Conservative politics and Christianity

By Mitch McConnell
web posted September 27, 1999

Part of being a mature defender of one's ideological position is recognition of opposing arguments and either conceding, to the extent possible, their validity or refuting them. When someone does not do this, they risk looking like an ideologue in the pejorative sense: one who does not try to persuade but simply yells louder whenever anyone takes issue with him.

Unfortunately, this is the case today with many Christian, political conservatives. There are many of these groups which have very powerful messages and which hew to strict-constructionist views of the United States Constitution. The best example that comes to mind is the popular Internet newspaper WorldnetDaily, run by Joseph Farah of the Western Journalism Center.

Farah has been unrelenting in his investigations of Clinton administration corruption, and was apparently targeted by the IRS for doing so. He includes many great conservative (and some not-so-conservative) commentators, including Walter E. Williams, Claire Wolfe, Michael Kelly, and Nat Hentoff. His links include articles ranging from the Washington Post to the Washington Times. "So what's the problem?" you say.

There is a not very subtle conservative Christian theology underlying most of the WorldnetDaily commentators and editorial material. To the extent that this only embraced the core "Judeo Christian values" which influenced the founders of our country, I do not believe most Americans would disagree. The danger that I see here is the refusal of some Christians to acknowledge two factors that cause me to be suspicious of their intentions.

The first of these is pretty well known, but probably not in its entirety, and that is the ongoing story of Christian oppression of non-Christians where the former has been in a position to do so. Examples of this include (most famously) the Spanish Inquisition, forcible conversions to Christianity by missionaries, etc. The counter argument to this objection is usually the (true!) statement that "those who perpetrated those acts were not really Christians." There is no doubt that in many cases, it is obvious that such people literally went against everything that Jesus stood for, but that is primarily with the benefit of hindsight, and that leads me to the second factor mentioned above.

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" - Jeremiah 17:9.

Jeremiah the prophet made this wise observation many years ago, but its truth is still evident and powerful. Another favorite Christian-ism is some truism like "only God knows the heart." That is my problem with mixing Christianity and politics, even when I agree with the politics one-hundred percent: nobody knows exactly whose heart is "pure", not even Christians amongst themselves. If you doubt this, just take note whenever some tragedy happens. More often than not, the accused will be noted to have been a "fine member of his church and community." Ask his fellow churchgoers whether they knew he would suddenly snap and kill his wife and children. The only response is typically of the "no one knew his heart" variety. I would modify that response to "no one knew his heart as long as he played the role of church-going Christian convincingly."

The point here is not that we should question anyone's sincerity, but only that outward profession of any creed has little or no relationship to a person's innermost being. And that innermost being is, according to Christian doctrine, "corrupt." Being "saved" is supposed to bring a complete change in the person's being, but since all we see are the outward actions, we never really know whether the heart is pure.

Given these facts, it seems to me that religion should be kept completely independent of politics. Our founders at least got that right.

This is Mitch McConnell's first piece for Enter Stage Right.

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