Did you know that you can buy Christian breath mints? If you don’t find that at least mildly amusing, it might be time to check yourself in to the “Home for People Who Take Life Too Seriously.” Christian breath mints. Like slapping a Bible verse on something and selling it in the church bookstore makes a little lump of sugar and some mint concentrate somehow holier-than-Altoids.
It’s only worth bringing up because it seems that we’ve found ourselves in the midst of another election. And here under the snugly fastened buckle of the Bible Belt, the surest way to know that it’s election season is the spate of “who loves Jesus the most” campaign ads.
It seems there are certain of our leaders ” and our would-be leaders ” who appear to believe they’re being called to the state Capitol not to govern so much as to wage the ancient war between good and evil. Has anyone told them that that’s not the case? Is it some secret we’ve all agreed to keep? And if so, why?
While it is refreshing to see people run for office out of a deeply held sense of moral and civic duty, rather than just the desire for self-gratification, one can’t help but wonder if some of our politicians are suffering from the same cynical syndrome that has afflicted the breath-mint company: Slap a Christian label on something, and people will buy it without question.
If we should have learned nothing in America, it’s that donning a holy visage and crowing about America’s moral decline are a quick way to keep anyone from asking whether or not a would-be office seeker is the most qualified person for the job for which he or she has applied.
While our state legislators are busy pitching bills to make divorce illegal, abortions shameful and impossible, gay marriage more illegal and our already-harsh immigration laws even harsher, we sit near the bad ends of those really embarrassing lists. The ones about “fattest states” or “lowest test scores” or “worst public transportation.” Do we rank highly on some list of “states that Jesus loves the very most?” Or are we just trying to stay in God’s good graces to avoid natural disasters? Because that’s not working.
People should run for office on the basis of deeply felt moral convictions. And voters should vote their consciences. But no matter your beliefs on any number of hot-button issues, that conscience also ought to take into account things besides stem cells and drag queens.
Consider Oklahoma’s poor public school children, its fixed-income retirees, its homeless. Take into account the teachers, who work very hard educating your children and get nowhere near the reward they deserve. In the ballot box, think about who is going to get something done to make Oklahoma a better place to live ” for everyone. Only in places like Iran has being a person of faith ever meant blindly subscribing to a single political party.
Don’t buy the breath mints, Oklahoma. God’s self-appointed “Mid-South Representatives” have a job to do in our state Capitol, and the voters’ job is to make sure they either do it well or go home.
Gunter is a writer based in Oklahoma City. A divinity school dropout, he has a degree in religion and philosophy.