Democrats have been trying hard in recent years to squeeze God into their politics, perceiving that Republicans have an edge on invoking the Creator to bless their policies. Democrats worry they suffer from a "God gap."
Bill Clinton and Al Gore, with their Southern Baptist backgrounds, were fluent in the language of religion, though not always in its personal application. Who can forget Easter Sunday 1996, when President Clinton emerged from church flashing a Bible for the cameras and later returning to the White House, where Monica Lewinsky got down on her knees to perform an act that did not resemble prayer?
Clinton and Gore often quoted what they said were verses of Scripture, which turned out to be incorrect and/or misapplied. And now Howard Dean will rush in where political angels have feared to tread and try to advance the theological ball down the field to see if he can score votes for his candidacy.
In an interview with the Boston Globe (Dec. 25), Dean announced that he is a "committed believer in Jesus Christ." He told writer Sarah Schweitzer that he plans to include references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he campaigns down South. That's the land of Confederate battle flags and pickup trucks Dean so recently disparaged. In the Globe interview, he said Southerners understand religious talk better than his fellow New Englanders. Yes, that "vast Unitarian wasteland of the Northeast," as Charles Colson has jokingly called it, is the latest target of Dean's regional stereotyping.
Dean is from a Congregationalist background, a liberal denomination that does not believe in ministerial authority or church hierarchy. Each Congregationalist believes he is in direct contact with God and is entitled to sort out truth for himself. Dean's wife is Jewish and his two children are being raised Jewish, which is strange at best, considering the two faiths take a distinctly different view of Jesus.
What exactly does Dean believe about Jesus, and how is it relevant to his presidential candidacy? "Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised," he told the Globe, "people who were left behind." Dean makes it sound as if He might have been a Democrat. "He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything," the candidate continued. "He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2,000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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