The God Strategy
Religion has become a political weapon in America, and in the church.

With the presidential campaign in full swing, politics has been a more frequent issue on Out of Ur, but that does not fully account for our interest in the subject. This time around religion is playing a much more prominent role in the debate. Leading candidates for the GOP include a Baptist minister and a Mormon. And on the Democratic side, all of the candidates are speaking much more openly about their faith in hopes of attracting disenfranchised evangelicals. The use of religion as a political weapon is the subject of a new book, The God Strategy. Brandon O'Brien, Leadership's new assistant editor, gives us a brief review of the book, and wonders how church leaders can avoid being manipulated.

Given my age and childhood in the South, I cannot remember a time when being a good Christian did not require being a devout Republican. I accepted the situation as a matter of course until I realized that Republican politics has no corner on virtue. The Republican platform opposes abortion and defends family values. But the Democratic platform seems more sympathetic to the poor, orphans, and widows - as is God. As a result, until we vote on ballots that allow us to punch our position on issues, rather than select the name of a politician, I'm not sure whether to vote Republican or Democrat.

It may not be news to some of you, but I was encouraged to discover that my political confusion is representative of a historical confusion among Christians. According to David Domke and Kevin Coe, authors of The God Strategy (Oxford Press, 2008), it was only in the 1970s, after integration and Roe v. Wade, that Christians and Republicans began going steady. Since then, the authors argue, Republicans have had greater success than Democrats in employing the "God strategy" to curry the Christian vote.

The God strategy involves a

series of carefully crafted public communications employed by politicians to connect with religiously inclined voters?In combination, these approaches seek to entice both the many religious moderates who want leaders to be comfortable with faith, as well as devout Protestants and Catholics who desire a more intimate convergence of religion and politics.

Some politicians may use the God strategy because they are religious themselves. Regardless, the method is strategic and effective. Evangelicals are eager to endorse candidates who sound like one of them. The trouble is, we may indiscriminately endorse candidates - whether Republican or Democrat - who sound faithful enough, but are simply using Christian vocabulary as a smoke screen. If the conversation started by CT's recent interview with Barack Obama is indicative of a trend, when conservatives feel they're being misled, serious questions about issues are ignored and the debate devolves into an effort to determine whether a candidate is genuinely Christian.

January 30, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 18 comments

NS Dawson

March 24, 2008  2:57pm

I dont know alot about politics, this will only be my second presidency vote cast (b.1984). I just know Ive been doing some research of my own, and I keep coming to the same conclusion about all the candidates- All I can do is try to make a mildly educated decision and attempt to choose between the lesser of two(or more) evils... It saddens me deeply. I just wanted to get that off my chest.

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Robyn

February 06, 2008  1:53pm

The great misconception is that the founding "fathers" were evangelical Christians, when in fact, most of them were deists, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

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Robyn

February 06, 2008  1:50pm

It's about time someone publicly recognized the fact that being a Republican is not an official requirement for entrance into the presence of our Savior...

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AMG

February 05, 2008  9:22am

Has voting Republican ever helped further the Kingdom of God on earth? Have the Republicans ever done anything to end abortions? I'm not seeing it. What I am seeing is a political party taking advantage of Christians and using the church to gain their own power. Don't be duped!

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cb scott

January 31, 2008  7:22pm

VOTE HUCKABEE, FIGHT ABORTION, and let the Devil take the hindmost parts with the rest of it. cb

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Melody

January 31, 2008  6:31pm

Sam, you ask a very valid question. We all know that America's founding fathers had strong religious views and they were not all the same. Many of John Locke's ideas were espoused in the original documents, such as the right of the people to overthrow their leaders. He certainly did not espouse himself to be a Christian but is considered a father of liberalism. As for Kant and Hume, I think they were probably too young to have had much influence at the time of the Revolution. I will state again, though, that many of the signers of that great document, as evidenced in their writings, experienced a strong relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and were on a first name basis with Jesus Christ. One of the saddest realities about our country is the gross lack of knowledge of most Americans about the revolution and how we came to be a republic rather than a democracy. Even Republicans today think we are a democracy. This was made clear when GWB was able to win the presidency through the electoral college while losing the popular vote; and people just didn't get it. A great read about all this stuff involves two books: "The Federalist Papers" and "The Anti-Federalist Papers" (published by A Mentor Book - New American Library). There was a lot of hashing out of ideas to get what we got. It's still the best model out there.

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Sam Andress

January 31, 2008  2:13pm

Melody, The Founding Fathers believed in god? Which god? The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus Christ? Or the God of Kant, Locke, and Hume?

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Dana

January 31, 2008  10:52am

as a canadian, i won't be voting, but i follow politics and this is by far the most interesting race in my lifetime (b.1984). what i find particularly interesting (and disturbing, ironic, and laughably hypocritical) is how deliberately and aggressively the candidates are blurring the lines between church and state by making faith-based politics the focus of this race. i'm from the province of quebec, where we have a tortured history of the church dictating to their congregations how to vote (under severed penalties for disobedience), until the quiet revolution of the 60s stripped the church of its power over the people. this unfortunately proved the need for the separation of church and state, and the bitterness and disdain for the church and christians remains strong today. goodness knows there's been enough whining in the media about the blurring of church and state since bush got elected. so where do the candidates get off doing it just as fiercely?

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Joseph G. Dion

January 31, 2008  8:08am

Another comment please, Abraham came from Ur, and he was personally taught by his Heavenly Father the true Gospel. He is also known as the father of the Jewish nation, Christians and Islam. Where did man go wrong. We know Abraham was taught correct principles, and as a loving father I'm sure he taught his children correct principles. so what happened. Words have meaning, but if we do nothing they mean nothing.

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Joseph G. Dion

January 31, 2008  7:56am

First off, protecting citizens of this nation according to the U.S. Constitution against terrorism both foreign and domestic has never been arrogant in any form. Our freedom has been a known quantities for many generations, and that is why so many from other nations are coming to our shores. To be a Christian and then look the other way when we see evil done in the name of God, is not being Christian like. Let us understand we are a nation of laws, and they must be followed by all. I rather fight the enemy in their backyard opposed to ours or yours. Either across borders, or across the world. When are people going to understand there was weapons of mass destruction over there. The gassing of the Kurds, or do they not count. The many graves our braves soldiers dung up in the sand. How easy it is to turn away, turn the other channel on the T.V. and mouth the words that we want to here. We are all God's children, and I wish and pray those in power start acting like it.

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