Curt Smith: Critics of social conservatives have warped standards

Keywords Forefront / Opinion

SmithLess-sophisticated media mavens and political pundits frequently criticize evangelicals and other faith voters for backing President Donald Trump, saying we are hypocrites for supporting a leader whose personal choices we would neither emulate nor extoll.

“How can Christians back the porn-star president?” they ask rhetorically

In the same breath, many then go on to criticize us for seeking to establish a theocracy by advocating an end to abortion on demand or suggesting prudence before enrolling 10-year-olds in sex-change therapies that can lead to irreversible, painful, sterility-inducing surgical procedures before a child reaches the age of legal adulthood.

What they fail to see is that we are making reasoned decisions in public life like our fellow, but more secular, neighbors. Should we support a president they deem petulant and impetuous, or should we be ruled by a calm, cool, professorial progressive who works against our beliefs with quiet malevolence? It is not a hard decision, even if its necessity marks a new era in American public life.

This warped standard has been applied to my Iowa counterpart, Bob Vander Plaats, president of The Family Leader in Iowa, with a special vengeance of late. The Family Leader plays a significant role in the first-in-the-nation Iowa presidential nominating contest as a respected, faith-based public-policy champion. It hosts a candidate forum every four years to help all Iowa voters, but especially the faith community, gain insights into the candidates facing the electorate.

Vander Plaats decided this year to create a special venue for the 23 Democratic candidates, promising a neutral moderator and a good-faith conversation on the issues on the minds of Iowans as they prepare for the presidential caucuses in February.

Every single Democratic candidate rejected the invitation, with some even going out of the way to slam The Family Leader as a “hate group” and a “homophobic” organization.

But Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and their administration continue to listen to our concerns and shape policy with an ear toward our objectives. Among the many positive developments since Trump last took part in the 2016 Iowa forum are pro-family tax reform, a rollback of Obamacare’s least faith-friendly features, federal judges who follow the Constitution (including its central tenet of freedom of religion), and a foreign policy that advances rather than dilutes American interests.

It is fair to say the president will again learn from The Family Leader events as he campaigns for the 2020 nomination. Vander Plaats will again take principled stands and offer persuasive arguments for a family-centered society that values all life, from conception to natural death. He will argue we are entitled to the fruits of our labors even as we respect and support the government that—as the sovereign citizenry—we fashion through our votes and fund with our taxes.

But not one Democratic candidate will benefit from such good-faith interactions. Which side is close-minded, shut off and refuses to listen to reason? Which side is filled with petty, petulant politicians afraid of sincere questions from fellow citizens with a different worldview?

It is not my side, which accepts our responsibility to make sound arguments around compelling public-policy proposals, build coalitions of support, and advance leaders to public office who will act on those ideas. The other side is too thin-skinned and whiny to even show up at an established faith-and-values forum and make a case for their candidacy. Instead, they hurl insults at us even as they say, “No.”

And they think Trump is churlish?•

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