Gary Bauer’s Hypothetical Pagan Candidate

Gary Bauer’s Hypothetical Pagan Candidate January 10, 2012

Influential conservative evangelical Christian, and former presidential candidate, Gary Bauer, engages in a thought experiment for his most recent USA Today column.

Gary Bauer

“A thought experiment: Imagine a presidential candidate. He has spent years in politics, rising to become a trusted leader in his party. He also has spent time in the business world, has an impeccable personal life, a deep understanding of the issues, and is eloquent in speech and moderate in temperament. Sounds like a dream candidate, right?”

I see where this is going; this is obviously about Mitt Romney, right? I mean, Bauer is part of an upcoming semi-secret meeting of conservative Christian presidential kingmakers that some have defined as a “stop Mitt” gathering, and Bauer has endorsed social conservative darling Rick Santorum, the official not-Mitt of Iowa. But then, Bauer throws us a rhetorical curve-ball!

“But imagine that, along with those qualities, the candidate is also a Wiccan, a modern pagan. It’s not an implausible idea. Some estimates put the number of American Wiccans at more than 100,000. It’s safe to say most voters would at least have a few questions for our hypothetical candidate. After all, Wicca involves magic, spell-casting and sorcery — not exactly mainstream religious practices. But would this candidate’s beliefs make you question his fitness for office? Would you oppose him based solely on his faith?”

A Wiccan candidate! The other religious other in America! Is Bauer going say that a politician’s positions and experience are more important than their personal faith? Would Bauer endorse a sufficiently conservative Pagan?

“The question Americans should ask is not whether a candidate is affiliated with a particular faith but rather whether that candidate’s faith makes it more likely he or she will support policies that align with their values.”

Oh man, he’s totally going to say he’ll vote for a Pagan!

I wouldn’t vote for a pagan, I’d vote for a Catholic or a Jew whose policies reflect the traditional understanding of marriage and defend the sanctity of human life much more readily than I would vote for the man next to me in the pew who doesn’t support those things.”

What? Wait a minute, what about all the rhetoric about supporting policies that align with a voter’s values? I guess the minute you enter the world of “magic, spell-casting and sorcery” all other considerations fly out the window. You see, when it comes down to it, voting for a non-Christian is anathema to the conservative Christians who make up a large portion of the Republican party’s base. The not-so-secret “controversy” about Romney among Christian conservatives is that many of them think Mormon’s aren’t Christian either, but he’s the likely candidate so the smarter leaders are looking for some other way to tip-toe around the issue (like talk about “Wiccans”).

The funny thing is, a Pagan politician isn’t a hypothetical. There’s (the very conservative) New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, a Heathen whose had quite a bit of attention focused on his faith. There’s Jessica Orsini, Alderwoman in Centralia, Missouri, a Hellenic polytheist who recently celebrated Columbia, Missouri’s decision to outlaw gender discrimination. In November Virginia Pagan Lonnie Murray won a seat on the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District (TJSWCD), and Rita Moran, chairperson of the Kennebec County (Maine) Democratic Committee, served as an openly Pagan at-large national delegate for Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. That’s only a sample, a selection of higher-profile examples. There are many more Pagans working at the grass-roots in local committees, groups, and political parties. A Pagan politician isn’t merely plausible, it’s an ongoing reality. Something that I suspect will change the dynamics of Bauer’s thought experiment.

The dominance of Christianity in the United States, while still impressive, is “softening.” Our population becoming polarized between those who place religion first, and those who don’t. The reality of non-Christian politicians on the national stage a growing certainty. We already have openly Buddhist members of Congress, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Hank Johnsonof Georgia, and its only a matter of time before we elect our first Hindu to Congress. The “thought experiment” of a non-Christian high-profile candidate has become a fact of life, one that conservative Christians will have to increasingly wrestle with. All that said, I do agree with the sentiment, if not the wording, of Bauer’s closing point.

“It’s important to ask candidates about their beliefs, in part because politicians frequently exploit religious faith […] we could ask the Wiccan candidate whether sorcery would be covered under his health care reform proposal. […] Americans have not only a right but a responsibility to consider the values of those who seek to lead them — whether they arise from life experience, political ideology or religious belief.”

