A challenge: Produce a "God's Official Party" quote

bush_nimbusMatea Gold of the Los Angeles Times has highlighted some of the lingering awkwardness as the Kerry campaign begins challenging Republicans’ strength among regular churchgoers. That initiative has led Kerry to talk more about his faith, even while saying he does not wear his faith on his sleeve — unlike, say, a certain Texan who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Gold’s story includes the standard-issue assertion that the Republican Party is not, as Kevin Eckstrom wrote recently for Religion News Service, “God’s Official Party”:

“It’s very simply important for Democrats to get out there and say, ‘We are people of faith, we are guided by spiritual values, and the Republicans don’t have an exclusive franchise when it comes to God,’” said Mike McCurry, Clinton’s onetime press secretary.

I need to ask this: Can anyone find a quote from even a state-level Republican leader claiming that believers would or should vote only for Republicans? (Granted, some preachers will suggest this, but usually not for reasons of blind party loyalty. Jerry Falwell recently challenged Jim Wallis on NPR’s Tavis Smiley Show. Falwell says prolife convictions should prompt a believer to vote for prolife presidential candidates; Wallis counters that Christians should base their votes on more than a candidate’s stance on abortion or gay marriage.)

But back to Gold’s article. Wallis cites a concern discussed earlier in several GetReligion posts: “Sometimes it seems as if Democrats have said, ‘I have faith, but don’t worry — it won’t affect anything.’”

The least predictable remarks come from a leader of a People of Faith for Kerry chapter in western Michigan. While starting with a shot at “fundamentalists,” this leader also is willing to identify the elephant in the Democrats’ front parlor:

Last month, the group — clad in light-blue Kerry T-shirts that read, “He Shares Our Values” — cleaned up the warehouse of a Grand Rapids charity organization. They’re planning similar community service projects.

“We have decided to try to make the point that people of faith have values besides the values of fundamentalists,” said Peter Vander Meulen, one of the group’s leaders.

But Vander Meulen frets that his group will not be able to persuade many of the area’s churchgoing voters to support Kerry. He said most of the people at his church backed Bush because of his antiabortion stance.

“If the Democrats want to make serious inroads into communities of faith, frankly, they’re going to have to do more than just put T-shirts on some of us,” he said. “They are going to have to make room in the party for those us of who are deeply uncomfortable with the party’s hard-core position on abortion.”

A different message comes from former Clinton spokesman McCurry:

McCurry said that after he gave a presentation to members of Congress about the need for Democrats to talk about faith more openly, several expressed wariness.

“They’re nervous about something that sounds overly evangelical,” he said. “You have to break that association.”

There are deep-seated differences out there, and both parties have committed themselves to certain worldview-based assumptions. It should be obvious to fans of politics that sincere Christians vote as Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians or any number of other parties. It’s a matter of where believers place their priorities, and there is considerable disagreement within churches about what those priorities should be.

No one should expect Kerry to out-evangelical Bush, or to develop sudden doubts about abortion rights or his opposition to school vouchers. But nor should anyone assume that when conservative evangelicals vote for a Republican, they insist that all right-thinking Americans (Christian or otherwise) vote likewise.

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  • Mark

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments. I can no longer support my Democratic party when the party denies the legitimacy of my faith belief against abortion. I have been told by democrats that if I feel so strongly about the abortion issue, I should become Republican. I will not join their party but I have become one of their voters and I will continue to vote Republican until the Democratic party can fully embrace Bill Clinton’s remarks that abortion should be legal and rare.

    I do not hold much hope for believers in the Democratic party for the near future because of other ‘intolerances’ of differing viewpoints on homosexual and feminist issues. The donkey has on blinders, can only walk in one direction and is missing the scenery as it walks to the cliff.

  • http://liberalchristians.blogspot.com LiberalChristian

    The link to NPR’s Tavis Smiley Show with Jerry Falwell and Jim Wallis was very interesting, especially Jerry Falwell’s comments regarding the Creation Museum. Please see my blog for additional information.

    What does George Bush Believe?

    What follows are a series of graphics from the web site of Answers in Genesis, a nonprofit Christian apologetics ministry based in the Cincinnati suburb of Florence, Kentucky, which is building a 95,000 sq. ft. complex known as the Creation Museum.

    The museum is reflective of the beliefs of many Christians, including Rev. Jerry Falwell as well as Pat Robertson who believe literally in the creation story as told in the Bible as opposed to the theory of evolution. They are proponents of the teaching of “Creation Science” in the public schools.

    What does George Bush believe? Does he believe that the earth is only 6000 years of age? Does he believe in a world wide flood and Noah’s ark?

    I believe that this is a fair question given the fact that many if not most of those in his Evangelical Christian support base also believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and is literally true.

    This belief has far reaching consequences to both America as well as the world and directly impacts such important issues ranging from peace between Israel and the Palestinian people to the debate on stem cell research.

    The American people deserve an answer. Will members of the press will you please ask the question?

    Thank you.

  • http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/02/about_douglas_l.html Douglas LeBlanc

    > The link to NPR’s Tavis Smiley Show with Jerry Falwell and Jim Wallis was very interesting, especially

    > Jerry Falwell’s comments regarding the Creation Museum. Please see my blog for additional information.

    Jerry Falwell made no reference to the Creation Museum in the audio segment from the Tavis Smiley Show. He has endorsed the Creation Museum in other forums.

