In an article appearing on Mediatransparency.org, published on August 8, Bill Berkowitz reports that, “Despite their differences, social conservatives appear ready to give two thumbs up to…former Tennessee Senator” Fred Thompson’s candidacy – when and if he announces. Berkowitz cites Gary Bauer, head of American Values, a social conservative public policy organization, and Tony Perkins, director of the Family Research Council in Washington, DC, as more than likely embracing Thompson’s anticipated candidacy. The article also quotes the enthusiastic assessment of Richard Land, who heads up public policy for the Southern Baptists, toward a possible Thompson candidacy. “It’s almost as if the man and the moment have met,” Land is quoted as saying about Thompson and his place in history. Land also succumbs to hyperbole in saying that support for Thompson is spreading “almost like a prairie fire” and has predicted that some conservative leaders would endorse Thompson’s candidacy in coming weeks.
This news of the impending muscle-flexing by conservative Christian leaders for Thompson has not been met with universal excitement from all conservatives. A comment posted on the conservative forum WideAwakes.com bemoans the efforts of certain Christian leaders to play the role of kingmaker, stating that American churches haven’t been “doing their job and have, in a way, tried to put the responsibility onto the government to revive morals in the nation, using government for social engineering.”
I’ll go even further, and analyze it from a theological perspective. As G.K. Chesterton once said, “Once abolish the God, and government becomes the God.” Our society has become increasingly secular, and increasingly atheistic (if not in conviction, at least in practice). This secular humanism has its most comfortable home in such leftist ideologies as socialism and Marxism (or socialism-lite…the American Democrat Party).
Many on the left, as they jettisoned the God of the Bible, didn’t jettison God, per se, but adopted a new god — the state — with politics as their religion, and politicians as the priesthood. In this analysis, Ann Coulter was correct in her book Godless. But what Ann failed to recognize is that many on the right have also “deified” the state, and have opted for politics as a more powerful religion. And, both sadly and ironically, most of those on the right who have followed the contemporary culture in its adoption of a political religion belong to the “Christian right.” They look to government to do what only God can do: change hearts and change lives. They’ve given up on the power of prayer and the power of the Spirit and have opted for the power of the state and the influence of politics to accomplish what Christian religion in this country hasn’t accomplished — a reformation and revival of morals.
So, the Richard Lands and Tony Perkinses of our society are guilty of idol worship in a sense — paying homage to the new god of this age, the god of secular humanistic liberalism, namely, the state, and politics through which the power of the state is wielded. And like every worldly Christian down through the 2000 year history of the church, they are blind to their mistake.
These folks have outlasted their positive usefulness. Jerry Falwell was on to something when he formed the Moral Majority in the late ’70s. His goal was to get pietistic Christians to start considering that they have a responsibility to apply their faith and convictions to the political realm. And millions of Christians who had avoided politics and political involvement began to do that. They were instrumental in helping elect Reagan president in 1980.
But those who came after Falwell and tried to build upon what he had started never took this Christian interest and involvement in politics to the next level…helping people to think for themselves, and apply their faith in an intelligent way to their responsibilities as citizens. Instead, organizations such as Land’s, and Perkins’s Family Research Council, created a dependency of sorts, establishing themselves as the “spokesmen” for conservative Christians, and seeking to attract followers of their organizations, not enabling Christians to think critically for themselves as they integrated their faith with their political actions. So, they’ve largely created a constituency of “sheep,” and now they “speak” for conservative Christians. Put more bluntly, they’ve created slaves who look to them and their organizations to tell them what and how to think, and they’ve adopted the idol worship of politics and the power of the state as means to achieve what they view as a positive Christian agenda.
Here’s hoping that 2008 will be an election where the Republican Party is freed from a slavish devotion to self-appointed Christian opinion leaders. People of faith should certainly think for themselves and apply their convictions to their political actions, but I do not believe that Christians should delegate their thinking to self-appointed leaders like Richard Land and Tony Perkins. Just as politics should be freed from the influence of statist religionists on the right, American Christianity needs to be freed from a worship of politics and the state.