Monday, October 18, 2010

Democrats trying to appear more Christian than Republicans...a dangerous precedent?

The Democratic Party is becoming more and more religious this election year, using the irreligious (and un-Christian) actions of some in the GOP as reason why voters should select certain Democratic candidates.

To be sure, it isn't ALL Democrats who are doing this. But in two specific races, Democratic resources are being used to make sure the public sees the Republicans as anti-Christian.

In Delaware, Christine O'Donnell is having a difficult time during a year when most TEA Party candidates have been seeing more success with their polling numbers. Her difficulties are due in large part to videos released by comedian Bill Maher, who had O'Donnell on as a regular on his TV show "Politically Incorrect" in the 1990s. In one video O'Donnell states that she chose not to become a Hare Krishna because she couldn't handle being a vegetarian; in another, she admits that she once "dabbled" in witchcraft.

Rand Paul, the libertarian-leaning Republican candidate for Senator in Kentucky, is also facing the religious wrath of his Democratic opponent, who this week released a political ad questioning Paul's religious beliefs.

To be sure, the exploits and histories of both these candidates ought to be explored as deeply as possible. That O'Donnell chose Christianity on the basis of whether she could eat meat or not brings into question her character and ability to make rational decisions (most religious choices are made based on deeper convictions than food preferences). And that Paul allegedly forced a woman to worship "his God" called "Aqua Buddha" should make us question his integrity as a person, much less a political leader for the state of Kentucky.

But the charges against these candidates often relate to their "Christian-ness" more than their integrity. I've heard several progressive radio hosts in the last week alone belittle O'Donnell for her past rather than showing any respect for her doing something that most liberals would celebrate -- exploring a variety of beliefs and then choosing the best fit based on your experiences. Paul's lacking of a Christian belief structure -- a charge which Paul denies -- would also be something of little concern were he a Democratic candidate. It's his ideas that matter most, not whether he believes in a specific people's ideas of what God is like.

To be sure, I do view both candidates' religious experiences to be deeply troubling -- but not in the context of their not being Christian enough. We laugh when we hear about O'Donnell once being a witch, for example, but were she able to bring about a reasoned proposal to eliminate unemployment in our country, I wouldn't care whether she was, or even still is, a witch or not.

We twinge and criticize Republicans for using religious beliefs as wedge issues. We shouldn't be doing the same ourselves -- there are plenty of policy positions and backwards ideological stances available to debate TEA Party candidates on. We needn't be hypocrites -- after all, if Democratic candidates cannot defeat these extremist TEA Party candidates on issues and ideologies alone, then they don't deserve to be elected in the first place.

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