protestants tended to vote for Republicans and black Protestants heavily vote for Democrats, a survey analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life on Tuesday found that more avid church goers, regardless of religious affiliation, tended to vote for Republicans.


This second “religion gap,” or the religious differences between Republican and Democratic voters, developed over the last three decades.


Analysis of the 2004 presidential election using the exit polling by the National Election Pool revealed that 79% of evangelical Protestants voted for President George W. Bush, compared with 14% of black Protestants.


Yet the poll indicated that within the religious affiliation, those who attended religious services at least once a week were more likely to vote Republican.


Bush received 82% of the vote from evangelical Protestants who attended service at least once a week, compared to 72% of those who did not attend at least once a week.


Meanwhile, the church attendance gap also held true for voters of former Democrat presidential contender John Kerry. The Kerry did better, regardless of religious traditions, among those who attended services less than once a week than those who attended services weekly or more often.


Twenty-eight percent of less-observant evangelical Protestants voted for Kerry, compared to 18% of more frequent evangelical church-goers. Among black Protestants, Kerry garnered 92% of less frequent attendees compared to 83% of weekly attending black Protestants.


The church attendance gap was also seen in religious traditions that normally split their votes more equally between the two political parties.


The impact of attendance at worship service had a larger impact than many other better-known factors, including the “gender gap” between men and women and the “class gap” between most and least affluent voters, according to Pew Forum.


The Pew Forum survey analysis comes at a time when Democratic presidential candidates and the party in general are waking up to the significance of religious voters, who have been mostly untapped by the party. While Republicans are trying to hold onto religious voters, Democrats are wooing away progressive evangelicals.


Despite the push by Democrats to gain the religious vote, however, many Christians say their support will boil down to important issues such as abortion, same-sex unions, and pro-family agendas – issues that tend to place them on the same side as Republicans.




The Politics of Social Division: How traditionalists can win and lose at the same time. (National Review Online, 071001)


By Ramesh Ponnuru


One popular explanation for the triumph of right-wing economics, familiar to readers of Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas?, is that cultural issues have obscured pocketbook ones. Conservatives have tricked the masses into voting on the basis of social issues, thus ignoring their economic self-interest. . . . This does not, however, explain a slightly different question: how and why the economic right has gained so much strength over the last three decades. After all, by nearly any measure, the American public has grown more socially liberal over this span. Since 1977, the proportion of Americans believing gays should be allowed to teach in elementary school has doubled, from 27 to 54%. Those favoring gay adoption has risen from 14 to 49%. Since 1976, the proportion of Americans who believe women deserve an equal role in business and political life has nearly doubled, from 30 to 57%. The proportion who believe that a woman’s place is in the home has collapsed from 10 to 2%.


If the public is not moving right on economics, and it is not even moving right on social issues, then we cannot explain the rise of right-wing economics by looking at the voters.


—Jonathan Chait, The Big Con, p. 7


Thomas Edsall made a similar point in a debate with me a few months ago: Americans have gotten markedly more liberal on social issues, which means that social issues will have less and less power for Republicans in the future. But both Edsall’s conclusion and Chait’s are wrong. To be more precise, they’re non sequiturs. It is entirely possible for a society to become more socially liberal over time while consistently favoring socially conservative candidates.


During my debate with Edsall, I pointed out that none of the issues he cited — issues on which the public had gotten more liberal — were highly politically salient. Abortion has been the biggest of the social issues. For three decades, Gallup has asked Americans whether they think abortion should never be permitted, should always be permitted, or should sometimes be permitted. The results from 2005 do not look markedly more liberal than the results from 1975. So these polls give us no reason to think that opposition to abortion has lost political power, or is likely to do so. (They also show that at least some leftward trends in public opinion can be reversed: That Gallup question showed stronger and stronger support for abortion from 1975 to about 1990, and then falling support thereafter.)


On other politically important issues, of course, public opinion has indeed moved in a liberal direction. If anyone had thought to do a poll on gay marriage in 1977, it would have shown much lower support than it does today. What Edsall, Chait, and like-minded analysts don’t see is that it is precisely this leftward shift in public opinion that has made it possible for conservatives to win votes on the issue.


If 95% of the population still opposed gay marriage, it wouldn’t be a political issue in the first place. To generalize the point: Traditionalism would not provide a party with a successful platform in a society composed almost entirely of traditionalists.


A society can simultaneously become more socially liberal and create new political opportunities for social conservatives. It is, after all, the liberalization to which the conservatives react.


Now of course public opinion on an issue can change so much that the old conservative position is no longer tenable, and successful candidates can no longer take it. If only 10% of the population still opposes gay marriage in 20 years, it won’t be an issue then, either. When public opinion changes that much, however, the issues get redefined. A new conservative position emerges, more liberal than the previous one but less liberal than the contemporary liberal one. And this new conservative position sometimes has a lot of political power.


Almost nobody in America wants to bring back serious laws against contraception. I’m sure that the trendline of polls taken over the last century would show a marked liberalization. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is eager to have fourth-graders instructed in how to use contraception, or that conservatives can’t thrive politically by resisting such instruction.


A society could, in theory, grow more liberal for decades while at every point favoring politicians who oppose that liberalization. I think something like that has, in fact, been true of American society for the last few decades. It might end up being true for the next few, too.




Groups: Pastors Have Right to Speak on ‘Political’ Issues (Christian Post, 071003)


WASHINGTON – Pastors have the legal right to speak on “political” issues during the 2008 elections without jeopardizing their churches’ tax-exempt status, declared a group of prominent Christian ministries and religious freedom organizations.


Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Alliance Defense Fund, Concerned Women for America, and the James Madison Center for Free Speech issued a letter to pastors nationwide on Monday informing them of their right to speak on social issues.


“For too long pastors have been led to believe in the myth that Christian leaders must be censored on politically-related issues,” said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, in a statement.


“As the 2008 election season bears down on us, an election that will impact key concerns of the Christian community, religious leaders need to know they have a right to be actively engaged and should not fall for false threats that they will lose their tax-exempt status,” she added.


The joint letter, “Constitutional Protections for Pastors: Your Freedom to Speak Biblical Truth on the Moral Issues of the Day,” provides legal guidelines for pastors when speaking on social issues.


It also responds to misleading information sent to churches from groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State.


“The remote possibility of the loss of tax-exempt status is used by those hostile to people of faith to chill their right to free speech and to silence them in their own churches,” said Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel Gary McCaleb.


“This letter is designed to encourage pastors and churches by providing them with the facts concerning their freedom to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech on the important moral issues that impact their communities,” he added.


The educational letter also helps pastors understand their right to speak on social topics and their members’ right to sign petitions supporting moral issues.


“America faces a moral free-fall, and some would hurry it along with the threat of government sanctions against Christians who dare to speak out on critical issues,” concluded Wright.


“But the First Amendment protects the freedom of religion, not government restriction of religion. Religion and morality are foundational to America’s success and Christian leaders would neglect their duty if they allow themselves to be silenced by empty threats.”


Noting that the guidelines may not address every situation that pastors face and specifying that they should not be construed as legal advice relevant to their specific set of facts, the groups also offer free legal advice to churches and pastors regarding their particular situation through the Alliance Defense Fund and the James Madison Center.




Keep Religion In, Not Out Of, Politics (, 071102)


By John Hawkins


“A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous, they cannot be subdued, but...once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.” — Samuel Adams


In recent years, there has been a concerted effort to drive God from the public square and his followers from the political process. Oh, don’t get me wrong, Christians are still welcome to mouth politically correct platitudes and vote for whoever says a few nice words about Jesus, but if we actually support policies and candidates based on our religious beliefs, the anti-Christian secularists start tut-tutting and slinging cliches.


We’re told that you can’t legislate morality. Newsflash: almost all of our laws are based on morality. Better that it be Christian morality than secular morality.


We’re told that we have “separation of church and state.” However, that phrase, which was torn out of the context in which it was used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, has been regularly used as a slight-of-hand to deny Christians the religious freedoms we are guaranteed under the First Amendment.


We are told that we need to keep God out of politics. Unfortunately, whether Christians are interested in politics or not, politicians are interested in us. They’re interested in denying Christians our First Amendment rights, preventing Christmas songs from being sung in school, and they’re interested in codifying practices no Christian should support, like abortion, gay marriage, and using public schools to promote deviant sexual and moral practices to our children.


Put another way, Christians may want to stay out of politics, but politics isn’t going to stay out of the domain of the church. Since that’s the case, we need more Christians involved in politics, not less.


Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re all going to agree. In fact, even amongst conservative Christians, it sometimes seems as if the only thing that two Christians can agree on is that the third Christian is wrong about something.


Then, when you start putting liberal Christians into the mix with conservative Christians — well, don’t even get me started. It’s hard to believe that people who share the same faith can have so many wide-ranging political differences on even the most basic of issues.


Yet and still, both political parties and the country as a whole are better off to have Christians, particularly Christians who take their faith seriously, participating in the process and letting their faith help guide their decisions.


Granted, social conservatives can come across as a little too preachy and the whole “we’re going to form a third party if we don’t get the candidate we want” approach that some advocate is completely counter productive, but there would have never been a Reagan Revolution without the Christian Right. Furthermore, given all the complaints we hear about our culture as is, imagine what a moral sewer this country would have degenerated into without conservative Christendom rising up to stand for what’s right.


In the Democratic Party, Christians have much less sway, but their civilizing influence has helped keep the radical atheists from running the party and staging an even larger attack on Christianity, tradition, and the moral foundation of our country. That being said, it would be great if more liberal Christians had the moral courage to stand up to their fellow travelers on the Left on the frequent occasions when they mock people who are serious about Christianity.


Naturally, not everyone would be pleased to see a larger, more forceful Christian contingent entering politics. But, those who argue that Christians have a negative impact on our political process because they tend to be “overly concerned” with morals or family values are engaging in an act of hypocrisy.


Just as the people who attack our troops as being thugs and mercenaries are only capable of doing so because of the blanket of protection provided by the very soldiers they attack, people who sneer at Christians are only capable of doing so because of the Christian ethics and morality that have permeated American culture since the time of the Founders.


