FaithWorld

GOP candidates woo religious right but bios play down faith

October 18, 2007

Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VirginiaSomething doesn’t seem to add up right here. Religion is a key factor in U.S. politics. Leading Republican contenders in the White House race are trooping to the Values Voter Summit in Washington this Friday and Saturday. The summit is hosted by the Family Research Council, an influential lobby group with strong evangelical ties. This group of (mostly) white evangelical Protestants, often referred to as the “religious right”, is a key base of support for the Republican Party. And they have yet to rally around any single Republican candidate, leaving the race on the right wide open.

But you wouldn’t know the Republican field is trying to win this crowd over if you glanced at the offiicial biographies posted on their campaign web sites. These mini-bios suggest, perhaps revealingly, that the Republican hopefuls are reluctant to draw attention to their religious affiliation — at least on their campaign web sites, the portal where voters often get aquainted with them.

Let’s start with Mitt Romney. His web site bio says he has served “extensively in his church…” But it never mentions that he is a Mormon and his church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. The closest it gets is mentioning that he got his B.A. at Brigham Young University (without saying this is a Mormon institution). That may be just as well because many white evangelical Protestants — the base Romney will address in Washington this week — view Mormonism as a heretical sect. Among U.S. white evangelicals who attend church at least once a week, 45 percent say the Mormon faith is not Christian, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center.

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, New YorkThat Rudy Giuliani’s website fails to make any reference to his Roman Catholic faith is absolutely no surprise. There has been conservative talk of backing a third-party candidate if the former New York mayor — who has been playing down his earlier positions for abortion rights and gay rights — wins the Republican nomination. At least one Catholic bishop has said he should not receive communion. Rudy’s site has two heavy hints from his school days — Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School and Manhattan College — but avoids saying they’re Catholic. Hizzoner initially turned down an invite to address the FRC summit — but will be there for what will be a keenly watched session on Saturday morning.

Former Tennessee Senator and Hollywood actor Fred Thompson is mum about his current church affiliation. But his web site bio does mention that he attended the “First Street Church of Christ” when he was growing up. At least that’s clear.

A full immersion baptism John McCain’s approach is more complex. He’s been trying to rebuild the bridges to the religious right after dousing it with fuel and setting it ablaze during the 2000 campaign. Back then, he called Jerry Falwell “an agent of intolerance.” He recently started saying he was a Baptist, even though he had long identified himself as an Episcopalian. His own web site avoids mentioning religion at all (and also doesn’t say that he attended Episcopalian High School in Alexandria, Virginia, according to The Christian Century). And he has kicked up a storm on Baptist blogs by saying he is Baptist but hasn’t taken that church’s trademark full-immersion dunk. This won him the tag “semi-Baptist” from the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog .

Sam Brownback is often seen as a darling of the religious right, so why doesn’t he flaunt his church-going habits or spiritual affiliation on his campaign web site ? His bio quotes the New York Times as saying that he is “one of the most conservative, religious, fascinating … politicians in America today.” But which religion, please? Is the Kansas senator hesitant to advertise the fact that he is a former evangelical Protestant who converted to Catholicism? Might not go down too well at the VVS.

Only one significant contender from the Republican field, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, makes the kind of explicit reference to his faith that you might expect from someone planning to press the flesh at the Values Voter Summit. His web bio says: “A significant part of his adult life was spent as a pastor and denominational leader. He became the youngest president ever of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, the largest denomination in Arkansas.”

Is this religious transparency because he has nothing to hide from the religious right — or sees them as his best shot at glory?

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My opinion of the Christian Right

I see another religious abuse scandal coming- it isn’t sexual, but its activity parallels in harmfulness

It was difficult enough when the Catholic sexual abuse scandal came out. People who were supposed to be the most trusted took sexual advantage of children. To made matters worse parishioners knowingly covered it up.

The consequences of the sexual abuse were severe. First there was the initial suffering the children endured. Then there was the economic hardship imposed on the Church. Finally there was the suffering the children and others endured after the initial abuse. Many were shunned for speaking out. Others turned to drinking, drugs, sexual promiscuity, and even suicide.

In the Catholic Church, Protecting God’s Children, a program to educate about the signs of abuse was made a requirement for anyone working around children. The program was designed to help educate about sexual abuse and what signs to look for in the victim and the abuser. That should have been the end of things, but another form of abuse and cover up actively crept into Christianity. It was psychological abuse.

Psychological abuse might sound vague at first, but when one begins to look at psychological abuse on the level of what blacks endured during slavery or Jews endured during Hitler’s reign, it is a little easier to comprehend. These incidents were a type of psychological abuse done on a coordinated group level to cleanse society and keep people in their place. Today instead of blacks and Jews it is homosexuals, abortionists, and others that need to be cleansed and Muslims and others who need to be kept in their place.

As a result of these viewpoints, two very, very different psychological abuse patterns have escalated in society.

First, instead of looking at the behavior and actions of homosexuals and abortionists as a manifestation of a past abuse, similar to the actions of those abused by Catholics who were mentioned earlier, many are unable to look beyond the signs of abuse – of drinking, drugs, sexual promiscuity, suicide, homosexuality, and abortions to face the initial psychological abuse as the cause. Then when the abused victims act out their suffering they are getting abused a second time, this time by people trying to cleanse society.

The second is an entirely different perspective. Rather than looking at homosexuality and people of the Muslim faith as a difference to be accepted such as people of the Jewish faith or people with black skin color, the natural difference whether it is skin color or sexual orientation or the freedom to hold a different religious belief, the difference is seen as the problem. Then when these new differences became a strong focus a segregated society and all the problems that go with it began to be created in America. Also, if homosexuality is a genetic condition, we need to remind ourselves that we don’t allow individuals born with a cleft lip, mongolodism, dyslexia, or diabetes to be treated this harshly.

A new path needs to be taken because these two patterns only foster additional turmoil. An inspiring model is the way the Catholic Church successfully faced their issue and brought about a healthy openness and awareness of sexual abuse and prevention through the Protecting God’s Children program. Christianity as a whole needs to adopt a similar method to bring about a healthy openness and awareness of psychological abuse, its consequences, and its prevention. In 2008, I hope we elect someone to do this.

Posted by Lou Williams | Report as abusive
 

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