My God Can Beat Your God
by Cal Thomas
Los Angeles Times Syndicate

August 11, 2000

The Gore campaign is keeping an early promise -- one an aide made that the Democrats were not about to allow the Republicans to steal "the God vote" in the upcoming presidential election. Last Tuesday in Nashville, God's name was invoked 13 times, by Vice President Al Gore once and by his running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, 12 times. Some of the same commentators who were aghast when Gov. George W. Bush, in response to a question during the primary debate about his most influential political philosopher, said Jesus Christ were strangely silent about, or at least unruffled by, Lieberman's invocation of Jehovah.

The reason has nothing to do with God, but everything to do with politics. Liberals, including those at the major networks, approve of the policies of Gore-Lieberman, and for all they care the two can worship trees. If it takes a favorable mention of God to advance the Democratic agenda, that's fine with them. But when a Republican speaks well of the King who said His kingdom is not of this world, that's another story.

The Washington Post, which rarely overreacts when religious liberals baptize political discourse and politicians, suddenly has become concerned that God is getting too much attention. In a Wednesday editorial, the paper warned against "a bidding war on religion in which the question becomes which side is more devout."

All politicians like to think or claim that God is more favorably disposed to their policies than those of their opponent. Abraham Lincoln may have had the best idea when he reportedly said that he wasn't so much concerned if God was on his side during the Civil War as he was concerned that he was on God's side.

Democrats have only recently plunged into the religion quagmire. In both 1992 and 1996, Bill Clinton and Al Gore sometimes misquoted the Bible, but few journalists called them on it, preferring to critique Dan Quayle's spelling skills and Pat Buchanan's "mean-spirited culture war." President Clinton once told a group of black pastors in Maryland it was "the will of God" that his crime bill be passed by Congress. He didn't say if God would be amenable to any amendments.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has often invoked religiosity to make political points. In trying to get more government money for the homeless, Jackson has claimed that the Virgin Mary and Joseph were without a place to live, which isn't true. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Jackson engaged in spiritual damage control about President Clinton's extramarital wanderings. Jackson said, in a delightful mix of metaphors, that adultery is "only one string on the guitar; there are nine other Commandments."

Republicans are guilty of the same use and abuse of God. Commenting on the Democrats' 1992 platform, President George Bush said they "left out three simple letters, G-o-d." And President Bush once cited his "favorite Bible verse" to a group of religious broadcasters, "John 16:3." He meant John 3:16, but it was clear to some who heard him that he was attempting to gain favor with his evangelical Christian audience. One of Bush's more famous trespasses on religion came when he reminisced in an interview about being shot down in World War II: "I thought about mother and dad and the strength I got from them -- and God and faith ..." Then he quickly added, lest an ACLU lawyer be offended, "and the separation of church and state."

If candidates speak of God and Jesus changing or directing their lives, that is one thing. But they should avoid enlisting the Creator in the campaign. Those who fall into such temptation bring God down to human level and align Him with temporal things that are passing away. Better to allow God to instruct us directly, not through politicians who might properly be suspected of having an agenda. Didn't God warn us that "my ways are not your ways"? And even less do His ways resemble those of earthly princes and kings.

Graphic Rule

[Copyright ©2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate; posted for discussion purposes; all rights reserved.]