God Knows How to Pick 'Em
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 12:28:29 AM EST
In the run up to elections at all levels, candidates or their proxies often say that God called them to run.  But if experience is any guide, pols should be wary if they get the call from on high.  They might consider the line from the Biblical book of Matthew, "Many are called, but few are chosen."

This year, we have no less than four God-called GOP candidates for president,  former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), (Mrs. Perry agrees) and now Herman Cain. So far.

Journalist Bill Berkowitz published a widely reprinted article a few months ago that discussed the matter of God calling pols to run for office.  I told him at the time:  
"Politicians and operatives claiming that God spoke to them is as old as the hills," Frederick Clarkson, author of "Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy" told BuzzFlash.  "Whether said in earnest or as a matter of crass pandering, when people say such things, they should be viewed with extreme skepticism. Not so much to question whether or not God spoke to them, but because they were so unwise as to say so."

Let me expand on this point in light of Cain's revelation.  

Much is implied when they make statements invoking a divine call to run for office. The inference is that they somehow embody God's politics.  That their policy ideas are God's policy ideas.  That they are God's chosen pol. That they have God's endorsement.  

While it is hard to top an endorsement from God, what if God has, as seems to be the case this time, several candidates in the same race?   Maybe they were mistaken. Or perhaps God was up to something else.  

Perhaps God wanted people to see the shameless way that pols invoke his name. Perhaps God wanted treat us to some spectacular displays of political sleazebaggery in the way pols will use and abuse God to achieve vainglorious ends.  Perhaps God wanted us all to see the difference between people who honestly aspire to public service and those who are all about egotism and extreme vanity.  (If that was God's intention, Herman Cain was a great pick!)  

Cain and his GOP colleagues forget or ignore the fact that we live in a pluralist society in which as a matter of constitutional authority, plus more than two centuries of legal development, and a profound matter of cultural ethos, we are equal as citizens.  This reality stays the same whatever our religious or non-religious views may be, whether we change our minds and how often we might do so.  As we have seen, faith-based political appeals can lead to some pretty spectacular cases of religious bigotry as well as outrageous pandering that undermines the civic and religious integrity of anyone who engages in, encourages, or otherwise supports such behavior.

Evangelical scholar David Gushee recently called on fellow evangelicals to recognize and end this problem which he sees as inherently corrupting of both Christianity and American politics.  He writes:

Republican presidential candidate can be counted on to turn out for the Values Voter Summit, [sponsored by several Christian Right organizations] perhaps our current best symbol of everything that's wrong with evangelical politics, the old formula of support in exchange for access appears alive and well.

What's the impact?

This version of Christian politics is inherently corrupting to Christian faith, ethics and witness.  It encourages politicians to take God's name in vain, and to do so routinely.  (That would be a violation of the Ten Commandments, if Christians still cared about such things.) It tempts church leaders to abuse their offices and abandon their core vocations as they entangle themselves with politics.  It confuses the message of Christianity with that of the politician of the moment.  It damages the moral witness of Christians in culture. It makes it harder for millions to even consider the claims of historic Christian faith.  It drives many away from God altogether.

That's what advocates of church state separation, especially Baptists, have been saying since before the Constitution was written.  I told Berkowitz:  

"When the framers of the Constitution barred religious oaths and other 'tests' for public office (in Article 6), they were responding in part to the age old opportunism of politicians.

"The framers were wise enough to recognize and address the fact that pols don't necessarily mean everything that they say, and that many will say whatever is necessary to accomplish their ends.  So when we hear contemporary pols and their employees claim that God made them do it, we might ask ourselves whether they are really any more credible than pols who in other contexts say that Satan made them do it."




Display:
...to hear almost 1/2 of the Republican pres. candidates invoke God as a endorser, and not consider if 1 or 2 might not be telling the truth? Even in the alternate reality of am Talk Radio, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck-fueled echo chambers, are there no religious right leaders willing to say something about the crass lying; not one?

Man, talk about being in lockstep...



by trog69 on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 01:08:34 PM EST
maybe God spoke to all four of them to see how they would handle it.  And how we would handle it.

It could be one of the great tests of all time to see how we all handle it.  Wouldn't it be interesting to have this come up at a GOP candidates forum?    

