By John Pierce
There is much to not like about the campaign season when candidates seek to devour opponents within their own party before eventually embracing the bruised but surviving nominee as a much-more acceptable alternative to the highly-demonized option from the other side.
There is the onslaught of negative commercials, debates and interviews, and the expending of billions of dollars by untold and often unknown sources to make one candidate into a saint and all others sinners. There is juvenile name-calling and a general disregard for truth-telling since history shows that such negative behavior helps with poll positioning.
But the very worst part is how preachers and politicians engage in mutual exploitation to bring attention to themselves and their political causes. And God gets dragged into the mess as an unwilling endorser — proving once again that American Christianity is often more about the advancement of political ideology than spiritual experience.
It is useless to explain the dangers of civil religion (or simply explain civil religion) — or the warped theology at the root of such political wrangling baptized in the language of faith — to those who engage in or fall for these shenanigans. Preachers and politicians know the gullible masses that will cheer, believe, give and vote with assurance of doing God a great big favor.
One such carnival took place in Plano, Texas, Sunday, hosted by a Southern Baptist pastor who served as president of his denomination. The mega-church was adorned by a huge American flag spread across the wall of the massive house of worship.
That crying noise we heard was coming from Thomas Helwys, John Leland, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Williams, Isaac Backus, George W. Truett and James Dunn on the other side of eternity.
Some candidates — especially a former pastor and an evangelist’s son — are at home with the evangelical language of Zion. They can preach.
Other candidates scramble to assemble a good testimony of faith — or at least find and memorize a Bible verse (sans the hard teachings of Jesus) in case an interviewer asks for their favorite.
Fear-inducing claims — such as America “criminalizing Christianity” — get proclaimed in the Baptist sanctuary as well as on the campaign trail where “do unto me” seems to trump (pun?) “do under others.”
Every four years politicians seem to find God — on their side. Then seek to find high-profile preachers willing tell their throng of congregants and others that they note the favor of God on the candidate as well.
And, yes, it happens on both sides of the political spectrum.
It’s just getting started, folks, so let us brace ourselves. God is getting fitted once again for some red, white and blue suspenders and being dragged onto the political stage — where preachers and politicians are eager to claim divine favor for their personal pursuits of power.
And, God knows, a lot of poor sheep will follow.