America has been and continues to be a great nation because we are a good nation that is populated in large part by a fundamentally decent, Christian people. If Christians step back and allow the bastion of freedom, decency, and opportunity that this nation represents to be squandered, God may forgive us, because that’s what He does — but something precious, a birthright that should belong to future generations of Americans, will be lost from the world.


Last, but not least, if you take one thing away from this column it should be this: if those of us who believe in the Lord simply shrug our shoulders and abandon politics to the secularists, then we should not be surprised when our government pursues secularist policies and imposes upon us laws that contradict our most cherished beliefs.




Is the Religious Right Dead? (, 071104)


By Frank Pastore


Radio host and columnist Frank Pastore interviews Tony Perkins, former Louisiana legislator and president of the Family Research Council.


Frank Pastore: There is a huge effort by the mainstream media and on the left … to get you convinced that conservative Christianity is on the way out. Folks in the mainstream media are trying to pound that message down your throat. There are some willing accomplices at seminaries and even denominations and so it is important to hear from “the leadership” on what is actually is going on. How are we doing on the battle, in the culture war? Are we having an influence? …


It’s not time to get discouraged—now is the time to rally and to realize that we are not about a political party. We are about God’s Kingdom, and that is really the larger theme…. You know that there is an effort to try to discourage the conservative evangelical voter—that, “You know what? You don’t count anymore. You don’t matter. Your agenda’s old hat, look what the Republican Party is doing. You conservative Christians, go have a holy huddle on Sunday morning and go back to doing that, because you don’t have any influence on culture.”


Tony Perkins: It’s fascinating. You see these stories that cycle [through] about every four to eight years. I am actually working on a book with Bishop Harry Jackson, “Personal Faith, Public Policy” and our first chapter is “Is the Religious Right Dead?” I went back and did some research. Newspaper articles almost every four years or eight at best write the obituaries of these social conservative Christians. Saying the movement is over, it is never going anywhere.


The fact is, as you set the stage for this discussion, what we are doing in terms of the Religious Right, to use their terminology, we are the apologists for the values that the vast majority of Americans share. What we talk about as mainstream is mainstream, was mainstream. Our groups really emerged on the scene 25 years ago to defend what was normal only because the other side began to attack them. And there is a big push, you’re right; there is a big push by the left to draw unwitting evangelicals into these other issues like global warming. Let me say that it is an issue of concern to Christians—the environment is an issue of concern, poverty is an issue of concern. The Bible is very clear about that, and as Christians we are involved in that, but it is how we address it and the priorities which we give it. Those on the left, they want to focus exclusively on issues of poverty, exclusively on this issue of global warming.


And I have a chapter in the book about global warming which really is probably the thing I am most passionate about in this book. I am a conservationist—when I was in office I was the vice chair of the environmental committee, I have passed legislation that deals with the environment. I love the outdoors, but God created the earth and God sustains the earth. Man cannot save the earth any more then he can save himself. Too many Christians are being sucked in—really it is nothing more then earth worship when we talk about the policy initiatives that these global warming theorists want to advance.


Pastore: There is a movement that essentially is saying, “Hey, you pro-lifers, ever since Roe v. Wade you’ve had this idea to overturn it. In court you’ve lost, abortion is the law of the land. The whole pro-life movement is dead and you know what gang, you are going to get the same thing with same-sex marriage. You just need to read the writing on the wall. You guys are going to lose that one to. Then what is Christianity going to stand for if you don’t have those two boogie men to go after?”


Perkins: I would have to say they are absolutely wrong on the issue of abortion. We have made significant progress in bringing America back to a culture of life. We were asleep when the court thrust that whole issue onto America and the church got involved, first led by the Catholic Church, then by the Protestant Church. We have crisis pregnancy centers that dot the landscape all across the country where both women and unborn children are helped by caring Christians. We have unwed mother homes—we have a whole host of things to minister not to just the unborn child, but to the mother and the newborn child, and we’ve seen significant policy advancement just in the last four years. We have the Unborn Victims Violence Act, we have the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, so we are making great progress and I would say that within our lifetime we could see the vast majority of America return to being dominated by a culture of life.


Pastore: Talk specifically about the church because, of course, as the left works politically there is also the theological or the religious left who is trying to move people away from the Bible, from what it actually teaches. It has got to be culturally interpreted … you can’t know truth, all this post-modern garbage. What is going on in the church from your perspective, Tony Perkins?


Perkins: Well, Frank, you know that’s really not new. It’s been going on for over a hundred years, when we first had the split between the mainline churches and the fundamentalist which gave rise to the evangelical movement. There’s always been a battle over truth and those who reject truth are easily drawn into a social gospel, drawn into other issues. We talked about poverty, elevating that to really an unholy, unwise position.


What I think is going to be the real battle is [evidenced in the fact that] we’ve got a generation of young people who are actually very conservative on the issues—issues of life and other issues, because I think they’ve seen the results of a very permissive culture, but the challenge is they are not rooted in a biblical foundation. What it comes back to is … what does God’s word have to say? It has to be the final word for us on these issues and the priority that’s in scripture must also be our priority.


For those who want to depart from that then let them depart, but I don’t see the religious right or the social conservative Christian—however you want to describe them—going away. As long you have Bible-believing Christians, you will have people in this country who are salt and light and they will stand uncompromisingly for the truth. They’ll speak the truth in love, but they’ll speak the truth none the less.


Pastore: Tony Perkins, please continue the great work. God bless you.




Why the Left is Afraid of Praying Young People (, 071105)


By Harry R. Jackson, Jr.


During the last two weeks there have been several nationally known writers or political pundits who have taken swipes at the remaining visible leadership of the religious right. Critics from the left say that “Humpy Dumpty” has finally fallen and cannot put himself back together again. Critics from the right say that movement leaders have failed to direct their ground troops. Skeptics from both sides agree that the recent deaths of leaders such as D. James Kennedy and Jerry Falwell mark the end of an era.


But what next?


Seen as a group of sexually repressed, white men who hunger and thirst for power, this movement has been characterized as being anti-black, anti-woman, anti-poor, and anti-gay. In today’s America, these stereotypes hardly seem American and definitely not Christian. These images are not only outdated, they are untrue.


Anticipating a change, several reporters have even attempted to anoint new leaders and to magnify natural divisions within a massive grass roots movement. Many groups are pulling for their “guys or gals” to emerge as the new leadership. The evangelical movement is going through a maturing process, which will eventually increase its influence in the next few political cycles. Unlike the past twenty years in which television ministries like Falwell’s Old Time Gospel Hour and Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Hour trumpeted directives to the faithful, local pastors with huge media ministries will probably not lead the way – except in select black churches.


Popular Christian teachers are becoming increasing wary of jeopardizing speaking engagements, members support, media partners, or product sales. The prophetic role of the politically active is not an assignment toward which many pastoral media darlings are running. Black ministers seem to have been given a little more leeway to engage in the culture wars than their white counterparts. While many black parishioners remember that it was the clergy-led, civil rights movement that advanced the national status of blacks in this nation, pastors of all ethnicities will need increasingly focused policy groups to help point the way.


The new religious right will be assisted by thousands of pastors who will nurture their members in clear, biblical principles. The strategy for this movement will come from trusted voices that are currently emerging from regional to national prominence.


The religious right is changing in terms of race, gender and age. Although the numbers are difficult to quantify, there is an enormous groundswell of millions of younger, multicultural converts. These converts may well prove to be more predictable than the values voters of the last few years.


Groups like Teen Mania, which is headquartered in Garden Valley, Texas are raising up a new generation of faithful believers. Teen Mania’s purpose is to “provoke a young generation to passionately pursue Jesus Christ, and to take His life-giving message to the ends of the earth.” Their founder is Reverend Ron Luce who holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Counseling and Psychology, respectively. In addition, he is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management Program. This unique blend of management and ministry credentials has allowed Luce to create an excellently managed organization.


Teen Mania hosts Acquire the Fire and Battle Cry events that bring teens together during weekends to praise, pray and hear words of challenge. In 2005, for example, they conducted over 30 Acquire the Fire/Battle Cry (ACF/BC) weekends with an estimated 250,000 youth. Twenty-six ACF/BC events are scheduled in the first six months of 2008.


See You at the Pole (SYATP) is another movement that is investing in a radical young generation of future values voters. It’s important that our readers grasp the significance of SAYTP movement. At this annual event, high school kids from 12 to 18 begin to form relationships that will help them grow in faith. Here’s how the movement started.


In 1990, a few teens gathered for a discipleship weekend in Burleson, Texas. The teens became burdened for their friends at school. This group of teens joined with others who birthed a vision that students all over Texas would meet at their school flagpoles simultaneously to pray. A challenge was put forth to gather as many as possible to “See You at the Pole” on September 12, 1990. At 7:00 a.m. on that date, more than 45,000 students met at their school flagpoles in four different states to pray.


The news about this prayer movement spread to youth ministers at a national conference in Colorado. Even though there were no plans for a second SYATP event, it was clear that students would create one. One million students gathered on September 11, 1991 at flagpoles from Massachusetts to California. Again they prayed for their friends, schools, and leaders…and they also prayed for their country.


See You At the Pole has continued to grow. More than 3 million students from every state participate joining with students in over 20 countries, including Japan, Turkey, Australia, and the Ivory Coast. Paul Fleischmann, president of the National Network of Youth Ministries says, ““Every year, we have seen this day serve as a springboard for unity among teenagers on their campuses. … Young people have taken unprecedented leadership through this to have a positive impact at their schools.”


These are just two movements that are taking important cultural territory. But from the evidence of these two alone, you can see that the religious right definitely has a past… but it also has quite a future ahead.




Bishop ‘Sorry’ Blair Felt Unable to Reveal Faith (Christian Post, 071128)


LONDON – A senior Church of England leader has criticized International Mideast envoy Tony Blair, saying he was “sorry” that former British prime minister felt unable to talk about his faith during his time in office.


In the last episode of the BBC One series, “The Blair Years,” Blair said that his faith was a crucial component for him in taking the job of Britain’s prime minister and was “hugely important” during his time in office.


However, he also said on the program that unlike in the United States, he felt unable to openly say so as “you talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you’re a nutter.”


Reacting to the comments, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, said, “I am sorry that Tony Blair feels he could not talk about his faith in case people thought he was a nutter.