  • http://liberalchristians.blogspot.com LiberalChristian

    “Jerry Falwell made no reference to the Creation Museum in the audio segment from the Tavis Smiley Show. He has endorsed the Creation Museum in other forums.”

    You are absolutely correct. I did not express myself clearly in my post, nevertheless I believe for the reasons stated that the American public does deserve an answer from President Bush. What does he believe?

    Rev Falwell’s spoke of the Creation Museum in an article entitled, How Satan and Darwin undermined the church published on the World Net Daily web site on February 21, 2004. The link is as follows: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=37227

    A quote from Rev. Falwell,

    “That’s where Answers in Genesis comes in. I believe this organization is developing into one of the most important Christian ministries in the world. They are now building a massive Creation Museum near the Cincinnati International Airport, which will skillfully address the issues of Genesis and further defend the foundations of the Bible.”

  • kyle

    “No one should expect Kerry to out-evangelical Bush, or to develop sudden doubts about abortion rights ….”

    Originally I was just going to comment on the wittiness of the photograph selected to accompany this story. Very clever.

    However, I need to mention this quote. Yes, we should expect Kerry to suddenly develop doubts about abortion “rights.” He’s wrong, no matter what his political party is or says or how many people agree with him. Should he not be expected to care whether his position is consistent with the rule of law, with respect for human rights and dignity, with the plain scientific fact that abortion is the taking of a human life?

  • cbugbee

    Doug’s need “to find a quote from even a state-level Republican leader claiming that believers would or should vote only for Republicans?” before he will acknowledge the exclusionist tone of much of the right’s moral posturing is either disingenuous or naive. I wish it was possible to accept his optimistic assertion at the posting’s close that nobody “should assume that when conservative evangelicals vote for a Republican, they insist that all right-thinking Americans (Christian or otherwise) vote likewise,” but the tone and content of the frequent public assertions by Ralph Reed, Falwell, Robertson and others, and the continued demonizing of liberals and their ilk call his perceptions into question.

  • http://www.christiancadre.org BK

    John Leo wrote about this very subject in a recent editorial. I blogged it on my group’s blog at http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2004/08/democratic-party-convention-all-that.html. Given the fact that the Democratic party has put a great deal of effort into excluding God from politics, it seems hard to believe that a few token words of favoritism towards religion is going to make people believe that the Democratic party is their friend.

    You state: “Sometimes it seems as if Democrats have said, ‘I have faith, but don’t worry — it won’t affect anything.’” That is exactly the position adopted time and time again by the Democrats. Kerry endorsed the same view when he admitted that he believes that life begins at conception (as it does), but that he doesn’t want to force his world view on others. In fact, whenever the Democrats speak of “extremists” or “fundamentalists”, it is apparent from the context that they are speaking of people who actually believe and act on their faith. Sad.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    I think the current divide is a variation on the classic split between the social gospel and calls for evangelism.

    But now, post Roe, we are seeing an actual split WITHIN the social teachings of the historic faith. We have a split WITHIN the call to defend the weak and the defenseless and to oppose the use of violence against the weak and defenseless. This is the point that Frederica Mathewes-Green (www.frederica.com) and the late Gov. Bob Casey, among others, have made so well.

    This is also one of the themes in that classic Atlantic piece that I keep posting URLs for — the Lincolnian option on abortion. See:

    http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/05/kerry_and_the_b.html

  • http://www.flyovernation.com Kedron Bardwell

    Doug…

    I think looking for quotes from state-level or national political leaders about “God’s Official Party” may be beside the point. These politicos are happy with the strong conservative Christian support that an emphasis on gay marriage / other hot button issues (plus fear-based appeals by many interest groups) gins up. They reap the effects, even if they’re not the primary cause.

    It’s more instructive to ask whether there is an ideological orthodoxy (that one dare not reject) that has developed within evangelical Christian thought and even within specific churches. This orthodoxy exists not just regarding party ID and issues (say, whether homosexuality is sin) but also regarding the proper way for government to address these ills (say, a constitutional ban on gay marriage vs. allowing states to decide vs. remedies that may not even lie with the state).

    For example, one reason that I left our church after several months is that they felt the need to accost worshipers on their way into the sanctuary, urging them to sign an anti-gay marriage petition. Is this what church is for?

    I’m posting more on this (more discussion than anything else) on my blog today and tomorrow, in response to the recent issue of Sojourners…

    By the way, here are a couple of instructive quotes representing the partisan orthodoxy:

    “It is the responsibility of every political conservative, every evangelical Christian, every pro-life Catholic, every traditional Jew…to get serious about re-electing President Bush.”

    - Jerry Falwell, The New York Times, July 16, 2004

    “I think George Bush is going to win in a walk. I really believe I’m hearing from the Lord it’s going to be like a blowout election in 2004. The Lord has just blessed him…. It doesn’t make any difference what he does, good or bad.”

    - Pat Robertson, AP/Fox News, January 2, 2004

  • Chuck

    Kedron wrote:

    “By the way, here are a couple of instructive quotes representing the partisan orthodoxy:”…

    Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson do not “represent” evangelicals or conservative christians. I know they don’t speak for me and, according to the poll in USA Today (I think it was them), most evangelicals feel the same way.

    Indeed, the only people I ever see quoting or even referring to them are people who try to use them as straw men against evangelicals.


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