Divided We Stand! Wait, What?

As part of its big picture approach to this election, the question Patheos has asked many of us bloggers to noodle this week is, “What’s wrong — and what’s right — with the role of faith in American politics today?” I am, unfortunately, a bearer of bad news on this front.

After writing my new e-book Mitt Romney’s Mormon-Christian Coalition (download that for free here, folks; I did my damndest to make it a brief and entertaining read), I am struck by a divide in American politics that isn’t likely to go away any time soon. A chasm that became noticeable during the George W. Bush years has grown much wider during Barack Obama’s administration. American politics is coming to resemble old-style continental European politics, with both pro- and anti-clerical parties.

The big difference is that the United States has never had nor wanted an established church. And so our political parties are slowly re-sorting themselves along broader lines of the party that’s for a serious and robust role for religion in American life and one that is coming to oppose such a role.

The two greatest examples of this great re-sorting are 1) the fact that God was taken out of and then forced back into the Democratic platform this year over the loud objections of at least a plurality of the delegates; and 2) the fact that the GOP, a party with a Southern evangelical base, nominated a former Mormon bishop and stake president to run for president of the United States.

You can applaud Barack Obama for insisting his party’s platform take some notice of the historically God-fearing character of America. You can applaud Mitt Romney for betting that anti-Mormon prejudice would not be so virulent as to deny him his party’s nomination, and his party’s primary voters for proving him right. But if you are a sober-headed observer of American politics, you dare not lose sight of the darker reality these things signal as well.

Obama had to insist on the shout out to God because his party has become hostile to the Almighty and to religion unless it is a narrowly defined, neutered thing that agrees with the Democratic Party platform on all particulars. In the passage and implementation of Obamacare, the Democrats and the Obama administration have stridently refused to concede any real ground to religious sensibilities or freedom of conscience.

It was in this context that Romney’s win in the primaries happened. Anti-Mormon prejudice has probably lessened among evangelicals over the last few decades, but the relative tolerance of primary voters is not the real issue going into November. The real issue is that many believers and many religious institutions have come to view the whole Obama program as a threat and the Romney-Ryan ticket as the only realistic-though-imperfect weapon they have left to ward it off.

Even if they win, this new politics is a loss for America. Our constitution and bill of rights, our divided legislature, our conflicting branches of government, our broad two-party system — all were meant to keep the stakes of one election from ever getting this high.

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  • Mike Green

    “Even if they win, this new politics is a loss for America. Our constitution and bill of rights, our divided legislature, our conflicting branches of government, our broad two-party system — all were meant to keep the stakes of one election from ever getting this high.”

    I agree. The real question is…what went wrong in the intervening 200+ years that let it get this way? I think it was a slow but steady force that has allowed small tears at the fabric to grow over time to where the fabric is threadbare. If so, what were these events? Can they be reversed? If not, what then?

  • Deacon Jim Stagg

    Perhaps, Mr. Lott, you should venture further into your expression of discomfort…..to explain what the stakes really are.

    It would seem to me that we may need MORE than two parties, so the stakes become even higher….and clearer. When the tail begins to wag the dog, as is apparent in the strange addiction to weird ideas found in today’s Democrat Party, especially enshrined in their party platform, it would seem truly religious folk might like to move to another pew, so to speak. But yet they are uncomfortable (as you may be) with the Republican focus on simply another form of big government.

    Again, it would seem to me that the present administration’s push towards a nanny-style government is extremely distasteful to individuals who actually believe what both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution SAYS. Is that unreasonable? Is that why the “fabric is threadbare”?

    Please continue with yours thoughts on this subject. The stakes, IMHO, really are that high. Thank you.

  • Cliff Hutchison

    If people only read the headlines in the mainstream news, they will never understand anything that’s going on politically in America (or any nation, for that matter).

    Shame on the American church for fixating on two things that the federal government shouldn’t even be involved with in the first place: abortion and gay marriage. Church leaders have dumbed-down and distracted Christians for decades over these two issues, while the liars, lunatics and leaches in Washington and Wall Street have run our country off a cliff.

    Kudos to Mike Green and Deacon Jim Stagg for pointing out that it is exactly our government’s shredding of the Constitution and Bill of Rights (for several decades at least, not just the last 4 or 12 years), and the fact that a two-party system is NOT nor will ever be “broad”, is the real problem.

    It takes actual people to actually defend the actual principles in the Bill of Rights and Constitution, (all of the principles, not just your favorite ones) regardless of whether it’s being violated by the person they voted for or against. The “pieces of paper” don’t defend themselves and the criminals we allow (or help) to be elected certainly won’t let what they consider “words on a piece of paper” stop them from doing what they in all their inherent wisdom want to do.

    Stop the drone killings in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Stop the eternal inflation machine at the Federal Reserve that destroys our savings and livelihoods. Stop the corruption between big business and big government by ending corporate personhood. Defend actual people’s rights by limiting the federal government to only what the Constitution authorizes them to do, starting with the least painful cuts: end foreign wars, close foreign bases, and end foreign “aid”.

    • Frank

      Yes shame on us for supporting Gods design for marriage and the sanctity of life. Yeah shame on us…. The church is doing exactly as it should.

      You want to stop the killing then start with THE most innocent, unborn children. Otherwise your claim of valuing life falls flat and is disingenuous.

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