“A Christian vision underlies all that is important about Britain: its laws, institutions and values,” the Pakistan-born bishop said, according to the BBC.


“If Blair had been able to relate this vision to his policies, we would have had more constructive social policy at home and principled policies abroad.”


Blair’s former spokesman, Alistair Campbell, once told journalists, “We don’t do God.”


During the recent BBC program, Campbell admitted that Blair “does do God in quite a big way,” but that the two of them feared a negative public reaction to it.


Campbell added that Blair always asked his aides to find a church for him to attend each Sunday wherever he happened to be in the world.




Pastors Encouraged to Preach on Political Issues During Primaries (Christian Post, 080114)


Following threats made to pastors in Iowa that sermons on political issues would lead to prison, a Christian legal group has renewed its assurance that pastors have the legal right to speak out on moral and political topics during the 2008 primaries without jeopardizing their churches’ tax-exempt status.


Some pastors in Iowa had received anonymous letters saying they should not preach on religious or political issues because they might land in the “slammer,” reported Liberty Counsel.


But the Fla.-based group called the threats “baseless,” noting that such attacks and attempts to silence pastors only point to the increasing role pastors play in politics.


In Iowa, Republican presidential contender Gov. Mike Huckabee’s win was credited to a religious base of Christian conservatives.


Liberty Counsel said that while pastors cannot tell their congregations how to vote, they can preach on biblical and moral issues – such as traditional marriage and abortion, encouraging congregants to register and vote, presenting an overview of candidate positions, and personally endorsing candidates.


“Pastors should throw away the muzzles that some wish to impose on them and replace them with megaphones,” asserted Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, in a statement. “It was sermons of pastors that fueled the American Revolution.”


Churches can also legally participate in activities related to the elections as long as they also withhold endorsements on candidates. They may distribute nonpartisan voter guides, register voters, provide transportation to the polls, hold candidate forums, and introduce visiting candidates.


In fact, several churches have been lending their pulpits to candidates, who have taken a cue from Huckabee’s victory in Iowa and the Bush election on the importance of mobilizing evangelical voters.


Rudy Giuliani read a Biblical verse and asked for prayers on Sunday from a 10,000-member Latino church while Huckabee preached in front of a megachurch in South Carolina. Both avoided discussing politics.


The American public, meanwhile, supports churches speaking out on political issues. A 2006 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that 51% of Americans say houses of worship should express opinions about political issues, and 46% say they should not. According to the Forum, these statistics have kept steady in the past 60 years.


Opinions regarding religion and politics change dramatically when compared with those of young non-Christians, according to a survey last September. The Barna Group study found that 75% of non-Christians, ages 16-29, thought present-day Christianity was too involved in politics.


Many conservative Christian groups, however, have defended the constitutional right of pastors to speak on social and moral issues that are relevant in the elections.


Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Alliance Defense Fund, Concerned Women for America and the James Madison Center for Free Speech issued last October a letter to pastors nationwide of their right to free speech without fear of losing their church’s tax-exempt status.


Not one church has ever lost its tax-exempt status since 1934, when the lobbying restriction was added by the Internal Revenue Code. Since 1954, when the political endorsement/opposition prohibition was added, only one church lost its IRS letter ruling but not its tax-exempt status when it sponsored newspaper ads opposing then-Gov. Bill Clinton for President.


“America needs her pastors to once again speak up and address the religious and moral issues of the day,” added Staver. “It is far more likely to be struck by lightening twice than for churches to lose their tax-exempt status over political issues.”




Poll: Most Americans Want a Biblical Leader as President (Christian Post, 080201)


The majority of Americans want a president who mirrors biblical ideals of leadership, revealed a new poll out Thursday.


About six in 10 Americans likely to vote say they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who speaks publicly about following the example of admirable leaders from the Bible and who uses the Bible for guidance in both public and personal matters, found a nationwide Zogby Poll conducted for the American Bible Society.


According to the survey, more than three-quarters (78%) of respondents – 86% of women and 68% of men – view candidates citing Scripture when explaining political positions as positive.


Also, most Americans voters want a candidate who has a servant-leader attitude. Respondents are more likely to support a candidate who sees the office as a privilege to serve others, with a responsibility to God.


Out of the polled respondents aged 18-29, 84% said a candidate’s servant-leader attitude would impact their vote. Interestingly, only 62% of older respondents, 50-64 years old, said it would influence their decision.


In addition to Biblical leadership qualities, many likely voters are affected by the simple question of whether the candidate believes in God.


Nearly half of likely voters indicated that they would not vote for a presidential candidate who did not believe in God, while 20% said they would vote for such a candidate. Another 20% said this factor would not affect their vote


But by far, truthfulness and integrity – characteristics often emphasized in the Bible – topped the list of qualities respondents feel are most important in a leader.


The poll was conducted Jan. 25-27 on 1,008 adult respondents from throughout the United States. Nearly all respondents (95%) said they have some interaction with the Bible, ranging from well aware to exploring the contents of the Bible. Close to a quarter of participants said they were born-again Christians.


A Christian Web site,, affiliated with the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, is helping Christians register to vote and with what to consider in choosing a candidate.


The Web site is offering a Voter Impact Toolkit that includes sermon helps, matching PowerPont presentation, Voter Resource Guide, voter registration forms, poster, and other resources to equip pastors and churches to vote their values. The pro-family Christian organizations behind the website encourage Christians to consider biblical values when voting, and pray for the election of godly leaders.




Southern Baptist Head: Christians Should Be Involved in Politics (Christian Post, 080326)


The president of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination dismissed the idea that politics was too “dirty” for Christians and instead urged believers to be involved in the political process.


Dr. Frank Page, president of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), discussed politics and American society during an interview with Donald E. Wildmon, the founder and chairman of the American Family Association, in a video made available online Tuesday.


Wildmon recalled growing up being taught that politics was “dirty” and that, as a Christian, he should stay out of it. The prominent pro-family leader then asked Page what he thought about Christian engagement in the political sphere.


“I believe Christians should be involved in the [political] process – not only because of our spiritual obligation but because as active participants in a democracy we are required to be participants,” Page responded without hesitation. “You cannot complain and you cannot whine about things if you’re not part of the process.”


He also recalled how Christians are called to be the “salt and light” in the world, and that through political involvement believers can make an impact on the culture for Christ.


In particular, Page urged Christians to vote this November for the next U.S. president whether their favorite candidate is on the ballot or not.


“Unfortunately, you’ve got a lot of foggy notions out there that electing the right person is going to change everything,” Page observed, according to OneNewsNow, the website of the American Family News Network (AFN). “The reality is we’re in a system of checks and balances, and not one person can do everything.”


He warned against the thinking of not voting in the presidential election because of problems perceived in the three major presidential contenders.


“There is no perfect candidate; you must vote – and particularly this fall,” Page urged. “Whoever the next president is going to be is most likely going to appoint at least two Supreme Court justices.”


In addition to politics, Wildmon also asked Page if he felt society has changed the definition of God from the biblical definition that “God is love” (I John 4:8) to “love is God.”


The SBC president agreed with Wildmon that society has increasingly reduced God to an emotion or feeling instead of as a reality – a trend that he called “dangerous” and “inaccurate.”


“[I]t is also an attempt to make everything palatable, everything acceptable,” Page noted, “and just say we got to be loving towards everyone. So I see that as part of an overall strategy that says we can’t be judgmental about anything.”


But the love of God can be compared to the love of a father who, because he loves his child, will discipline the child, Page pointed out.


“God’s love is manifested in many ways,” Page explained. “Our world may define it as they want to define it as tolerance, accept everything, love everybody regardless – and we should love everybody regardless – but it doesn’t mean we can’t say ‘thus saith the Lord,’” he argued.


The SBC president was at the AFA headquarters in Mississippi on March 18 for the interview. Other topics he spoke about were the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and homeschooling.




Politics and Religion (, 080423)


By Bill Murchison


Over in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama was saying of Hillary Clinton, “She seems to have a habit of saying whatever it is that folks want to hear.” And Clinton was saying of Obama, “He has sent out mailers, he has run ads, misrepresenting what I have proposed.”


Meanwhile, in New York City, at Yankee Stadium, Pope Benedict XVI was saying things such as, “The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love.”


In which attribute — love, I mean — the political profession can’t exactly be said to abound. The nature of politics, after all, is the capture of power by one group of humans and the denial of that same power to other groups of humans. By force, by the ballot — it all comes ultimately to the same thing, which is that the last thing politics is about is love.


The same goes for a large number of other things you’ve heard about, such as peace, contentment, joy and fulfillment. Politics isn’t about these commodities either. Politics is a wrestling match, with ample components of eye-gouging and head-butting. Whoever ends up sitting on top, by talent or trickery, is the winner.


The timing of the papal visit, coincidental as that timing certainly was, makes a little clearer the debased state of democratic government in the 20th century. As if the almost unendurable length of the presidential campaign, and the squalor of the dialogue, such as it is, hadn’t made that plain enough already.


Of Benedict XVI, the Washington Post quoted a Connecticut woman as saying, “Everyone who has seen him says they crumple, their knees buckle.” The last time this season that a candidate for president, or possibly any other office in the gift of the people, had that effect was ... well, this question obviously requires some thought. I’ll tell you when the answer comes to me. If ever it does.


A current American obsession, at least on the left, is the expulsion of religion from the public domain, lest the mythological “wall of separation” between church and state crumble to dust. The expulsion of religion from the public domain would, if anything, make the public domain meaner and more unclean than ever.


We like the slanging of political candidates better than we like appeals to “self-surrender,” gentleness and generosity of spirit? Tell me another one. Alas, we allow and accept the slanging because it’s how things get done in politics.


The political obsession with political remedies and political solutions is the disgrace of the age. “How small of all that human hearts endure/That part which laws or kings can cause or cure,” wrote Samuel Johnson, with deadlier accuracy than you’ll find in political disquisitions published to assure us of “the other side’s” malice and malignity.


Family, friendship, church, synagogue, volunteer association — here you find, most of the time, the brighter life that politicians beg us to see as flowing directly from the right kind of vote: The “right” kind, meaning, of course, a vote for the maker of the pledge.


