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Opinion

Opinion

Politics won’t shrink God gap

February 29, 2012

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There have been many “gaps” in modern politics. There is the gender gap, the generation gap and now the God gap, which is the gulf between people who take God’s instructions seriously and those who don’t. Which side of the gap you’re on could influence your vote.

The God gap is growing wider.

I asked Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum about this. In a telephone interview with me, Santorum, whose rhetoric is loaded with religious and cultural language, said, “While (such language) may be upsetting to some, there’s a hunger out there for talking about what’s true.”

How, then, would he explain a recent New York Times story that reported for the first time in our history, that “more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.” Santorum acknowledged, “I’m probably talking to Republican audiences, so it’s a little different. I’m not talking to the general audience at this point. Marriage is on the decline. The culture is changing.”

The problem for presidential candidates — and for President Obama, who occasionally appeals to Scripture to justify his policies — is that fewer people are listening to the voice of God, or to voices claiming to speak for Him.

Not too long ago, a report about growing numbers of out-of-wedlock births would have produced sermons calling for repentance and set revival fires burning in churches across the land. Today, there’s only the sound of silence.

The Times story, citing government data compiled by Child Trends, a Washington research group, noted that the shift in the makeup of American families was likely to produce children who face “elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems.” Yawn.

The failure to communicate across the God gap brings to mind something former president George H.W. Bush said about broccoli. Bush said his mother made him eat broccoli, but he never liked it. When he became president, he said it meant he no longer had to eat it.

So people who might have been taken to religious services as children are now grown up and many feel they no longer have to “stomach” faith, or conform to a standard outside themselves. Some who grew up in a secular household are spiritually deaf, if not biblically illiterate. A general cultural morality is fast disappearing.

The God gap will not be shrunk by politicians, though to rally “the base” they often talk as if it can. The goal of cultural transformation has historically been the work of clergy, whose “hellfire” messages scared people awake from their comfortable and what used to be called “sinful” lives. But this was before having a baby without a husband became an acceptable thing to do.

Too many of today’s clergy seem preoccupied with building personal empires and monstrous buildings. They go on costly TV instead of investing in the less visible “work of the church,” which is people, not brick and mortar. The first Christians met in homes, not megachurches. They took care of each other and did not rely on government to sustain them. Many pastors today dislike sermons about sin and repentance because it makes people uncomfortable. And so we get instead the discomfort of social decay and an ever-widening God gap.

Materialism and pleasure contribute to social rot. Social rot precedes national decline. These have become our twin false gods; contemporary “golden calves,” as unable to produce satisfaction as the idols of biblical times. Most politicians won’t urge restraint or personal sacrifice and too many ministers allow the secular world to set their agenda.

And so the God gap widens and the wisdom and understanding of the older generation goes unheard and unheeded.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.

Comments

Kirk Larson 2 years, 1 month ago

As far as marriage goes, what will most likely save it is when we finally have marriage equality. Gay people want to get married because it IS important. Once that happens there will probably be a resurgence in marriage among heterosexuals. Won't that set the fundagelicals heads spinning!

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usnsnp 2 years, 1 month ago

What I find intresting is that according to some of our leaders or people wanting to be our leaders, that if you do not believe in their version of Christianaty you are not a good Christian. My feeling is, that the people that feel this way have not really read the Bible.

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Mike Ford 2 years, 1 month ago

it's nice to hear nonsense.,....when do some people speak fact and reason.... never.....you know.....that lowest common denominator thing....

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 1 month ago

Even though the Universe is infinite, I KNOW there isn't a "God" because boz and Ghetto said so. Not even the "Sky God" QUETZALCOATL with "Kachina" spirit backing am I going to fall for that God stuff.

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Mike Ford 2 years, 1 month ago

I love selfish americans. Every culture since the beginning of civilization has levied taxes on it's citizens. Even Seminole communities in pre American invasion Florida collected corn crops from every community for the benefit of all. They existed sharing the wealth while a greedy american president, andrew jackson, illegally invaded and purchased Florida from the Spanish to take away a place for escaped slaves to flee to. For all the religious nonsense I hear I wonder where the concept of selfish greed fits in....oh....that's right.....it doesn't.... maybe in the heads of denialistic revisionist conservatives that want their own fiefdom at the expense of civilized people. Ever wonder why the articles of confederation was never fully adopted....greed and american individualism is sooooo 1780.

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Getaroom 2 years, 1 month ago

Using the Christian credential is a weak excuse for any guarantee in abilities to govern. Look at the Taliban for the perfect example of religious extremism. No difference really- all want to be overlords empowered by what they think is The One GOD. There simply are no viable candidates in the GOP worthy of being President and Obama will continue in his current position another 4 years anyway. And all the while the GOP baffons' battle it out for who is the most extreme christian conservative. As if any in the Party of NO matter a 'tinker, tailor soldier, spy worth of difference. In the mean time all of this SuperPAC money will have been flushed down the drain in vain, when it could have spread around to me so I could hoard it and not create jobs and done just as well as the super wealthy Fuax job creators. Call me the wealth Spread-a-tator, I like it! Drone on Republicans and I will try to find a job for you when I get up from my nap.

