Keeping Faith With the GOP

Even more “shocking” than the Bush Administration’s alleged manipulation of faith-based voters is liberals’ attempt to use David Kuo’s book “Tempting Faith” to tempt evangelical voters to abandon Republicans on November 7.
Has the phrase “politics makes strange bedfellows” ever evoked stranger bedfellows?
Of course, the notion that everyone in the Republican fold has perfect, abiding respect for and understanding of each other’s goals and methods—if not personality and taste—is absurd.
This came home quite humorously for me while working for former Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign manager Ed Rollins at his consulting firm in Alexandria, Va., just up the street from his campaign deputy Lee Atwater’s firm.
Ed and the boys had just come back from a session with Pat Robertson at his Virginia Beach headquarters and related how they had all held hands and prayed. Their reactions were … well, suffice it to say, they were not converted to Robertson’s brand of religion. They were, however, converted to his vote-getting potential, given the army of evangelicals fired-up over cultural and moral decay, determined to elect a president who would do something about it.
Ed would go on to become Robertson’s manager for his 1988 presidential primary campaign. Lee Atwater, of course, went on to become Vice President George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign manager.
I worked for the Vice President’s campaign, starting in August 1987; then went to work in the Reagan Administration as a speechwriter that October. But, I had an idea for a “Families for Bush Coalition” that I thought I might return to the campaign to help organize. Coalitions liked the idea and said, I just needed to talk with the evangelical coalition because they had a little piece of the action on the emerging families coalition.
As it turned out, the evangelicals—supported by key campaign official George W. Bush—were the Families Coalition. Soon enough I was down in New Orleans working on the Salute to the American Family program at the Republican National Convention that highlighted leaders who have helped others "attain self-sufficiency.” Not surprisingly this Saturday Evening Post-sponsored program largely featured faith-based initiatives such as Snow Peabody’s “Teen Challenge” and Joe Ellis’s “Rescue Mission,” plus “Clean Teens USA.”
And, it makes perfect sense. The love of God, as a motivating factor, is far more powerful than any government program.
It’s ironic—my boss in Bush 41, responsible for some $20 billion in programs, questioned my suggestion one day, in the context of issues with which he was grappling, that people needed love in their lives, asking me how might government fund love? But, the last few months of the administration, when I served on the staff of President George H.W. Bush’s National Commission of America’s Urban Families, that was the message—at hearings, site visits, and meetings across the nation: Faith-based initiatives—helping people find the love in their lives—had a distinctive edge. Likewise, it was obvious these successful programs needed and deserved funding. But, since their energies were poured directly into saving lives, more often than not, they did not have the grant-writing skills their secular peers had to secure government funding.
Enter President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative where giving faith-based programs this technical know-how is one area the program has excelled in.
The fact that President Bush believes in this initiative, deep in his soul, starting with his work with the Family Issues Coalition, is no accident—but a result of personal experience. As he told me in a one-on-one interview: “I accepted Christ in 1986 and quit drinking shortly thereafter. … And, I’m a better person for it. I would not be running for President had I not quit … alcohol was competing for my affections and for my time.” (National Catholic Register, March 19-25, 2000)
But, very obviously, not everyone in Bush’s orbit has experienced a similar conversion.
The oil-and-water relationship of the secular and religious worlds is an old story, epitomized in such classics as Warner Bros.’ “Brother Orchid.” Haven’t heard of “Brother Orchid”? This 1940 film stars Edgar G. Robinson as Little John T. ‘Johnny’ Sarto, boss of a New York City racket, who takes a lengthy European vacation, and comes back to find Humphrey Bogart’s Jack Buck in charge. When he tries to reassume his position, Buck’s boys try to bump him off. But, Sarto manages to stumble out of the forest where they left him for dead, to an isolated building that turns out to be a monastery, where the monks raise and sell flowers to benefit the poor. He can’t figure out the angle concerning their good works and asks, “Where’s the graft?” Changing his name to Brother Orchid, Sarto hides out with the monks, while convalescing. Gradually, he is won over by their spirituality and helps them continue selling their flowers by eliminating Buck’s flower-selling syndicate.
The fact that Brothers Rollins, Rove, et alia, are not exactly banging down the doors of the eternal city to gain admission to its spiritual club should come as no surprise to anyone—least of all to Brother Olbermann and his ilk.
But, like Brother Orchid, they are eliminating a syndicate—a liberal mindset that thinks government can and should take the place of God’s love in changing people’s hearts and transforming their lives.
And, that’s a good thing for which Republicans deserve to be rewarded this November 7.