COMMENTARY | Bud Kennedy
Pastor Ed Young of Houston is not the only pastor saying that.
The leader of the Houston-based Texas Pastor Council, Republican anti-LGBT rights activist Dave Welch, wrote in a recent commentary that Young is right — secular Democrats are a “godless party” that embraces legal abortion and “moral anarchy.”
Another pastor who leads prayer services in the Texas Capitol, Bob Long of prophecy-driven Rally Call Ministries, wrote before the election that he had a vision of a demonic attack on the election by “supernatural evil.”
Just as the midterms further divided America and Texas, evangelical Christians across denominations and races now seem more sharply divided than ever over whether their message is about morality and evangelical political power — under a less-than-model president — or about justice, righteousness and social concern.
About one-fourth of Texas voters this month were white evangelical Christians. According to CNN’s exit poll, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a faith-and-values Southern Baptist from Houston, won 81 percent of that vote.
But Republicans’ losses included U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, a member of Young’s Second Baptist Church.
At Culberson’s post-election gathering, according to video from Houston television station KHOU, Young claimed a Pittsburgh-area Democratic Party chairman had been forced out over a Facebook repost about how Americans should “kneel at the cross.”
The post actually criticized NFL players’ anthem protests, one of several that seemed more like racial insults.
But Young took it out of context, telling the Republican gathering the Democratic Party is “no longer a party. It’s some kind of religion that is basically godless, and as long as America — and this is represented by every Democrat I know — does not believe in the sacredness of the life in the mother’s womb, God will not bless America or make us a great nation.”
Welch, the Texas Pastor Council leader, is from a Pentecostal-affiliated denomination. He wrote that he fears Texans following “the god of death with all its terrible ramifications as now adhered to by the Democratic Party.”
Long’s Oct. 30 Facebook post warned of a demon prince who would “corrupt the vote.” Another post talks about a “large satanic star” and witchcraft controlling Texas.
This is where I usually turn to Professor Darrell L. Bock of the conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, the author of the 2016 book “How Would Jesus Vote? Do Your Political Views Really Align With the Bible?”
“I think the issue of abortion is an important one,” he wrote by email, and some Republicans consider Democrats godless because they dismiss debating other options and seem indifferent to taking any responsibility for a developing life.
But abortion is only one issue, Bock wrote: “Neither party has a clean moral slate when it comes to the array of such questions about fulfilling a call to honor all of life’s conditions and love one’s neighbor.”
Worse, candidates in both parties are selective about answering moral questions, and the result is a deepening divide.
“In that sense we are all godless,” Bock wrote, “and in need of a serious touch of restoring what Jesus meant when he calls all of us to love our neighbors in all we face.”
Writer and teacher Lois Kerschen of Hereford, Texas, the state leader of Democrats for Life, wrote by email that party leaders have “sold out” to abortion-rights backers, but that she believes one-third of Democratic voters are closer to her group’s “whole life” view.
(Virginia-based Democrats for Life opposes relaxed abortion laws but supports improved health care, education and social justice.)
Matthew Wilson, an SMU associate professor of political science, is a leading expert on evangelical Christian voters.
“We should not underestimate the extent to which many evangelicals feel that the church faces existential threats in America today,” he wrote by email.
“The Democratic Party now embraces legal abortion, same-sex marriage, gender fluidity, and a secularized public square … Given all of that, it is not a stretch from the evangelical point of view to think of the Democratic Party as ‘godless.’”
White evangelical Republicans stick with President Donald Trump because — well, mostly because the alternative seems way too secular.
Meanwhile, evangelical Democrats — white, Hispanic and many African-American — stick with their party because Republicans seem less interested in civil rights, women’s equality and social needs.
The division splits America right down the church aisle.
Bud Kennedy is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.