It was a bad deal from the beginning but it was so tempting. Back in the 1970s Evangelical Christians, put off by many policies enacted by both Democrats and Republicans and led by men like Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson, James Robison and Francis Schaefer began a political-religious movement to take back the country. They were joined by others such as James Dobson, Gary Bauer and Ralph Reed and espoused many of the beliefs of the theocracy minded Christian Reconstruction movement.
They emphasized certain “Biblical values” of being anti-abortion and anti-gay but ignored many more Christian values because they were part of the “social Gospel.” Likewise as the movement grew it began to absorb and bless the abject greed and inhumanity of economic Social Darwinism embodied in the writings of the Objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand and her economic disciple Alan Greenspan. Additionally they embraced a quasi-Pagan un-Biblical and anti-Christian view of the United States as a nation ordained by God to rule the world that is little different from the warmongering tyrants in Germany that were so instrumental in causing the devastation of both World Wars, the rise of Fascism, Stalinism and Naziism.
Conservative political figures beginning with Ronald Reagan recognized the value of this new voting bloc and within a few years the “religious right” was an integral part of conservative politics. Beholden to the new promises of Republican politicians each electoral cycle to reverse Roe v. Wade, appoint Godly or pro-Christian judges and “make America great again” Christians went to the polls, organized and became more a part of the Republican machine. By the early 2000s they finally thought that they had made the big time by helping secure the electoral victories of George W Bush.
Now the problem was that every time a new Republican President was elected, or a Republican majority in Congress put in place little or nothing ever happened to advance the causes that Christians voted for Republican politicians to enact. Instead there were wonderful words of support and promises, but nothing changed. Abortion remained legal, gays got more rights and Christians became more frustrated and lined up time and time again to vote in the same men that promised everything and delivered nothing.
Finally after the election of Barak Obama as President the anger and frustration boiled over. In 2010 Evangelicals helped elect a solidly Republican House of Representatives and hoped that that momentum would carry over into the 2012 Presidential election. Evangelical preachers and pundits joined by the Roman Catholic Bishops threw away any pretense of independence. Christian leaders became the most vocal and vicious critics of the President often espousing some of the most outlandish and paranoid conspiracy theories to make thier point. In the Spring of 2012 when they could not get an Evangelical or Catholic nominated for the Republican race they raced to support a man that just weeks before many had been calling a non-Christian religious cultist who they distrusted because of his multiple positions on every issue including abortion rights and gay rights.
Led on by Karl Rove, the Bush strategist who used them to help secure the Bush Presidency while mocking them behind their backs along with other senior Republican strategists in the administration they doubled down in their support for the Republican nominee and candidates at every level. Candidates who marketed themselves as Evangelicals and Catholics became the most extreme and absurd acts in the political circus and prevented Republicans from winning back the Senate and lose seats in the House.
As the race reached its crescendo the stridency of Evangelical and Catholic church and media leaders sacrificed all credibility with Franklin Graham threw his father the venerable Billy Graham under the bus in endorsing Mitt Romney. When they did so they franticly scrubbed references to Mormonism as a cult from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website as fast as they could and then made major ad buys in swing state newspapers. Catholic Bishops like Bishop Jenky insinuated that voting for Obama and Democrats could endanger the mortal souls of believers. Not to be outdone, former Governor of Arkansas, GOP political pundit and seminary dropout Mike Huckabee made similar comments in the week before the election. Leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation like Rick Joyner were actually quoting Mormon prophecies in order get Christians to vote for Romney as the savior of the country.
In the end the election came and went. President Obama was re-elected by a bigger margin than George Bush defeated John Kerry or Al Gore. The Democrats gained seats in the Senate including seats in Indiana and Missouri that were theirs for the taking due to the abject stupidity of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, solidifying their advantage in that chamber. The Democrats appear to have gained seats in the House. In some state elections Gay marriage laws were enacted or upheld, attempts to defund certain abortion providers met defeat.
And what did Evangelicals get? Let’s see…. Evangelicals and Catholics have now gotten Christians labeled as hypocritical, insincere, anti-gay, sheltered and too political. Christians are now being viewed as the guardians of wealth and privilege just as State churches that dominated Europe that our Christian ancestors fled from were viewed.
This was much more than a tactical and possibly strategic defeat for the Republican Party. More importantly it was a generational loss for Christians and the Church. The country will survive, but the political dominance and privilege enjoyed by the institutional churches will rapidly fade and this is due to demographics and the reality that people don’t believe us anymore. They still pretty much like Jesus, but they don’t like his followers. Somehow I think that Mark Twain might have been right when he said “If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be — a Christian.”
Maybe with some real reflection and pondering and obeying of the commands of the Gospel, not just the ones that we like or help us politically that we will regain some sense of honor and allow people to actually hear that message again. That message at the heart of the Gospel, that God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son, and in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself counting men’s sins not against them….
Many Evangelicals and Catholics led by power hungry leaders more interested in political and economic power willingly sold their birthright and didn’t even get a bowl of soup in return. It is time to question the motives of those leaders and rethink the disastrous political alliances made by them for the past 35 years.
The 2012 election was to paraphrase the late Francis Schaefer the Great Evangelical Disaster.