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Please know that I cut my eyeteeth as a political activist with the so-called Religious Right. I was the Florida Moral Majority Executive Director and participated in numerous local and national meetings that featured the Religious Right's most eminent spokesmen. My personal history with the Religious Right goes back more than thirty years.
That said, it is my studied opinion that many, if not most, of our national conservative Christian leaders have lost touch with the reality of our nation's ills and how to cure them. I hate to say it, but it seems to me that they have become either perilously shallow and unthinking or myopically focused upon their own success. Either way, the leadership being provided by this once-great group of champions seems to be seriously deficient in both discernment and resolve.
For example, just last week, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson laid an egg of gigantic proportions when he brazenly proclaimed to U.S. News & World Report senior editor Dan Gilgoff that Republican presidential aspirant Fred Thompson was not "a Christian."
In an attempt to smooth over Dobson's gaffe, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger said that Dobson "has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian-someone who openly talks about his faith."
This debacle might seem like an insignificant misstatement by the Christian radio guru, but it's not. It represents the kind of shallowness and naïveté that has come to dominate the Religious Right.
Schneeberger accurately articulated the thinking of James Dobson and many conservative Christians today: In order for a politician to be acceptable, he must be someone who "openly talks about his faith."
Understand, too, that shortly after the moral recklessness of President Bill Clinton, it would have been necessary to include another requirement: an acceptable candidate must be one who keeps his pants zipped up. However, this is no longer a litmus test for the Religious Right, as I will demonstrate in a moment.
How is it that Christian conservatives have come to put so much stock in the religious rhetoric of a politician on the campaign trail? How is it that they expect a candidate, especially a presidential candidate, to "openly talk about his faith?"
Please recall that it did not do Jimmy Carter much good to openly talk about his faith. The Religious Right was almost unified in its opposition to Carter. However, the ultimate hero of the Religious Right, Ronald Reagan, was never known to carry his religion on his sleeve. He was not one who "openly talked about his faith."
It has been the George W. Bush presidency that has helped turn the minds of Christian conservatives away from a politician's actions and policies to his or her rhetoric. Bush has been given a free pass (by Christian conservatives) on his unconstitutional, liberal, big-spending, socialistic, and imperialistic policies, because he "openly talks about his faith."
Never mind that President Bush's presidency more resembles Bill Clinton's than it does Ronald Reagan's. Never mind that if George W. Bush did not have an "R" behind his name, one would assume that he was a protégé of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. Because Bush "openly talks about his faith," he is accepted, defended, and lauded by the Religious Right.
If that is not shallow, I don't know what is.
Illustrating further the depth of Dobson's shallowness is the way he and other leaders of the Religious Right are treating the philanderer Newt Gingrich. Dobson told Gilgoff that the former House Speaker was "the brightest guy out there" and "the most articulate politician on the scene today." Jerry Falwell added his praise for Gingrich, saying in his Liberty Journal, "He is a true American statesman and a brilliant political innovator." Falwell has also invited Gingrich to be the commencement speaker at the graduating ceremonies at Liberty University this year.
This about a man who has a history as a serial adulterer. A man who used the occasion of his wife's hospitalization for cancer treatments to tell her he was leaving her for another woman with whom he had been having an affair. This about a man who had to be taken to court to pay what was due his abandoned wife. This about a man who was a major culprit in the House Banking Scandal, having written 22 bad checks at taxpayers' expense. This about a man who, just five months ago, brazenly called for the curtailment of free speech. This about a man who, after having orchestrated the GOP revolution of 1994, used the power of the Speaker's office to try and intimidate the conservative House freshmen into compromising their conservative commitment, including trying to force them to support tax increases. This about a man who is a long-standing member of the Council on Foreign Relations, which is a think-tank of internationalists working toward global government.
But now Dobson, Falwell, et al. apparently hold Newt Gingrich in the highest regard, with Dobson gushing over him during the very interview when Gingrich admitted his adultery, and Falwell saying that Gingrich has made a "fresh commitment to God." Just in time for the presidential campaign. How convenient!
However, poor Fred Thompson now has the "smell of death" put on him by James Dobson with what is sure to be a ubiquitous moniker, "He is not a Christian." Does James Dobson really believe that it is better to be an admitted adulterer who "openly talks about his faith," than to be a faithful husband who doesn't?
When will conservative Christians wake up? When will they come to understand that when it comes to political office, we are not electing Sunday School teachers? We are electing men and women to do one thing: faithfully discharge their duties to the Constitution of the United States.
What matters more than religious rhetoric is whether or not our elected representatives fulfill their oath of office and obey the Constitution. (Of course, it should be obvious that we cannot be expected to trust a man who has no fidelity to his marriage commitment to be faithful to his commitments to the American people.)
America is in serious trouble, because our political leaders (from both parties) are continually ignoring and overtly disobeying constitutional government. They treat the Constitution (and their loyalty to it) as a pile of dung. This irresponsibility has brought our nation to the brink of the abyss.
We are almost ready to lose our national identity, our culture, our standard of living, and even our military superiority. Our education system is in the toilet. Our manufacturing jobs have almost vanished, our nation is being systematically merged into a "North American Community," and James Dobson's focus seems to be merely that our future president is a man who "openly talks about his faith?"
Obviously, James Dobson just doesn't get it. It would be far better to have an honest, God-fearing man in the White House who is more concerned about faithfully following the Constitution than he is about giving a bunch of religious lip service. And that means we need to pay far more attention to his record than to his rhetoric. The day that our conservative Christian leaders and pastors wake up to that truth is the day that we can begin to restore this constitutional republic.