Better, on these terms, a vote for smaller government — the kind that delivers more by promising less — than for heavier, bulkier, more “promising” government of the sort most current politicians seem to prefer. The politicians, the spielers and speechmakers, get the bulk of the attention we generally bestow on those who put on the noisiest, splashiest show. Yet, as we’ve seen for the past few days, a pope can put on a pretty good show of his own — all the more impressive for the tenor of the message, which doesn’t revolve around “get,” rather around “give.” And only then, around “possess.”


On with the campaign! Let’s try at the same time to bear in mind how little it’s likely to settle, how little real peace the outcome will bring at the last.




Should Christians Argue Politics? (, 080930)


by Frank Pastore


For the past several months I’ve heard two recurring themes from critics of my show: “You’re too political and unloving, Christians shouldn’t argue about politics,” and “You’re not fair and balanced, you’re close-minded and too biased against liberals.”


Perhaps many Christians believe these things because they don’t understand politics is really an exercise of theology applied—one way we love our neighbors as ourselves. Our political and social policies should grow out of our theology, not vice versa. We are not to reverse engineer our theology based upon our political and social agendas. Our faith is foundational to everything else. For Christians, theology creates and shapes our approach to politics; for non-Christians, politics creates and shapes their approach to theology—or at least their worldview.


A Christian becomes too political when their politics is no longer rooted in their theology, when their faith becomes merely peripheral and unnecessary to their political agenda, rather than the one thing that is fundamental and essential.


How we vote to spend our tax dollars, what economic and social policies we hope to advance through votes for particular candidates, and what domestic and foreign policies we hope our government advances—these things are the applications of the values rooted in our Christian worldview.


Just as how I choose to invest my time and treasure is the best expression of whether I’m living out my Christian values, so too what the government spends money on and what policy preferences it pursues is the best expression of our true American values.


The best way for me to love my neighbor is through those things I choose to do personally. The second best way is through votes for candidates who support policies that I believe will promote the common good. Thus, I am political because I am loving, and I am loving because I am Christian. Therefore, I should argue—albeit in a God-glorifying manner—about politics.


Perhaps many Christians don’t know how to argue without getting angry—though there are times when anger is morally justified. The two things that we should be willing to argue about are theology and politics. This isn’t about getting mad or letting your emotions get out of control. In fact, when we lose our cool and merely emote, we’re not arguing very well and we actually become less persuasive rather than more so. It usually escalates into a test of whose emotional intensity is strongest, rather than the strength of the arguments themselves.


Perhaps many Christians think arguing is bad because they can’t distinguish between a person and their ideas. Even for themselves, they can take it personally when someone is arguing against their ideas. But not arguing does make me a nice person. And the fact that I do argue about consequential things does not make me unloving. Nice people can be wrong, and mean people can be right. I can criticize a person’s ideas without criticizing the person. The challenge is to communicate my disagreement—to argue—in such a way that the person understands I disagree with their ideas, not them personally. Friends can and do argue over their disagreements, though it is most often the case that they are friends precisely because they do agree on so many things.


Finally, with regards to the criticism that I am “not fair and balanced” and that I am “close-minded and too biased against liberals,” I am perhaps guilty as charged. However, it is only because I have weighed the arguments on both sides and found the current expressions of modern liberalism deficient. I gave liberalism a fair hearing when I began to formulate my political philosophy and found it contrary to my Christian values. I am no longer struggling with moral equivalence between the left and the right. I would be close-minded and biased if I were unwilling to weigh arguments for liberalism. Having done so, I am a conservative precisely because I have found the arguments for liberalism unpersuasive.


Some Christians may claim, “Christians shouldn’t argue about politics” simply because they’re political liberals who are unwilling to actually engage in argument over their political views. Instead, they would rather attempt to stifle debate by taking the pseudo moral high ground, saying something like, “Truly spiritual Christians are above politics.”


That’s too bad. Christians can and should argue, especially about theology and politics—and hopefully in that order.




The Cleanest State Meets The Pushiest Person (Ann Coulter, 081203)


Until now, Minnesota was always famous for its clean elections. Indeed, Democratic consultant Bob Beckel recently attested to the honesty of Minnesota’s elections, joking: “Believe me. I’ve tried. I’ve tried every way around the system out there, and it doesn’t work.”


But that was before Minnesota encountered the pushiest, most aggressive, most unscrupulous person who has ever sought public office, Al Franken.


On Election Day, Franken lost the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota to the Republican incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman by 725 votes. But over the next week, Democratic counties kept discovering new votes for Franken and subtracting votes from Coleman, claiming to be correcting “typos.”


In all, Franken picked up 459 votes and Coleman lost 60 votes from these alleged “corrections.”


As the inestimable economist John Lott pointed out, the “corrections” in the Senate race generated more new votes for Franken than all the votes added by corrections in every race in the entire state — presidential, congressional, state house, sanitation commissioner and dogcatcher — combined.


And yet the left-wing, George Soros-backed Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, stoutly defended the statistically impossible “corrected” votes. There’s something fishy going on in Minnesota besides the annual bigmouth bass tournament.


Fortunately, the very outrageousness of the “corrections” scam brought national attention to the Minnesota recount, at which point it became more difficult to keep “finding” votes for Franken. Under the glare of the national media, the steady accretion of post-election ballots for Franken came to a screeching halt, rather like a child who, after being caught red-handed, tactfully removes his hand from the cookie jar.


As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, sunlight is the best disinfectant. (Although, having met Franken, I would add that actual disinfectant might not be a bad idea either.)


Since then, the state has been conducting a meticulous hand recount and, despite a suspicious delay from liberal Hennepin County and a suspicious late-vote discovery from liberal Ramsey County, Coleman has consistently held a lead of 200 to 300 votes. (That’s not including the 519 votes that were stolen — or “corrected” — from Coleman immediately after the election when no one was paying attention.)


As of Wednesday, with 93% of the votes recounted, Coleman holds a 295-vote lead. At no point since the first count after the election has Franken been ahead.


The famously honest people of Minnesota probably think this means the recount is almost over. But like a bad Al Franken sketch on “Saturday Night Live,” I predict this recount will keep going on and on and on for no apparent reason.


To understand what is happening in Minnesota, one must turn to the Washington state gubernatorial election of 2004.


As in Minnesota this year, the Republican candidate kept winning and winning, but the Democrats refused to concede, instead demanding endless recounts. Meanwhile, Democratic precincts kept “discovering” new ballots for the Democrat, Chris Gregoire.


Six days after the election on Nov. 10, 2004, Republican Dino Rossi was ahead by 3,492 votes. But five days later, heavily Democratic King County election officials actually claimed to “find” 10,000 uncounted ballots! And they favored Gregoire!


Nonetheless, after a full recount, Rossi was still ahead, but this time by only 42 votes.


So the Democrats demanded a third recount — and King County continued its miraculous ballot-”finding” trick, which continued to favor Gregoire.


It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Democrat election officials were “finding” new votes as much as they needed to find new votes. Here are 10,000 new votes. You need more? OK, back to work!


Eventually, King County found enough provisional and absentee ballots to put Democrat Gregoire in the lead — and this result was immediately certified by the weenie Republican secretary of state.


Republicans are always accused of being sharks; I wish they’d rise to the level of minnows.


According to Michael Barone, an examination of King County records showed that nearly 2,000 more mail-in ballots had been “cast” in King County than had been requested.


But Gregoire got to be governor — having done unusually well among the imaginary voters of King County.


The head of the Washington State Democratic Party orchestrating this ballot theft was Paul Berendt. Guess who is advising Al Franken on the Minnesota recount right now? That’s right: Paul Berendt.


Get ready, good people of Minnesota: You have no idea what is about to hit you. And, per usual, the Republicans clearly haven’t the vaguest notion what is about to hit them.


Just this week, liberal Ramsey County “discovered” 171 new votes from a single voting machine in a single precinct. An analysis by John Lott shows that these newly “discovered” votes represent yet another statistical improbability that favors Franken: Despite the fact that Maplewood precinct No. 6 gave Franken only 45.4% of the original, untampered-with vote, the newly “discovered” votes gave Franken 53.2% of the vote.


Also, you will notice that Franken is obsessively fixated on the absentee ballots, a specialty of the vote fraud experts at ACORN. Inasmuch as only 5% of absentee ballots were rejected in Minnesota, Franken already has fraud baked into the cake. But he needs more.


He is demanding to be given the names of voters whose absentee ballots were rejected. Why would he need the names of the voters? Unless ... he plans to track them down, determine how they voted and then ferociously fight to qualify the absentee ballots only of known Franken voters.


Franken can pretend to be generous — by not demanding that all rejected absentee ballots be counted — while in fact being manipulative — by requesting that only the ballots with votes for him be counted. That’s exactly what the Democrats — led by Franken adviser Berendt — did to steal the 2004 election in Washington state.


But first, Franken will need the names. Then he can check voter registration lists, ask around or, in a really aggressive move, call the rejected voters directly and bully them into admitting who they voted for. If they say “Coleman,” I promise you they won’t get a call back to ensure that “every vote is counted.”


There is absolutely no other reason to get the names of those whose ballots were rejected.


We’ll find out in the next few weeks if Barack Obama’s “new politics of hope and change” includes turning the cleanest state in the union into one of the dirtiest.




Liberty U Seeks IRS Probe of Church-State Watchdog (Christian Post, 090604)


Americans United for Separation of Church and State is getting a dose of their own medicine through a complaint filed against the group over their “partisan activity.”


Christian legal group Liberty Counsel filed the complaint to the IRS on behalf of Liberty University this week after AU asked the government agency to review the tax-exempt status of the Lynchburg, Va.-based school.


“As a tax-exempt institution, Liberty is barred from intervening in elections or showing preference for one political party over another,” AU executive director Barry W. Lynn wrote in a letter to the IRS last week.


According to Lynn’s organization, the school’s “banning” of the student-run College Democrats last month was “evidence of partisanship at the tax-exempt school and constituted an in-kind contribution to Republican candidates.”


“By banning a Democratic club while permitting a Republican club to exist and offering funding to the latter but not the former, university officials appear to be operating in violation of federal tax law,” Lynn argued.


