January 26, 2004

Dean Exploits Jesus as Prop
by Donald G. Mashburn

Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean suddenly discovered God and thinks Jesus “set an extraordinary example.” Now Dean says he intends to mention the name of Jesus more as his campaign moves into Bible Belt states like Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Never before has a presidential candidate telegraphed his intentions of faking his beliefs to win votes in states he perceives – perhaps correctly – are more religious than his own.

Dean’s new emphasis on Jesus makes us wonder where Jesus has been during Congregationalist Dean’s campaigns in Iowa and the Northeast. Some are wondering what kind of president would such a shallow, blatantly pandering politician make. Others are wondering if Dean has taken leave of his senses.

The controversy started with Dean telling the Boston Globe that he will talk more about Jesus Christ when he campaigns in the South, since, according to Dean, people in the Northeast don’t talk about their religion easily.

Dean told the Globe that "Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, [and] He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2,000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it."

The Son of God, Risen Savior, Lord of all, inspiring? How profound!

Reducing the Savior of the world to a “person” – no mention of faith – that merely “set an extraordinary example” upset many Christians. Wall Street Journal reporter Geoffrey Norman wrote, “When it comes to talking about Jesus while stumping for votes, Mr. Dean does not have much practice. These things were never discussed when he campaigned for governor of Vermont.”

Norman added that in New England, “talking publicly about these matters is considered . . . oh, vulgar. There is a church in every town ... and this is where you go when you want to commit religion. ... A tent revival seems unthinkable here.”

Dean may be reluctant to “commit religion,” but he clearly is willing to commit hypocrisy – if it will help him gain votes in the Bible Belt. Not the kind of hypocrisy Bill Clinton showed on Easter Sunday 1996, when he conspicuously displayed his Bible as he left church, shortly before his rendezvous with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office.

Dean’s personal brand of hypocrisy isn’t as sordid as that of Clinton, but it’s hypocrisy nonetheless to pretend to have a relationship with Jesus Christ only while campaigning in the South.

Defenders of Clinton and Dean claim that a president’s morality is his “personal business.” Well, Americans – up till Clinton – have given considerable weight to things like character, honesty, and morality. And we would do well to remember the warning of French-Swiss philosopher Rousseau, who wrote, “Those who would treat politics and morality apart will never understand the one or the other.”

If, then, honesty and character are desirable traits in a president, as a national and world leader and as commander-in-chief of our forces, why should we knowingly accept less? Informed voters will always prefer in a president a reputation for honesty, and a life that squares with that reputation.

We should avoid any politician who wants office enough to act hypocritically before the public, and who is willing to do anything to get elected. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.”

A candidate who deliberately exploits the Jesus who suffered and died on the cross for our sins, already has slipped into the “rottenness ... in ... conduct” to which Jefferson referred.

Why would we then want to choose a candidate who can’t straightforwardly profess his beliefs? How could he function as the leader of a nation whose history and laws are strongly influenced by God’s own word?

America deserves better. A candidate who hypocritically cons the public by using the Lord as a political prop isn’t worthy of consideration from voters.