There are no atheists in foxholes, says the old saw; and likewise, you’ve got to dislodge a lot of rocks to dig up the atheists in political campaigns. A recent Pew study reported that 51% of Americans say they would be “less likely” to vote for an atheist. So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised to find God being given so much lip service in the candidates’ Iowa speeches—but I am!
Predictably, the Democratic candidates—aligned as they are with Planned Parenthood and the abortion contortion—held God at arm’s length on Monday night.
Hillary Clinton offered the traditional “politician’s prayer” at the end of her speech late Monday evening: She said, “God bless the United States of America.”
Meanwhile Bernie Sanders, who has been described as “unabashedly irreligious,” remained on firm secular ground. He promised change in American politics and talked glibly about a “political revolution”; but he took sole responsibility for accomplishing that goal, without trusting anything to any far-off “higher power.” Sanders’ godless platform was what one might expect from a secularist who once told Jimmy Kimmel, “What I believe in and what my spirituality is about, is that we’re all in this together. That I think it is not a good thing to believe as human beings that we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people.”
But those Republicans!
Ted Cruz began his victory speech Monday evening with a prayer, saying, “God bless the great state of Iowa! Let me first of all say, ‘To God be the glory’!” He went on to echo Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” speech—assuring his campaign supporters that “Morning is coming!” Invoking the Bible, the Republican front-runner in Iowa said, “While Americans will continue to suffer under a president who has set an agenda which is causing millions to hurt across this country, I want to remind you of the promise of Scripture: ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’”
Touting the “Judeo-Christian values that built this great nation,” Senator Cruz ticked off a list of campaign promises from the playbook of the Christian churches: repealing Obamacare, securing the borders, supporting Life and marriage and religious liberty. Defeating ISIS, and calling our nation’s greatest security threat by its true name, “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Donald Trump, the candidate whose name has dominated the airwaves during this election season, spoke with characteristic braggadocio. In a recent interview with CNN’s Jack Tapper, The Donald boasted about his faith, leading one to wonder whether he thought that even God would be voting for him in 2016. “I have a great relationship with God,” candidate Trump said. “I have a great relationship with evangelicals. In fact nationwide, I’m up by a lot. I’m leading everybody.”
But the candidate didn’t stop there. In the now-famous interview, Trump went on to assert that he doesn’t ask God for forgiveness—that he is good, and doesn’t do a lot of things that are bad, so there’s nothing to apologize for. (If only I could be so holy.)
But among the slate of candidates, the one who stood out for his faith-talk was the guy with Catholic roots, Marco Rubio. Three times in his twelve-minute speech at the close of the Iowa Caucus, he turned his attention toward God. “I want to thank an all powerful and mighty God,” he said in his opening remarks, “for the chance that he has given us to be a part of this endeavor here in Iowa.” As he drew to a close and thanked those who had helped him to accomplish his unexpected third-place finish just a percentage point behind Donald Trump, Rubio said, “And I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I thank God for allowing me the opportunity to come this far with each of you.” And he signed off telling his supporters, “Thank you. God bless you.”
Rubio’s honest and humble reliance upon God should come as no surprise. In announcing his candidacy for the office of President in April 2015, he began, “After months of deliberation and prayer about the future of our country, I have come here tonight to make an announcement on how I believe I can best serve her.”
The candidates have different ideas about what is best for America—what programs to advance if they accede to the presidency, what bills to enact and policies to enforce. But I take comfort in the hope that our next leader—whoever he is—will be a man of prayer, a man who has come to rely upon God for wisdom and strength, and who is confident that God will protect our great nation.
In a speech delivered on July 31, 1846, President Abraham Lincoln said, “I do not think I could myself be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of, or scoffer at, religion.” I agree.
Image by Harley Pebley (Flickr: Prayer for USA)