Liberty officials, however, have repeatedly tried to clarify that the College Democrats were not “banned” and still meet on campus. They say the student-run group was “unrecognized” last month “solely based upon the moral issues of abortion and marriage.”


“Had Barry Lynn paid more attention to the facts rather than being absorbed in his fundraising scheme, he would have realized that the Democratic club can still meet on campus. It simply cannot use Liberty’s name or funds to promote abortion or same-sex marriage,” said Mat Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law and chief counsel of Liberty Counsel, according to the school’s newspaper.


“Liberty will not lend its name or funds to support any group – Republican, Democrat, Independent or non-political – that supports abortion or same-sex marriage. Liberty’s action has nothing to do with favoring Republicans or Democrats,” Staver added.


When the College Democrats had received recognition from the school last October, the club was instructed to insert two clauses into their constitution stating that they are pro-life and that they support the traditional view of marriage.


But things got stickier when the group started actively campaigning for President Barack Obama and started getting more involved with the Lynchburg Democratic Committee. After only six months, the group was informed that it could no longer be recognized due to the stance of their “parent organization” and the political candidates they support.


“We are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by Liberty University,” LU Student Affairs VP Mark Hine informed the group in an e-mail.


Though “disappointed” by LU’s decision, leaders of the College Democrats have been in discussions with LU to come up with a resolution that will allow the group to once again be sponsored by LU.


Late last month, LU chancellor and president Jerry Falwell, Jr., suggested that the club affiliate itself with Democrats for Life of America, a national organization for pro-life members of the Democratic Party.


College Democrats president Brian Diaz, however, said an affiliation with the strictly pro-life group could be problematic, especially in cases where his group wants to support a candidate who is pro-choice.


“If we were to charter under the Democrats for Life organization, we would not be able to endorse or campaign for, or do anything for Barack Obama and his re-election run,” Diaz told the Lynchburg News Advance.


Despite there being a slim chance that the College Democrats will receive recognition again, Liberty officials insist that the school is non-partisan and say that if there is any organization that merits an IRS probe, it’s AU, which Liberty Counsel claims to have become “merely a facade for a liberal agenda and the Democratic Party.”


“Churches or nonprofit organizations having anything to do with conservative causes or Republican policies or candidates are targeted by AU. But churches or nonprofit organizations having anything to do with liberal or Democratic policies or candidates go unnoticed. AU remains silent,” Liberty Counsel wrote in their complaint to the IRS.


“In spite of its stated purposes, it is evident from the record that AU has launched a thinly veiled systematic attack targeting what it calls the ‘Religious Right,’ conservative groups and churches along with any political activity related to the conservative agenda,” the legal group added.


In their response to Liberty’s complaint, AU made no mention of the inaccuracies that Liberty had pointed out in their complaint but noted the “distortions, inaccuracies and outright falsehoods” in Liberty’s complaint.


“Instead of launching baseless attacks against Americans United, Falwell needs to get his own house in order,” Lynn argued.


As both AU and LU face a possible IRS investigation, the non-profit Christian Anti-Defamation Commission is gathering more complaint letters against AU over their “frivolous attacks” and harassments against Christians who speak out on cultural and political issues in upholding biblical values.


CADC has gone as far as to offer to Fed-Ex complaint letters on behalf of those wishing to “stand up to intimidation by Barry Lynn and Americans United.”


“For too long Barry has used the IRS to harass Christian ministries,” the Vista, Calif., organization states.


Since 1947, Americans United (AU)’s stated mission has been to preserve the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans.


The organization’s current executive director, Lynn, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.




Pastors to Talk ‘Politics’ from Pulpits this Sunday (Christian Post, 090926)


Dozens of pastors across the country will preach this Sunday providing biblical perspectives on the position of political candidates. The sermons are an act of defiance to the Internal Revenue Service rule that says nonprofits with tax-exempt status cannot endorse a candidate or be involved in political activity.


Participants of the second annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday believe the IRS rule “muzzles” pastors from guiding their congregation on moral issues.


More than 80 pastors have signed on to take part in the free speech effort organized by Christian legal firm Alliance Defense Fund. Last September, 33 pastors from 22 states talked politics and endorsed political candidates.


“Pastors have a right to speak about biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “No one should be able to use the government to intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights.”


Stanley said the Christian legal group is not promoting politics in the pulpit, but is fighting for the right of churches to decide for themselves what they want to talk about.


“The IRS should not be the one making the decision by threatening to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status,” he said. “We need the government to get out of the pulpit.”


Some pastors this Sunday will discuss the positions of candidates running for office in their state. Others will address the positions of already elected officials or of those who have declared their intention to run for office in the future.


“Churches were completely free to preach about candidates from the day that the Constitution was ratified in 1788 until 1954,” Stanley highlighted.


But the 1954 Johnson Amendment to the Federal Tax Code “muzzled” pastors by making them afraid of being investigated by the IRS, he complained. Many pastors would rather “self-censor” their sermon than risk the possibility of confronting the government.


“The participants in Pulpit Freedom Sunday refuse to be intimidated into sacrificing their First Amendment rights,” Stanley said.


ADF began Pulpit Freedom Sunday last year during the presidential campaign after some clergies complained that they were being investigated by the IRS for speaking favorably of or for criticizing candidates. The pastors argued that they are not endorsing a candidate but only speaking about biblical values.


Founded in 1994, ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations that defend cases involving religious freedom. It was founded by socially conservative Christians that include prominent evangelical leaders James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and William R. Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.




Most Americans Say Churches Mixing Politics Should Lose Tax Exemption (Christian Post, 090925)


Over half of Americans believe churches that publicly endorse candidates for public office should lose their tax exemption, a recent study shows.


According to LifeWay Research, the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, 38% of all surveyed Americans said they strongly agree with that statement and 14% said they somewhat agree. Meanwhile, 25% strongly disagree with churches losing their tax-exempt status and 17% somewhat disagree.


Results from the survey, conducted in June 2008 on more than 1,200 adults, were released days before pastors across the country are scheduled to preach from their pulpits this coming Sunday about the moral qualifications of candidates seeking political office.


“Pulpit Freedom Sunday” on Sept. 28 is part of the Alliance Defense Fund’s Pulpit Initiative. The purpose of the initiative is not to get politics into the pulpit, the ADF insists, but to “get the government out of the pulpit.”


“Churches can decide for themselves that they either do or don’t want their pastors to speak about electoral candidates,” the ADF, a legal alliance of Christian attorneys, said in a statement. “The point of the Pulpit Initiative is very simple: the IRS should not be the one making the decision by threatening to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status.”


Congress made it illegal in 1954 for tax-exempt groups to intervene in a political campaign. The ADF opposes the restriction, claiming that “pastors are muzzled for fear of investigation by the IRS” and are forced to choose between participating in political campaigns and accepting tax-deductible donations.


Dozens of clergy, however, are against ADF’s efforts and some participated in their own initiative last Sunday, preaching on the value of the separation of church and state.


While Americans have overwhelmingly expressed their dislike of politics in the pulpit, according to LifeWay Research, a significant minority did not express a firm support for the government stripping churches of their tax exemption in the case of a political endorsement.


“Americans don’t want churches in politics but they are not as certain they want the government in the churches,” said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research.


Those who are older, not from the South, or married are more likely to agree with churches losing their tax-exempt status if they endorse candidates.


Meanwhile, born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Protestants (26%) are less likely than other Protestants (39%) to agree. The born-again believers (62%) are also less likely to disagree with churches campaigning for candidates for public office compared to Protestants who do not consider themselves born-again (74%).


Overall, most Americans (85%) do not believe it is appropriate for churches to use their resources to campaign for candidates for public office and 87% disagree with pastors publicly endorsing candidates for office during a church service.


Even when it comes to pastors endorsing candidates outside their church role, 44% of Americans disagree with that practice. Personal endorsements by pastors are okay for 54% of Americans.




Who Poses the Greater Threat? (, 100302)

by Walter E. Williams


Bill Gates is the world’s richest person, but what kind of power does he have over you? Can he force your kid to go to a school you do not want him to attend? Can he deny you the right to braid hair in your home for a living? It turns out that a local politician, who might deny us the right to earn a living and dictates which school our kid attends, has far greater power over our lives than any rich person. Rich people can gain power over us, but to do so, they must get permission from our elected representatives at the federal, state or local levels. For example, I might wish to purchase sugar from a Caribbean producer, but America’s sugar lobby pays congressmen hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to impose sugar import tariffs and quotas, forcing me and every other American to purchase their more expensive sugar.


Politicians love pitting us against the rich. All by themselves, the rich have absolutely no power over us. To rip us off, they need the might of Congress to rig the economic game. It’s a slick political sleight-of-hand where politicians and their allies amongst the intellectuals, talking heads and the news media get us caught up in the politics of envy as part of their agenda for greater control over our lives.


The sugar lobby is just one example among thousands. Just ask yourself: Who were the major recipients of the billions of taxpayer bailout dollars, the so-called Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)? The top recipients of TARP handouts included companies such as Citibank, AIG, Goldman Sachs and General Motors. Their top management are paid tens of millions dollars to run companies that were on the verge of bankruptcy, were it not for billions of dollars in taxpayer money. Politicians preach the politics of envy whilst reaching into the ordinary man’s pockets, through the IRS, and handing it over to their favorite rich people and others who make large contributions to their election efforts.


The bottom line is that it is politicians first and their supporters amongst intellectuals who pose the greatest threat to liberty. Dr. Thomas Sowell amply demonstrates this in his brand-new book, “Intellectuals and Society,” in which he points out that: “Scarcely a mass-murdering dictator of the twentieth century was without his intellectual supporters, not simply in his own country, but also in foreign democracies ... Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler all had their admirers, defenders and apologists among the intelligentsia in Western democratic nations, despite the fact that these dictators each ended up killing people of their own country on a scale unprecedented even by despotic regimes that preceded them.”