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camper 2 years, 1 month ago

“While (such language) may be upsetting to some, there’s a hunger out there for talking about what’s true.” Rick Santorum

Can be translated as "I am now starting the damage control process for that clip that was quite disturbing to some."

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mikekt 2 years, 1 month ago

One of the big problems of Christianity, is that the New Testament of Christ was somehow grafted onto the Old Testament of Moses, so you end up, if you try to read it as one book, one teaching, reading a book that tells you in the first part who should be stoned to death & for what offense, while in the second part of it, the Main Character tells an assembled crowd not to stone someone to death, unless they are each truly sinless enough themselves to be qualified to pass judgement & do the deed. HUMMMMM? Mosaic Law ( the law of Moses & Judaism of the Old Testament ) & Christian Teachings ( the Law As Taught by Christ in the New Testament) are entirely two different things.....Hello!! Frankly, if a new great western religious teacher were to appear out of nowhere, today, it wouldn't be long before somebody tried to tie that new teaching to the Jewish, Christian & Islamic Faiths,...not to mention the Hindu & Buddhist faiths, which are better known today in the west, but still mysterious enough to gain a loyal following of mystery lovers, to get it on to peoples' radars & to pick up some validity off of other teachings for his or her own ends. What always gets me when i channel surf on to some of the Right Wing "Christian" TV Minister Shows, is that they never seem to mentioning most parts of the New Testament!!!!!!! ( how odd,..... am i the only one who noticed that????? ), as if they can leap from teaching the Old Testament & go straight to The Book of Revelations & call it "Christianity", skipping most, if not all of the New Testament & Christs' Teachings, entirely!!!!! Well,.....If it bleeds.... it leads! If it scares you silly..... or teaches you that God is on your side & that He will totally destroy your enemies & non believers ( where have we heard that before lately? ) then be advised that this is what you have chosen yourself to learn, because it suits what you wish to believe in & learn. The Council of Nicea in 325 AD, which was a group of Christian Bishops created a list of books to be included ( or not included ) in what is referred to as the Christian Bible & or its' books that were included. Some day 325 Years after the death of the next great western religious teacher some group of people might add, subtract or totally destroy the meaning of some great teachers teachings, to simply suit their own ends & then turn around and sell it to the public, as a book to be accepted on faith alone, as the word of God, as "they" crafted it. Hopefully we will get the next guy down on DVDs that can't be altered or grafted onto by crafty people with an agenda, who didn't understand or care what some new great teacher might have to say.

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jayhawklawrence 2 years, 1 month ago

The Bible is an extraordinary work and it has been used, misused and abused throughout history.

I am often reminded of this passage when I listen to today's politicians and political columnists.

I Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

Cal Powers is simply trying to manufacture a wedge in the same way that Santorum has and try to paint the political contest as a battle between the forces of Good and Evil, with the so called "true conservatives" as the defenders of all that is righteous and good.

With the recent defeat of Santorum in Michigan and Arizona, it appears that this argument does not have a lot of traction with the American people who are rapidly becoming more educated and more involved in understanding what is at stake.

The frustration with the political process is that no one seems to want to actually tell the truth anymore but they will boast all day that they are the only ones who actually know the "truth".

Whenever religious leaders allow themselves to be used by politicians, it never seems to paint religion in a positive way and it always makes religion less attractive to young people.

That is the real cost of all this nonsense and for that I am very disappointed when I watch adults behaving badly.

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John McCoy 2 years, 1 month ago

Pleasure contributes to "social rot?" Come on, man.

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Agnostick 2 years, 1 month ago

I'd like to see a wider "God Gap"... especially between priests and children. That would be a good place to start.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones* who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

Matthew 18:6 (see also Mark 9:42)

Opinion: In a broader interpretation, this could refer to any (self-proclaimed) "Christian" who, one way or another, causes someone else to lose faith. This could be anything from direct swindling, to a "minister" or "reverend" living a lavish lifestyle paid for by the congregation... and yes, an overemphasis on political activism.

In her 2008 book, "We The Purple," author Marcia Ford addresses this very problem--overwrought political activism in churches and other houses of faith. She offers one specific example of a minister who, over the course of three or four Sundays, spoke out against heightened political activism in today's churches, and how it was straying from the true purpose of the church. Within a month, that church's membership dropped 20-25%.

If Cal is bothered by the "God Gap," I would suggest that Cal and his fellow "faithful" put down their shovels, stop digging.... and try building a bridge or two.

http://www.wethepurpleonline.com/

Agnostick agnostick@excite.com

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asixbury 2 years, 1 month ago

I find it interesting that the increasing "God gap" is right alongside the increasing acceptance of people with varying lifestyles (homosexuals, transgender, etc). We are becoming more aware of the hypocrisies instilled in many religions. I think less people following religion is a good thing. Like John Lennon said, imagine this world "with no religion too." No reason to die for, to wage many wars, to hate one another. Morals are great, but you do not need religion to have good values and morals. The atheists and agnostics I know are the most non-judgmental, accepting people I have met. I cannot say the same for most religious people I have met in this state.