If Wiccan “sorcery” is fair game in a hypothetical political campaign, doesn’t that mean questions over Dominionism and associations with fringe Christian groups by top-tier Republican candidates are also fair game? If Bauer is correct, and lets assume that he is, we’ve been far too easy on the current crop of Republican hopefuls, and reporters should ask for more robust and challenging questions regarding how their faith informs their politics. In the meantime, I hope Mr. Bauer comes up with some fresher thought experiments.

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44 responses to “Gary Bauer’s Hypothetical Pagan Candidate”

  1. This is a sterling example of why I would never vote for a pagan myself: They are completely, obsessively hung up on their imaginary battle against Christianity, meanwhile giving their true ideological enemies a pass. “I hate all Christians” has pretty much become the mustering call for the “do as ye will and ye harm no one” crowd. You could care less about the issues facing America today, only focused on your hatred for Christians.

    They stopped burning people at the stake/hanging people for witchcraft here in the US some while back, but they’re still doing it in other parts of the world with great gusto–or didn’t you know?

  2. Clearly, I am bewildered by the the relationship of values to voting in political matters. As propounded by Bauer. He gets to vote his own values, but the person sitting next to him in church also gets to vote Bauer’s values. Even when those values are not the actual person’s values. So everybody, I guess, gets to vote for Bauer’s values.

    How come everybody doesn’t get to vote for values they uphold in good conscience?

    But, hey, I’m just a clueless Pagan!

  3. I’m quite befuddled as to how you reached that conclusion based off of Jason’s piece. It’s hard to say that anybody is being “hung up on” an “imaginary battle against Christianity” here – Jason was reporting on an actual statement by Mr. Bauer that specifically called out the fact that he would never vote for a Wiccan candidate even if they were perfectly suited to his views in all other respects. There was no warmongering on Jason’s part, unless you consider any recognition at all of Mr. Bauer’s statement to be such.

    Your claim that we (since you seem to addressing this as a characteristic of all pagans, not just Jason) “could care less about the issues” because we are “only focused on [our] hatred for Christians” seems especially odd, since the thrust of Mr. Bauer’s statement was, uh, that the issues didn’t matter in this thought experiment, only his hatred for Wiccans.

  4. Granted there are some w/ baggage and problems from their Pre Pagan /Christian days in our community , but i too am not not sure where Kristi got all this stuff/ hostility from.On the subject of this blog ………what else would you expect from these right wing religiuos nutballs . To thier minds anyone outside thier particular sect of Christianity are evil in their eyes .Aren’t these the same folks who will tell you Catholism is evil idle worship and that all Catholics are going to hell.These people can’t even get along w/ those within thier own faith , much less us . Kilm

  5. They hold up Wiccan and Pagan sorcery as a potential issue, and yet the widespread practice of so-called prayer warriors who engage in malefic intent of their own to bring about change in government rarely raises an eyebrow with voters. I see very little difference here when you get right down to it.

  6. Bauer is a dyed-in-the-wool Dominionist, devotee of Rushas Rushdoony. These guys don’t believe in anything resembling democracy, unless it’s the means to their version xtian Sharia. Do a search on Rushdoony. When they say “theocracy” they really mean it.

  7. Jason, you managed to make me laugh in the face of a serious topic that runs deep in our nation. Kudos.

    Yes. Identity (belief-based) wars are convenient — anyone or anything can get thrown out the window at any time, demonstrable character and excellent track record be damned. These areas are all about majoritarian group think, even if it isn’t. It’s empire think. It’s whatever they say it is. Everyone nod in unison now.

    “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” — NYT article titled “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” by Ron Suskind.

    It’s not time to hide “other” or “other, other” religions in politics. Or to be soft on dominionism. Fully present plurality in politics confuses the status monster.

    In this video, Lanier talks about how humans tend to have binary states of individual and pack behaviors and that pack behavior mode is dangerous.

    The solution is to “confuse the switch” — to have enough of ways of having status (or religious identity, I interject) that we don’t all follow one or the other leader/religion/party like a Pied Piper, on the path to our destruction, convoluted but unfettered class war and all.

