President Bush’s re-election is a sign of God’s blessing on the United States, says a Southern Baptist leader quoted on a religious news Web site.
Whoever had won the race between Bush and Sen. John Kerry, it would have been God’s will, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, reportedly told BeliefNet. But had it been Kerry, it would have shown that God was judging the U.S.
“The Bible says godly leadership is a sign of God’s blessings and a lack of godly leadership is a sign of God’s judgment,” Land said. “I don’t see Kerry as a godly leader.”
Land is scheduled to take part in a Webcast panel discussion Tuesday night on the role of religion in contemporary politics. The discussion, titled “God is not a Republican… Or a Democrat,” is to be moderated by Sojourners editor Jim Wallis and features other panel members from the Roman Catholic and Reformed Church in America as well as the progressive interdenominational Riverside Church in New York City.
According to media reports, Land participated often in weekly strategy calls with the White House during the campaign. He is among leaders of the religious right credited with helping to turn out conservative evangelicals who overwhelmingly voted for Bush. It is a bloc that many observers say the president couldn’t have won without.
Along with James Dobson, Jay Sekulow, Charles Colson and others, Land helped register and educate voters through technically non-partisan voter guides, which critics viewed as thinly veiled endorsements of the Republican Party.
One columnist described the effort as a “shadow campaign,” which was underway nearly a year before the official Bush-Cheney re-election campaign kicked into high gear.
Now, Land is among religious conservatives turning attention toward possible future Supreme Court appointments by opposing Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Specter angered religious right leaders when he made but later backed away from a comment that he opposed the nomination of judges with an agenda of overturning Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing a woman’s right to choose an abortion.
“I don’t see how social conservatives can ever trust a man who led the charge to block Robert Bork from being a Supreme Court justice,” Land said last week on an ERLC Web site. “Arlen Specter has not been a reliable friend of those who want conservative, strict constructionist judges on the federal judiciary.”
“People of traditional religious faith didn’t go to the polls and vote overwhelmingly for President Bush only to have his nominees stymied or given only lukewarm support by the chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee,” Land said.
Land isn’t the first Southern Baptist leader to see a divine hand in President Bush’s political career. Last fall the Dallas Morning News reported former SBC president James Merritt’s account of a private meeting with Bush and a small group of religious leaders shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“I said, ‘Mr. President, you and I are fellow believers in Jesus Christ,'” Merritt said. Bush nodded. “I said, ‘We both believe there is a sovereign God in control of this universe.’ And he nodded his head again.”
“Since God knew that those planes would hit those towers before you and I were ever born, since God knew that you would be sitting in that chair before this world was even created, I can only draw the conclusion that you are God’s man for this hour,” Merritt continued.
Merritt said Bush lowered his head and there were tears in his eyes.
Land also gained attention for saying on a TV documentary that he was present just after Bush’s second inauguration as governor of Texas and he heard Bush say, “I believe that God wants me to be president.”
According to BeliefNet, Land points to the Old Testament to defend his contention that God intervenes in politics.
“When God’s people were idolatrous and rebellious he sent justice–sometimes evil kings and sometimes foreign conquerors,” Land said. “I’ve said on numerous occasions that if God would allow his chosen people to be taken off into captivity, don’t think he won’t judge the United States.”
Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, accused Land of being part of a “right-wing cabal that is methodically pushing our nation toward theocracy.”
On his Weblog, Prescott criticized Southern Baptist leaders for using money intended for missions to fund a secular political machine.
“There was a day when Baptist preachers and lay people would have been alarmed by and indignant about this egregious violation of the Baptist principle of separation of church and state,” Prescott said. “Today Southern Baptists are so cowed by and subservient to their denominational overlords that it will hardly raise an eyebrow.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.