Why mixing religion and politics is bad for religion, too

According to Slacktivist, evangelist legend Billy Graham has long regretted dabbling in politics in the 1970s, and giving support to Nixon not over matters of faith but matters of politics (note: It’s not Nixon per se—Graham feels using his religious standing to imply God’s blessing on political players is generally a bad idea). His church has also long described Mormonism as a cult.
Guess what? Billy Graham—at least according to his son Franklin—now endorses Romney. And by an amazing coincidence, all references to the LDS Church as a cult have dropped from the church website.
I disagree with Graham’s characterization of LDS as a cult, but if he was sincere in that description, that means he (or his son, who’s much keener on being a Jerry Falwell/Ralph Reed-style political player) has now dropped that for no other reason than a Mormon has the Republican vote. Which would seem to be putting politics before faith. It’s not, after all, like he couldn’t support Romney and still condemn the church … but he didn’t (a stance brilliantly parodied here).
It’s hardly the first time. Consider Rick Santorum: While he wears his Catholicism on his slave and favors imposing Catholic doctrine on gay marriage, abortion and birth control on everyone of every faith, he also departs from church doctrine on such issues as “welfare reform, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and some immigration policies.” All points on which Catholic positions differ from Republican orthodoxy. I’m sure Santorum is sincere, but it feels a lot like he’s redefining his faith to match up with his politics. And for that matter, redefining all Christianity, since he’s stated that you can’t be a real Christian if you’re a liberal.
Or consider the late Jerry Falwell. After Jimmy Carter’s election in 1976, Falwell announced that Carter had told him he was going to appoint gays to his cabinet so that it would reflect the makeup of America. This was a lie: In defiance of the Commandments, Falwell bore false witness against another. And someone who, whether or not Falwell agreed with his politics, was also his brother in Christ, which is supposed to entitle him to some degree of respect (Falwell participated in similar falsehoods under Clinton, another lifelong churchgoer who had the wrong politics).
Likewise in the Dover teaching-creationism case some years back, school board members openly lied under oath in the courtroom. About their religious motives in putting creationism in the classroom. About taking money from a local church to buy creationist textbooks. About the books being creationist (they were “intelligent design” books created by taking a creationist textbook and reprinting it with “intelligent design”substituted for the C-word). Their lawyers said afterwards that the big mistake was not lying better.
The Bible says that a Christian cannot serve both God and mammon (another tenet Republicans like to forget). I think it’s also the case you can’t serve God and partisan politics. Instead of fighting for a cause—as the civil rights movement did, to take the classic example—it’s easy to become a special interest group fighting for power. Justifying your actions by the fact that God wants you, or your candidate in charge; if you have to lie about someone else, it’s all for God’s glory, somehow, sort of. If you have to compromise your principals, well once you get a nice Biblically-based government (which I’d oppose anyway, but that’s a separate point) in power and there’s never any threat, you can start being Godly again.
Guess what? The true faith of people like Falwell and Santorum and Graham is not found in the person they want to be when the political fighting is done. It’s found in how they act now. Which is to choose power and politics over principle.


Filed under Politics

3 responses to “Why mixing religion and politics is bad for religion, too

  1. Pingback: Republican bigotry and other morning links | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Gen. Petraeus and other links | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Conversations and Living in Sin | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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