“I can’t vote for a Democrat,” a man once told me. “I’m a Christian.” He spoke these two labels as if they were a set of antonyms. He could not grasp my attempts to explain that one label referred to a religion while the other referred to a political party. Some preacher had told him that all Christians are Republicans, and he had accepted this factoid without thinking.

I tried another approach. “Do you know how the Democratic Party meetings are opened?” I asked.

He raised one eyebrow warily, as if he expected to hear that we sacrificed infants or pledged our souls to the devil.

“We open with prayer,” I told him. “Then we say the Pledge of Allegiance.”

He stood there for a moment, dazed. “Including the ‘under God’ part?”

“That part, too,” I answered, and watched as he walked away, wheels turning in his head.

The Republican Party claims to be God’s party, even while they oppress the fatherless, the foreigner and the poor–the very people God warned us not to oppress. (Zech 7:10.)

As for the current crop of Republicans, there is hardly a moral conservative among them. It seems another GOP member comes out of the closet (or the airport restroom stall) every week. These days we’re just happy if we can keep them off the under-age congressional pages.

A bizarre conversion is sweeping the Republican Party, though. Mitt Romney, who pandered to the gay and lesbian community in 1994, has become their biggest opponent. Rudy Giuliani, who worked to increase gun control as mayor of New York City, has suddenly become a believer in the Second Amendment and a fan of the NRA.

Meanwhile, Episcopalian candidate John McCain has suddenly realized that he is a Baptist—and has been for many years even as his campaign materials called him an Episcopalian.

If Baptist is what the voters want, then McCain will retroactively become a Baptist. It’s hard to say whether that will help him, as there have been more Episcopalians than Baptists in the White House. In fact, Baptist presidents have typically been judged harshly by those affiliated with the Baptist church.

The first Baptist president was Warren G. Harding. Harding, a Republican, is often listed among a handful of “worst presidents” in terms of lackluster leadership and widespread corruption. The other three Baptist presidents were all Democrats: Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Let’s talk about Jimmy Carter. As president, Carter orchestrated peace between Egypt and Israel, and talked the Soviet Union through the SALT II treaty to reduce nuclear arms. He advanced equal opportunity for women and minorities.

He created the Department of Education and the Department of Energy to make sure that every American had access to quality education and reliable electricity–things we now take for granted. Carter introduced the concept of environmental protection legislation.

After leaving office, Carter participated in numerous projects and foundations to help people all around the world. Habitat for Humanity is probably the most widely known. In 2002, Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize for his continued diplomatic work around the world. Yet most Baptists hate him.

Carter always showed himself to be a statesman, a faithful husband and a strong Christian. He was never caught using lewd words when he did not realize the microphone was on. Carter has published numerous devotional books.

Since age 18, he has taught Sunday school at a Baptist church. Even while in Washington, he taught a Sunday school class there. Do you think our current president even attends church on Sunday? Hint: No.

It’s not that Bush’s pew is empty. He doesn’t have one. The man who claims God speaks to him directly, has no church at all. And don’t tell me the free leader of the world can’t find time to go to church. If he can find time to spend a third of his presidency on vacation, he can find time to go to the House of God.

Reagan did not bother with church either, even though he was often called the nation’s “pastor.” Reagan’s excuse for being unchurched was that the security detail required to protect him would be a burden, causing parishioners to leave. The Clintons, who were active members of Foundry United Methodist Church during Bill Clinton’s term in the White House, had no problem attending.

According to his biographers, Carter may be the most personally devout president America ever had. Yet Baptist leaders inexplicably loathe Carter. Many preachers have called him godless, denying that he was ever a Christian.

Meanwhile, these same people support President Bush as God’s man of the hour, even though he has rarely darkens the door of a church, supports killing and torture rather than working for peace, has demonstrated no knowledge of Scripture, and would have trouble coming up with a bedtime prayer without help from Karl Rove.

The fact is, Baptist leaders don’t support Baptists. Baptist leaders support Republicans. You will even see them support a Mormon, if Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination. Mitt Romney has already spoken at Pat Robertson’s Regent University’s commencement–even though Robertson’s Web site lists Mormons as a cult for denying salvation through faith in Christ. Maybe faith in Christ is less important to Robertson than imagining himself a kingmaker.

Republicans often charge that Democrats are immoral. They forget that the moral values held by most Americans include compassion, honesty, integrity and respect for all people. Let’s consider how our current president stacks up on these values.

Compassion: Bush cut Head Start and school lunch programs, and has now promised to cut health care to millions of children all over the country.

Honesty: Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq and repeatedly insinuated that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks.

Integrity: Bush sought to prevent both the independent investigation and the congressional investigation of the 9/11 attacks.

Respect for all people: Would that include the thousands of American soldiers and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children slaughtered in a war founded on lies?

My Christian faith does not allow me to vote for more lies, war, sickness and poverty.

Jeannie Babb Taylor is a wife, a mother, entrepreneur and writer in Ringgold, Ga. This column appeared previously in newspapers and her blog, “On the Other Hand.”

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