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There are some things people ought to know but always seem to forget. For starters, never trust a politician who says, “Trust me.” Ditto for a politician who says, “I believe in Jesus.” Double-dog ditto for a politician who says, “Trust me: I really do believe in Jesus.”
Which brings us, predictably, to the Kerry campaign.
On Monday, Slate ran a piece by Beliefnet editor Steven Waldman about presidential hopeful John Kerry’s most recent come-to-Jesus meeting. The minister was former Clinton mouthman Mike McCurry. The message was something about hiding one’s light under a bushel – namely Kerry’s religious faith. Or was it the lack thereof? Waldman mentions a recent Time magazine survey that “showed that only 7 percent of people thought of Kerry as a person of strong faith, a statistic that was feeding the perception of him as a waffler.”
For the Kerry team, the trick is going from waffles to communion wafers. The real trick is doing it fast and convincingly enough to turn the converts into voters because right now, the much-wanted God vote is not Democratic.
“Religious indicators can predict political activity,” says Gallup Poll researcher Frank Newport. “Show me somebody with a Ph.D. who doesn’t go to church, and I’ll show you a Democrat.” Big picture, this translates badly for Kerry. “According to a Time magazine poll conducted in June, 59 percent of Americans who call themselves ‘very religious’ support President Bush, compared with just 35 percent for Democrat challenger John Kerry,” writes San Francisco Chronicle reporter Don Lattin.
With numbers like these, the Dems are scared to the point of actually praying because of the increasing tilt of religionists into the Republican camp. (Even more desperate, they’re willing to talk to former Clinton staffers about it.)
The reasons for the faithful’s exodus are many, but one simple point is that Dems spend three years out of every four giving the middle finger to traditional and conservative Christians on most issues and then try patching things up before the election to score their votes. In his top-six reasons why the Dems will lose the coming election, Michael Novak at National Review Online listed as No. 3: “Democrats must hide from the public what they truly think about evangelicals, fundamentalists, and Catholics. They express these thoughts mostly among themselves.” Take Kerry’s hot-cold stance on abortion – a crucial topic for Christians. Pro-choice till he realizes he needs to walk a narrower line for the religious electorate, he actually says he’s pro-life – sort of.
Given this insulting and obvious pandering, even the paler among us must have some inkling now of how blacks feel about the GOP every election cycle. Be honest: It sours in the mouth.
It also paves the way out of the Democrat big tent, which has Democrat strategists fumbling for their rosaries. Catholics as a group are increasingly joining the Republicans. Kerry’s showing among papists is no better than Al Gore’s was four years ago. This is a big problem, says Waldman, because many battleground states have whopping Catholic populations: “Pennsylvania (30 percent Catholic), New Jersey (45.9 percent), Ohio (28 percent), Michigan (28 percent), Wisconsin (34.4 percent), Minnesota (28.7 percent), and New Hampshire (38.2 percent).” And Kerry’s bad numbers among Catholics are particularly ironic and bothersome considering … he’s Catholic.
Or is he? Unless Teresa’s got a statue out back that starts weeping soon, Kerry’s only hope is that voters buy his new holier-than-Bush approach – a little Botox for Unbelief. The problem is that it’s pretty dang hard to buy.
Kerry’s handling of the “faith gap” makes it seem that his belief is much more electioneering than genuflection, more prop than pious substance. Take this Waldman paragraph for example: “So, in the last few weeks, the Kerry campaign has shifted gears. The Religification of John Kerry has begun. He started lacing his speeches with a Bible reference here and there. He released a TV ad discussing his faith, and just days before the convention began, the campaign hired a new director of religious outreach.”
It all comes off like so many death-row conversions – only perhaps less authentic. (These are politicians, after all.)
Need a sampling of the sincerity behind Kerry’s latest religion guru? She’s none other than Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson, “one of 32 clergy members to file a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the atheist who challenged the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance,” reports CNS News. Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but Kerry’s director of religious outreach punts for atheists? Well, not anymore. Yesterday, the Democratic National Committee accepted her resignation because she proved a political liability. But the fact that they chose her in the first place shows a lot about their convictions — or, more specifically, their lack thereof.
Kerry certainly possesses a soul – and no one is saying that Bush has some sort of patent on piety – but Christians should wonder if the Democratic candidate’s practice of dusting off his religion and using it in his campaign to lure their votes is abominable or just merely desperate and offensive.
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