Evangelical Christians’ political success may sink | VailDaily.com

Evangelical Christians’ political success may sink

Like a glass of premium champagne featuring bubbles shooting upwards, evangelical Christians savor bubbly political success. Defeating terrorists remains a high priority. Money is plentiful to privately finance a lavish Inauguration, following a costly presidential campaign. Key officials in the current Republican Administration testify to their faith in Christ, tell of participating in prayer breakfasts and making regular Bible study a daily regimen. Values supporting traditional families are the national norm reflecting the majority will of our citizens. Few seem very upset with the Patriot Act. They are willing to sacrifice personal rights for an honorable national good. The Iraqi War continues, with no end in sight, but nobody sees huge 1960’s protest marches either. More citizens voted Republican than Democrat in national elections. The Grand Old Party has every right to feel they are on top of the world.Success often camouflages weaknesses. It blinds us to what’s true. The presidential election in 1800, in which Jefferson barely made it to the Executive Mansion, shows what can happen to a majority party that assumes good times will always roll. In what amounted to the nastiest presidential campaign in our history, Jefferson and those giving birth to the fledgling Democrat-Republican Party beat the Federalists. Prior to this election, the Federalists enjoyed roaring success. Evangelical Christians supplied a prominent religious backbone to the Federalists’ body politic. When the Federalists lost to Jefferson, the evangelical Christian Empire tottered, too. Christians put their political apples in only one basket. Most vociferously endorsed only the Federalist regime. What the 1800 election teaches is that the party in power may topple, doubled over by the heavy weight of its success. When Christians climb aboard but one political wagon that loses traction, they suffer depleted power and prestige. Danger lurks when evangelical Christians align themselves exclusively with one political faction.Charges evangelical Christians hurled against Jefferson in his bid for the presidency are familiar. We hear similar concerns voiced today by commanding political leaders against their detractors. Success, mixed with big money and constant adulation, blinds those in the driver’s seat from seeing a clear vision ahead. They are driven by pride, caused by habitually getting their way. The biblical sage’s wisdom rarely makes an impact. “A person’s pride will humiliate him, but a humble spirit gains honor” (Proverbs 29:23).Evangelical Christians who found their home in the Federalist Party gravely feared that Jefferson would undercut power they had enjoyed. He might unloose a reign of terror. His religion was not theirs. His faulty faith escalated fears that Jefferson had designs to import atheism into the United States. An atheist for these Christians described more than a spiritual scalawag who intellectually denied God’s existence or lived a life devoid of spiritual impulse. For evangelical Christians who filled Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches especially, an atheist was anyone who dared differ with his or her commonly accepted dogma.A vote for Jefferson, claimed Christian Federalists in a widely distributed political diatribe, was a vote for atheism, terrorism, and lack of spiritual values defining good schools, churches, government and families. A vote for Federalist John Adams insured that morality would prevail in our land. A ballot cast for Jefferson would send the United States into an immoral tailspin.Those who seriously desired to protect the land of the home and the brave wouldn’t think of supporting Jefferson, charged a Christian Federalist pamphleteer. Jefferson, if elected, along with his Jacobean French anarchists, would erode “those morals which protect our lives from the knife of the assassin-which guard the chastity of our wives and daughters from seduction and violence-defend our property from plunder and devastation, and shield our religion from contempt and profanation.” In today’s speech, the Federalists feared a vote for Jefferson endorsed Hollywood. And Hollywood, as everyone knows, breeds weird families, puts unpatriotic movies on the big screen, makes fun of Judeo-Christian morality at the Oscars, and flaunts tawdry living. Federalists showed disdain for the French because they believed a French fleet was poised to sail up the Potomac River and conquer Washington City. Politicians in power today fear the French because they do not pony up to U.S. foreign policy. During the French Revolution, guillotines chopped heads off those who supported stable government and strong homes. Today we hear that a vote for the minority party will bury morals in a national graveyard.Federalists believed these rumors: Jefferson wanted to remove the Ten Commandments from the public square. His ardently held personal beliefs that didn’t jibe with orthodox Christianity. He wasn’t bothered by religion’s demise during the French Revolution. He counted among his friends in France potential terrorists. His presidency would bring debauchery on the streets and dismantle the family as Federalists honored it. Federalists spoke loud and frequently about freedom. But such liberty was of a peculiar stripe. The Alien and Sedition Laws were passed in 1798, slowing up immigration, especially from nations our government didn’t like. Those who made scurrilous remarks about President Adams and his Cabinet got jail time. Freedom for the Federalists meant giving up personal rights so that the Federal government could do a better job of protecting citizens. Only those supporting Jefferson were jailed. The Bill of Rights was turned upside down, with citizens losers and the government a big winner.Jefferson won the presidency. Christian graces marked his two terms in office. The Federalist Party disappeared. History may not exactly repeat itself, but it does revisit political cycles in which those in power fall from grace, losing their clout. The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt CREATIVE GROWTH MINISTRIES, enhancing Christian worship through storytelling and dramatic presentations. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes” is available in local bookstores for $7.95. Vail, Colorado

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