Let’s take a little trip back in time. Remember the couple in identical clothes sitting in the front row of Jim Bakker’s PTL Club. (Sorry if you also have that memory). Remember Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy broadcasting messages with a little bit of gospel and a lot of politics. Remember the start of the evangelical/secular bumper sticker wars, the most memorable belonging to the secularists: “The Moral Majority is Neither.” The Moral Majority, of course, was the premiere driving force in the awakened political interest of evangelicals. Jerry Falwell was its face and a guy named Cal Thomas was its Vice President.
The Warrior-Evangelicals have been at battle ever since, but somewhere along the way they lost Cal Thomas. In a debate some twelve years ago Thomas explained why:
For the last 20 years, and during earlier periods such as Prohibition, many have tried to reform culture from the top down, believing that unrighteous behavior was a matter of poor leadership. When the church aligns itself with a political party or movement, it isn’t the state that’s corrupted, it’s the church.
What happened to the liberal National and World Councils of Churches–which now give sermons on environmentalism–is happening to the conservative churches. We are an appendage of the Republican Party.
…My great concern is what happens when the clergy descend from the pulpit. The clergy are ordained–the dictionary says that means “set apart”–to preach a different gospel from the gospel of cultural renewal.
But if this is his position, it’s fair to ask why we continue to see his editorials. Thomas explains:
My co-author and I are not calling for political pacifism. We can exercise our right to vote or not, and lobby. We must pray for those in authority, whether we like them or not. But something is out of balance. Too many of us give lip service to the gospel while spending most of our energies on politics.
Now fast-forward to last week when Cal Thomas was a speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference. It seems his old warrior instinct came to the surface and, in a sound byte reminiscent of Falwell’s “Ellen Degenerate” quip, Thomas berated Rachel Maddow:
“I think she’s the best argument in favor of her parents using contraception.” I then added, “and all the rest of the crowd at MSNBC, too, for that matter.”
Now, MSNBC is a pretty easy target and his comment received a fair number of cheers. Thomas could have dug in his heels or passed it off as humor, but, in a column this week, he offered no excuses:
The next morning I felt bad about it, so I called Maddow to apologize. It wasn’t one of those meaningless “if I’ve offended anyone …” apologies; it was heartfelt. I had embarrassed myself and was a bad example to those who read my column and expect better from me.
…I have many liberal friends acquired over the years. They are impossible to avoid in the media, but I don’t wish to avoid them. They became my friends because I stopped seeing them as labels and began seeing them as persons with innate worth.
We all say things better left unsaid. So did Cal Thomas. But it’s refreshing to see growth in someone who’s in the spotlight, and, when he does err, to see him deal with it the right way.