As we all head to the voting booth on Tuesday, November 6th, there are a few thoughts Welton would like you to take with you. Here are some lessons learned and observations made during the endless political campaigns leading up to election day.
RUSH TRANSCRIPT: Welton Gaddy[Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy]: After almost two years of roller coaster expectations and speculations too numerous to remember, we’ve arrived at the time for clichés: “Now it all comes down to this.” “This is the moment of truth.” You know the phrases. And though they’re old and hackneyed, they still pack power because they convey truth. This coming Tuesday is a day of national elections on which registered voters in our land will choose whose vision and values will guide our nation for the next four years – and likely also shape majority opinions on critical issues coming before the highest court in this land for decades to come.
Think back with me over the long campaigns and ponder, if you will, some of the most important lessons that we’ve learned over this election cycle.
During the Republican primaries, not one of the politicians acknowledging that God called them to run for the presidency received their party’s nomination for the presidency. Not one! Now, does this mean that God’s a poor politician, or could it be that these would-be candidates mistook personal ambition for spiritual direction? Whatever the answer to that question, the United States still does not recognize a divine right to the presidency.
A second lesson from the campaigns confirmed what previously existed as a strong presumption or suspicion: the dominant motivation of the religious right always has been, and is now, not religion – but politics. The goal has been power, not righteousness. The conservative religious community was divided in its loyalty because more than one candidate claimed God’s endorsement. Now, if you’re always doing what people say God told them to do, and that’s the people you support – well, it was confusing this time!
Early on, however, despite that disparity, no voice from the religious right dissented from the agreement that Mitt Romney was the most dangerous potential candidate, and that, because of his religion – what most on the religious right called a “cult.” The governor of Texas, like the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and the head of the Department of Religious Freedom for the Southern Baptist Convention decried the possibility of a candidate who “stood outside Christianity.”
However, once the Republican party nominated Mitt Romney as their candidate, long-held theological convictions gave way to political loyalty, and those who had decried the nomination of Romney now endorsed Romney! Doing so, they exposed for all of us either the weakness and flexibility of their convictions, or the priority that most shapes their convictions. It was all about political power. Religion had absolutely nothing to do with it – why, even the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization removed from their website their designation of Mormonism as a “cult,” and agreed to a photo op with the Latter-Day Saint candidate.
Gone was the cover for the religious right, as well as the integrity of its convictions.
Third, both candidates have been far more cautious than candidates in recent years when talking about religion. At Interfaith Alliance, we applaud the candidates not using the persuasion of religion as a political strategy. At the same time, though, we lament the lack of attention in the campaign devoted to the meaning and importance of religious freedom – that foundational constitutional issue has been largely ignored in a time when religious groups are trying to change the meaning of religious freedom, and gain support for an interpretation of the First Amendment that bows in compliance to their sense of sectarian privilege.
Fourth, in this campaign cycle, we have seen as never before the power of money: the power of money to increase incivility; to demote truth to a distant periphery; and to turn an election into a contest to prove who’s the richest. Sadly, even the candidates themselves have played fast and loose with the truth. In some instances, statistical errors have been made in presidential statements; but in other instances, outright lies have been declared as straightforward truths. At times, changes of positions have occurred so rapidly and dramatically that voters have been left wondering about a candidate’s true plans for the future.
Most presidential elections seem the most important election ever. This coming Tuesday carries the weight of such a feeling. Thankfully, though, the choices are clear this time. Hardly could the two major candidates for the oval office be more different. We the people will make the decision about who wins this election. Please vote.
Another old cliché is absolute truth: “Every vote counts.” I urge you to participate in one of the most important days in our democracy, and to demonstrate your importance, and the importance of your vote. And then next week, we’ll talk about the results of the 2012 national elections.
State of Belief is based on the proposition that religion has a positive and healing role to play in the life of the nation. The show explains and explores that role by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America – the most religiously diverse country in the world – while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes.
Each week, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy offers listeners critical analysis of the news of religion and politics, and seeks to provide listeners with an understanding and appreciation of religious liberty. Rev. Gaddy tackles politics with the firm belief that the best way to secure freedom for religion in America is to secure freedom from religion. State of Belief illustrates how the Religious Right is wrong – wrong for America and bad for religion.
Through interviews with celebrities and newsmakers and field reports from around the country, State of Belief explores the intersection of religion with politics, culture, media, and activism, and promotes diverse religious voices in a religiously pluralistic world.
Author of more than 20 books, including First Freedom First: A Citizen’s Guide to Protecting Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy leads the national non-partisan grassroots and educational organization Interfaith Alliance and serves as Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana.
In addition to being a prolific writer, Dr. Gaddy hosts the weekly State of Belief radio program, where he explores the role of religion in the life of the nation by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America, while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes.
Dr. Gaddy provides regular commentary to the national media on issues relating to religion and politics. He has appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and Hardball, NBC’s Nightly News and Dateline, PBS’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, ABC’s World News, and CNN’s American Morning. Former host of Morally Speaking on NBC affiliate KTVE in Monroe, Louisiana, Dr. Gaddy is a regular contributor to mainstream and religious news outlets.
While ministering to churches with a message of inclusion, Dr. Gaddy emerged as a leader among progressive and moderate Baptists. Among his many leadership roles, he is a past president of the Alliance of Baptists and has been a 20-year member of the Commission of Christian Ethics of the Baptist World Alliance. His past leadership roles include serving as a member of the General Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, President of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Chair of the Pastoral Leadership Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and member of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100. Rev. Gaddy currently serves on the White House task force on the reform of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Prior to the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Dr. Gaddy served in many SBC leadership roles including as a member of the convention’s Executive Committee from 1980-84 and Director of Christian Citizenship Development of the Christian Life Commission from 1973-77.
Dr. Gaddy received his undergraduate degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and his doctoral degree and divinity training from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.