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Kuo Time

By RD Heldenfels Published: October 19, 2006

For the last several days we've been hearing about David Kuo, once the director of faith-based initiatives for President Bush, who has described in some detail his disenchantment with the Bush administration.

In an excerpt from his new book in Time magazine, Kuo said: ''George W. Bush, the man, is a person of profound faith and deep compassion for those who suffer. But President George W. Bush is a politician and is ultimately no different from any other politician, content to use religion for electoral gain more than for good works.''

But even as people have huffed and puffed about this, I've asked myself, haven't we heard this before? Consider this line: ''If we are going to engage in political power, we must understand that politicians are often more interested in keeping power than they are in standing up for principle.''

That's from ''Blinded by Might,'' a 1999 book by Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, about the perils of pursuing Christian causes in the political arena. Dobson, a pastor and former assistant to Jerry Falwell, wrote that from experience he had learned that the people of the Religious Right ''are in danger of substituting our spiritual authority (the power to change lives and culture) for political authority (a lesser power that cannot change a single life).''

In the 1996 book ''With God on Our Side,'' a companion to the PBS series of the same name, William Martin chronicled evangelical Christians' previous disenchantment with politicians, such as Jimmy Carter; Tim LaHaye said after a disastrous meeting with Carter that ''we had a man in the White House who professed to be a Christian, but didn't understand how un-Christian his administration was.'' But Ronald Reagan wasn't much better for people in the movement.

I can't say why Kuo, or anyone else with his point of view, thought anything could be better with W. And that's not just about religion. Getting close to politics in any form can twist someone who's idealistic about any issue. You'll turn suspicious, cynical and depressed regardless of the issue, regardless of who's in power; idealism is rarely part of the political equation.

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