SC Renewal Project
Debi and I are in Columbia attending the South Carolina Renewal Project. It is a gathering of conservative evangelical pastors and their wives to encourage political involvement. Voting records indicate that the highest voting rate among this bloc is about 50%, and in the last presidential election was around 25%. The general idea is to imagine the difference in our nation if all conservative evangelicals would exercise better stewardship over the privilege of choosing our own leaders.
Historian David Barton is the key speaker. He has presented lots of information about the involvement of pastors in the founding of our nation. Of special interest to me is the fact that “election sermons” were a common practice at the time of our founding; that John Adams forty years after American independence credited the clergy with instilling in our citizenry the Biblical principles that undergirded our establishment as a nation; that the British referred to “the Black Robe Regiment,” that army of American pastors who led the nation during the war, and the involvement of so many African Americans in the revolution.
Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke last night. She’s quite comfortable among this group, but I think will have to tone down her “preaching” style if she wants to gain a wider audience. Senator Rand Paul also spoke. He was an interesting man, not as folksy as Rep. Bachmann. He was very honest and plain-spoken, which I appreciated. He spoke of sincere faith, but also of sincere struggles as a man of faith because of the difficulty of seeing God’s greater design in human pain and suffering and because of His allowance of man’s inhumanity to other men.
This morning, Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke via satelite feed. He has called for a national day of prayer and fasting on Aug. 6. Of course, everyone is wondering where he is in his deliberations about seeking the presidency. He seems to be making all the moves toward a run, but has not committed one way or another.
For me, all of this has a strange feel. Part of that is personal. All of the candidates are speaking about the issues that I kept trying to address when I ran for Congress in 2008. Then, I simply could not get traction and issues such as our national debt took a back seat to issues such as immigration. It’s so peculiar to see the issues I championed now take center stage. I suppose my timing was simply off by an election cycle–the Tea Party candidate before there was a Tea Party movement.
But all of this is strange to me for another reason, too. I am conservative. I am evangelical. But I don’t like and never have liked the feeling that I’m being courted or that I may be viewed as part of the herd whose vote can be locked down by the occasional reference to Jesus and bringing in some gospel group to belt out “I’m Proud to Be an American.” I’m tired of hearing elected officials who talk the talk, secure the votes, and then govern unwisely and selfishly. So I sit through this with a certain bit of skepticism. Sometimes, it’s all a bit too syrupy for my tastes. I think I detect faint whiffs of insincerity, but I’m uncertain if its real or imagined. Time will tell, I suppose.