Politics and Religion

The 2000 Presidential race is in a virtual dead heat at the time of this writing. *The religious majority of America (namely, anyone claiming Christianity as their religion) seems to differ widely amongst members, while leaning toward Republican candidate Bush overall. That, of course, is only a part of the larger picture for only one of the many campaigns. But for voters, Christians in particular, what can be said about elections in general--how we view them and our place of participation in them?
*According to a poll by George Barna in September, those who considered themselves "born-again Christians" were supporting Bush heavily, while decided "evangelicals" supported him almost exclusively. Other "Protestants" split about 2/3 for Bush, 1/3 for Gore, while "Catholics" were evenly split between the two candidates at 49 percent.
See www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=70

Instant polls and focus groups, often crafted (and almost exclusively interpreted) by the press, seem to drive elections these days. "Does he look presidential?" "Is he 'attacking' or 'going negative'?" These questions become all-important. But is that as it should be? How have the public's assumptions and attitudes about politics--campaigning in particular--been shaped by "campaign by soundbite" and canned debates? Further, how do Americans' ideas of the role of government affect elections or vice versa?

Our special focus attempts to move readers of all political persuasions beyond easy stereotyping into a an examination of a broad range of important issues. It is designed to help us distinguish good political thinking from bad, while offering some breadth of opinion. We want to pursue issues deeper than the familiar stump speech mantras while gleaning historical and philosophical perspectives.

—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University

Feature Articles:

The Problem With Liberalism
J. Budziszewski
The author considers the philosophic principles of liberalism.

The Problem With Conservatism
J. Budziszewski

The author criticizes what he believes are the core principles of conservatism.

Politics and Religion
Kerby Anderson

This essay examines the role of politics and religion, and deals with the question of whether you can legislate morality. It concludes with biblical principles for social involvement.

Pulling the Lever: Our First Civic Duty
Chuck Colson
I can't tell you, my BreakPoint listeners, how much I envy you today. Why? Because as a convicted felon, I cannot vote. Today is Election Day (written in 1998), and your first civic duty is to vote! If you don't vote, you are abandoning the first tenet of the biblical command to be a responsible citizen. I won't tell you whom to vote for, because I never endorse candidates. But I will say that whether you vote Democratic, Republican, or Independent, you should look at one overriding criterion this year: Character.

The Hope of Heaven, The Hope of Earth
Christoph Schonborn

Schonborn investigates the following dilemma: "The real question is whether [the] tension [between politics and the Church] is good and useful, or harmful and reprehensible. What direction, then, ought the Church to take? If she concentrates on the hope of life after death as her proper task, she is accused of a lack of responsibility for life here on earth. If she becomes more involved in temporal affairs, she is criticized for forgetting her orientation to eternal life.""

Related Articles:

To Be Citizens Again
William A. Schambra

Many people vote for a candidate based on his or her position on welfare issues. Since the New Deal, it has been common to assume that the government should be responsible for the well-being of all citizens. At one time Americans looked to what may be called "mediating structures" to help those in need. Perhaps it is time to reconsider helping the needy primarily through volunteer efforts.

The Hillary Ad: Trading on the Tasteless
Chuck Colson
It may be the most outrageous political ad in this campaign, even though few people have actually seen it. I'm talking about that infamous Hillary ad. And the Christians who created it ought to be ashamed of themselves.

A Christian View of Politics, Government, and Social Action
Kerby Anderson

Anderson gives a Christian view on government and its relation to human nature.

Ralph Reed's Real Agenda
Richard John Neuhaus

Fr. Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things, provides this review of Ralph Reed's book "Active Faith: How Christians Are Changing the Soul of American Politics." The reviewer provides insight into the broader issues that the book only mentions in passing, the general principles and problems of Christian action in the political world.

Historical Resources:

The Real Character of the Executive (Federalist No. 69, March 1788)
Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton describes the nature of the American presidency as laid out in the Constitution--as the office of president was just getting underway. He compares it with British monarchy. The power of impeachment is brought up as a key difference between the two.

America Shrugged
Bob Jones IV

Two years ago, Republicans counted on America's sense of disgust over presidential misdeeds to propel them to new electoral heights. It didn't happen and there was no Plan B - a positive agenda - so the Grand Old Party barely held on to its congressional majority. Looking back at those mid-term elections only two years past, what can we gather from the misreads of 1998? It may prove instructive to look back at some congressional fallout in this presidential election year.

The Lost Art of Debate
Gene Edward Veith

A contrast and comparison of today's debates with the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of a century and a half ago. Veith contends that the present-day "debate" format encourages cynicism that renders us incapable of the logical and rhetorical skills true debating once did.

Past Leadership U Special Focus
Measure of Rulers

Originally featured for President's Day and similar holidays, this collection recognizes our past presidents and what made them presidential.

We would love to get your feedback on this special focus. Please tell us what you think.

Go here to see our past Special Focus features.