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Fri, Dec. 13

Falwell's new effort courts wrong flock in wrong place

When the Christian world is focusing on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Rev. Jerry Falwell is again focusing on politics.

A decade ago, after disbanding the Moral Majority, Falwell said he was going back to preaching. People said his preaching became more powerful when he returned to his first love. But he has succumbed again to politics and its illusion of power. At a recent news conference in Washington and on his "People of Faith 2000" web page, Falwell announced a drive to register 10 million new voters to impose a moral code through government which most citizens are not willing to impose on themselves.

Falwell will not register 10 million new voters who will vote as he wishes because there aren't that many unregistered.

People who still believe the solution to moral decline lies in Washington registered to vote in the '80s and found that, even in the idealized Reagan era, not much changed. In fact, with the exception of a slight decline in abortions (not the result of legislation but rather the establishment of thousands of centers to help women with unplanned pregnancies), things have gotten worse. Many church members are following the ways of the world, divorcing and consuming pornography in increasing numbers, according to several surveys.

On his Web page, Falwell contends "people of faith are persona non grata in the American political process." No, they're not. They just shouldn't expect constantly to run the Republican Party to which his wing of the church has attached itself. The lower kingdom (politics) is about compromise. The higher kingdom (the gospel) is about no compromise. Falwell is trying to apply the principles of the higher kingdom to the lower one. Such attempts are futile.

Second, Falwell says the "left-wing elite has waged a campaign to purge traditional Judeo-Christian values from public life in America." It doesn't speak well for God if a "left-wing elite" can erode His power and reach. But the real blame belongs on the church doorstep. Falwell accuses "the deafening silence of America's pulpits and religious leaders" for causing this values purge.

Viewers who see ministers and non-ministers all over television don't believe anyone has silenced these people. Most preachers I know have chosen to concentrate on preaching the gospel and changing lives, not government. They believe their call is from God; it is to Him they answer and no one else.

Washington can neither cure nor spoil culture. Millions of individual choices determine its health. Scripture forecasts its decline when people turn away from God.

Falwell says he resents Christians being treated as "second-class citizens." But that is precisely what Jesus told His true followers they could expect. He said, "If they hated me, they'll hate you," and "if they persecuted me, they will persecute you," and "a servant is not greater than His master" If such people are truly living godly lives, they should expect persecution. God doesn't command them to form a political movement to stop it. They should instead increase their godly behavior.

On his Web page, Falwell says: "… if millions of people of faith vote – with prayer-filled hearts – I believe we can return America to moral sanity and reestablish this great country as 'one nation under God.'" Not through government they can't. Those who are putting at least partial faith in George W. Bush to turn the nation around will be disappointed. Consider some of the appointments Republican presidents have made to the Supreme Court: Dwight Eisenhower named the liberal Earl Warren; Richard Nixon gave us Harry Blackmun, author of Roe vs. Wade; Ronald Reagan selected Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, who uphold Roe; George Bush delivered the ultra-liberal David Souter to the court.

"People of Faith 2000" will raise some money and make noise, but it will change little. The message of Easter can change everything.

(Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.)

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