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 01:23:58 PM EST
Parent


we were given for the pluralities was that "many are called, few are chosen". bible is full of unnamed and unknown faithful who never rose to the level of greatness, or historical worthiness anyway. this article gives a "good mocking to" the "voir dire" practices of the republican party. paraphrasing mika on morning joe i'd agree; "it is time for the clowns to leave the stage and go sell their books elsewhere"....

by robertbentham on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 09:08:40 AM EST
Parent


Cain and his GOP colleagues forget or ignore the fact that we live in a pluralist society in which as a matter of constitutional authority, plus more than two centuries of legal development, and a profound matter of cultural ethos, we are equal as citizens. Unfortunately they are of the mind that most of us aren't citizens, at least the way you and I see it. They prefer a hierarchy with them at the top. Very Platonic in their out look. They actually liked the idea that only a small percentage of Americans in the 1770's had the vote. Others of them liked it in the 1600's when the followers of god ruled. Either way those who follow the idea of might makes right, and the rich are blessed and if you are not then you aren't blessed want to take control again. So that their extremest agenda can be forced upon us. They tried and failed when the voters of states like Ohio and Mississippi overruled them concerning personhood for zygotes and limiting Unions and restricting voters. The only way they can get their way is to take over and force the rest of us. Hope that never happens.

by Nightgaunt on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:08:01 PM EST

"If God convinced Cain, Perry, Bachmann and Santorum to run for president, that's the most conclusive proof I've seen that God is a Democrat!"

by Rachel Tabachnick on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:53:15 PM EST
With this zinger, "If God is that indecisive, he's probably for Mitt Romney" Still I think once charges of sexual harassment come up, you've somewhat lost the mandate of heaven.

by Hirador on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 08:53:35 PM EST
Parent


Well, they all say that God told them to run for office, but he didn't tell any of them that He had picked them out to win, like a horse in the Derby.  And there is that old saying: "pride goeth before a fall".  If the Republicans win the election, at least of three of these jokers will fall.

Jim of Olym

by rdrjames on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 06:38:19 PM EST


PS Reminds me of an old book: The Three Christs of Ypsilanti.  Three chronic mental patients in the state hospital there all claimed to be Jesus christ. It was an inspired idea of a psychiatrist to put them in a room together and let them argue it out... I can' remember if any of the guys caved in.

by rdrjames on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 06:42:19 PM EST

The devil made them say God told them to run for office.  

Re:  "So when we hear contemporary pols and their employees claim that God made them do it, we might ask ourselves whether they are really any more credible than pols who in other contexts say that Satan made them do it."

That's the obvious connection, right?

by Raksha on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 01:18:50 PM EST

Someone ought to ask these candidates about this.

Are you God's candidate for president?  How do you account for the fact that God has encouraged several others to run as well?

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 01:32:53 PM EST
Parent

that God endorses free-market competition.

Re "Are you God's candidate for president?  How do you account for the fact that God has encouraged several others to run as well?"

At least that COULD be the reasoning here.  Just a hypothesis, though.

Maybe we need them to demonstrate which one can pull the sword out of the stone?  

Whoops, wrong mythological system.  Sorry about that!

by Raksha on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 02:10:48 PM EST
Parent




we should remember that one of the most important influences upon Madison in that gentleman's crafting the First Amendment was Baptist John Leland.  Early American Baptists were well aware of the importance of the separation of church and state.  After all, it was Roger Williams who first established a colony which allowed total freedom of religion, including not believing in God.  Too often Americans in their learning of colonial history are given distorted views.  The Puritans in Massachusetts Bay wanted a place for their religion and no others, hanging Quaker Mary Dyer and others for their beliefs, and driving Anne Hutchison out.   Penn's Woods, aka Pennsylvania, required a belief in God.  Maryland's Act of Toleration was only for those who affirmed the Holy Trinity, prescribing death to those who denied it.

What we see in the Southern Baptist Convention today is something very different.  First, we should remember why there is a SOUTHERN convention -  the split over the issue of slavery in the build-up to the  Civil War, separating from Northern Baptists in 1845.  Second, that denomination was taken over by those who were determined to impose a particular interpretation and viewpoint a few decades back.  As a result, a number of prominent Americans who were raised as Southern Baptists have over time left the denomination, most notably former President Jimmy Carter.  Al Gore was baptized in the SBC, but the church he attended growing up was not affiliated with them. Still, he was officially a part of SBC until leaving in 2004.

Anyhow, sorry for the digression.  Thanks for the piece.

by teacherken on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 05:28:52 AM EST

Facts like these, teacherken, and especially these facts, are essential to our developing the kind of culture and politics that can sustain such democratic basics as a commitment to religious pluralism and separation of church and state.

