Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bill Roy on the Election

Bill Roy is retired physician and former member of Congress. He narrowly lost to Bob Dole in a Senate race in 1974. Here is his Nov. 25 column in the Topeka Capital Journal.

Election also was about religion and its place
The election results in Kansas have been getting a lot of national attention, because many traditional Republicans joined Democrats and independents in rejecting Republican religionist candidates. An aberration, or a bellwether election?

Nearly three of five Kansans voted against lay preacher Phill Kline for attorney general because he scared hell out of them with his brand of evangelical Christianity. And Nancy Boyda upset Congressman Jim Ryun, who after 10 years was best known for reading his Bible on the House floor and placing the Good Book beside his guest book.

Surely by now, even casual political observers recognize the Kansas Republican Party -- and the national party -- are totally submissive to evangelicals such as Kline. Even the GOP's never-competitive gubernatorial candidate figured he needed religionist Sen. Susan Wagle on his ticket.

Did Democrats also narrowly win nationally because of voters' belated rejection of America's religious party?

Kevin Phillips, one-time Republican strategist and longtime political historian and strategist, puts it well: "Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush's conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history."

The less polemical John C. Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest and former three-term U.S. senator from Missouri, also recognizes the Republican Party is beyond doubt a religious party.

Danforth laments in his recently published book, "Faith and Politics": "But this is not a coalition of traditional Republicans and Christian Right in the nature of a merger of equals. This is the takeover of the Republican Party by the Christian right."

Danforth found, "That is the significance of the Terry Schiavo case. It was the total victory of Christian conservative activism over broadly shared Republican principles, a victory won with no resistance from traditional Republicans."

Kline and Danforth are two greatly different people, but both, at least at one time were pillars of the winning religionist party.

Kline is representative of the true believers who would meld Christianityand America's government. They would govern by their interpretation of the words of the Bible, just as Muslims govern by the Shari'ah, civil law from the Koran.

In contrast, Danforth is a devout Christian who believes in the separation of church and state, writing that "to call this a Christian country is to say non-Christians are of some lesser order, not full-fledged citizens of one nation."

Danforth also explains: "The idea God speaks to one group more than to others, or that one group uniquely represents the will of God, makes it impossible to give outsiders the sense that they too are welcome participants in the life of our country."

But Danforth also danced to the tune of the Religious Right when running for office. And he tells how he rationalized it. He opposed abortion by opposing Roe v. Wade on constitutional grounds.

Danforth confesses, "In my closest campaign, the 1982 race for re-election to the Senate, support of pro-life people who voted for me mainly because of my opposition to abortion was the difference between winning and losing."

Will recent election defeats strengthen, rather than weaken the place of Christian conservatives in the Republican Party? Will Republicans decide they lost because they were soft on religiosity and become more submissive to America's 40 million evangelicals who also make up about 40 percent of their vote?

Or, will Republicans look at their losses nearly everywhere outside the South and conclude they lost because voters fear the earthly policies of end-day Christians who anticipate Christ's imminent return and the Rapture? And become again a secular party.

As Phillips explains in his book, an "American Theocracy" bodes ill for our nation and the world. Depending on where we go from here, 2006 may be the most important election in decades.

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