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The Perfect Conservative Danger

The rise of any contender to the first position in any electoral race comes with a certain amount of respect. Of course that respect has its positive and negative elements. One of those negative elements is that people are much more critical of the candidate. This involves more strident critiques of policy positions, and it also involves people digging into past statements for the strange or controversial. The rise of Herman Cain to the lead in the GOP primary is no exception. At the Republican debate this past Tuesday, his Republican challengers brutally attacked his “999” plan. Progressive blogs have discovered a statement from Mr. Cain in a blog post from last Christmas that piqued my interest. Cain wrote a post for called, “The Perfect Conservative,” in which he touts Christ as the ultimate example of conservative values. Cain rings all the expected conservative Pavlovian bells. He extols Christ for helping the poor, healing the sick, and feeding the hungry without government programs, healthcare, or food stamps. “For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check,” Cain writes.

These statements, however, were not the ones that interested me the most. Later in the piece Mr. Cain describes the trial of Christ. In that description he says, “The liberal court found Him guilty of false offences and sentenced Him to death, all because He changed the hearts and minds of men with an army of 12.” “The liberal court…?” Exactly what analysis is Mr. Cain employing in order to determine that the Pharisees and priests are “liberal?” The only thing that I could think of that made any sense stemmed from the premise of the piece itself. If Christ is being extolled as the “perfect conservative,” then by extension, the court that would put Him to death must be liberal. While that works from a purely logical standpoint (disregarding the faulty logic of attempting to argue that Christ is the perfect modern conservative in the first place), there does not seem to be biblical evidence for Mr. Cain’s argument. But if Mr. Cain is looking for a connection between the logistics of Christ’s death and modern politics, I have a suggestion, although I do not think he could use it in the Republican primary—the crucifixion of Christ came about through a union of church and state.

Matt 27: 1, 2 states, “Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor.” The chief priests and the elders made a moral determination that Jesus be put to death. The problem was that they did not have the power or the authority to turn that moral determination into a legal sentence. Therefore, they turned to the state in order to ratify and execute that sentence. The state in this case acquiesced, and the Romans killed Jesus without cause. Like the chief priests and the elders, there are a lot of things that the Religious Right in America thinks are the right thing to do. Like the council that determined that Jesus should die, the Religious Right does not have the power or authority to enact the measures that they decide are correct. And just like the Pharisees, the Religious Right turns to the state to attempt to use their power in order to accomplish their goals. Regardless of whether the aims of the church are positive or negative, the union of church and state throughout history has almost never yielded positive results. The Religious Right would do well to remember one other element of Christ’s ministry as the “perfect conservative” — Jesus accomplished His spiritual purpose without ever seeking the aid of secular government.

—Jason Hines is an attorney and doctoral student in Church-State Studies at the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at

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