The News & Observer (11-14-05) headline blared: “Democrats: Jesus Wouldn’t Cut Aid to Poor”
The story told of a curious development: it seems politics has brought three Democratic Congressmen to Jesus. In fairness to Congressmen David Price, Bob Etheridge and Brad Miller they probably found the Lord years ago and I expect that what they might say is that the federal budget just led them to decide it was time they started talking about it. ‘After all’, I can hear them saying, ‘Republicans have been doing that for years and the current political wisdom is it’s worked out pretty well for them in elections.’
So this sudden eruption of religious fervor may have more to do with politics than theology.
Which brings us to an interesting question. Why now?
For years, Democrats have generally taken the stand that Republicans introducing religion into politics is a bad thing. They have generally praised the virtues of ‘pluralism’ and denounced the vices of ‘theocracy.’ Why the sudden change?
Now you may or may not agree with Democrats about where to draw the line when it comes to the separation of church and state. But where to put that line is a legitimate debate that’s been going on for a couple of hundred years. And it’s an important debate.
My suspicion is that some Democrats have concluded they’re arguing the short end of the political stick – and they’d rather switch than fight.
So now we have the spectacle of one set of politicians saying they’re as sincere – or more sincere – as Christians than another set of politicians. (I can hear David Price saying, ‘But, Carter, that’s what you Republicans have been doing for years,’ and my answer is, ‘Yes, David, there’s some truth in that.’)
But what’s worrying me is not politicians ‘getting religion’ – it is them ‘using religion’ to get elected.
What Democrats really need to decide is where they want to draw the line between church and state. Then they ought to take their stand and make their case.