John Danforth

This week’s guest on “Speaking of Faith” is St. Louisian John Danforth (“Conservative Politics & Moderate Religion”), former Ambassador to the United Nations, three-term Republican Senator, and special envoy to Sudan for President Bush. His new book is called Faith and Politics. I haven’t listened to the SOF piece yet, but I just read an interesting interview he’s given to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. From the latter:

Q: In your book you write that ‘no political agenda can claim to be God’s will.’ That argument is not going to persuade people who believe it can.

A: No, you’re not going to persuade everybody, but let’s have other people weigh in on this discussion, too. Let’s hear from the people who do not believe that the kingdom of God can be reduced to a political platform. And let’s hear from people who believe that the commandment that we love our neighbors as ourselves takes precedence over bashing gays, for example.

Q: How would that look, then, if more people were interested in reconciliation? Can you give an example?

A: Let’s stick with the gay issue. This issue has become politicized for the purpose of appealing to the Christian conservative base of the Republican Party. It’s difficult for me to imagine that, aside from that effort, that many people really think that gay marriage should be incorporated into the Constitution of the United States.

The Constitution is about the structure of government; it’s about the relationship of the government and the people. It’s not about behavioral issues.

The gay marriage issue gained currency in Republican politics because only one side was heard from. It’s time for other people to say, 'Wait a second.’

I feel the same about stem cells. Some people say that the Christian position is against stem cell research. That’s true for some Christians. But a lot of Christians would say: No, when Jesus sent the disciples out into the world, he sent them out, in Matthew’s Gospel, to heal every disease.

I’m not for muzzling anybody. I’m for having people who believe that America has become too polarized - and for religion to be more than a series of wedge issues - to be more outspoken than they’ve been to date.

Q: What are your thoughts on gay marriage?

A: My personal view is that marriage is between a man and woman. But that’s neither here nor there. I also believe in not humiliating people, and I believe in honoring people and understanding that some people are just not drawn to people of the opposite sex.

The government should recognize that when there’s a committed relationship, certain legal rights should go along with it. And then let the churches figure out what they mean by marriage.