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Confession time. It always bugs me when I see a politician darken the doorway of a church.

This is counterintuitive, of course. I mean, here’s the one door politicians should darken more frequently, in my opinion. Most politicians need a whole lotta churchin’.

But the reason it bugs me is I always wonder if they’re darkening that door for sincere spiritual reasons, or for photo ops. Too often it’s proven to be the latter, not the former. The distinction can generally be made by how many news cameras are on hand and how much the politician smiles and waves.

I can understand how one’s faith would be difficult to practice if you’re a prominent elected public figure. You’re constantly buffeted by factions from all sides, left and right, demanding that you comply with their particular worldview. Every time you set foot in a house of worship, people swoop down upon you like buzzards, making every church service a de facto photo op. It’s almost impossible to avoid. I understand that many politicians opt for private religious services with their spiritual advisers. More power to them.

But for too many of our leaders, religion is a mere tool, an opiate to placate the masses, a means of showing the great unwashed what a terrific connection they have with the Almighty. Right.

Why have today’s churches become largely irrelevant? Read “God’s Got a Problem” and find the solution

Specifically, it bugs me when politicians claim to adhere to the tenets of a particular denomination – for example, Catholicism – and then flagrantly and blatantly pass laws or partake in behavior that directly violates the tenets of that denomination. I mean, c’mon – why pretend you’re Catholic if you don’t believe in a thing the Catholic Church stands for? Why claim to be Baptist or Lutheran or Jewish or anything at all if you’re going to go out of your way to flout the very values you say you profess?

When Nancy Pelosi claims to be an “ardent, practicing Catholic” and yet supports abortion on demand for any woman having a bad hair day … well, sorry, but her actions speak WAY louder than her supposed religious suasion.

It seems that elected officials, with few exceptions, tend to develop delusions of grandeur. God is there to serve them, not the reverse. Thus we get people like Gavin Newsom, San Francisco’s self-described “Catholic” mayor with a long history of defying the teachings of the Catholic Church, who will now be running for governor of California. (Why am I not surprised?) His platform for candidacy is, and I quote, “…because I know we can do better.” I’m sorry – better than what? Newsom has made loathsome mockeries in his home district of those who hold sincere religious beliefs. I fail to see how spreading this behavior to the rest of California will makes things “better.”

Now we learn that Obama can’t be bothered to attend any of the traditional Day of Prayer events. Why should he? Obama, to paraphrase Henry Clapp, is a self-made man and is already engaged in worshipping his creator. It wouldn’t do to pay homage to a lesser God.

Politicians aren’t the only ones who seem to have trouble with that old-time religion. Teachers – supposedly the protectors of our children’s intellectual freedoms in the classroom – have been known to lose it over religion as well, such as the charming instructor who said, “When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth.” WHAT truth? The “truth” that Obama has messianic stature? The truth that children should be brainwashed into liberal worldviews and no others? The truth that religion has no place with anyone who considers himself to be an educated, literate person?

The mockery among the elite for those with traditional religious beliefs has widened a channel in this country from a ditch to an abyss. They’re not just disdainful of traditional values and religious expressions – they’re hostile. Even violent.

But here’s the funny thing about the relationship between one’s religion and one’s earthly calling: Faith offers an unprecedented opportunity for guidance, assuming you’re willing to accept it. Whatever your private religious expressions – whether it’s following mandates from a church, or reading Scripture, or prayer … well, the opportunities are endless to let the Almighty lead you in the way you should go.

But most politicians can’t, or won’t, do this. Perhaps they come to feel they don’t need God, or that they’re above God, or that God isn’t necessary for them to do their jobs as our (ahem) “civil servants.”

The unfortunate bottom line is that for most politicians, religion is nothing more than a self-aggrandizing tool that, like any powerful tool, can be used either the right way or the wrong way.

The right way is to humbly take spiritual guidance from One who, let’s face it, is a heck of a lot smarter than any of us.

The wrong way is to use religion as a sledgehammer to bludgeon people into submission in accordance with special interest influences … or to trick others into assuming a moral standard the politician doesn’t genuinely possess.

Religion can be a powerful instrument indeed, when used correctly. If a politician allows himself to be guided from above – truly guided, rather than simply claiming his every action is approved by the Almighty – then the potential impact will be amazing. I say “potential” because this course of action is seldom seen. Our government leaders won’t relinquish control over their own power-hungry egos and let God be their guide. Perhaps they’re afraid to.

After all, God, through no merit of our own, provides us with principles for living right. But practicing those principles can have a cost. If principles were truly cost-free, everyone would have them.

God’s path can be tough. Very, very tough.

Next week I’ll illustrate just how tough it can be.

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