It’s OK to Question the Faith of Presidential Candidates Again
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend wrote a piece which appeared in The Atlantic yesterday entitled, “Is Rick Perry as Christian as He Thinks He Is?” I was tempted to reply to her article here yesterday but, frankly, concluded that her criticisms were so weak and faulty that few would take the article seriously. I was wrong. One blogger shared the Townsend article online and I commented that the article was horrible. He took me to task for merely “whining” without offering sound proof or reasons to back up my charge. Unfortunately he blocked me which prevented me from providing the reasons as to why it’s a horrible article as he suggested. It seems a waste to discard my awesome reasons so here we go!
First, the title: “Is Rick Perry as Christian as He Thinks He Is?” Is Townsend questioning the sincerity of Perry’s faith? Not too long ago Franklin Graham was excoriated for his remarks questioning Barack Obama’s faith. T.D. Jakes, for instance, took issue with Graham’s remarks stating: “If the president’s faith is suspect, then all of our faiths are suspect, because the Bible is quite clear about what it takes to be saved and the president has been quite open about his accepting Christ and him openly confessing it before men. And if it’s good enough for the Bible it ought to be good enough for the rest of us.” The letter after the candidate’s name has changed so the rules about questioning the sincerity of the candidate’s faith have changed. It’s not enough anymore be open about accepting Christ and openly confessing it before men (The Response?). Nope, its time for (liberal) Christian fruit-inspectors to do their duty. Game on.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend cites Matthew 6:1 then makes no attempt to demonstrate exactly how Rick Perry and The Response violated or ignored this verse by praying in public. Apparently in Townsend’s world, all public prayer is wrong due to Mt. 6:1. If so, she then has a problem with all the public prayers represented in Scripture. And common sense. Or, perhaps she thinks Perry spoke and prayed at The Response merely to be seen by others. She knows this?
Townsend then claims Perry misused his office to promote a particular religion. Again, no evidence. No argumentation. She is off-base. The event was privately funded and held at a private facility. He proposed no law or any other official act to promote Christianity (since when did the standard change from “establish” to “promote” anyway?). Perry is a Christian. Christians pray. They pray with other people. They want other people to trust Christ as they do. Since we’re inspecting the deeds of Christians to see if they’re “Christian” enough, I would say someone is a bit of a crappy Christian if they don’t pray once in a while and utter a word or two to someone else about how they might want to follow Christ too. Apparently in Townsend’s world, Christians can only be Christians privately “in their heart” when they are elected to public office. Otherwise, any word or deed regarding Christianity is automatically an official establishment of religion. If you’re a Republican, that is.
Then, Townsend declares that Perry has made his Christian faith a central part of his political identity which opens him up to extra scrutiny. I was unaware of this “rule” but it must be one. So a Christian has made being a Christian a central part of their identity so we need to go after him for this? I thought that was called sanctification. I thought that was a part of discipleship and spiritual maturity. Apparently in Townsend’s world its OK to be a Christian, just don’t make it a central part of your identity. Unless you’re schizophrenic, such a position makes no sense. If being a Christian has become a central part of your identity, it will continue to be a central part of your identity no matter the particular task you’re engaged in at the moment. It’s not a switch to be flipped off just because you’re dealing with something “political.”
The rest of the article is a critique of Rick Perry’s political positions and how they’re not Christian enough. By the way, since we’re butchering biblical texts, isn’t Townsend practicing her piety before men when she publicly teaches us how to properly apply the Bible? Or does that charge only apply when her ideological opponents speak about Jesusy things? Surprise, a liberal Democrat disagrees with a conservative Republican’s policies. Apparently in Townsend’s world, conservative policies indicate you’re not really as “Christian” as you think you are whereas liberal policies are God’s politics. Where have I heard that before?
But let’s not open Townsend to that level of scrutiny. After all, Perry is the one out there with his big mouth making his faith central to his political identity. He’s the one who needs the extra scrutiny. It’s too bad because I would have liked Townsend to explain how her “2,500 passages” that call on Perry to “care about other people, including those outside his church” are all talking about government programs. Ron Sider has written, “If American Christians simply gave a tithe rather than the current one-quarter of a tithe, there would be enough private Christian dollars to provide basic health care and education to all the poor of the earth. And we would still have an extra $60 to 70 billion left over for evangelism around the world.”Perry’s political philosophy is one that actually seeks the continuance, growth and expansion of private wealth creation rather than government-mandated redistribution of existing wealth and its attendant economically destructive consequences. Perry’s political philosophy allows “private Christian dollars” to be used as individuals and churches see fit. If they do not choose to “care about other people, including those outside” the church, they will answer to God for that. Leaders such as Perry seek policies that actually do good rather merely settling for high-minded policies that do more harm than good. Fr. Peter-Michael Prebble writes, “We believe the poor of this generation and generations to come are best served by policies that promote economic freedom and growth, that encourage productivity and creativity in every able person, and that wisely steward our common resources for generations to come. All Americans — especially the poor — are best served by sustainable economic policies for a free and flourishing society. When creativity and entrepreneurship are rewarded, the yield is an increase of productivity and generosity.” These are the sort of outcomes Perry, whose “Christian faith [is] a central part of his political identity,” seeks with his economic policies.
Those like Townsend would not even allow us a choice. “I don’t see any place in the Bible that says we shouldn’t use all the tools we have at hand to help the poor, the sick, and the hungry.” History shows that “all the tools” means confiscating tax dollars at a high, debilitating rate in order for the government to carry out God’s will for the poor. As Townsend asks, “Why should the government carry out some Biblical injunctions and not others?” And conservatives are supposed to be the ones attempting to establish a theocracy?
And that is why I called Townsend’s article “horrible.”
“There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as ‘caring’ and ‘sensitive’ because he wants to expand the government’s charitable programs is merely saying that he’s willing to try to do good with other people’s money. Well, who isn’t? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he’ll do good with his own money — if a gun is held to his head.” P.J. O’Rourke