Peter Waldron has long been deeply involved in explicitly theocratic elements of the Religious Right, here and abroad. And so it was no big surprise when he turned up last summer, working as a faith outreach aide to Michele Bachmann, focusing on Iowa and South Carolina. He is credited with playing a key role in organizing Bachmann's success in the Iowa straw poll.
But Waldron's recent appearance on a prominent conservative radio show, (written up by Warren Throckmorton) added further intrigue regarding what God is up to this election year, since no less than four candidates for the GOP presidential nomination have claimed to have received a divine nudge.
Waldron said that the Holy Ghost led him to Bachmann.
When Deace asked Waldron at 49:33, “Why Michele Bachmann?” Waldron replied:
Waldron: I’m compelled by Scripture. If I may tell you the story of Michele Bachmann, how I came
Deace: Can you do it in 60 seconds?
Waldron: I can do it in less than 60 seconds.
Deace: Go ahead.
Waldron: I was interviewed by several candidates. I came to Iowa to be interviewed by Hermann Cain. I met with him at the Holiday Inn in downtown Des Moines. He was scheduled to speak at a home schooling event over at the capital. I went over to hear him speak and this woman came out and she spoke and the Holy Ghost said to me as I was standing there, uh, this is the one. And I left Des Moines, returned to my offices in Tennessee, I prayed and God said volunteer. So literally I volunteered for Michele Bachmann and a funny thing happened on the way to Des Moines.
Deace: Peter Waldron is here and he is working for the Michele Bachmann campaign and he makes the case that if you are an uncommitted values voters, she is your candidate.
After a break, Waldron made the case that Bachmann was the only candidate to look at every sector of society (law, politics, arts, etc) through a “biblical worldview” and thus the only candidate that God would bless to heal the nation. Waldron invoked I Chronicles 7:14 (“if my people pray and turn from their wicked ways, then…I will heal their land”) and said Bachmann was the only candidate who would bring prayer to the White House. Waldron compared Bachmann’s religious views to William Jennings Bryan and that this election is the most important election since the Civil War. Bachmann, says Waldron, is a Proverbs 31 woman who lives out her faith. Without such a President, the country is headed for a catastrophic end.
The intrigue about what God is up to this year extends from what pols are trying to imply when they make statements invoking a divine call to run for office. As I wrote a few weeks ago:
The inference is that they somehow embody God's politics. That their policy ideas are God's policy ideas. That they are God's chosen pol. That they have God's endorsement.
While it is hard to top an endorsement from God, what if God has, as seems to be the case this time, several candidates in the same race? Maybe they were mistaken. Or perhaps God was up to something else.
Perhaps God wanted people to see the shameless way that pols invoke his name. Perhaps God wanted treat us to some spectacular displays of political sleazebaggery in the way pols will use and abuse God to achieve vainglorious ends. Perhaps God wanted us all to see the difference between people who honestly aspire to public service and those who are all about egotism and extreme vanity. (If that was God's intention, Herman Cain was a great pick!)
Cain [who was the latest candidate to declare that God told him to run] and his GOP colleagues forget or ignore the fact that we live in a pluralist society in which as a matter of constitutional authority, plus more than two centuries of legal development, and a profound matter of cultural ethos, we are equal as citizens. This reality stays the same whatever our religious or non-religious views may be, whether we change our minds and how often we might do so. As we have seen, faith-based political appeals can lead to some pretty spectacular cases of religious bigotry as well as outrageous pandering that undermines the civic and religious integrity of anyone who engages in, encourages, or otherwise supports such behavior.
Such behavior also helps us to distinguish whose ends are theocratic. Throckmorton further reported:
Host Deace asked Waldron what Bachmann would do about the Supreme Court rulings with which she disagreed. Specifically, Deace asked what Bachmann would do if the Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act. Deace believes that any law that “does not square” with God’s law is no law at all. Although he said he wasn’t speaking for Bachmann, Waldron’s answer was to defund the judges and/or impeach them. He did promise this on behalf of Bachmann:
I make three promises for her in the last 20 seconds – First, she will protect the people, she will promote righteousness and she will punish wickedness, all defined by the Bible.
Waldron's answer, may help us to understand what Bachmann meant when she was recently asked about dominionism and theocracy by Christianity Today. Speaking about what is constitutional and what is not, she said:
...if the people want something that is not in accordance with the Constitution, it's up to the President and the people's representatives to explain why something is unconstitutional. For instance, Obamacare has the individual mandate that forces every American as a condition of citizenship to purchase a product or service even if they don't want to. That's never happened before, that's unconstitutional.
While the president and the Congress have their obligations to act in accordance with the Constitution and necessarily have views about what is and is not constitutional, notice that Bachmann left out any mention of the federal courts, the branch of government to which we have historically accorded the final say about what is and is not constitutional.
Dearce and Christianity Today are onto something that merits further questions to Bachmann, and undoubtedly other candidates. The basic questions of how we distinguish between democracy and theocracy don't change over time. And, although we would like to think so, the struggle between democracy and theocracy did not end with the ratification of the Constitution. Theocratic elements are alive and active in contemporary public life, and wielding far more influence than we usually allow ourselves to see.