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Going To The Whip

Laura Hildebrand, author of the award winning book about the legendary, Seabiscuit, has emerged as an outspoken critic of the riding crop or “whip,” when used to enhance race horse performance.

According to Hildebrand, the use of the whip is cruel. It inflicts unnecessary pain on the animal. And it may not even be all that effective. Hildebrand argues that using the whip to increase performance only works so long. The horse eventually becomes numb to its effects. Over time, as was the case with the Seabiscuit, the whip may actually diminish performance.

Curiously, as candidates start getting ready for the upcoming election season, there is a political equivalent to “going to the whip.” It works like this.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced on the floor of Senate recently that he was once again calling for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. His reference is to the so-called Marriage Protection Amendment that was brought to the floor during the last political season.

The reason it’s back again, Frist explains, is out of fear that some state may take action to legalize gay marriage, and because of Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, the so-called “full faith and credit” clause, marriages in one state are legal in all states.

Alabama gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore is also trumpeting the need for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Even though there is already a law that prohibits same-sex marriage in Alabama, Moore believes it is not enough. Alabama needs a hedge against what other states might do.

Curiously, both Frist and Moore’s initiatives will reach their climax around the first of June. The significance for Alabama is obvious. The Republican primary is June 6. Candidate Moore has stated publicly that the gay-marriage ban will attract concerned Christian voters, many of whom may also support his candidacy.

In the case of Frist, the effort seems to have a similar purpose. The call for a constitutional amendment is intended to arouse conservative Christian voters and give candidates in tight mid-term elections a potent campaign issue.

This is politically “going to the whip.” Voters are warned that the homosexual agenda is about to wreck the American dream. They are whipped into a frenzy to pass laws that will stop this gay juggernaut.

But as in horse racing, so in politics–there can be a downside. The constant use of the whip renders voters numb. Over time, hot-button issues lose their effectiveness. Campaigns are forced to find ever more urgent moral concerns, or else try to squeeze one more voter turn-out from tried and true issues.

We’ve seen this with the abortion issue for years, now its gay marriage.

In Alabama, the last thing we need to worry about is a surge of gay couples flooding the court house with marriage requests. In Alabama what we need to worry about is the future of our public-school system. We need to be very concerned about the status of our healthcare safety net for children and senior adults. We need to be worried about an unfair tax structure and grossly ineffective constitution.

We have some serious issues before us here in Alabama, but gay marriage is not one of them. It is a wedge issue, a whip designed not to inspire voters to vote for better government, but to frighten voters into electing a savior.

And the last time I checked, that job was already taken.

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.