In a recent USA Today op-ed, Tom Krattenmaker argues that “playing the God card” has backfired on President George W. Bush. The president’s favorability has fallen through the floor, Krattenmaker argues. And surely God would never side with unpopular presidents. “The God’s-on-our-side rhetoric is looking even less credible now, after more than a year of frequently bad news for the president and his administration,” he writes.
As for the actual “God’s-on-our-side” rhetoric, Mr. Krattenmaker’s examples are pretty lame. He quotes an obscure alternate delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention and New York Governor George Pataki (no favorite of the religious Right, to be sure) as proof that the GOP considers itself “God’s Official Party.” He then chides the president himself for calling freedom “God’s gift to every man and woman in this world”; a florid idea every president since George Washington has expressed in one manner or another.
To be fair, Krattenmaker cites equally lame examples to show Democrats take the Lord’s name in vain, too. But nowhere in his piece does Krattenmaker make reference to the Left’s recent extraordinary claims to divine endorsement. Since their 2004 drubbing at the hands of roughly 30 million conservative Christians, Democrats have invoked the Lord’s name in such ways and with such frequency; it would make the Rev. Pat Robertson blush.
“God is a liberal,” declare Jim Carville and Paul Begala in their latest book Take It Back. “Jesus is not a Republican,” demands Clint Wallis, editor of, among other tomes, the very un-Christian sounding The I Hate Republicans Reader. “Jesus is a progressive.”
“When did Jesus become pro-rich?” asks liberal evangelical author and activist Jim Wallis. “Jesus cared for the poor/so do we,” reads a South Dakota Democratic Party bumper sticker. “The role of government is to protect its people and work for the common good. This is not the time for a budget reconciliation process. To do so is not only unjust, it’s a sin,” echoed the Leftist National Council of Churches USA.
Here’s how The Hill described a Nancy Pelosi floor speech on the budget process in 2005, “In the final Democratic speech before the vote, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said a vote in favor of the bill amounted to a ‘sin.’”
"Our moral values are closer to the American people than the Republicans' are," says DNC Chairman Howard Dean (who, by the way, denounced his faith in Vermont over a dispute about the placement of a municipal bike path.)
“I think they [Christian conservatives] get the Bible ass-backward, ignoring the most important teachings of Jesus, which place love and compassion above greed and intolerance,” argues Leftist pundit and author Bill Press in his book How the Republicans Stole Christmas.
Shoot, Jim Wallis’ bestselling book on the subject of faith in public life is ostentatiously titled God’s Politics.
But a strange thing happened on the political Left’s offensive to become the party of God: their image as a “religion friendly” party actually deteriorated in the year immediately following their electoral disaster.
According to Pew Research Center data from October 2004, just one month before Election Day, 40 percent of the American public saw the Democrat Party as “friendly toward religion.” That number tumbled to 29 percent by August 2005, almost a full year (and a lot of misquoted Bible passages) later.
Moreover, as Tony Carnes points out in a recent Christianity Today article, “While overall support for George W. Bush has plummeted, evangelicals remain surprisingly loyal.”
Democrats have some serious decisions to make about the future of their party and its message. The Democrat Party cannot long stand as one that demands separation of church and state in all -- even symbolic -- matters while at the same time claiming Biblical substantiation for liberal public policies. They cannot imply John Roberts’ queasiness about Roe v. Wade breaches the “impregnable wall,” as Sen. Dianne Feinstein did during Roberts’ confirmation hearings, while at the same time urge income redistribution because “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:25). They cannot call Republicans “theocrats” for trying to save Terri Schiavo while they also claim John the Baptist endorsed their welfare state when he said, “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none …” (Luke 3:11).
Just as Democrats are telling voters they are unserious about national security through their over-the-top rhetoric about Iraq, the Democrats’ “God card” gambit demonstrates to the American public that they are not serious about matters of faith in public life.