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A Review of God and Caesar in America: An Essay on Religion and Politics

Christians are often told, in not-too-friendly terms, to keep matters of faith out of the public arena. What such statements constitute, however, is an attempt to censor out certain beliefs so that other beliefs may monopolize the public arena

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon
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Christians are often told, in not-too-friendly terms, to keep matters of faith out of the public arena. What such statements constitute, however, is an attempt to censor out certain beliefs so that other beliefs may monopolize the public arena.[1]

Electoral politics is a zero-sum game. If Republicans are in power, Democrats must be out. If the “religious right” is in, then the “religious left” is out. Gary Hart, former liberal senator from Colorado and candidate for president in 1984 and 1988, has a problem: his side is out, and he wants it back in.

To this end, he has cranked out this little book (86 pages) warning readers that theocratic boogiemen have taken over the Republican party and are plotting to impose a religious dictatorship on America. Their motto would seem to be, “Pamper the rich, plunder the earth, and stick it to the poor,” and America’s only hope is to put political power back where it belongs — in the hands of Big Government, Big United Nations liberals.

Where He’s Coming From

It’s necessary to subject the reader to a long quote, which sums up Hart’s position:

Though failing often, I seek to live my deeply held religious beliefs every day of my life. More than any other factor, my decision to seek public office, to be involved in political campaigns, to support candidates, to promote public policies, and to innovate with new ideas all come from a profound desire to improve the nation, the world in which I live, and the world my children will inherit. And that desire is the direct product of my religious training and upbringing. I yield to no one, including the most dedicated, vociferous, and intense proponent of religion in politics, in my effort to translate my faith into action. (p. 33)

Or, more succinctly: my religion in politics, good; yours, bad.

Over and over, Hart disavows any intention to “impose values,” while incessantly accusing his political opponents of trying to do so. “My social values are shaped by my religious beliefs,” he says (p. 76), “but I do not need to impose my religious beliefs on others to promote my social values.”

He doesn’t have to. Federal judges do it for him, ably assisted by the public school establishment, the federal bureaucracy, the media, and trial lawyers.

Gary Hart’s America

For Hart, certain features of the socio-political scene — the New Deal entitlement programs, court decisions, and abortion — are inviolable, and not to be put on the table as subjects for political debate.

Among his non-negotiable demands, we find abolition of the death penalty (p. 18); the primacy of our “Jeffersonian public school system” (p. 30); “reproductive rights,” meaning abortion (p. 30); restriction of the right to bear arms (p. 55); high taxes on “the rich” (p. 52); stem-cell research, contraceptive information, and the teaching of evolution (p. 54); the unchallengeable authority of federal judges to protect us from misguided legislation and referenda (p.66); and strict laws against “plundering the Earth’s resources for greedy purposes and personal wealth” (p. 71).

As long as we don’t threaten any of the above, Hart accords to us the right to try to convince our fellow citizens to agree with us, to try to gain a majority in Congress, and to get laws enacted. Of course, he reserves to federal judges the right to nullify anything we actually do with our majority, and expects conservative presidents to appoint liberal judges to make sure the courts keep on doing this (pp. 24–25) — but then, we can’t have everything.

Opposed to all sweetness and light, Hart sets up a straw man of “the religious fundamentalist” with “rigid, sterile, cold souls” (p. 54). He never names any of these straw men. Who says salvation is based solely on works of the law? Whose confession of faith says anything like that? Why doesn’t Hart identify even one of these heartless bigots?

A Hawk in Dove’s Clothing

Some readers will be cheered by Hart’s opposition to the Iraq War, which in this book approaches sheer pacifism. It would be hard, based on this, to envision any situation in which Hart believes military action to be justified. But he doesn’t really mean it.

In other writings, Hart has defended Woodrow Wilson’s unilateral military interventions in various Latin American countries (see an interview with Hart, http://oxblog.blogspot.com/2004_08_01_oxblog_archive.html) on the grounds that these adventures were “internationalist and peaceful, not unilateral and militaristic.” They were only “peaceful” because the people in Mexico, Haiti, and Nicaragua didn’t try to resist. And how does being “internationalist” give one country the right to invade another?

On his own website, http://www.garyhartnews.com/hart/blog/archives/000010.php, Hart in 2003 recommended allocating war-making power to “the UN or a future UN Plus.” (What does that mean? Sounds like world government.) In light of recent revelations of UN “peace-keepers” behaving like brigands in the Congo, Timor, and Haiti, this seems like a singularly inane suggestion. And never mind the impossibility of getting some 200 sovereign states, with clashing national interests, to agree on policy: as witness China and France blocking UN action to stop the genocide in Sudan.

It’ll be interesting to see what Hart recommends when Iran’s nuclear weapons program, advanced in defiance of UN resolutions and pleas from the European Union and put in context by Iranian leaders’ threats to wipe out Israel and dominate the Middle East, comes to fruition.

A Humble Hart

For a man who holds a divinity degree from Yale, Hart indulges in some dubious theology. For instance: “I believe America still has a destiny. Whether that destiny is divinely dictated, neither I nor anyone else can ever say or ever know” (p. 86).

So someone other than God may ordain the destinies of nations? Who might that be?

Naturally, Hart tries to conscript Jesus into his cause, along the lines of the old song, “Jesus Was a Union Man.” “Politically Jesus was a radical figure,” Hart says (p. 50) — so radical, indeed, that Hart can’t bring himself to say that Christ would oppose abortion (p. 56).

Hart’s Jesus is very much a Big Government Jesus, who would, if He were asked, insist that the federal government coercively redistribute wealth — taking from “the winners of life’s lottery” (p. 51) to give to the jobless, the poor, the homeless, the elderly, the infirm, Third World countries, and anyone else deemed deserving by Congress. Of course, there must always be plenty of money raised for “the liberation of the human mind by broad-based public — not parochial — education” (p. 62).

The only things the public schools have liberated lately are illiteracy and moral imbecility.

Perhaps the most galling aspect of this book is Gary Hart’s lip service to humility — a virtue that he thinks his opponents lack. On his website, however, he introduces himself as “Gary Hart — statesman, scholar, attorney, writer … a Renaissance man of new ideas.” Nothing like a little humility.

It all goes to show that the Left has yet to cope constructively with having been turned out of power by the voters of America. Which is not to say that having a Republican president and a Republican Congress has justified the expectations of Christian voters: far from it.

If anything, the GOP’s abject failure to fulfill its promises of smaller, less intrusive government, lower spending, greater freedom for all citizens, and so on, has created vast opportunities for constructive opposition. But those opportunities will not be realized by candidates who stand for higher taxes and the same old entitlement regime that turned the majority party into the minority in 1994.

Meanwhile, with Hollywood churning out movies celebrating sodomy, Planned Parenthood in charge of sex education in the public schools, and one out of three American babies being born out of wedlock, I see little danger of a theocracy taking root in our country anytime soon.


[1] Mark Rushdoony, “Christianity and the Public Arena,” Faith for all of Life, Jan./Feb 2006, 6.

— Mark Rushdoony

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.

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