I agree that materialism is destroying this country, but it is also what made this country the super-power it is today.

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Orwell 2 years, 1 month ago

Actually, Cal makes a pretty convincing argument that many religious leaders and politicians – particularly those who are both – are raving hypocrites. From there it's a very short step to another reasonable conclusion: if government can't do things well, we certainly can't expect it to be successful in any attempt to instill faith-based values and behavior in the electorate.

Cal just couldn't bring himself to write where his argument leads: we should disregard any political position or argument based on religious belief, and dismiss entirely those politicians who claim divine guidance for all their actions. It's the unintended corollary of John Prine's wise lyric – your flag decal won't get you into Heaven anymore.

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yourworstnightmare 2 years, 1 month ago

I am sure the mullahs in Iran and the Taliban agree with Cal 100%

They also see a god gap, and they are very active in filling it.

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Paul R Getto 2 years, 1 month ago

"Then, of course, there's a serious distinction to be made between the "voice of God" and the voices that are "claiming to speak for Him." ==== That may be the most curious statement of all. How does one tell the difference and who gets to make these 'claims?'

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jafs 2 years, 1 month ago

There are so many things in this column to disagree with...

First, not all religious believers believe in following "God's instructions" or even agree on what those might be.

Next, while children of single parents are undoubtedly likely to face certain challenges, that doesn't necessarily translate to all children born "out of wedlock" - couples who are together but not married have children.

Then, of course, there's a serious distinction to be made between the "voice of God" and the voices that are "claiming to speak for Him".

I do agree with him, that materialism is a potentially destructive force in our society, and that many ministers, etc. are caught up in that, rather than ministering to their congregations.

Pleasure, though, is just fine with me, and I'm glad if religions aren't trying to "scare the hell" out of people any more.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 1 month ago

I'll never vote for any candidate that doesn't worship at the noodly appendages of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

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Mike Ford 2 years, 1 month ago

oh wow.....the churchlicans aren't trying to take people back to the scopes trial of 1925 and further back to where women had no rights.....tell me again what good they do and what freedoms they support as they force their will into houses and bedrooms....maybe that explains their declining popularity.....

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livinginlawrence 2 years, 1 month ago

"But this was before having a baby without a husband became an acceptable thing to do."

Right, because it's all up to the woman to ensure unplanned pregnancies don't occur, and it's all the woman's fault if they do.

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deathpenaltyliberal 2 years, 1 month ago

"Too many of today’s clergy seem preoccupied with building personal empires and monstrous buildings. They go on costly TV instead of investing in the less visible “work of the church,” which is people, not brick and mortar. The first Christians met in homes, not megachurches. They took care of each other and did not rely on government to sustain them. Many pastors today dislike sermons about sin and repentance because it makes people uncomfortable. And so we get instead the discomfort of social decay and an ever-widening God gap. Materialism and pleasure contribute to social rot. Social rot precedes national decline. These have become our twin false gods; contemporary “golden calves,” as unable to produce satisfaction as the idols of biblical times..."

Cal hit it out of the park today. I wonder if Rush Limbaugh will attack him now.

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notaubermime 2 years, 1 month ago

An opinion piece by Cal Thomas with a pastoral view of the past? Wow, not exactly branching-out today, are we?

Nevermind that divorce rates, out of wedlock children, and underage mothers are more closely correlated to a belief in religion than a disbelief. Given that, perhaps these social issues would be better if more people turned away from God.

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jaywalker 2 years, 1 month ago

Agreed, denak. It's not a "God Gap" (was there any question who wrote this piece?) that leads to single mothers; it's an Intelligence Chasm. Pretty easy to prevent impregnation, cheap, too. But no...... plenty of morons on both sides contributing to that plight.

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denak 2 years, 1 month ago

Of all the examples that Cal could have used to illustrate the "God Gap," he uses children. Not greed, not the obsessive quest for fame, not the destruction of the ecosystem via deforestation, pollution and war and not the wholesale slaughter of innocent people in Syria or Mexico, but children.

Children who grow up in single parent homes do--often times--face more challenges but they are not predestined to fail. It all depends on how functional the child's parent is and the love and support the child gets. Do I think it is a disturbing trend that over half of children are born out of wedlock? Yes, I do but I think it is indicative of many things (ie women's earning potential, level of education, a cultural shift) but I don't believe that it is a sign that there is a "God Gap" among single women who have children.

To me, the "God Gap," if it truly exists, is reflected in how a society takes care of its weak and vulnerable and cutting funding to social services that help the mentally ill or destitute is a bigger example of the "God Gap" then illegitimate children.

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grammaddy 2 years, 1 month ago

Too many "Gods" with too many conflicting messages.Leave God out of it. He wants no part of this mess.

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Gandalf 2 years, 1 month ago

Let's see, the religious right claims that the world and universe is to0 complex to have just happened. It had to have been designed by a super powerfull supernatural being. Yet not one seems to stop to think about which is more likely. The world is the result of lucky random chances. Or this magical being sprang full blown into existence from nothing. Seems to me that is far more unlikely.

This is cal's wisdom?

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