Karl Marx was famous for saying that “politics is war without blood. War is politics with blood.” Over the years, we’ve come to expect a great many things from our politicians. We know they’ll lie, twist, connive, deceive, and kiss as many babies as necessary in order to win that next election. We’re no longer surprised when we hear of particular candidate’s indiscretion or some outright lie they’ve told. It’s all part of the political game.
Lies — they are the language of hate. They are the greatest weapon in the war of politics. But why, then, should we expect this kind of behavior from religious groups?
Over the past few decades, the lies and deceptive rhetoric to emerge from pseudo-religious “parachurch” organizations has only grown more bold, and more alarming. So much so, in fact, that some of these groups have been certified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a result.
One of the most recent examples comes from a group called the American Center for Law and Justice. This team of “Christian” lawyers was formed under the tutelage of Pat Robertson, himself famous for saying lots of really, really wrong things about — well — everything. The ACLJ has sent out one of its “action” emails designed to scare the hell out of its supporters. In the email, they say that the Obama campaign is “attacking military voting rights!”
It is important to lay out the facts. There are two statutes regarding early voting, both of which were amended recently by the Ohio legislature. The first statute sets the deadline for early voting as the Friday before Election Day, giving most voters 32 days within which to vote early, in-person. The second statute extends in-person absentee voting through Election Day for military personnel, an additional three days of in-person voting.
President Obama’s re-election campaign argues in federal court that giving military personnel these three extra days to cast their in-person absentee ballot is “entirely arbitrary” and has “no legitimate justification’ in the law because doing so “treats similarly situated Ohio voters differently.”
The horrors! The evil! The audacity! They claim that the Obama campaign is trying to strip Ohio’s military residents from being able to vote those extra three days.
Now, for a little bit of truth. The ACLJ leaves out one critical point of just how the early voting calendar was amended. Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature wasn’t happy with the fact that everyone could vote early up until the day before the election. So, they cut it back to end the Friday before. Only active-duty military members would have those extra three days.
Now, let’s take a look at the lawsuit itself — and we don’t even have to read very far to find out the truth. In fact, it’s in the opening paragraph:
Plaintiffs Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee, and the Ohio Democratic Party hereby move this Court for a preliminary injunction to prevent the State Defendants from arbitrarily denying tens of thousands of Ohio voters the right to cast their votes in the three days prior to Election Day – a critical right that was granted to all qualified Ohio voters in 2005, used by an estimated 93,000 Ohio voters in the 2008 presidential election, and inequitably taken away from most, but not all, Ohio voters without justification in the last year. As demonstrated below, and in the supporting Memorandum of Law, Plaintiffs are very likely to succeed on their claims that recent legislative changes to Ohio election law violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution; Plaintiffs’ members and supporters – Democratic voters who may not be able to vote if the right to vote early in person in the three days prior to Election Day is taken away – will be irreparably harmed if an injunction does not issue; the balance of hardships tips in Plaintiffs’ favor; and a preliminary injunction restoring early voting in the three days prior to Election Day for all eligible Ohio citizens would be in the public interest. (Emphasis mine)
So, let’s review. The ACLJ claims that the Obama campaign wants to take away those extra three days of voting from those in the military. The court document itself says that the campaign wants to ensure that everyone is able to vote during those extra three days as they did in the last few elections.
Everyone tries to spin it, but the facts are clear. Republicans stripped those three days from everyone except the military. Democrats would like to have those three days back, and now Republicans are claiming that Democrats don’t like the military.
While the ACLJ doesn’t have “Christian” all over its website, its origins are clear, as are its associations. Their television show is plastered all over Christian TV, and they are heralded for their work to defend Christians and their rights (for the record, the ACLU defends Christians as well).
Lies, unfortunately, are nothing new for these religious-themed organizations. The Family Research Council and the American Family Association both shouted — often — that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention Act would result in putting preachers in jail for homosexuality. It didn’t. In fact, the law itself makes clear that no one would be criminalized for preaching that it’s sin.
The National Organization for Marriage has spread the lie that homosexuality and pedophilia are closely tied (it isn’t). In fact, this is the same kind of thing that landed the AFA and FRC on the SPLC’s hate group list, a point that isn’t lost on the nation’s leading hate watch group at all. The tragic fact here is that these lies often go unchallenged by their flocks.
With actions like this, it’s clear that the ACLJ has joined its friends — the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, and countless other religious groups as being little more than religious-flavored pawns in this great war that is politics.
Sadly, when the lies are exposed, those who believe them — rarely recognize that they were duped — even when they are confronted with truth. When the Matthew Shepard law was being debated in congress back in 2009, I received an email that was sent out by a local pastor that worked for a large church in town.
The email was an announcement of an event that would show all of the faults of the Shepard act, including the “fact” that it would put preachers in jail. Since I had a business relationship with this man, I was astonished that he would believe such tripe. I called him and asked him about it. I’ll refer to him as timmy:
“Hi Timmy, David Shelton here.”
“Hey David! How are you?”
“I’m a little concerned about this email you sent out about this forum you’re hosting. Why are you putting out wrong information as if it’s true? Preachers are not going to be put in jail for preaching against homosexuality.”
“It IS true. All of the pundits say that’s what will happen.”
“Did you read the bill?”
“Yes, I read the bill. And that’s what it says.” Instantly, I realized he was lying. The Shepard act itself is short, only 16 pages. The very last paragraph clearly establishes that speech is protected, according to the first amendment.
“No, Timmy. That’s not what it says. And this nonsense about “sexual orientation not being defined,” is just flat wrong.”
“The pundits said…”
“They are lying, Timmy. And you know it. Sexual orientation was defined in the hate crime legislation act of 1990 as being either heterosexual or homosexual.”
“But that’s not…”
“In fact, that definition was referred to by this bill, and it’s clear. Why are you allowing these lies to be distributed?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I have someone in my office… I gotta go…”
I really don’t have a lot of patience for ignorance. I have even less patience for ignorance that is chosen. This is what I call ‘willful ignorance.’ Unfortunately, many of us are willing to believe a lie despite the truth being shoved in our face.
Groups like the American Family Association have more than three million members. many of whom are active in ministry. The AFA says it, the ministers parrot it, and the masses believe it. Through it all, the lie becomes more and more powerful.
After all, when someone like a pastor says something from the pulpit, it has the authority of being from a man of God. And only a man of God can truly be trusted, right? Those of us who are in ministry or people like me who have have been in ministry in the past — have a clear responsibility to the truth — and we simply cannot allow our prejudices to get in the way of that truth.
In fact, Scripture clearly addresses this kind of thing:
Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:14-15)
Paul wasn’t alone in his sentiment. James said pretty much the same thing:
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. (James 3:1-2, NIV)
I’m not serving as a pastor these days, but I know full well the responsibility of speaking the truth to the body of Christ. The time has come for all of us to stand firm and denounce the kind of religiously-tinted lies that have distorted the conversation for far too long.
In short, if a Christian group is going to enter the fray of politics by using the same weapons of politics — lies, deception, and manipulation — then we should remember the admonishment from Jesus Himself:
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)
We expect the lies from the politicians. So why should we expect them from those who claim to follow Christ? Their lies have distorted the entire conversation. They speak of gays committing a great “abomination,” yet never once consider a tiny, obscure Scripture that speaks volumes:
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. (Proverbs 12:22a, KJV)