Bryan Fischer, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association (AFA), stumbled into the bad old Dark Ages the other day (and no, it’s not his first trip back). Writing on his personal blog on AFA which speaks only for him and aparently not for the AFA, the man who hates gays, secularists, Muslims, Native Americans, healthy Americans, and a bunch of others we don’t have the space to name, made the claim (as far as we know without blushing) that “when we pick a president, we are in fact choosing a minister of God.”
As such, he sees the “considerable debate” engaged in by Evangelicals over “marital qualifications for public office” as healthy and “a sign of a vigorous community of faith.”
In other words, all the extremist pandering in Iowa I’ve recently spent most every day denouncing, is a good, healthy part of American politics.
I was about to say we might want to spend more time arguing about the candidate’s knowledge of the economy or foreign relations or heck, even the U.S. Constitution, but what was I thinking? It isn’t the Constitution with its prohibition of religious tests or against state-sponsored religion that matters, says Fischer, but the Bible.
Fischer, Johnny-on-the-spot, has anticipated me:
“Those who say that a candidate’s trouble marital past should not be a consideration for values voters are quick to point out that we are choosing a president, not a pastor. The qualifications, they say, are different for pastors than for politicians.”
And they are different, manifestly so. Certainly we want a good character person in the White House just as you’d want one for pastor. But how many times the candidate has been married matters a bit more for a pastor, who, after all, is supposed to morally guide his flock, than for a president, who is supposed to govern a country.
When was the last time a pastor needed to be well-versed in nuclear disarmament protocols or to master the complex machinations of the Pentagon or the grand strategy of the asymmetrical war on terror and two conventional wars besides? How many pastors could have taken out Osama bin Laden?
Here is where all of you who questioned the relevance of Paul of Tarsus in a recent article might take note. Fischer finds the answer “no less than three times in Romans 13” where Paul “uses words that emphasize the sacredness of public service.” Look at the language Paul uses and Fischer eagerly quotes:
“The one who serves in public office is ‘God’s servant’ and the ‘servant of God’ (v. 4), and statesmen are ‘ministers of God’ (v. 6).
Thus, claims Fischer in a eureka-moment, “if in fact we allow the Scriptures to be our guide, then public service is a form of ministry. One who holds public office is serving in a divinely ordained role, just as much as a pastor in the pulpit. The role of a statesman is every bit as sacred as that of a clergyman.”
Sacredly ordained…I think Bryan Fischer just rediscovered the divine right of kings – and a neat segue into the GOP principal that God chooses our presidents for us since we are a divinely sanctioned nation. And sure enough, there it is:
“[T]here is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
Therefore, says Fischer, pounding his point home, “Every politician, whether he knows it or not, is using delegated power, delegated authority, authority delegated to him by God himself.”
Not, significantly, delegated by the Constitution, which in fact established our political offices. It is the will of the people – we the people – who hold the reins in the United States – not God, not the Bible, not the will of men pretending to do God’s will. Remember how I suggested perhaps a president should have a working knowledge of the Constitution? That goes doubly for Bryan Fischer, the guy who thinks the Establishment Clause established Christianity as the state religion rather than forbidding that establishment, and who as a result, perhaps, should stick to ministering.
Even if we go back in time to the days when Paul wrote (the first century C.E.), his insights would no doubt have startled the Romans as much as any constitutionally-minded American, given that their institutions were ancient and unique and established in the distant polytheistic past in central Italy, not by a small group of rabid monotheists in Judaea. I bet Caesar didn’t know he was serving “God” when he became consul. I’m certain he thought he was serving the Senate and the People of Rome – and maybe himself (but that’s true of every office holder throughout history).
The idea that God controls all human affairs and takes a direct hand in them through agents on earth is an ancient one. The mantle rested lightly in the days before God started telling people how to act, much less so afterward. The Jewish priesthood in post-monarchical Israel claimed to be governing Israel for the true King (God) and we all know how Jesus felt about that; and we are all well aware of the horrors perpetrated on humanity by European king after European king pretending to stand in for God on earth. Any horror can be perpetrated when one claims divine sanction. Hitler even declared divine sanction in the form of “providence” (a term also much used by Christianity).
History teaches us, even if you choose like Fischer to ignore the U.S. Constitution, that sane people ought to be running away from the idea that elected officials serve God before they serve their constituents. The Founding Fathers ran away from that idea by eliminating (or so they thought) the possibility of state-sponsored religion and religious tests for office, by leaving out all mention of God, Jesus, Bible (including the aforementioned Paul) and divine right out of the Constitution.
Yet again and again religious conservatives circle the argument around to God and the Bible and leave the Constitution out of it, unless pretending the Constitution is actually based on the Ten Commandments (leaving you to wonder if they have read either document). “Values voters” are certainly free to vote their conscience in 2012 – the Constitution (not the Bible) guarantees them this right. But all the “faith” in the world cannot change the wording of that document or make Paul ‘s nattering relevant to the political process established by it.
Ultimate authority derives not from God, not through some outdated concept of divine sanction, but from the people, and a voter’s first concern should be in choosing the candidate who best serves the interest not of God but of the people. Leave issues of morality to those best able to hypocritize them – ministers like Bryan Fischer.