    Robust pluralism is far preferable. Especially when it seems to be the most dangerous…the most assured path to political suicide.

  8. Bauer just makes himself looks silly as he lists the politically reasonable questions he’d ask candidates of other faiths and throws out straw men like sorcery in health care for Wiccans. And noboby forced him onto this topic; he came up with it all by himself. (Known in the GOP as the Romney Syndrome.)

    It is a legitimate question whether alternative medicines, some administered by people who talk about “chi,” should be covered by Medicare if they’re proven as effective as a pill. But that should be asked of all the candidates, not just the Wiccan. As I said, Bauer has volunteered to look silly.

  9. I tried to come up with a response to this article, but it was made too difficult by Bauer’s…. I think it must be a tie. Yes, probably a tie. But only because I’ve never been able to put a knot in a waffle.

  10. OH I love your posts and your tweets. Basement dwelling trolls are always good for a laugh. Seriosuly folks check out her Twitter, it reads like a decent into madness. Its like the movie PI if the protagonist was never intelligent to begin with.

  11. Kristi, no they don’t burn pagans, they instead push to say their religion isn’t okay for politicians running for office. I’ve often been aware that I could do a better job than some of those currently elected.. and by better, I mean for the community. I wonder why it is some assume belief in more than one deity or in none somehow means being a worse politician or less ethical in their private lives. You could fill a library with all the rotten politicians and wars caused by those who claimed (or even dictated as requirement for living under their rule), a mainstream religion. Whatever that mainstream happened to be at the time.
    In an earlier post, Jason points to articles showing how some christians try to claim non-mainstream religious books are inappropriate to have around children, but their Bibles are just fine.
    Saying those are inappropriate for children is used as a ruse to say pagan parents are thoughtless exposing them to things they shouldn’t and therefore should lose custody.
    I’m wondering as someone who had to fight such a battle (and won but could have lost if I’d a bigoted judge) why custody loss is seen as so much gentler than personal life loss. Basically, the anger some people express here towards bigotry is justified and real. So I think you should apologize, at least to me since I am a pagan.

  12. Trolls don’t apologize in Web 2.0 They say stupid crap and hope you link it so more people can read the other stupid crap they post. Kristi’s other crusades are medical implants, joint replacement, people who live above ground, people who read thins not published by right wing notjobs on a dial up connection, and vegetables apparently.

  13. Kristi , i just reread your responce and am dumbfounded . maybe there are a few that do , and need help , but the pagan community is not full of Christian haters . Some newbies as we call them harbor a bit of hostility , some merited , but for the most part the community harbors no ill will torwards Christians . All we want is to peacefully coexist w/o hassles and nonsence from radicals in the Christians midst.We have just as much of a right to run for and hold political office w/o undue or unfair rantings from opposition radicals , some of which borders on/or is libel.Pagans deserve a fair shake just as everyone else does.Kilm, in responce to Kristi

  14. Gary Bauer lost his train of thought on the way to justifying why he has endorsed a Catholic whose first allegiance is to Rome and the Vatican. lol. Gary Bauer never had any political acumen.
    Gary, if you wish to support Rick Santorum’s candidacy, it’s a free country. You do not have to dance around the mulberrry bush on my account.

  15. I think a good answer to his question about sorcery and medicare would be, “Not sure about that, but we would certainly have a unit in the military dedicated to cursing our enemies.” That would get his head spinning.

  16. Kristi, my book ‘Paganism & Christianity – A Resource for Wiccans, Witches and Pagans’ may help you arrive at a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between the two faith communities. Either that, or it will reinforce your preconceptions in a manner you will find most edifying.

    Find it here:

    I am genuinely curious, however: who are the ‘true’ ideological enemies of paganism, as you see it? To whom are we giving a pass? Actually, I believe you may have made a salient point. But I won’t know unless you flesh it out further.

  17. Let’s just come out and say what the so-called “prayer warriors” are doing: they are practicing Black Magic period. ’nuff said.

  18. I thought you were starting out with sarcasm, but quickly realized that’s probably beyond your grasp.

    The only ones I’ve seen who have a “persecution complex” are some Christians, and since that religion is in the majority here, it was something I never quite understood.

