Shannon and Lankford walk with Jesus on the campaign trail
by Barry Friedman
(First Appeared in The Tulsa Voice)
An alliance or coalition between Government and religion cannot be too carefully guarded against. —James Madison
During the last week of the GOP primary campaign for Senate I thought, “For the love of God, will James Lankford and T.W. Shannon ever stop talking about their love of God?”
Thank God one now will.
Lankford won the election on June 24, avoiding a runoff—and, more important to my mind, dueling Jesuses. Watching them was like watching two teenage girls annoy everyone with how cool their prom dates were.
Let’s start with Shannon. After Oklahomans for a Conservative Future, a PAC group backing him, bought ads featuring Lankford with President Obama, he wasn’t happy1. Shannon’s campaign released a statement in which he said he would never allow such a mean thing, because, well, Jesus.
“There are real differences between Congressman Lankford and myself and I welcome that discussion, but I believe that discussion should remain focused on our record, and free of images showing my opponent with President Obama. I have said this before, but it bears repeating in this instance: as brothers in Christ, Congressman Lankford and I are competitors, not enemies.”
First off, there were no real policy differences between them. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are easier to tell apart. Secondly, Shannon repeated the very accusation he said had no business in the campaign and then jumped in Jesus’ arms before anyone noticed the dodge.
That took chutzpah.
Days later, according to Tulsa World, Shannon told2 a group affiliated with the International Fellowship of Christian Businessmen that “God is raising up ... a new generation of leaders to return to biblical principles.”
Didn’t that just make your pluralistic heart swell with pride, knowing there are biblical candidates being cobbled together by some supernatural force?
“One of the biggest challenges in our country,” Shannon said, “if you boil it all down, is that we have more takers than makers. We have a whole generation of people that have been taught that dependency on government is a way of life.”
A “whole generation”? Please. If he were painting with any broader of a brush, he’d need a roller. These “takers,” incidentally, include children, the elderly, the disabled, and wounded veterans.
And where in the Bible is this message, anyway—the “Book
of Rand,” or Jesus’ Sermon on
Meanwhile, James Lankford, who has a Pray3 link on his Senate campaign website, when asked during the GOP debate of June 6, which biblical figure he most resembled, replied, “I would say Paul, for me.”
“I have great, great love for the writings of Paul. For me, this is a journey issue. Paul set out on a journey and did not expect where he was going,” Lankford said.
Surely Lankford wasn’t comparing Paul’s charge to declare Jesus as Lord with his own desire to be senator?
Stop calling him Shirley.
“In 2008 and 2009, my wife and I both clearly heard God call us and say this is what I want you to do,” Lankford explained.
Oh, nothing wrong with this story4. Mankind has been unsuccessfully yearning since the beginning of time for the Almighty to unravel the secrets of the universe, and James Lankford now says God stopped by the house in Edmond twice to give him and the Mrs. career advice.
And if your gob wasn’t already smacked, Lankford added, “We spent seven months struggling and praying through that. Finally, it came to the point in time where we had to say, I’m going to be an old man one day telling my grandchildren about the time I didn’t follow God if I don’t do this.”
Let’s not mistake what went on as a testament to the candidates’ search for comity and humility before God. Shannon and Lankford wrapped themselves in religiosity to inoculate themselves and their motives and actions from criticism. After all, who would dare mock them while they’re in fellowship?
If you put Jesus on your campaign float and then parade it down Main Street, you should be pelted with Nerf balls. Shannon and Lankford seemed to believe that by calling dibs on God’s love and using “Kumbaya” narratives, their candidacies would be seen as anointed. It cheapened the very faith they say they revere.
While trumpeting their Christianity, they both were against expanding healthcare, opposed gun control, supported the death penalty, favored cutting funding to SNAP (food stamps), and fought immigration reform.
So why bring this up?
For one thing, Lankford said during his victory speech that he “prays”—yes, prays—Harry Reid will no longer be majority leader. For another, in a few months, Lankford will be our new U.S. Senator, which means he will put his hand on a Bible and swear to support and defend the U.S. Constitution—not the other way around.