The Politics of Prayer
Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the past week.
Pray for All Leaders — Particularly Our Guy
The Republican Party nearly won control of the Senate. It picked up seven seats, including Alaska, but was four short of a 51-seat majority. One of the reasons that the GOP didn't pick up the additional seats, said some, was the dismal performance of candidates endorsed by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) and his Senate Conservatives Fund, which was often at odds with so-called establishment Republicans on the National Republican Senate Campaign Committee.
DeMint backed some winners, including Rand Paul (Kentucky), Mark Lee (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), and Marco Rubio (Florida). But his critics have fumed over DeMint's support for candidates who won upsets in the primaries only to lose in the general election. They blame him for the GOP losses of Dino Rossi (Washington), Sharron Angle (Nevada), Ken Buck (Colorado), Christine O'Donnell (Delaware), and John Raese (West Virginia). If DeMint had stayed out of it, goes the argument, the Republicans could have won the Senate.
Family Research Council (FRC) is putting its weight behind DeMint. FRC president Tony Perkins said, "DeMint has been unfairly blamed for the Republicans' shortcomings in the Senate. Perhaps more than any other GOP member, Sen. DeMint is responsible for giving Americans hope that what's wrong in Washington can be fixed if we simply return to our nation's founding principles and work within — not around — the Constitution."
FRC has started a campaign to gather one million people to pray for DeMint. The campaign quotes Paul's instruction to Timothy to pray for leaders and then asks people to "pledge to pray for America's elected officials at least once per week."
Pastors and politicians frequently remind Christians to pray for governmental leaders and "all those in authority" (1 Tim. 2:1-2). For example, Stuart Shepard ended this week's CitizenLink webcast, as he does every week, with a call for prayer that elected officials will "have wisdom and follow a wise course for our country." When Shepard mentions an official by name, it is often the sitting president — Republican or Democrat.
But FRC's campaign is a thinly veiled call to support DeMint. The website shows DeMint, fists clenched. It asks people to "stand with Americans across the nation as we pray for Senator Jim DeMint." Elsewhere, FRC stated that the purpose of the one million prayer project was to support DeMint because an attack on the senator is "an attack on all conservatives and people of faith."
Indeed, those who pledge to pray for "America's elected officials" give FRC their name, e-mail, and Zip Code. What is not mentioned on the website but is listed elsewhere is that while the FRC will control the list, it will be used to communicate DeMint's prayer requests to pledgers. The list will keep pledgers "updated with specific requests as he works with the new Congress [on] our family issues."
Is it right for FRC to use Scripture to urge someone to pledge to pray for all elected officials, when the goal is to put that person on a DeMint e-mail list with prayer requests for his political battles?
For FRC, DeMint is an ideal senator, someone whose policy positions almost perfectly match the organization's. Last month, FRC Action's Tom McClusky said he was "honored to have the chance to work with a pro-life, pro-national defense, pro-family, pro-fiscal responsibility senator and his staff and I am proud of everything he has done representing the great state of South Carolina and a well rounded conservative philosophy in the U.S. Senate."