A group of conservative evangelical leaders met in Texas last weekend and endorsed a Roman Catholic for president. Given the history of evangelical antipathy toward the theological underpinnings of the Roman Catholic Church, that in itself signals a remarkable evolution (pardon the word), along with a considerable amount of political pragmatism.
The blessing of what was once called the "Religious Right" fell on the once-married Rick Santorum and not the thrice married and more recent convert to Catholicism, Newt Gingrich.The endorsement came on the same weekend when Tebow-mania was at its height, as were the ratings for CBS, which carried the Denver Broncos-New England Patriots football game. Tebow's Broncos were crushed by the superior and less openly religious Patriots.
Despite evidence that politics (and sports) cannot deliver America from its collective sins, evangelicals repeatedly search for an earthly savior. So desperate are they to find this deliverer that they have glommed onto the Catholic Santorum, a man whose religion many of them vilify and hold in utter contempt, in hopes of trumpeting their conservative values and faith-based initiatives in the coming election. In so doing, they make a mistake their Scriptures warn against.
The Kingdom of God functions best, said the One who ought to know, when it is invisible, or hidden. In his numerous parables, Jesus spoke of it being like a treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44), or as tiny as a mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32). As for prayer, He said to do that privately, not in public "...like the hypocrites..." (Matthew 6:5-6)
Those who spend a lot of time arguing for the inerrancy of Scripture seem to gloss over these instructions when it comes to politics and football.
Why do many evangelicals feel the need to see their faith on public display? Are they that insecure about the One in whom they claim to believe? His Apostle, Paul, said, "We walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7) Was he kidding?
I'm sure Tim Tebow is as fine a man as everyone says he is; everyone except Bill Maher and other "apatheist" detractors. But the Jesus about whom Tebow frequently speaks and to whom he drops to one knee to publicly praise, said to go into your closet and pray in secret and then your prayers will be heard.
The point has been made by several commentators that God also loves players on the losing side of games (and elections), so why don't losers praise Him and we them? Just asking.
Something else evangelicals gloss over. Scripture says all authority comes from God and He puts people in power who serve His purposes, not ours. There are too many verses to cite here. Look it up.
For those who claim to believe the Bible is "the Word of God," it means God has a purpose for President Obama being in office. Evangelicals may not like it and many may not vote for him, but they can't credibly deny this truth. In the ultimate church-state moment, Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" Jesus responded that Pilate would not have that power had God not given it to him. (John 19:11) Case closed.
American Christianity is unique and the antithesis of what the faith looks like in much of the world. Elsewhere, Christians pay a high price for their faith. Some are denied their freedom, some are denied jobs and still others are denied their lives. Christian missionaries labor for low pay, receive little recognition and are often persecuted. Jesus said those who are greatest on Earth will be least in Heaven and vice versa. (Matthew 19:30)
Righteousness doesn't come from the top, but from the bottom. A nation that focuses on money and pleasure will get political leadership that reflects that idolatry. The list of great nations that have collapsed throughout history is a long one. Self-indulgence toppled most of them. Invading armies merely finished the process.
Instead of intensely focusing on football and the next election, perhaps evangelicals ought to pray more; in private, of course, and with the right motives.
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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