Keeping after candidates 'called by God'
01:22 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for, was named Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs.

Story highlights

LZ Granderson: Four GOP candidates say they felt called to run

Candidates have grown bolder about using their religious faith to justify their campaigns, he says

He asks why people don't push back and question claims of divine intervention

Granderson: Democrats as well as Republicans wrongly inject faith into politics

Grand Rapids, Michigan CNN  — 

Vote for me or burn in hell.

I can’t imagine someone running for office saying that.

And yet four candidates – Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum – have said they had a sense that God was leading them to run. How far can we be from “vote for me or burn in hell” when it seems we’re already comfortable with “vote for me, I’ve been called by God”?

There was a time when if a candidate wanted to inject faith into a campaign he or she would be photographed going to church or shaking the Rev. Billy Graham’s hand.

Now it seems many GOP campaigns aren’t complete without claiming God’s seal of approval, which suggests the other candidates may be running without it. Such a sentiment is an ideological piñata for comedians like Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, but for conservatives trying to secure the GOP nomination, it’s a highly manipulative campaign tool.

Consider the words of Rick Perry’s wife, Anita.

During a stop in South Carolina last week she said her husband was being brutalized by the media because of his faith and that while his GOP opponents are “there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them, too … I truly feel like we are here for that purpose.”

When Perry was asked about his wife’s comments on “Good Morning America,” he said “I think she’s right in both cases. My understanding is that she said I’m the most conservative candidate in the race and, ‘He’s a Christian.’”

Cain was a guest on the Christian Broadcasting Network recently and recapped a conversation he said he had with God before entering the race.

“I felt like Moses when God said, ‘I want you to go into Egypt and lead my people out.’” Cain said. “Moses resisted. I resisted. … But you shouldn’t question God.”

Repeat: You shouldn’t question God.

OK, fine.

But why aren’t we questioning the candidates who make these kinds of statements the same way we would question whether God actually wanted a particular athlete to win a game?

I do believe a person’s faith is personal, but I’m not the one using it to get votes. Four candidates have claimed a level of divine intervention with their campaign, which either means the creator of heaven and Earth is hedging his bets or somebody’s mistaken.

When a candidate claims to have a plan to create jobs or turn our economy around, we expect thoughtful analysis, as we have seen with President Obama’s jobs package and Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. Why are we not demanding the same level of critical thinking with respect to these candidates? Is the media so afraid to appear to be attacking someone’s faith that interviewers don’t bother to ask follow-up questions?

If I could trade places with Anderson Cooper, who is moderating Tuesday’s debate, I would ask, “Now which ones of you were really called by God and which ones are hearing voices in your head?” then let them discuss among themselves.

It seems like a fair line of questioning, especially when you consider Cain is telling a particular voting bloc that he is like Moses and Perry is telling the same voters that Cain and others misheard God. Why wouldn’t conservative Christians want to hear this line of questioning, since they are the sheep who are potentially being targeted by deceptive, power-hungry wolves?

Now I know it seems as if I’m picking on Republicans, but trust me, I’m equally disgusted by Democrats who use religion to win elections.

I still recoil in horror at the memory of then Sen. Hillary Clinton, on the eve of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 2008, standing in front of a Baptist church in Harlem, trying to out-black preach then Sen. Barack Obama, who was visiting Ebenezer Church in Atlanta the same day. And at both locations, the crowd was just eating it up, like extras in a Tyler Perry movie.

When people ask why I’m not a Democrat, this is one of the reasons I give.

But not even in the heat of those moments did I hear them say they were called by God to run. Not because Democrats are not religious, but because they seem to know where the line is.

This current GOP candidates seem to have no idea that there is a line, let alone its location. It is beginning to feel like if we don’t start pushing back soon, in the next election we’re going to see campaign slogans like, “Vote for me or God won’t bless America.”

“Vote for me, or you’ll be left behind.”

“Vote for me… Jesus did.”

On August 4, 2010, just before 10:30 p.m., former longtime Rep. Pete Hoekstra stood in front of a group of supporters in a small city in Michigan to deliver a concession speech. The Republican had just lost his bid to be governor, a job he said he left Congress to pursue because of “God’s plan.”

“God’s got something better in mind for us,” he said, and in January he finished his term in the House.

Today Hoekstra is back in Michigan.

Running for Congress.

No word yet if God told him to do so or if this is the “something better” the Almighty had in mind.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.