A long shot for the White House, Ron Paul has nonetheless set a new one-day record for online political fundraising and has finished ahead of Rudy Giuliani in early primaries and caucuses. He was interviewed in Charleston, South Carolina by Beliefnet politics editor Dan Gilgoff.
Two of your brothers are ministers, which probably means you were raised a religious home.
One is a Lutheran minister and one became a Presbyterian minister.… Growing up, my family was very much involved in religious teaching and interested in religious faith and actually encouraged all five of us to become ministers. Two became ministers and I decided I could minister through medicine…. People have asked me what influenced me most in my family and upbringing and it was the work ethic and church. It was faith-based. We spent a lot of time at our church and that was part of our routine.
Before you were a politician, you were an obstetrician. Did your religious upbringing also influence your political views and your decision to get into politics?
Early on, [with] World War II and Korea—by that time I was finishing college…. And war had an influence on me going into medicine because it was very obvious that young men got drafted. And I saw so many friends and relatives go off to war and many of them not coming back. There were a lot of movies on war and they really had an impact on me. And for some reason, early in my life I knew I wouldn’t be able to pick up a rifle and shoot somebody. I didn’t want to do it. And I dreaded the fact that some day they might do that to me and so I decided I wanted to be a doctor just so I don’t have to shoot people. I’d rather help people.
Did any of your distaste for the idea of picking up a rifle stem from your religion?
Absolutely. It was that influence, my religious influence and what I had learned in my church about what Christ was teaching—there was such a contradiction…. Now, with the new policy that we have preemptive war, we’ve thrown out the Christian “just-war” theory [and it’s] very disturbing to me. This is a real challenge and should be a challenge for the Christian community. It’s implied that you’re unpatriotic and you’re not defending Christian values if you don’t go along with preemptive war. Some evangelicals do say that you have to have preventative war and preemptive war and that contradicts my understanding of what I learned and what’s become my faith.
You were raised in a Lutheran church, baptized your children in an Episcopal church, and now attend a Baptist church. What explains that jumping around?
I didn’t have much choice about the Lutheran church because I was born that way. It was very conservative and we spent a couple years in catechism and that was when I made my commitment to Christ and joined the church. And then when my wife and I got married it was sort of an accident because there wasn’t a Lutheran church handy and there was an Episcopal church handy and we enjoyed the older traditions of the old prayer book and at that time it was a much more conservative religion. As the years went on both of us became more annoyed with the liberalization of the Episcopal church and it didn’t fit us. None of our children stayed in the church…. we drifted away from it. We now go to a Baptist church.
Does that mean you now consider yourself an evangelical?
Yeah, I do. But I’m not sure that every single person that uses those labels are absolutely uniform and that people know exactly what they mean… some evangelicals get a little bit annoyed because I’m not always preaching and saying, “I’m this, I’m this, and this.” I think my obligation is to reflect my beliefs in my life. I like the statement in the Bible that when you’re really in deep prayer you go to your closet. You don’t do it out on the streets and brag about it and say, “Look how holy I am.” If a person has true beliefs and is truly born again, it will be reflected in their life.
You caught some flack recently for quoting Sinclair Lewis on the Fox News Channel in response to a Mike Huckabee’s TV ad that appeared to feature a cross. You said that “fascism would come to this country waving a flag and bearing a cross.”
Unfortunately, that came up in dealing with Huckabee and it wasn’t directed [at him]… that ad came out and I hadn’t seen it and they asked me about the cross and that thing flashed across my mind.