Christian organizations and figures increasingly are throwing their weight around in politics, but to what end is not clear, except that it may not be positive for them. Their foray into D.C. is likely hurting them more than it helps them.
Oftentimes, these organizations stretch or even mutilate the Biblical scripture they supposedly stand on to make a point about political policy, and this brings to question whether they truly rely on the Bible at all. They become something other than an advocacy organization or scripture-based organization, with no real place in either realm.
One such organization had a place at the California Republican Convention, however. The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), an Anaheim, CA-based political activist organization that promotes “Bible-based traditional values” in American government held a prayer breakfast early Sunday morning in Burlingame.
I asked Rev. Lou Sheldon, TVC co-director, what he thought religion’s role in politics was, as he’s in the unique position of manning the helm of a Christian political advocacy organization.
“The role of religion is in making successful political legislation, things that will do some good, and the only way to get that to those essential ingredients of morality and religion that make it successful, is to return to the dispositions and traits [in a candidate] that lead to that. Something that most people have forgotten about is that this is one nation under God, and you don’t have to be a Christian to believe that, or a Jew or Muslim or Buddhist, you’ve got to believe in the source of an almighty power that we all most stand accountable before someday.”
It seemed as if Rev. Sheldon was taking a pretty wide-open stance with regard to what sort of candidate could champion legislation that would “do some good” and that he or she need only be a “God-fearing” person.
“It’s important that we return to that principle that even John Adams endorsed, that our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people,” he went on. “There has to be sense of virtue, a strong spirit of virtue of what is right and what is wrong morally, I think that those kind of things make a big difference.”
But it became clear that Rev. Sheldon didn’t believe everyone was fit for governance.
He excludes Muslims from his list of suitable governors because of their religious law system, Sharia, in which Sheldon claims women are not treated equally to men.
“[The candidate] has to be one that advocates with virtue,” he said. “When you have a religion that advocates that women can’t vote, that women cannot drive a car, that women cannot run a business, that women cannot be elected to a political position, that’s not virtuous.”
It also seems that his organization, like so many other Religious-Political advocacy groups, has slipped away from its scripture basis as it wades into politics.
Just take a look at TVC’s “About” section on its website.
There, the organization states that these values are:
- Promoting religious liberty and a free society;
- Uncovering wasteful spending in Washington;
- Championing Judeo-Christian values in the public square;
- Protecting traditional marriage and family as the cornerstone of society;
- Securing the Constitution against the growing threat of Islam and Shariah law;
- Defending human life from its earliest moments to natural death; and
- Ensuring the economic security of future generations of Americans as a moral issue.
Several of these values are contradictory, such as “promoting religious liberty” while protecting the Constitution from Islam” and promoting a free society while allowing only “traditional marriage,” What’s more, some of these values, even if they may be worthy causes, have no foundation in scripture whatsoever, like “uncovering wasteful spending in Washington” and “Ensuring the economic security of future generations of Americans as a moral issue”.
One would think that if an organization were really trying to ward off Sharia-type law in America, it’d be wary of endorsing its own brand of religious law.
In his efforts to give Christianity greater clout in politics, Rev. Sheldon is, in a way, trying to make it easier to bring politics home to churches.
He’s lobbying for a bill, HR3600, which would amend an Internal Revenue Service code that prohibits “churches and other tax-exempt organizations participating in political campaigns or supporting or opposing candidates for public office”, according to the legislation’s summary.
“It means that in a Sunday school class, open debate about whether the president was right or wrong in his abortion law interpretation and about the pill and contraception could take place,” he said. “Or, let’s say they open an abortion clinic across from a Catholic church and three city councilmembers pushed for this and raised money for it, the church could say, ‘we should have a new city council and we’re announcing our support for these candidates’ that kind of thing. They would be granted the free exercise of their religion.”
So a figure like Rev. Sheldon and an organization like TVC not only discredit the role of religion in politics by smudging their own scriptural basis to gain political capital, they stand to make churches themselves not only places of worship and study, but potentially powerful political players.
Political candidates also suffer when they engage in overtly religious rhetoric rather than sticking to promises of policy change.
When Gingrich blamed the Obama administration Saturday for a recent spike in gas prices and promised that, if elected, he would sign an executive order approving the Keystone XL pipeline project and wean America off of oil from the Middle East, he made a promise that voters can hold him to if he’s elected.
But when he told members of a Georgia church Sunday that "the forces of the secular left believe passionately and deeply, and with frankly a religious fervor, in their world view and they will regard what I am saying as a horrifying assault on what they think is the truth, because their version of the truth is to have a totally neutral government that has no meaning," he lost track of what it means to be an American politician, to be in a position to change people’s lives in a positive way through legislation based on virtue.