Saturday, November 13, 2004


Ringing True

Kathleen Parker on using religion in politics:

People who are deeply religious fashion their lives, not just their messages, in certain ways, according to deeply held convictions. Religion isn't a political strategy; it's a belief system that guides one's lifestyle.

As this discussion evolves, I keep associating to that memorable scene from "When Harry Met Sally" when Meg Ryan, sitting in a deli, convincingly fakes That Very Special Moment to prove that women can and do fake their lovemaking satisfaction. Co-star Billy Crystal is duly impressed, as is an older woman sitting nearby, who tells her waitress: "I'll have what she's having."

The Democrats apparently have decided they'll have what Bush has been having. I half expect to see aspiring Democratic presidential candidates showing up at Promise Keepers conventions, high-fiving for Jesus, and photo-oping with little Baptist blue-hairs on their way to Wednesday-night prayer meeting.

Of all the things one can pretend in order to win a voter's confidence, religious devotion seems the least likely. Moreover, until the Democratic Party's policy positions reflect beliefs consistent with the values held by American's religious moderates and traditionalists, their newly fashioned messages are going to sound like what they are. Faked.

You can't just suddenly start carrying around a Bible and expect to convince people you're a believer. It is also dangerous to invoke the Bible if you're not that familiar with it, as Howard Dean proved when he expressed his admiration for the book of Job, which he erroneously placed in the New Testament.

If you like Job, you know where it is.

Being religious clearly doesn't hurt a political candidate, but keeping it real is critical. As Barack Obama, the newly elected U.S. senator from Illinois, said in the current issue of Time magazine, Americans hunger for authenticity. Kerry's defeat had as much to do with his perceived lack of authenticity as with the "God Gulf." He simply never rang true.

Consistancy of belief. Christians as a group in this country believe that abortion is murder, the family is instituted by God as the relationship between a man and a woman, and that liberty does not equal self-indulgence. If you have to believe in gay marriage as fair and abortion is an unshakable right, then you are going to have trouble convincing them of the worthiness or the honesty of your viewpoint. This is one of the reasons that active Catholics voted more for Bush than Kerry. Every time he took communion he lost Catholic votes. Every time he took communion in a non-Catholic church (another Catholic no-no) he lost Catholic votes. A lot pf people read it as "a man who would diss some of the most sacred things of his own faith was someone who had a center that was not faithful, and therefore untrustworthy."

If you can step away from all the political hate talk, and actually look at what Bush does, you will see a nice guy who tries to live the tenets of his faith seriously. Practicing serious Christians know one of our own.

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