Tag: religion and politics

Why Billy Graham is down with a Mormon president

Romney and the Grahams work things out

By Alan Bean

Evangelist Billy Graham has tacitly endorsed Mitt Romney’s presidential bid and his website no longer characterizes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) as a cult.  This is just another sign that a major realignment is underway in American religion.

Evangelicals defined themselves in opposition to Roman Catholicism until the late 1970s when activist-preachers like Francis Schaeffer and Jerry Falwell built a new evangelical coalition around an unreconstructed version of Catholic pro-life theology.  This informal evangelical-Catholic coalition was driven by a fear of liberalism in both its secular and religious expressions.

Throughout the 1970s few evangelicals gave much thought to the abortion issue.  In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention essentially endorsed Roe v. Wade at its annual conventions as late as 1976.  A decade later, a thoroughgoing pro-life position had become a litmus test among American evangelicals. (more…)

Weird political predictions

By Alan Bean

John Hagee, the San Antonio preacher whose endorsement John McCain sought then rejected in 2008, is making bold predictions about the consequences of a second Obama term.

“I have said it before and I will say it again: the election on Nov. 6, 2012 for the office of president is the day of decision for America. Four more years of Obama will bring absolute socialism to America. Our children and grandchildren will never know the greatness of America that we have experienced.

“This must not happen! … I am asking the Christians of America to join us in 40 days of prayer for this presidential election. These 40 days of prayer will begin on Sept. 28, 2012. You can do it individually or in groups, but prayer is the most powerful force God has given us to bring our nation back to righteousness. I’ll be saying more about this as the year progresses, but mark it on your calendar and start telling your family, friends, and church members now about the 40 days of prayer.”

To place this in context, let’s remember James Dobson’s predictions about how America would look if Obama got a first term.  Dobson, the erstwhile head of Focus on the Family, is a far more responsible source than Hagee, yet as Fred Clark notes, every single prediction he made in his “Letter From 2012 in Obama’s America” was dead wrong.   (more…)

Where corporations are persons and the undocumented are not

By Alan Bean

With the first presidential debate looming, Mitt Romney has moved to the center on the immigration issue.  He still promises to oppose the DREAM act, if elected, to veto the bill if it passes congressional muster.  But Romney now says he would honor the work visas which, at President Obama’s direction, are currently being awarded to young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

As Ross Douthat (with admirable cynicism) pointed out in a recent column, when it comes to the immigration issue, presidential aspirants can win votes by exhibiting compassion (George W. Bush, Rick Perry) or by playing mean (Mitt Romney during the primary season), but there is no advantage to waffling between these two strategies.  Like most right-leaning pundits, Douthat favors using immigration as a wedge issue:

 Taking a more restrictionist position and using the issue to portray the Democrats as beholden to their party’s ethnic interest groups and out of step with blue collar Americans’ concerns.

The wise course, in other words, is to drive a wedge between hardworking Latinos and Anglos.  Nice, Ross.  A self-proclaimed “Christian” columnist advocates this sort of nastiness and no one cries “for shame!”  That’s the America we live in.  Christianity, it seems, has no moral application unless we’re talking about abortion.

Texas politicians like George W. Bush and Rick Perry are “soft on immigration” because their support base includes a lot of agribusiness people who couldn’t survive without cheap undocumented labor.  Alienating Latino voters might benefit Republicans in the short-term; but it is a long-term loser.

It is also devilish, but hey, in American politics you’ve got to give the devil his due.

Romney and Obama are both waffling on the immigration issue.  Obama claims to be working for comprehensive immigration reform (known as CIR in immigration reform circles), but he also deported a record 400,000 undocumented immigrants last year, three-quarters of them to Mexico.  To put that in context, that’s the same number of undocumented residents the United States deported between 1908 and 1980. In theory, the feds are deporting criminals, “the worst of the worst”.  In reality, half of the deportees have no criminal record and most of the “criminals” represent little threat to American public safety.

Historically, American politicians of both parties have waffled on immigration, bouncing between compassion and demagoguery.  In 1986, Ronald Reagan signed a bill that exchanged amnesty for many undocumented immigrants for assurances that the border would be closed to new arrivals.  Typically, the approach has been to privilege on group of undocumented Americans at the expense of other undocumented groups.  The DREAM act, for instance, would allow young people who came to the United States as children to obtain work permits and apply for citizenship, but their parents, and children who arrived too late, would be out of luck.

This good-immigrant-bad-immigrant approach is fundamentally unfair and utterly unworkable.  We gain nothing by kicking the immigration can down the road.

Politicians like Obama and Romney can’t be more progressive (or regressive) than the American middle.  A new poll suggests that the majority of Americans now favor providing a path to citizenship over mass deportation.  This shift occurred, I suspect, because Barack Obama found the courage to protect (albeit temporarily) DREAM act young people from immediate deportation.

Few of us think our way to an opinion.  We listen to what significant others are saying and follow suit.  We don’t all march to the same drummer, but few of us supply our own drum track.  True reform will come when both major parties realize that they can get one of their people elected president, or they can enrage the Latino electorate, but they can’t do both.

Here’s the results of the CNN poll: (more…)