The Family Leader’s mission is to be “a consistent, courageous voice in churches, in the legislature, in the media, in the courtroom, in the public square… always standing for God’s truth .” Given that lofty description, eyebrows are being raised about The Family Leader including on their short list of possible endorsements the twice divorced, thrice married Newt Gingrich. Just when it looked like they’d go over the cliff holding hands with Most Evangelical Michele, they decide to float the Newt balloon, compromising their purity for a selection process that may simply be William F. Buckley’s “most electable conservative” approach.
This isn’t the way heartland evangelicals thought it would be. Compromise is for cowards. An absolute worldview requires absolute and unchanging political convictions. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall hold office. Iowa is the state that tried to anoint Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee to be priest-kings. Heartland evangelicals thought they would change the way politics are done.
But now Newt is in the conversation. So what happened? Family Leader might just be learning the rules of the rough sport we call politics. It’s about power, money, connections, rhetoric, and compromise. (We also must have faith that principles are somewhere involved, faith being the substance of things not seen.) If you don’t get on board the winner, you’re a loser. The Family Leader might be figuring out there is a disjuncture between religion and politics.
Given this evangelical submission to politics, one might ask whether politics is more powerful than religion. The answer is that politics is more powerful than religion in the political octagon. To be more precise, politics follows its own rules and has its own set of skills; smile and be earnest all you want but if that’s all you’ve got, get ready to tap out. And, given the different rules and skill sets, it doesn’t make any more sense to send our pastors into the political octagon than it does to ordain politicians.