The modern Republican Party is 100 percent in the grasp of conservative evangelical Christians, far right Roman Catholics, Orthodox Jews (the “Israel lobby”) and Mormons. Its leading candidates either are part of this religious right, or have to pretend to be. The fact that all these people have to pander to that sensibility is instructive.
My parents founded a community, L’Abri, in Switzerland, in 1955 which became a haven for people engaged in scrutinizing Western civilization from evangelical Christian perspectives. In the 1970s and ’80s, my dad Francis Schaeffer and his books, such as “How Should We Then Live?” and “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” influenced thousands of evangelical Christians, including Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and Jack Kemp.
I embraced my parents’ fundamentalism, became an activist in promoting it, then gradually came to reject it. But I have not rejected faith. Faith need not be opposed to science, or operate its own set of facts about the world. The confrontations between modernity and reason and faith are not necessary. They only become part of “faith” if faith becomes political and thus stops embracing the concept of doubt. And without doubt — if nothing else doubt about our own goodness — faith dies.
But in today’s political/religious climate faith and politics have become so interchangeable that Mitt Romney being a Mormon is an “issue” with evangelicals. And Romney has to pretend he believes everything on the social agenda to “fit in.” It is a lose-lose situation.
Political litmus tests now have been substituted the gospels and the Sermon on the Mount as the new American conservative Christian creed. And conversely the religious creed of politics these days from no new tax pledges to shutting down family planning clinics is pushed as if it was a matter of faith.
The result is that both religion and politics are debased and destroyed. Political leaders pander to faith issues in a destructive way. And religious leaders have met politics more than half way and no longer concentrate on saving souls, but on taking back America for God.