God and presidential politics

Last month, Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio was delivering a speech in Iowa when a young atheist asked him why he spent so much time talking about religion. The atheist then suggested that Rubio seemed to be running for “Pastor in Chief”. Rather than respond by saying he would be the President of ALL people, Rubio instead launched into an aggressive defense of his Christian faith, and turned the atheist’s question into a rally cry for his campaign, and a central theme for his latest fund raising email scheme. In the email I received last week, Rubio said he needed to spread the word about “the role of faith in the public square.” He concludes by asking me to write a check to his campaign in the amount of $5,400 – the maximum allowable individual contribution if combining a donation for both the primary and general elections.

I suppose this type of electronic tithing has replaced the more traditional passing of the plate. In any event, Rubio’s message is clear: Christians need to give him money now so he can spread the word of God, and drown out the heathen atheist voices which might derail his aspirations to be King, uh, I mean, President.

Clearly, Rubio knows how to pander to the electorate, but he’s not the only one. Every Republican candidate invokes God’s name at least once in every televised debate, and often thereafter whenever and wherever it suits their political purpose. Even Donald Trump, a mogul with a God complex, knows how important it is to woo Christian voters and others who worship a deity. That’s why he traveled to Liberty University recently in order to garner an endorsement from Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. The hypocritical Trump spoke to a large gathering of students where he demonstrated his total lack of familiarity with the Bible when he referred to Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians”. Nevertheless, he still won Falwell’s blessing and endorsement. Go figure.

Let’s face it, politicians love to talk about God because that’s what voters expect. It’s no accident that Ted Cruz proclaimed, “I’m a Christian first, an American second, a conservative third, and a Republican fourth.” God help any candidate who forgets to invoke God’s name, or fails to chastise non-believers. That’s why Christian candidates like Rubio and Cruz have such little tolerance for atheists, and find it easy to incite a crowd by uttering the “A” word. Still, something about Presidential candidates using atheists as a punching bag and God as a fundraiser, rings a bit hollow and hypocritical.

According to the 2010 Census, nearly half of all Americans say they are church members. However, a 2013 Gallup poll reports that only 37% of us attend church regularly. Author Mark Chaves says that figure is actually much lower- around 20%, and he attributes the discrepancy to what he calls the “Halo Effect.”

The “Halo Effect” occurs when people give false data to a pollster so that they appear to be more religious than they really are.

So there you have it. We Christians expect our politicians to be Christian, say Christian things, and invoke God’s name at least once in every televised debate. Yet only about 20% of us even bother to show up for church services on a regular basis, and those of us who do, don’t seem to mind voting for candidates who vote against Christian-like legislation that would help the less fortunate among us. Translation? We want our politicians to talk the talk, but aren’t really concerned with whether they walk the walk. It’s a disconnect that is perhaps a product of our own hypocrisy when it comes to religion, and it’s a frightening disconnect at that. It also allows us to turn a blind eye to candidates who trample over the Constitution whenever invoking God’s name will get them elected. Senator Rubio says, “We are called in the Bible to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with our requirements to adhere to God’s rules, so when those two come into conflict, God’s rules always win.” I agree, and that’s why I’m not sending a donation to Rubio. God wouldn’t want me to do business with a moneychanger. !

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).