The name of God was invoked on many sides of the political issues at stake in this month’s congressional and gubernatorial elections, and two pervasive issues—Viet Nam and white backlash—posed the kind of moral questions that invited greater church involvement in politics than is usually evident.

Viet Nam might logically have been the most viable political issue but it was not, because most candidates generally agreed with current policy. Only in Oregon did one of the “glamour” races spotlight that issue. Governor Mark O. Hatfield (an articulate evangelical Christian), in spite of his maintaining a “dove-ish” position on Viet Nam, defeated Representative Robert Duncan, a Democrat “hawk,” to win a vacant Senate seat.

Backlash loomed larger and was vigorously enjoined by many churchmen. An example of this action was Maryland, where Democrat George Mahoney based his gubernatorial campaign entirely on opposition to open housing legislation. Most of the large denominations denounced Mahoney’s platform, by official or quasi-official statements. A half-page advertisement in the Washington Post, headed “A Call to Maryland Voters of Religious Principle!” was cosponsored by Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Episcopal interracial councils. It admonished voters: “Your church or synagogue bans bigotry not only on your conscience, but also on your ballot! VOTE for AGNEW.” Spiro T. Agnew was elected in spite of Mahoney’s 3-to-1 Democratic registration advantage.

In Arkansas, where Little Rock had been one of the early civil rights battlefields, backlash also failed to be decisive. The moderate ex-Yankee Republican Winthrop Rockefeller won the governorship over segregationist Democrat James Johnson.

In Georgia, “God-fearing,” Bible-quoting ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: