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The perils of wedding faith to politics

White House staffer David Kuo was anguished when his Christian ideals clashed with political reality.

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Shortly before the recent election, David Kuo's book captured the headlines along with other startling exposés relating to the Republican party and evangelical Christianity.

Kuo's story of life as an insider in the Bush White House and in conservative Christian circles was shocking on two fronts. It described a White House staff that cavalierly "used" evangelical leaders, disparaging them in private even as the staff counted on them to deliver the president's political base.

And it claimed that the "faith-based initiative" – President Bush's vaunted program to fund religious groups that serve the needy – failed to deliver promised resources because the program was ignored or undermined at crucial moments by that same staff, and perhaps by the president himself.

Yet this poignant, compelling memoir has bigger themes. Tempting Faith: an Inside Story of Political Seduction shows how readily someone with the best intentions and noble purposes can be caught up in the heady world of Washington politics – to the detriment of family life and the warping of deeply held convictions. Most significantly to the author, it sends an urgent warning to fellow Christians of the dangers of fusing religion with politics.

Kuo is a devoted Christian who believed, as do many, that putting evangelicals in office was the answer to fulfilling God's purpose for America. Instead, he concludes that focusing on a political agenda tends to distort the Christian message and perhaps even make a god of politics.

"I longed for the day the right political leaders would arrive, govern morally, eloquently profess their Christian faith, and return America to greatness," he writes. "Now I know better. I have seen what happens when well-meaning Christians are seduced into thinking deliverance can come from the Oval Office, a Supreme Court chamber, or the floor of the United States Congress. They are ... tempted to turn a mission field (politics) into a battlefield, leaving the impression Jesus' main goal was advancing a particular policy agenda."

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