Ministers Trying to Mix Religion and Politics:

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

Voters should oust congressional Republican leaders because U.S. foreign policy is delaying the second coming of Jesus Christ, according to a evangelical preacher trying to influence closely contested political races.

K.A. Paul railed against the war in Iraq on Sunday before a crowd of 1,000 at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, his first stop on what he hopes is a 30-city campaign.

The Houston-based preacher said he believes that the Bush administration has delayed the second coming because U.S. foreign policy has blocked Christian missionaries from working in Iraq, Iran and Syria....

I somehow wonder how welcome Christian missionaries were in those countries — especially Iran — even before the war, and as you might gather arguments about delaying the second coming of Jesus Christ won't influence me much. I suspect they also won't influence most Christian voters much, since I doubt that the typical Christian shares Rev. Paul's view about what determines the timing of the second coming.

But I do think this is a useful illustration of how "mixing religion and politics" is hardly an exclusive province of those promoting conservative positions — as of course anyone who is familiar with the civil rights movement, the abolitionist movement, and various other movements in American history already knows. My view: People should be entirely free (both as a legal and a moral matter) to use religious and even theological arguments in favor or against a particular policy, whether it's the war, abortion, homosexuality, slavery, alcohol, discrimination, or whatever else, just as they're free to use secular philosophical arguments (including ones that rest on unprovable assumptions that many in the audience won't share). Of course, many of those arguments will be unpersuasive, even to those who are generally of the same religion as the speaker. But the question should be whether the arguments are sound, not whether they're religious.

On the other hand, I'd think that people who are outraged about how God talk is used on other issues — on the grounds that such talk impermissibly "mixes religion with politics" — should be equally outraged about God talk being used to oppose the Iraq war.