December 2011 Church & State | People & Events

Prominent evangelical and conservative columnist Cal Thomas says politicized pulpits are doing America no good.

In a recent column, Thomas commented on the flap that erupted during the Family Research Council’s “Values Voter Summit” in October when the Rev. Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas attacked candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormonism and insisted that evangelicals should support a “born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jeffress was referring to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom he introduced at the event.

Thomas wrote that he has a problem with this. Voters, he suggested, would do better to focus less on where a candidate worships and look instead at his or her plans for the nation.

“The 2012 election, in fact every election, ought not to be about if, how, or what a candidate worships, but on his (or her) ability to do the job,” wrote Thomas. “If I am in need of surgery, it may be of some interest to me what religion, if any, the surgeon happens to believe in, but I am far more interested in how many of his former patients are still among the living.”

Thomas noted that pastors from the left and the right have long commented on the issues of the day. He said they have a right to do that, but opined that wading into electoral politics goes too far. Thomas said he opposes church politicking because he considers it a threat to the church.

“It is when preachers start endorsing or opposing candidates based on their perception of who is God’s choice that serious problems arise,” Thomas wrote. “It suggests, especially to the non-believers in the world, that the Kingdom of God is part of an earthly kingdom. The result is a loss of power for that unseen Kingdom, which is the only one that can transform a life and, thus, a culture.”

Thomas worked for Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the late 1970s and for many years promoted Religious Right ideas on churches and politics. About 10 years ago, he began to change his views. Thomas began arguing that government-enforced theology can’t change people’s hearts. If you want to change the culture, he began telling his fellow evangelicals, then spread the gospel to people through voluntary channels.

Thomas even coauthored a book critical of the Religious Right titled Blinded By The Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America.