Scott Walker and God’s Plan

CBN’s Brody File, a major conservative evangelical listening-post, has been publishing a series of excerpts from interviews with WI Gov. Scott Walker, now into the short rows of a recall campaign. None of them are individually that remarkable, considering the subject and the audience. But altogether they add up to a depressingly familiar picture of a politician who has zero doubt that God is on his side, that God’s people are all praying and fighting for him, and that his opponents can be regarded merely as obstacles put into his path to test his faith. Here’s a typical Walker rap from the interview:

People ask all the time, to Tonette [his wife] and I, how do you get through this? It’s just really prayer. It’s the prayers that we have as a family, that we have individually, and the prayers that people tell us about. And those that we don’t even hear about, but we feel people all around our state and really all around the country, that people go out of their way to lift us up, and it’s just, it has been so amazing to us, and really as a family, I think it has made us stronger. We realize that all this is just a temporary thing and God’s got a plan for us that, who knows where it might be, beyond just serving as Governor of this state, but if we stay true to that, there’s always comfort. And God’s grace is always abundant no matter what you do, and it’s just every step of the way. In fact our Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, she asked me about this the other day, she’s just been spectacular as well. She asked me, she said, Scott, do you feel like you’re living your faith strong enough? She was asking me about this on a trip we were on. And I said yeah, the interesting thing is for me, it’s not just about going out and quoting scripture, it’s in how you live. And what I’ve tried to do over this past year is even at the moments of the peak of the attacks and the incivility and everything else, to make sure what I did was calm, it was reasoned, and that I was responding in kind.

In another excerpt, David Brody asks Walker if he has any regrets or would do anything differently if he had the chance. Only thing that occurs to the governor is that he’d spend more time explaining himself. In still another, Walker separates the evil goats from the God-fearing sheep:

Last year, my 16 year old and my mother in her 70s were at a grocery store and got yelled at. I’ve had my kids targeted on Facebook; we’ve had all those sorts of things. Now, thankfully for every one of them, there’s ten fold people that come up to me at a factory or a farm or small business and say, hey Governor, me and my family are praying for you. That never makes the news.”

At Beliefnet last year, religion scholar Diana Butler Bass took a close look at Walker’s religiosity, and particularly his lack of interest in the many protests his policies have evoked from Catholic and mainline Protestant clergy in Wisconsin, and reached a conclusion that helps explain his answers to Brody:

Before he was elected governor, Walker shared his testimony with a group of Christian businessmen. In it, he said that his religious life was expressed in the words of an
old hymn, “Trust and Obey.” From childhood onward, Walker recounted how God specifically directed his life, how he had learned to trust that direction, and how he sought to obey Christ in all things and at all times. He related the biblical story of the apostle Peter in a boat, whom Jesus directed to walk on the water. At first, Peter followed Jesus and did, indeed, walk upon water. But Peter became fearful and sank. According to Walker, this is a parable
of the whole Christian life. If you “fail to trust and obey,” Walker said, “You sink.” Doubt is not allowed. Only obedience.

No wonder there’s such a gulf between people like the Governor of Wisconsin and the President of the United States, who has on many occasions stressed the importance of doubt–particularly self-doubt–in the behavior of Christians participating in politics. And no wonder people like Walker have trouble accepting that people like Obama are Christians in any real sense of the term, since they think it’s all laid out so clearly in the selected portions of the Bible that happen to reinforce (or so they are certain) their economic and cultural conservatism.

And so if Scott Walker survives his recall thanks to all those prayers from real Christians, not to mention all those dollars from self-righteous business folk like himself, he’ll view it as just another chapter in “God’s plan” for him, for his state, and for the entire country. Presumably his opponents–believers and unbelievers alike–can all just go to Hell.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.