While American politicians and intellectuals have not reached the depths of tyrants such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler, they share a common vision. Tyrants denounce free markets and voluntary exchange. They are the chief supporters of reduced private property rights, reduced rights to profits, and they are anti-competition and pro-monopoly. They are pro-control and coercion, by the state. These Americans who run Washington, and their intellectual supporters, believe they have superior wisdom and greater intelligence than the masses. They believe they have been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. Like any other tyrant, they have what they consider good reasons for restricting the freedom of others. A tyrant’s primary agenda calls for the elimination or attenuation of the market. Why? Markets imply voluntary exchange and tyrants do trust that people behaving voluntarily will do what the tyrant thinks they should do. Therefore, they seek to replace the market with economic planning and regulation, which is little more than the forcible superseding of other people’s plans by the powerful elite.


We Americans have forgotten founder Thomas Paine’s warning that “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”


Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of More Liberty Means Less Government: Our Founders Knew This Well.




Can Politics Change Our World? (Christian Post, 100325)

By Tullian Tchividjian


Given the recent uproar in Washington this past week, I thought it might be helpful to post a short section from my book Unfashionable regarding the role of politics and cultural change. Wherever you might land politically, it’s helpful for all Christians to remember that the Kingdom of God is not flying in on Air Force One.


When it comes to engaging culture, many Christians think exclusively of political activism. I fully agree that Christians need to be involved in the political process; as I’ve argued so far, Christians are to bring the standards of God’s Word to bear on every cultural sphere, politics included.


But political activism isn’t the only thing—definitely not the main thing—God had in mind when he issued the cultural mandate to mankind. Nor is politics a particularly strategic arena for cultural renewal, as theologian Vern Poythress writes:


Bible-believing Christians have not achieved much in politics because they have not devoted themselves to the larger arena of cultural conflict. Politics mostly follows culture rather than leading it. . . . A temporary victory in the voting booth does not reverse a downward moral trend driven by cultural gatekeepers in news media, entertainment, art, and education. Politics is not a cure-all.


After decades of political activism on the part of evangelical Christians, we’re beginning to understand that the dynamics of cultural change differ radically from political mobilization. Even political insiders recognize that years of political effort on behalf of evangelical Christians have generated little cultural gain. In a recent article entitled “Religious Right, R.I.P.,” columnist Cal Thomas, himself an evangelical Christian, wrote, “Thirty years of trying to use government to stop abortion, preserve opposite-sex marriage, improve television and movie content and transform culture into the conservative Evangelical image has failed.” American culture continues its steep moral and cultural decline into hedonism and materialism. Why? As Richard John Neuhaus observes, “Christianity in America is not challenging the ‘habits of the heart’ and ‘habits of the mind’ that dominate American culture.”


For a long time now I’ve been convinced that what happens in New York (finance), Hollywood (entertainment), Silicon Valley (technology), and Miami (fashion) has a far greater impact on how our culture thinks about reality than what happens in Washington, DC (politics). It’s super important for us to understand that politics are reflective, not directive. That is, the political arena is the place where policies are made which reflect the values of our culture-the habits of heart and mind-that are being shaped by these other, more strategic arenas. As the Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher said, “Let me write the songs of a nation; I don’t care who writes its laws.”




Weak Economy, Tax Cuts Bring Tax Freedom Day Early This Year (Foxnews, 100408)


While it may feel like taxes keep increasing every year, Americans will actually meet all their tax obligations for the year by Friday (April 9) — one day later than last year and more than two weeks earlier than in 2007, according to the Tax Foundation.


Every year, the group celebrates Tax Freedom Day, the day when Americans have earned enough money to pay all their federal, state and local taxes before they can pocket the rest of their earnings for the rest of the year.


This year’s milestone arrives on the 99th day of the year, thanks to the economic recession and tax cuts, the group said.


“The recession has reduced tax collections even faster than it has reduced income,” reads the group’s Web site. “President Obama and the Congress have enacted large but temporary income tax cuts for 2009 and 2010, just as President Bush did in 2008.”


The group said the repeal of the estate tax and two other income tax cut provisions — passed in 2001 and set to expire at the end of thee year — also contributed to the timing.


But the group added that despite these tax reductions, “Americans will pay more taxes in 2010 than they will spend on food, clothing and shelter combined.”


The latest date that Tax Freedom Day has arrived since it was first calculated in 1948 was May 1 in 2000. But in recent years, stimulus tax cuts and a weakening economy have pushed the day earlier, the group said, adding that government spending has continued to grow.


The group does not count deficits in its calculation.


“If Americans were required to pay for all government spending this year, including the $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit, they would be working until May 17 before they had earned enough to pay their taxes — an additional 38 days of work,” the group said.


Tax Freedom Day is calculated by dividing the nation’s total tax collections by the nation’s total income. This year, the government is taking 26.89% of the nation’s income, less than the 30.4% it took in 1980 and 1990 and the 33.6% in 2000.


The states with the earliest Tax Freedom Days are Alaska and Louisiana on March 26, because of modest incomes and low state and local tax burdens, the group said. Other early celebrators of Tax Freedom Day are Mississippi (March 28), South Dakota (March 29) and West Virginia (March 30).


Connecticut, with the highest income per capita in the country, has the latest Tax Freedom Day — April 27. Not far behind are New Jersey (April 25), New York (April 23), Maryland (April 19) and Washington (April 15).




The Limits of Power (, 100420)

by Thomas Sowell


When I first began to study the history of slavery around the world, many years ago, one of the oddities that puzzled me was the practice of paying certain slaves, which existed in ancient Rome and in America’s antebellum South, among other places.


In both places, slave owners or their overseers whipped slaves to force them to work, and in neither place was whipping a slave literally to death likely to bring any serious consequences.


There could hardly be a greater power of one human being over another than the arbitrary power of life and death. Why then was it necessary to pay certain slaves? At the very least, it suggested that there were limits to what could be accomplished by power.


Most slaves performing most tasks were of course not paid, but were simply forced to work by the threat of punishment. That was sufficient for galley slaves or plantation slaves. But there were various kinds of work where that was not sufficient.


Tasks involving judgment or talents were different because no one can know how much judgment or talent someone else has. In short, knowledge is an inherent constraint on power. Payment can bring forth the knowledge or talent by giving those who have it an incentive to reveal it and to develop it.


Payment can vary in amount and in kind. Some slaves, especially eunuchs in the days of the Ottoman Empire, could amass both wealth and power. One reason they could be trusted in positions of power was that they had no incentive to betray the existing rulers and try to establish their own dynasties, which would obviously have been physically impossible for them.


At more mundane levels, such tasks as diving operations in the Carolina swamps required a level of discretion and skill far in excess of that required to pick cotton in the South or cut sugar cane in the tropics. Slaves doing this kind of work had financial incentives and were treated far better. So were slaves working in Virginia’s tobacco factories.


The point of all this is that when even slaves had to be paid to get certain kinds of work done, this shows the limits of what can be accomplished by power alone. Yet so much of what is said and done by those who rely on the power of government to direct ever more sweeping areas of our life seem to have no sense of the limits of what can be accomplished that way.


Even the totalitarian governments of the 20th century eventually learned the hard way the limits of what could be accomplished by power alone. China still has a totalitarian government today but, after the death of Mao, the Chinese government began to loosen its controls on some parts of the economy, in order to reap the economic benefits of freer markets.


As those benefits became clear in higher rates of economic growth and rising standards of living, more government controls were loosened. But, just as market principles were applied to only certain kinds of slavery, so freedom in China has been allowed in economic activities to a far greater extent than in other realms of the country’s life, where tight control from the top down remains the norm.


Ironically, the United States is moving in the direction of the kind of economy that China has been forced to move away from. China once had complete government control of medical care, but eventually gave it up as the disaster that it was.


The current leadership in Washington operates as if they can just set arbitrary goals, whether “affordable housing” or “universal health care” or anything else — and not concern themselves with the repercussions — since they have the power to simply force individuals, businesses, doctors or anyone else to knuckle under and follow their dictates.


Friedrich Hayek called this mindset “the road to serfdom.” But, even under serfdom and slavery, experience forced those with power to recognize the limits of their power. What this administration — and especially the President — does not have is experience.


Barack Obama had no experience running even the most modest business, and personally paying the consequences of his mistakes, before becoming President of the United States. He can believe that his heady new power is the answer to all things.




National Derangement: The Political Illusion (Christian Post, 100511)

By Chuck Colson


Just when you thought it was safe to turn on your TV, there it was again-another mind-numbing story about politics.


You might have thought we’d catch a breath after President Obama’s historic election. But no, we’ve been treated to daily doses of political news ever since-the “historic” election of Republican Senator Scott Brown, Tea Party events, and weekly political scandals. Now, we’re looking ahead to November and the next “most historic election ever”-the one that will finally save America.


Are we all losing our minds, spending half our lives watching politics on the tube? I’m reminded of the words of Soren Kierkegaard, the 19th-century Danish philosopher. Almost 100 years before the invention of television, Kierkegaard predicted what would happen if such a thing were invented. “Suppose,” Kierkegaard wrote, “someone invented...a convenient little talking tube which could be heard over the whole land. I wonder if the police would not forbid it, fearing that the whole country would become mentally deranged.”


He was right: We are becoming deranged. We are succumbing to what French philosopher Jacques Ellul prophesied in the 1960s-the politicization of all aspects of life. Ellul foresaw the Information Age and the media’s need for a steady flow of information to feed the populace. Media therefore would gravitate to covering centers of power. Politicians would be willing accomplices, because they’d gain fame and clout.


We’ve succumbed to what Ellul predicted-the idea that every problem has a political solution. This, he warned, leads to increasing dependence on the state and decreasing citizen control of government.


The result: The structure of government becomes so unwieldy that it can hardly function. For example, we’ve spent billions fighting terrorism-but we couldn’t stop “the underwear bomber” from boarding a U.S.-bound plane, even though his name was on a terrorist watch list.


Ellul also foresaw that when government becomes all-intrusive, the intermediate structures that keep societies vibrant-families, churches, and voluntary associations-collapse and tyranny follows.


What’s the answer? First, we better recognize that politics is not the be-all and end-all. Politics is merely the expression of culture. Clean up culture-that’s our job-and politics will follow.


This happened when God’s people were awakened in England in the 18th and 19th centuries. England then was in worse straits than we are today, with slavery, child labor, and rampant political corruption. But along came William Wilberforce, the Oxford movement, and the Salvation Army. What followed was a great, century-long revival of Christian faith. England was not only saved in the Wesley revivals, it was stronger than ever.


