If it is the last week before the Iowa Republican caucuses, you know there is going to be lots of talk of God. Then again, some candidates who clearly don’t “get it” still can find their way to the top of the polls.
For Iowa voters for whom this is important, readings from this week’s Revised Common Lectionary might provide some direction.
In Iowa’s last two Republican caucuses, the candidate each time who was most closely associated with Christian conservatives – Mike Huckabee in 2008, Rick Santorum in 2012 – emerged the victor. And Christian Coalition leader Pat Robertson famously blitzed his way to second place in the caucuses in 1988 despite no prior political experience, back when experience was seen as a requisite for the presidency rather than grounds for suspicion.
This year, many Christian conservative leaders have flocked to Ted Cruz of Texas, who has been running first or second in polls for weeks – and in debates and on the stump, Marco Rubio has been making heartfelt references to his own faith, including a debate reference Thursday night to his “Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Then again, there is Donald Trump. An acknowledged serial adulterer, publicly dismissive of the need for God’s forgiveness for anything, longing openly for abortion at will and even last year having named a pro-choice judge as a good possible pick for the Supreme Court, the billionaire nonetheless is leading all the latest polls. This, even though he apparently has trouble distinguishing between a conservative Christian church and a strongly progressive one.
If Trump finishes first in these caucuses, pundits will mark it as yet one more way in which he has upended all prior presidential race expectations.
Granted, there are far, far more considerations in choosing a president than those of faith. But broader concerns of character are surely relevant, and the lectionary has a way of speaking directly to the moment at hand – or at least it has a way of providing material easy to apply to the moment at hand, even if not so intended.
It is thus at least coincidental, and perhaps providential, that among today’s readings are A) one of the scriptural passages most regularly cited by pro-life activists and B) the passage surely used more often than any other in wedding ceremonies across the land. (By both lights, Mr. Trump’s record looks decidedly problematic.)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” said the Lord to Jeremiah, “and before you were born I consecrated you.” In context, of course, this passage is clearly not about abortion. But pro-life Americans often say, with at least some justification, that it speaks broadly to the sacredness of our lives even before our births.
Likewise, flagrantly serial adulterers surely run afoul of the Corinthians passages so popular at weddings: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing….”
Forget the political angle: These are passages, indeed dictates, which we should observe in every facet of our lives, both personal and civic. But in the civic realm, if we are in a constitutional republic of, by, and for the people, then the government is or should be a projection of our own best selves, which means so should be those to whom we entrust government’s powers.
If we are to choose someone with authority, in the words from Jeremiah, “over nations and kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down,” then surely we must heed the words of Corinthians that warn against “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Quin Hillyer is a veteran conservative columnist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology from Georgetown University and has served for years in various forms of ecumenical lay leadership.