As the political season in Iowa nears its final days, it’s time to start answering the phone without fear of yet another automated candidate call. It’s time to change the conversation from politics to college basketball and the next snowstorm. It’s also time to review the politico-evangelical Presidential selection process.
The quest for politico-evangelicals, of course, was to do the correct Christian thing. Christians have a worldview guided by the scriptures that speak to all of life, or at least that was the idea when the caucus season started. For most – or at least the most vocal – the goal was to choose a candidate with a Christian worldview who would not compromise his or her principles in office. (Yes, you read that correctly; they wanted a politician who would not compromise principles.)
Michele Bachmann courted pastors early and often and sometimes chose Sunday mornings to give her “testimony” in their churches. She got off to a strong start by winning the Ames straw poll and, for a while, it seemed that politico-evangelicals would unite around her. But the straw poll would be her high point. Perhaps her strong suit of being personable would be her undoing, as she may have seemed more than nice but less than Presidential.
Rick Santorum, notwithstanding his Roman Catholic affiliation, waged a very evangelical campaign and fought for many of the same people who had Bachmann sympathies. Like Bachmann, he frequently pushed politico-evangelical hot buttons in the areas of abortion and marriage. He got the approval of The Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats, though not of The Family Leader itself. He was endorsed by Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Centre. As I write this, it appears that he’ll get the majority of the Bachmann/Santorum politico-evangelicals.
The ideological fissure in the politico-evangelical block begins with Ron Paul, whose political architecture clearly clashes with that of Bachmann/Santorum. His supporters laud the constitutional basis of his thinking, his scale-back in foreign wars and his dedication to liberty. At times he explicitly speaks of separating faith from politics and morals from the law. That kind of talk led a World Magazine writer, using a worldview analysis, to make the case that a Christian shouldn’t vote for Paul. Bachmann/Santorum evangelicals find that kind of separation unthinkable, and, frankly, unchristian.
Then there was another fissure when politico-evangelical radio talk show host Steve Deace, who has based his entire on-air political persona on a take-no-prisoners make-no-compromises platform, gave his endorsement to none other than Newt Gingrich, known by some politico-evangelicals as The Great Compromiser, and who brings some past moral baggage on board. Deace based his decision on Gingrich’s apparent willingness to challenge the judiciary and his ability to lead. If you’re interested enough to have read this far, then you really have to go see the rebukes and shrieks of indignation Deace got over that endorsement.
After the election there will likely be groaning about how the evangelical vote broke up. But mourn not; it’s not always a bad thing to break up. Think of it as an opportunity. Think of it as an opportunity to see that there is no one way for a Christian to vote. Think of it as an opportunity to realize that looking at candidates from an alleged biblical worldview does not inexorably lead to one candidate or another. Maybe selecting political leaders isn’t the same as selecting church leaders. And for those who, like Michele Bachmann, want more political speech in the church maybe it’s a good demonstration of how folks get politically divided and a reminder that we shouldn’t bring that division into the church. Because breaking up a church over politics would be a bad thing.