He’s weird, man. When Illinois Republicans were so hard up to find a candidate to run against political rock star Barack Obama that they had to import Alan Keyes, a three-time loser from Maryland, everyone braced for a strange performance.

Even so, Keyes has surprised observers, proving to be even wackier and loopier than expected, making the most commonly asked question in Illinois politics today not “Can he win?” but, “Should he be committed?”

Keyes’s latest head-scratcher: claiming to know for certain how Jesus would vote in the Illinois Senate race. Keyes insists the Son of God would never vote for Barack Obama. Referring to Obama’s earlier pro-choice votes in the Illinois Senate, Keyes told reporters: “You see, it’s quite logical that Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has voted to behave in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved.” Of course, Keyes failed to provide a citation from Scripture to back him up, because he couldn’t.

Now, to be fair to Keyes, he’s not the first to try to justify his twisted politics by wrapping it in religion. He’s just the most recent. Several bishops threatened to withhold communion from Catholics who vote for John Kerry. The Christian Coalition says God wants Congress to extend Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. Rev. Jerry Falwell says God wants us to vote for President Bush. And Bush himself says God told him to invade Iraq. They’re all nuts. They’re all wrong.

What I want to know is: Who gave this gang of religious hucksters the inside track on religion, anyway? On most issues – where they’ve staked out the one and only position for true believers – they either have it dead wrong, according to the Gospels, or it’s not as black and white as they preach.

On Iraq. While all people of faith agree that peace is God’s preferred way, theologians have also recognized that sometimes nations have to wage a “just war.” But conditions for a just war are very strict: It can only be waged as a last resort; all nonviolent options must first be exhausted; and it can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. Iraq doesn’t come close to meeting the test. Religious leaders who support the war in Iraq defy God’s teaching.

On gay marriage. Unlike Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, Jesus never condemned homosexuality. And there’s nothing in Scripture that says marriage must be between a man and woman only. In fact, if we use Scripture as the template for marriage, every man could have five or six wives. Polygamy makes gay marriage look tame.

Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong points out that his fellow clergy suddenly sport a very, unchristian-like blind eye whenever gays or lesbians are concerned: “I find it difficult to believe that the Church blesses dogs and the Virginia fox hunt, but can’t find a way to bless life-giving, lasting relationships between human beings.”

On abortion. Here again, there are no clear words of Scripture to fall back on. Anti-abortion preachers base their arguments on the Fifth Commandment: “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Which implies, of course, that life begins at conception – a convenient theory not even all theologians accept. Even today, there is a wide diversity of scientific and religious views about when a fetus actually becomes a person.

With some churches supporting abortion as a woman’s personal and private decision and the Catholic Church condemning it as murder, the only conclusion you can come to is: This is an issue on which people of faith can and do disagree.

Identifying their politics with religion is just one more lie foisted on the American people by propagandists on the right. First, they attacked the so-called liberal bias in the media. Then they accused liberals of being soft on terrorism. Now they preach that liberals are out of step with God’s plan for America – which, according to them, is no more complicated than electing all Republicans.

Nonsense. I’m sick and tired of conservatives stealing the Bible. It’s time to take it back. Read the Gospels. Jesus was certainly no conservative. He was as liberal as Paul Wellstone. I don’t pretend to know how Jesus would vote. But he surely wouldn’t support some of the policies put forth in his name by religious and Republican conservatives. They are contrary to everything he said and stands for.

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