    At any rate, considering religion as a basis for holding office is a violation of article six of the Constitution of the United States. I could give a rat’s rear what the person’s religion is, so long as they don’t wish to force said religion on me, and they do something to fix our social and civil systems which are crumbling under a lack of attention.

  19. Excuse me?

    Hey, honestly–you think it’s OK to shun Pagans in political circles if we’re not being stoned or lynched? Or is it that paying attention to small matters such as truly avoiding state establishment of an official religion (Christianity, or at least monotheism) is a “first world problem” in your eyes, and so unworthy of attention?

    I put it to you, we’d be a helluva lot better at addressing basic human rights violations in other parts of the world if we Americans could actually get our act together and honor the freedom of religion our Constitution has been attempting to establish for these 200+ years.

  20. Evangelical Christians: When voting for a Jew or Catholic over a Pagan is considered the “lesser evil”.

  21. I don’t think it’s wrong to consider someone’s worldview when deciding who to vote for. I would vote for a Christian, but there are certain worldviews that would be a deal-breaker:

    — Anyone with strong apocalyptic views (evangelical, practising Jew, Muslim, etc.), for any position with any influence over the military or foreign policy, or the environment (i.e. basically pretty much anything other than the local mayor).

    — Anyone with strong concerns about Israel, either pro- or anti-, other than as a normal, smallish, morally-grey nation, for any position with any influence over the military or foreign policy.

    — Anyone with views a long way from the social-sexual mainstream for any position with influence over policy relating to sex, family, etc. By this, I mean Muslims, Catholics and conservative evangelicals, but also lesbians who say that all heterosex is rape, and some other folks out on that limb.

  22. How are spells and sorcery different from the casting out of demons by the Prayer warriors of the New Apostolic Reformation?

  23. That’s a valid point, but it is important to remember that the language and ideology of spiritual warfare are also very much at home in Catholicism, “mainline” Protestantism, and also the Orthodox churches.

    The New Apostolic Reformation is really just a 21st century update of the ideology of people like John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards, who are both central figures in the history of “mainline” Protestantism.

  24. I found it very interesting that he never stated what the pagan candidate’s beliefs were, he just KNEW they weren’t the ones he wanted to support.
    In my experience the values of each individual pagan are as varied as they are in society at large.

  25. I totally agree. It’s no accident that it’s a cliche to say that organizing pagans is like trying to herd cats! We are typically individualistic by nature and almost instictively resist categories, whether politically, sexually, or otherwise.

  26. No doubt. Since Mormons are nominally Christian, Bauer can’t question their suitability for office directly, but Pagans are sufficiently Other in American religious and political discourse that it’s just fine to use them as proxies for what he really *wants* to say.

    Conservative pagans: I will vigorously defend your right to your political views even if I don’t agree with them, but I cannot understand why so many of you continue to support the Republican Party when its leaders and policymakers are so visibly willing to throw you under the bus. Your vote is not even worth the effort to *pretend* sympathy for them.

  27. IT’s different because by their religion, their casting out of demons comes their god. If I cast a spell (for whatever effect). The power may come from several sources, my will, my connection with $diety or my connection to the planet. But to them it all comes from a direct line to their belief in the power of their diety. And since all my sources (and I assume yours) are not acceptable to them, they have a problem with it.

    That’s the best way I can describe it.

  28. A “prayer” is, by definition, a magic spell. It is the act of asking a supernatural being to alter the natural laws of the universe for one’s own benefit, or the benefit of those we care about. A church “service” in an exercise of ritual magic. It’s apples and apples. It’s also creepy. And frequently it leads to dead people.

  29. OT: Jason, I think you covered this case earlier: Today SCOTUS issued Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, ruling that the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses bar lawsuits against churches by ministers who claim discrimination.

  30. Republicans are willing to throw us under the bus but, when they do, Democrats do not exactly spring to our defense. As a Pagan this is a lesser-of-the-two-evils call.

  31. I am a constitutional conservative Pagan Republican. I identify with the core “old” ideals. I don’t agree with the religious and “shiria-esque” brands that have taken over the party. My hope is that we old time Republicans can retake our party.

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