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Jewish World Review April 11, 2000 / 6 Nissan, 5760

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas
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Religion and politics: A double standard --
A DOUBLE STANDARD has existed for some time over the participation of religious people in politics. Religious lefties who favor policies promoted by the pagan left are applauded by secular society. But religious righties are judged guilty of trespassing on private property when they engage the world in efforts to achieve objectives they consider just as worthy as the lefties consider theirs.

In the morality play surrounding little Elian Gonzalez, the tensions between right and left (to say nothing of right and wrong) and between religions and states have become focused. The National Council of Churches (NCC), which consistently runs a financial and theological deficit, and its former general secretary and Fidel Castro apologist, the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, have for years pushed a flawed hermeneutics that goes something like this: You shall never know the truth, so you can't be set free. It was Campbell who traveled to Cuba aboard a private jet to bring Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, dressed in new clothes, to Washington.

It seems Campbell and the NCC have never met a Communist dictator hey did not view in messianic terms. When she became head of the organization, she gave indications she might take it in a different direction. In 1993, Campbell confessed: "We did not understand the depth of the suffering of Christians under communism. And we failed to really cry out against the Communist oppression.'' Now, given an opportunity to cry out against the Communist oppression of Christians in Cuba and Castro's numerous other violations of human rights, Campbell has aligned herself with the oppressors and directed her invective toward her own country.

Writing in the publication Heterodoxy, Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy says that Campbell has earned the role Castro has allowed her to play in the Elian Gonzalez matter. He says she has "praised Cuba for having made a `priority of caring for the poor.' '' Never mind that Castro is the cause of much of their poverty. Last year in Havana, with Castro looking on, Campbell apologized for American policies toward Cuba before a crowd of 100,000: "We ask you to forgive the suffering that has come to you by the actions of the United States,'' the reverend implored. "It's on behalf of Jesus the liberator that we work against this embargo.''

Campbell and her fellow travelers refuse to see a liberating Jesus when it comes to Cuba's anti-religion policies. According to Open Doors International, an advocacy group for persecuted Christians, the Cuban government routinely denies permits for new church construction; mostly denies permission to repair existing churches; church property remains vulnerable to government seizure; public evangelism is prohibited; church leaders are monitored, interrogated and threatened with arrest; house churches and parochial schools are forbidden (little Elian, if he follows the path of his peers, will board five days a week in a state school and be taught anti-Americanism, how to use violence in the cause of the Cuban state and other things no child should learn). Did I mention that Bible distribution is forbidden in Cuba? Not that the NCC should be shocked because it long ago stopped believing what that book says and simply reinterprets it to conform to NCC political objectives.

In Cuba, Campbell is free to speak against her own country. She can speak against it in America where she could, if she wished, criticize Cuba. But she could never speak against Cuba in Cuba, and neither can any Cuban. So which is the oppressive state?

The behavior of the NCC ought to be a warning to religious righties. An anemic and powerless faith is what you might end up with if you increasingly align yourself with secular politics. Faith always loses in such an alliance. The goals of the world become the goals of the church. The church's primary message of redemption from G-d, not the Democratic or Republican parties, is inevitably subordinated to an ideology and a lesser kingdom that, Scripture assures us, and history proves, is passing away. One need look no further for an example than the National Council of Churches.

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