So we as 21st-century Christians must do the same thing. And there is no time to lose. If, as I believe, the political illusion has America by the throat, there are only two likely outcomes-revolution, which is what the Tea Party people suggest (albeit peacefully), or tyranny.


God has acted again and again through His people to change history’s course. But for that to happen, the Church had better sober up, summon its spiritual resources, expose the political illusion, and begin to defend and live the Christian faith in our culture.




Wisconsin Veteran Must Remove Flag After Memorial Day, Wife Says (Foxnews, 100526)


An Army veteran in Wisconsin will be allowed to display an American flag until Memorial Day

, but the symbol honoring his service in Iraq and Kosovo must come down next Tuesday, his wife told


Dawn Price, 27, of Oshkosh, Wis., said she received a call from officials at Midwest Realty Management early Wednesday indicating that she and her husband, Charlie, would be allowed to continue flying the American flag they’ve had in their window for months through the holiday weekend. The couple had previously been told they had to remove the flag by Saturday or face eviction due to a company policy that bans the display of flags, banners and political or religious materials.


“It’s basically an extension so we can fly the flag on Memorial Day,” Price told “It does need to come down after that.”


Charlie Price, 28, served tours of duty as a combat engineer in Iraq and Kosovo, his wife said. To honor his eight years of service, she began decorating their apartment during Veterans Day in November. An American flag topped off the display, she said.


“I knew it made Charlie really proud to see that,” she said. “And this isn’t something new. This has been up for quite some time now.”


Veterans’ groups were furious at the realtors’ refusal to allow the flag to fly.


“As a veteran, it sickens me that the Dawn and Charlie Price’s building management company would imply that the American flag could be construed as offensive by their residents,” said Ryan Gallucci, a spokesman for AmVets.


“We’re talking about our most revered national symbol. This is insulting to anyone who has defended our flag honorably, like Charlie Price.”


Dawn Price said she now works to amend the federal Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which states no “condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association” may stop someone from flying the American flag. The law, however, does not apply to renters.


“This has been eating at us since Friday,” she said. ‘The best way to fight this isn’t getting an eviction and going after these people in court. That’s just going to cost us a lot of time, energy and money.”


Instead, Dawn Price said she either intends to place a curtain between the flag and the apartment window to block it from onlookers or will move it to a rear balcony come next week.


“We don’t want to fight the eviction,” she said. “We know we’d lose.”


Officials at Midwest Realty Management, which manages Brookside Apartments, where the Prices live, did not return several messages seeking comment. In a statement to the Oshkosh Northwestern, company officials said the policy was established to provide a consistent living environment for all residents.


“This policy was developed to insure that we are fair to everyone as we have many residents from diverse backgrounds,” the statement read. “By having a blanket policy of neutrality we have found that we are less likely to offend anyone and the aesthetic qualities of our apartment communities are maintained.”


Despite the brief reprieve, Dawn Price said her husband is disappointed by the flag flap.


“He actually sees it as a slap in the face to his service,” she said. “He’s pretty upset about it, especially right around Memorial Day.”


A Facebook group created by Dawn Price, “Freedom to Display the American Flag,” had roughly 2,000 members as of Wednesday.


“As a father of a son [who] is currently serving in Iraq this blackens my heart!!!!” read one comment. “These men and women sign a blank check up to and including their life!”




Survey: Most Americans Say Christians Not Too Involved in Politics (Christian Post, 080509)


Most Americans don’t believe Christians are too involved in politics, according to a new survey which challenged common media portrayals that say otherwise.


The survey released Wednesday by LifeWay Research found that 52% of Americans disagreed with the statement, “I am concerned that at times Christians are too involved in politics.” Less than half, 44%, somewhat or strongly agreed with the statement.


An even smaller minority of those who attend religious services at least weekly don’t hold the perception that Christians are too embroiled in politics. Only 21% of religiously affiliated persons said they believe Christians at times are too politically involved.


Born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Americans were most likely to strongly disagree with the claim that Christians are too involved in politics with 72% indicating disapproval.


“These results do no surprise me at all,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which commissioned the survey as a joint project with LifeWay. “They underscore and reinforce the feedback I get on a consistent basis from grassroots Christians of all perspectives, particularly conservative Christians – Catholic and Protestant.”


Land went on to say that the survey results are in line with history and how people of faith have engaged political issues that have a “moral component.”


“Perhaps the most dramatic examples of religiously motivated movements generated in reaction to grave social injustice are the Abolitionist Movement against human bondage and the Civil Rights Movement in opposition to segregation and racial injustice,” Land said. “The Abolitionist and the Civil Rights Movements are not explicable or comprehensible apart from the religiously motivated outrage that created them, the religious leaders who led them and the religious supporters who made possible their eventual triumph.”


The prominent Southern Baptist leader encouraged participation in politics, arguing that people of faith have an obligation to be involved in the process and to do so in a principled, issue-oriented fashion.


“We should be voting our values, beliefs and convictions based upon our understanding of the imperatives of our faith,” he commented.


Christians, particularly pastors, have been urged by conservative evangelical groups during the 2008 presidential election year to remove their muzzles and speak on political issues and even present overviews of candidates’ positions.


Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Alliance Defense Fund, Concerned Women for America, and the James Madison Center for Free Speech issued a letter – “Constitutional Protections for Pastors: Your Freedom to Speak Biblical Truth on the Moral Issues of the Day” – to pastors nationwide in October informing them of their right to speak on politically-related issues.


“[I]n regards to public policy, it is a both/and, not either/or,” said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. “You cannot stand for justice and be told you cannot speak of Jesus, nor can you love God and His Word and not care for unborn children, the abused and social justice.”


Stetzer, however, advised against crafting an informal alliance with a single political party.


“Christians need to speak prophetically to all parties, not be beholden to one,” he said. “If evangelicals are seen as a voting bloc of the Republican Party, I am concerned. If Christians are told to leave their faith outside the public square, I am more concerned.”


Survey results are based on the response of over 1,200 Americans who were polled April 10-12, 2008.




The Real Public Service (, 100601)

by Thomas Sowell


Every year about this time, big-government liberals stand up in front of college commencement crowds across the country and urge the graduates to do the noblest thing possible— become big-government liberals.


That isn’t how they phrase it, of course. Commencement speakers express great reverence for “public service,” as distinguished from narrow private “greed.” There is usually not the slightest sign of embarrassment at this self-serving celebration of the kinds of careers they have chosen— over and above the careers of others who merely provide us with the food we eat, the homes we live in, the clothes we wear and the medical care that saves our health and our lives.


What I would like to see is someone with the guts to tell those students: Do you want to be of some use and service to your fellow human beings? Then let your fellow human beings tell you what they want— not with words, but by putting their money where their mouth is.


You want to see more people have better housing? Build it! Become a builder or developer— if you can stand the sneers and disdain of your classmates and professors who regard the very words as repulsive.


Would you like to see more things become more affordable to more people? Then figure out more efficient ways of producing things or more efficient ways of getting those things from the producers to the consumers at a lower cost.


That’s what a man named Sam Walton did when he created Wal-Mart, a boon to people with modest incomes and a bane to the elite intelligentsia. In the process, Sam Walton became rich. Was that the “greed” that you have heard your classmates and professors denounce so smugly? If so, it has been such “greed” that has repeatedly brought prices down and thereby brought the American standard of living up.


Back at the beginning of the 20th century, only 15% of American families had a flush toilet. Not quite one-fourth had running water. Only three percent had electricity and one percent had central heating. Only one American family in a hundred owned an automobile.


By 1970, the vast majority of those American families who were living in poverty had flush toilets, running water and electricity. By the end of the twentieth century, more Americans were connected to the Internet than were connected to a water pipe or a sewage line at the beginning of the century.


More families have air-conditioning today than had electricity then. Today, more than half of all families with incomes below the official poverty line own a car or truck and have a microwave.


This didn’t come about because of the politicians, bureaucrats, activists or others in “public service” that you are supposed to admire. No nation ever protested its way from poverty to prosperity or got there through rhetoric or bureaucracies.


It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club. It was the Wright brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans by making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader.


Those who have helped the poor the most have not been those who have gone around loudly expressing “compassion” for the poor, but those who found ways to make industry more productive and distribution more efficient, so that the poor of today can afford things that the affluent of yesterday could only dream about.


The wonderful places where you are supposed to go to do “public service” are as sheltered from the brutal test of reality as you have been on this campus for the last four— or is it six?— years. In these little cocoons, all that matters is how well you talk the talk. People who go into the marketplace have to walk the walk.


Colleges can teach many valuable skills, but they can also nourish many dangerous illusions. If you really want to be of service to others, then let them decide what is a service by whether they choose to spend their hard-earned money for it.




“Moral Hazard” in Politics (, 100827)

Thomas Sowell


One of the things that makes it tough to figure out how much has to be charged for insurance is that people behave differently when they are insured from the way they behave when they are not insured.


In other words, if one person out of 10,000 has his car set on fire, and it costs an average of $10,000 to restore the car to its previous condition, then it might seem as if charging one dollar to all 10,000 people would be enough to cover the cost of paying $10,000 to the one person whose car that will need to be repaired. But the joker in this deal is that people whose cars are insured may not be as cautious as other people are about what kinds of neighborhoods they park their car in.


The same principle applies to government policies. When taxpayer-subsidized government insurance policies protect people against flood damage, more people are willing to live in places where there are greater dangers of flooding. Often these are luxury beach front homes with great views of the ocean. So what if they suffer flood damage once every decade or so, if Uncle Sam is picking up the tab for restoring everything?


Television reporter John Stossel has told how he got government insurance “dirt cheap” to insure a home only a hundred feet from the ocean. Eventually, the ocean moved in and did a lot of damage, but the taxpayer-subsidized insurance covered the costs of fixing it. Four years later, the ocean came in again, and this time it took out the whole house. But the taxpayer-subsidized government insurance paid to replace the whole house.


This was not a unique experience. More than 25,000 properties have received government flood insurance payments more than four times. Over a period of 28 years, more than 4,000 properties received government insurance payments exceeding the total value of the property. If you are located in a dangerous place, repeated damage can easily add up to more than the property is worth, especially if the property is damaged and then later wiped out completely, as John Stossel’s ocean-front home was.


