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FIRST-PERSON: Faith in the political realm must be authentic

LEESBURG, Va. (BP)–In the aftermath of the drubbing Democrats suffered at the hands of values voters, party operatives are experiencing a new revelation.

According to Democratic strategist James Carville, the party must be “born again” if it is to reclaim hegemony in the 21st century. Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi insists that Democrats must become comfortable talking about religion, and even Hillary Clinton has taken to describing herself as an evangelical Christian.

What these Democratic opportunists do not understand is that faith is not simply a credential one acquires that grants admission to a club that is increasingly becoming attractive to political aspirants. Authentic religious faith is the means through which mere mortals enter into a relationship with their Creator. It is not something that can be conjured up or easily counterfeited. It is the “gift” of God according to the Scriptures, not a political construct ginned up in smoke-filled rooms.

Although religious faith once played a central role in the founding of our country and the formation of the republic, in the last 40 years or so, the so-called cultural elites have sought to exorcise it from the public square. Government, media and academia formed a powerful troika in an attempt to eradicate the influence of religion in the shaping of law and public policy. Religious faith was deemed the enemy on an increasingly secular and left-wing agenda.

Faith’s proponents were increasingly marginalized and faith itself was relativized. Protecting the free exercise of religion meant simply ensuring that one was free to worship on Sunday in the church of their choice or not at all. The notion, however, that religion would have an impact that extended beyond the walls of the sanctuary was perceived as dangerous and anti-democratic.

Unfortunately, in such a climate, pastors and parishioners alike increasingly began to subscribe to the myth of radical separation fostered by the skewed view emanating from the left. Secularism became the order of the day. A new paradigm had emerged and the Democratic Party was viewed as the chief exponent of this philosophy in the political arena. Its dominant interest groups -– feminists, homosexuals and pro-abortionists -– railed against any who dared to advance public policy informed by religious values.

Over the course of time, however, the public became increasingly uncomfortable with the consequences of the secularist ideas advanced from the left -– 43 million abortions, homosexual “marriage,” a plague of pornography, an epidemic of STDs, broken families. The list goes on and on. People of faith recoiled at the condition of their country and rose up to reclaim its foundations.

Values voters, propelled out of their prayer closets and into the voting booth, had an impact on the election. “Moral values” trumped terrorism, unemployment, the war in Iraq, and the economy as the chief concern of the voters. Regular churchgoers -– Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Jews -– voted overwhelmingly for President Bush, the candidate who was transparent about the role of religious faith in shaping his life and presidency.

In the aftermath of a stunning victory -– which returned a Republican to the White House and increased GOP control of both houses of Congress -– Democrats are reexamining the role of religious faith in public life. Such reflection is welcome and much needed. After all, how we view God determines how we view our fellow man. Are we created in God’s image or merely a creature of chance? The answer impacts how we treat each other and how we order ourselves in civil society.

But if the new “faith consciousness” of the Democratic Party is rooted only in mere political expedience, rather than a genuine interest in the role of the transcendent in our individual and corporate lives, it is destined to fail. Mere lip service to the sacred will not win faith-based voters. They have a lot of experience with counterfeits and they are increasingly astute at spotting a fraud. The Good Book provides the guide: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Here’s hoping that the Democrats’ renewed interest in faith is for real. Ballot box conversions, like jailhouse religion, will not save their party.
Ken Connor is a former candidate for Florida governor and co-author of the new book, “Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Their Civic Duty.”

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  • Ken Connor