It can be hard for many of us to get our minds around the idea that Baptists were among the great heroes of democracy and key allies of Jefferson and Madison in pursuing the foundational ideas now under attack by the contemporary Southern Baptist Convention and the wider Religious Right.  

Newbies to this site should know that one of the founders here at Talk to Action was Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott, who fought the rightwing takeover of the SBC and is now a leader in the New Baptist Covenant as well as Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  He blogs at Mainstream Baptist and shows up at Talk to Action from time to time as well.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 11:01:52 AM EST
Parent



Since many of us are non-believers and the candidates say God spoke to them this means they are hearing voices, therefore the only conclusion to which one must arrive is they are schizophrenic and possibly paranoid.

by JerrySloan on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 01:44:13 PM EST
that they are lying. Or both.

My point remains that it is unwise at best for candidates to claim that God told them to run. It can and will be taken many different ways, not all of them good.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 01:51:20 PM EST
Parent

And it needs to be addressed by either the candidates, or the Christian-right leadership they kowtow toward. The fact that so far, none have stepped up should leave Republican "Values" voters wondering just who is being talked to, and who are talked down to.

by trog69 on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 12:05:59 AM EST
Parent




WWW Talk To Action


Thomas DiLorenzo's Rebel Yelling
I have written a great deal in the past few years about the odd phenomenon of Catholic Neo-Confederatism.  Let's add one more name to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (1 comment)
Censorship Challenge: Texas Pastor Seeks Restrictions On `Dangerous' Library Books
Back in the 1990s, some Religious Right activists in Virginia got the bright idea to begin attacking America's public libraries. The idea was to......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Suspended St. Louis County Officer Dan Page Made Rounds on Rightwing Radio Shows
St. Louis Police Officer Dan Page drew national attention when he shoved CNN's Don Lemon during a broadcast of the protests in Ferguson, and......
By Rachel Tabachnick (1 comment)
Cop Who Shoved CNN Host Don Lemon Lassoed in Another Conspiracy Rodeo
Rachel Tabachnick broke an important story this evening showing that the rant by Officer Dan Page that got him suspended from the St.Louis County......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Exile Excitement: Some Fundamentalists Seek Escape From Decadent Society
OK, now we've done it. Those of us who advocate things like separation of church and state, secular government, LGBT rights and self-determination when......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Controversy Over White Nationalist GOP Candidate Still White Hot
The 2004 Constitution Party candidate for president Michael Peroutka's current race for County Council in Maryland -- as a Republican -- it is still......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Race, Republicans and the Religious Right
The Republicans have a race problem, and by this I don't just mean that racial minorities don't much vote for them, particularly in the......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Rev. William Barber on Religious/Political Inclusiveness
A few weeks ago, I posted about the extraordinary oration of Rev. William Barber at Netroots Nation. (A transcript of the speech is now......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Short Takes
Salon.com  Columnist Thomas Frank considers how snark can cut more than one way. What does it mean when being "on the left" is defined......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
David Brat as a "Libertarian Catholic" is an Oxymoron
David Brat, the Tea Party Young Turk who recently shocked the GOP establishment with his primary win over Majority Leader Eric Cantor, is reportedly,......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
Kountze Cheerleaders Take on the Courts
The entire town of Kountze, Texas is in a frenzy with business banners, suv window paintings and legal action supporting their local cheerleaders. The......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
A Talk to Action Anthology on Neo-Confederacy, Nullification and Secession (Updated)
A number of posts over the past year have addressed the growing Neo-Confederate movement, the advocacy of nullification of federal laws, and even the......
By Frederick Clarkson (5 comments)
Good Incentives Gone Awry: Kentucky Officials Are Adamant About Propping Up The 'Ark Park'
I've lived in the Washington, D.C., suburbs since 1986, so when it comes to museums, I am spoiled. Just a short subway ride away......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
White Hot Controversy for a White Nationalist GOP Candidate
The controversy over Michael Peroutka's theocratic, white nationalist candidacy for county council, in Anne Arundel County, Maryland -- has gotten white hot after he......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Not Just Whistling 'Dixie': Peroutka Stands Up for Southern Secession - UPDATED x2!
Cross-posted from The Huffington Post. Michael Peroutka, the Republican candidate for Anne Arundel County Council, stood up for secession and the white nationalist League......
By jhutson (1 comment)

Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (3 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)
A Wiccan Witch In Salem
Since it's only two weeks from Halloween, I made my usual foray into Christian Right Country to find out what their plans are for this Halloween. I don't know where to be sad or......
irishwitch (0 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.