Although “moral hazard” is an insurance term, it applies to other government policies besides insurance. International studies show that people in countries with more generous and long-lasting unemployment compensation spend less time looking for jobs. In the United States, where unemployment compensation is less generous than in Western Europe, unemployed Americans spend more hours looking for work than do unemployed Europeans in countries with more generous unemployment compensation.


People change their behavior in other ways when the government pays with the taxpayers’ money. After welfare became more readily available in the 1960s, unwed motherhood skyrocketed. The country is still paying the price for that— of which the money is the least of it. Children raised by single mothers on welfare have far higher rates of crime, welfare and other social pathology.


San Francisco has been one of the most generous cities in the country when it comes to subsidizing the homeless. Should we be surprised that homelessness is a big problem in San Francisco?


Most people are not born homeless. They usually become homeless because of their own behavior, and the friends and family they alienate to the point that those who know them will not help them. People with mental problems may not be able to help their behavior, but the rest of them can.


We hear a lot of talk about “safety nets” from big-government liberals, who act as if there is a certain pre-destined amount of harm that people will suffer, so that it is just a question of the government helping those who are harmed. But we hear very little about “moral hazard” from big-government liberals. We all need safety nets. That is why we “save for a rainy day,” instead of living it up to the limit of our income and beyond.


We also hear a lot of talk about “the uninsured,” for whose benefit we are to drastically change the whole medical-care system. But income data show that many of those uninsured people have incomes from which they could easily afford insurance. But they can live it up instead, because the government has mandated that hospital emergency rooms treat everyone.


All of this is a large hazard to taxpayers. And it is not very moral.




Thorns and Thistles (, 101004)

Marvin Olasky


We kick off WORLD’s intensive campaign coverage  in our latest issue. That raises questions: What should be the evangelical frame of mind as we slouch toward this crucial election on Nov. 2? Why be involved in politics when we don’t see much progress?


Our starting point in evaluating “progress” should be God’s declaration in Genesis 3 following Adam’s sin. God tells the perpetrator, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.”


Those words may be familiar, but stare at them for a time: “cursed . . . pain . . . thorns and thistles.” Why do people spend five years creating a book, a movie, a new product, a ministry, a school—and the result is underwhelming? Like even great major league hitters, we usually make an out. That’s Adam’s curse.


Given the curse, a tie in politics—contra football wisdom—is not like kissing your sister. Given everything that can and does go wrong, fending off a loss is not bad. And that leads to a call not for cynicism, disengagement, or “being silent for a season,” but for political realism.


We are unrealistic when we say that conservatives, when they held sway in the White House or Congress, didn’t do much, and therefore it doesn’t matter whether evangelical conservatives get politically involved or not. Having a do-little Congress isn’t bad. For 12 years I had a fox terrier who barked at every passerby. I learned to prefer a more sedate Lab mutt.


Liberals in power bark and bark, and their bite—in taxes and lives—is even worse than their bark. Think of all the barking and biting last year and this, as Obamites and Pelosians feasted at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Sure, Republicans from 2001 to 2006 messed up, but—given post-curse thorns and thistles—that shouldn’t surprise us. Sure, it was frustrating to see the GOP mutt not push for the relatively small changes in our healthcare system that would really have helped poor people—but isn’t it worse to see yipping Democrats move us toward socialism?


We similarly minimize the results of Adam’s fall when we say the pro-life movement has failed because abortion is still legal. Back in 1970 reasonable prognosticators were predicting that by this year the United States would have 4 million abortions annually. They did not anticipate the growth and perseverance of the pro-life movement. The actual butcher’s bill is probably 1.2 million, still a terrible number, but 70% less horrible than the forecast.


We underestimate the fall’s effect when we search for the perfect candidate: Sometimes we have to ask, “Which candidate will do the least harm?” A standard Barack Obama commercial in 2007/2008 went like this: “You see, they don’t believe we can actually change politics and bring an end to decades of division and deadlock.” Evangelicals should have said, “That’s right, you won’t be able to reverse the curse, but you can reduce its effect by decentralizing whenever possible.”


This is not a call for pessimism, but for truth in advertising rather than hype. Can we end abortion? No, given sin, but we can reduce the number of killings, and one day give unborn children legal protection. Can we eliminate poverty? No, but we can also reduce its extent.


Want legislators to read bills before they vote on them? Demand that, and have a free press embarrass them when they don’t. Want to reduce the power of lobbyists? If we reduce the size of the Washington honey pots, bears will find other places to stick their snouts.


We can work for candidates who have shown their trustworthiness and who pledge to defend life and liberty. We can vote for senators who will not confirm judges likely to substitute their own views for the Constitution’s. We can support men and women who have not only the right policy positions but the character to fight for them. And we can push for journalists to tell the truth about the politicians they cover and the principles at stake.




When Private Lives Become Public (Pew Research Center, 110516)


Generally, the issues matter most in voters’ judgments about presidential candidates, but personality, character and values are not far behind. This is especially the case in the primaries where differences between candidates of the same party tend to be modest.


Fully 62% of Republicans said they would be less willing to vote for a candidate who had committed adultery. For example, leadership and personal qualities were more important to Republican voters in New Hampshire in 2008 than positions on issues. And a victorious John McCain bested Mitt Romney from neighboring Massachusetts by a huge margin on the personal dimension — though there is no one way that voters size up the personal dimension.


In past Pew Research Center surveys, voters said that honesty is the single most important thing they wanted to know about a candidate. However, significant numbers also think that it is important to learn about a candidate’s openness, personal background and the candidate’s spouse.


With regard to a candidate’s personal life, divorce is not much of a consideration — it has been a long time since Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential aspirations were derailed by divorce. In 2007, just 9% of voters said that they would be less willing to vote for a divorced candidate. But adultery is another matter; as many as 39% said they would be less willing to vote for a candidate who had had an extra-marital affair.


Republicans are especially reluctant to vote for a candidate who has had an affair. Fully 62%  said they are less likely to do so. Many fewer Democrats, having stood by President Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, drew that line. Only 25% said such a candidate would likely lose their vote.


As for spouses, in recent years first ladies have run ahead of their husbands in public opinion polls. Laura Bush was more popular than George W. Bush throughout much of his presidency. And now we see Michelle Obama with a higher favorability rating than the president’s. In fact, majorities of various Republican voting blocs, except for staunch conservatives, have a positive reaction to the first lady.


However, in some instances, public opinions of some first ladies have paralleled negative views of their husbands at difficult times. Nancy Reagan was criticized for a lavish lifestyle during the “Reagan recession,” and Hillary Clinton drew substantial criticism as an architect of a unpopular health care reform plan.


Read other debaters’ takes on how much voters care about a politician’s marital history and family life at the New York Times’ Room for Debate discussion: “When Private Lives Become Public.”




Do Americans Disagree When Church Leaders Mix Religion, Politics (Christian Post, 110824)


The majority of Americans disapprove of their religious leaders getting involved in politics, reveals data collected from the General Social Survey. And according to one professor, the disapproval has only grown over the past two decades.


“The percent of people who say they strongly agree that religious leaders should not do those things really went up quite dramatically,” said Duke University Sociology and Religion Professor and American Religion author Mark Chaves to The Christian Post.


“Three times since 1991 – once in 1991, once in 1998 and most recently in 200 – [the General Social Surveys] ask whether they (respondents) agree or disagree with two different statements. One of them is ‘Religious leaders should not try to influence how people vote in elections’ and the other one is ‘Religious leaders should not try to influence government decisions,’” he described.


In 1991, 30% of respondents said they strongly agree that religious leaders should not influence voters in an election. In 2008, that number rose to 44%, he said. Combine that with those who simply agreed with the statement, Chaves says the survey shows a solid majority of Americans (73%) agree that religious leaders should not influence elections.


“It’s a clear trend in the direction of disapproval of religious leader involvement in politics,” he concluded.


But Southern Baptist ethicist Dr. Richard Land says survey data in the recently published American Religion: Contemporary Trends are too vague to accurately suggest Americans do not want religion mixed into their politics. Land also says evangelicals are growing in number despite the book’s claims of the declining religious base for the Tea Party and the religious right.


Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, noted, “There’s no definition for ‘religious leaders,’ there’s no definition for ‘involved,’ there’s no definition for ‘politics.’ So people are left to their own interpretation, which basically makes the survey rather meaningless.”


Land, also an executive editor for The Christian Post, says most people would likely interpret the statements to mean they want their pastors, elders, priests and church leaders to endorse political candidates or get involved in campaigns.


“I don’t think that religious leaders ought to do that,” he said.


However, Land does believe that “religious leaders ought to deal with what the Bible has to say with public policy issues, and we should be looking for candidates who endorse us.”


Chaves acknowledged the data leaves respondents to rely on their own interpretations of a “religious leader.”


However, he stands by what he believes is a growing disapproval of religious involvement in politics and says he personally believes that this growing disapproval is the reason why the public is lashing out at the Tea Party.


Just this week, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) remarked at a Los Angeles town Hall, “The Tea Party can go straight to hell.”


Nearly a third of the grassroots conservative movement identify themselves as evangelicals, a Public Opinion Strategies survey found, and are prone to gravitate to candidates who esteem religious values as part of their political platform.


“It is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose,” David Campbell and Robert Putnam, professors and authors of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, asserted in an August 16 editorial.

Campbell and Putnam noted that the Tea Party ranks lower in a New York Times/CBS public opinion poll than often maligned groups atheists and Muslims.


Twenty percent have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party while 40% hold a negative opinion of the group.


Chaves also notes in his book that American religiosity is in a state of slow decline. He says the proportion of Americans who believe in God or a higher power has dropped from 99% in the 1950s to 93% in 2008.


Land admits the membership among the Mainline Protestant churches is declining, but asserts that evangelical membership is growing.


“If you look at the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as evangelicals and born-again Christians, then according to [pollster the Barna Group] it’s going up,” he cited. “In the early 1980s it was 31%; now ... 45% of adult Americans [claim] to be born-again Christians.”


Both Chaves and Land agree that America is still a very religious nation compared to Europe, Canada and Australia.