Desperate to get back in power after their banishment from leadership in the garden of Washington, Democrats appear ready to play the religion card. At a recent private meeting of 15 Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, author and evangelical activist Jim Wallis told them their problem stems from the perception that the Democrat Party is comprised of "secular fundamentalists."
Wallis, editor of the liberal Christian magazine "Sojourners" and author of such books as "Who Speaks for God?" and "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It," is not a bomb-thrower, but a serious Christian whose faith tells him government can play a bigger role in resolving social issues, such as poverty.
Wallis thinks Democrats should do more to align themselves with biblical passages about the poor, the environment and other issues to which the party regularly speaks, but mostly from a secular perspective.
There is danger here, for the Democrats and for the church. Democrats run the risk of appearing insincere and simply using religion to dupe enough voters concerned about moral and social decline to vote for them. Once back in power, Democrats will have as much effect on moral and social conditions as Republicans have, which is not much at all.
On public policy matters, Democrats and Republicans are divided in ways that religion will not bridge. Democrats mostly believe government should be a primary caregiver. That trillions in social spending has not alleviated poverty has not dulled their "faith" that it can.
Republicans think people should begin with themselves, making decisions and choices that are objectively right and beneficial to the one who makes them and to the wider culture. They think government should be a last resort, not a first resource.
Politics deals with the outside, but the Bible that Republicans have successfully used and Democrats now want to quote, deals with the inside. Government cannot go there with enough power to change lives. It is when Republicans and Democrats pretend that it can in order to win votes for their "kingdom of this world" agendas that both go wrong and dilute, even oppose, the message they claim to uphold.
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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