Much of this fixation on audible faith has to do with evangelicals having been ignored by culture following the embarrassment associated with the Scopes Trial 82 years ago. Emerging from their political catacombs in the late 1970s, these Christians basked, if not in new respect, then in the intoxication that comes with public attention. They were told they were now players in the kingdom of this world and in presidential politics. Their leaders were invited into the corridors of political power. They exchanged real power and its ability to transform lives for temporal power, which changes little of lasting importance.
While requiring politicians to express belief in Jesus and the Bible, many evangelical voters ignore Christ's statements about the source of genuine power. They also conveniently forget what Christ said about how they would be regarded and treated by a world that had rejected Him (and still does as the best-selling atheistic works of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins attest). It was Jesus, in whom Mitt Romney said he believed, who warned, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first" (John 15:18) and "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20). Those warnings are not the creed of contemporary evangelicals who think persecution is a negative newspaper editorial or a disparaging remark by a skeptic on a cable TV show. Too many contemporary evangelicals want the blessing without obeying their real commander in chief, who said doing things His way would bring real persecution.
This election should be more about competence and less about ideology, or even faith. It shouldn't matter where - or if - a candidate goes to church, but whether he (or she) can run the country well, according to the principles in which the voter believes. And, if those principles include a person of faith, so much the better. God can be the ultimate check and balance on earthly power.
If a car hits me, I care more about whether the ambulance driver knows the way to the nearest hospital and the skills of the emergency room doctor than where they stand with God. That's the attitude we should have toward those who desire to be president of the United States in a fallen world.
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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