Sunday, August 28, 2011

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Who Are Strong in Faith Must Clarify Their Beliefs

As presidential hopefuls speak more and more about how their faith shapes their leadership, their views have been challenged.

These challenges to the politicians' faith are perfect opportunities for them to rationally and intelligently defend their beliefs, and in the process, be an example to other Christians to do the same.

This is the first time we've seen such a strong Christian presence in the presidential race. And that tells me two things about our country. One, Americans are craving a leader who will pull us out of the moral decline that has caused so many financial and relational problems. And two, Christians are becoming more vocal in politics, rather than keeping quiet in this arena. It's time for believers to stand up and become involved.

One columnist for CNN recently posed five Scripture passages, specifically looking for a response from Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Texas Governor Rick Perry, who both have been vocal about their faith and prayer life. The columnist, Stephen Prothero, is a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World." I interviewed Prothero a couple of times on my radio program, SoundRezn.

The conversation first began when Bachmann was asked if she would submit to her husband if elected President - a question to which the audience booed. But some opponents feel that candidates like Bachmann and Perry are fair game when it comes to tough spiritual questions because they have included their faith in their presidential campaigns. Therefore, Prothero posed the questions to the candidates vying for the evangelical Protestant vote.

Verse # 1: "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands" (Colossians 3:18).

Should female presidents submit to their first husbands? Many in our society recoil at the question of whether any would should submit to her husband. Such questions has been long debated, especially as woman assume more roles of public leadership in society.

The word submission is a tough one for some to swallow. But in actuality, it means respect among other things - that there should be one leader in the home, and when opinions differ, someone's view must win out, in this case the husband. But it is a matter of mutual respect, too, not just blind agreement. In the same passage, husbands are also instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. Furthermore, this applies to the Bachmann home, not her presidency, which hopefully will be two very different settings.

Verse #2: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:6).

Many criticized Perry for leading very public prayer gatherings for the good of the state of Texas. Perry should not have, some said, mixed church and state. Last month, he led an event called, "The Response," a large spiritual gathering in Texas.

Should Christians make a show of praying in public? Pharisees were criticized for praying on street corners. But the purpose of the prayer is the main focus.

A leader who can rally people to pray passionately about something they feel strongly about isn't a crime. In fact, it's an admirable quality. Yes, we should sometimes focus our prayers with God in quiet and reverence. But Jesus also said, 'Where two are three are gathered, there I will be also.' Being a prayer leader is not a sin, unless someone is making a show of prayer simply for his own benefit."

Verse#3: "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13).

This commandment is often used by pro-life advocates to defend the unborn. But what about capital punishment? It's something some conservatives believe in, and Texas is especially known for criminal executions.

This is another issue that will probably be debate until the end of time. But those who feel strongly about it can also point to other scriptures, such as 'an eye for an eye,' as well as many passages that talk about offenses and sins that are punishable by death.

Verse #4: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Luke 20:25).

The CNN columnist's beef with Bachmann and Perry relating to this passage is what he calls their inability to separate religious and secular authority.

This argument, to me, is a weak one. Christian political leaders simply must rely on their faith in their job if they are looking at everything through a Christian worldview. I believe Congresswoman Bachmann and Gov. Perry both see the distinction, but a complete separation of the two in their leadership will be virtually impossible as they rely on their Christian worldview daily.

Verse #5: "Blessed are the poor" (Luke 6:20).

This teaching has to do with the Christian community's responsibility to take care of the poor, the CNN columnist said. With budget cuts a necessity in the coming years, welfare programming may take a hit. But does that mean Christians no longer want to help the poor?

Again, this is a matter of taking Scripture out of context. Of course, we shouldn't completely neglect the poor if some government hand-out programs have to be cut. But there are other ways to help those who need a hand besides a hand-out. There are countless ways we can help our neighbors. Programs like welfare aren't actually helping, as we've learned. These programs are actually hurting the poor by taking away their dignity, trapping them in a life of entitlement - a vicious cycle. There are better, more compassionate and more respectful ways to help the poor.

As I travel throughout America, speaking churches and schools, hosting a daily radio call in program- personally talking weekly with dozens (usually hundreds) of concerned citizens, this is what I am hearing: Main street USA wants a president that holds traditional American values, is not afraid to express them, and is willing to defend them.

I am hearing people throughout the country say that they want a president who is unashamedly pro-American, is a defender of the Constitution, is pro-free enterprise, who is a defender of traditional values, who believes in smaller government, fewer taxes and entitlements, a strong national defense, and who is a straight-talker. One whose programs are not covertly smuggling in socialism and/or social engineering ... oh, and this, too: A president, like many of us, who is weary of seeing God expunged from American life.

I believe there is a presidency waiting for a vocal and courageous patriot of unwavering convictions. Do such leaders still exist? We'll have to wait and see.