"In a couple of days, they come and take me away, But the press let the story leak, And when the radical priest Come to get me released We was all on the cover of Newsweek" From "Me and Julio" by Paul Simon Copyright 1971, Charing Cross Music
They came in clerical collars, clutching prayer book or rosary, into the South during the civil rights struggle of the early '60s lending the moral suasion of the church against bigotry and racism.Then later these ministers and priests and their successors, some fresh from the seminary, marched, prayed in, sat in, were gassed, arrested, clubbed - active participants in the protests against the war in Vietnam.
It is in the last decades that clergymen in this county have deepened their involvement in politics. One veteran Washington civil rights lawyer. Joseph Rauh, believes clerical participation in the 1963 hearings before the House Judiciary Committee provided "civil rights bill passed by Congress the following year.
Back in those days, Rauh recalls, people though it a little strange for clergy to immerse themselves in partisan political struggles. But today, with six clergymen serving in the House and one one in the Senate, clerics have clearly emerged as part of the nation's political life.
"It's not just that they're accepted now," Rauh says. "They just got so invoved in those moral issues - the war and the civil rights movement - that they propelled themselves into politics, even to the point of running for office." Robert Edgar
Four years ago Bob Edgar was a baby-faces liberal Presbyterian minister working the worn down back streets of Philadelphia's northside slums. He had never attended a political meeting in his life, much less run for public office.
Today Rep. Robert Edgar, a 34-year-old Democrat from Pennsylvania, looks completely at home, reclining in his easy chair in his busy congressional office. The innocent eyes, the roundish Boy Scout face are still there - a little like a filled-out Robert Redford - but, dressed in an elegantly tailored suit, Edgar no longer looks the part of a ghetto crusader.
Edgar was elected to Congress in 1974 from a firmly Republican district south of Philadelphia, a district, in fact, which had not elected a Democrat since the founding of the G.O.P. Trying to explain his surprising political success, the congressman puts his feet on the footlocker he uses as a coffee table and rubs his chin.
"I can't really tell you, it's so weird," Edgar explains, hesitating for a moment. "I guess after Watergate you had the John Deans, the Richard Nixons, the John Mitchells, all trained as lawyers, so people started looking for something else. I gather, and that's why I'm here."
The transition from minister to congressman wasn't difficult, Edgar says because, as he sees it, politics is only preaching on a wider scale. The Capitol is the ultimate pulpit.
"There is very little difference between what I was doing in the parish and what I was doing here," Edgar says as he watches the clock for a roll call. "You change the language from the sermons and use poltical rhetoric and there's a cross-fertilization. John Buchanan
Bob Edgar is part of this growing class on Capitol Hill - a synod of ministers and priests (no rabbis) elected to Congress in recent years partly as a result of increased public distaste for traditional (read "lawyers") politicians. But when John Buchanan (R-Ala.) first entered Congress in 1965, the Baptist minister from Birmingham felt a little out of place. The only minister in the House then, Buchanan recalls was Adam Clayton Powell, the controversial black Baptist from Harlem. And he wasn't exactly Buchanan's cup of tea.
Today Buchanan has lots of company. Besides Edgar, there are Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.) and Reps. Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.), Robert Drinan (D-Mass.), Robert Cornell (D-Wis.) and Tennyson Guyer (R-Ohio). "I think it's a good thing to have some God-fearing people here," Buchanan says, his long legs hanging over the sides of his chair.
Graying and tanned, Buchanan usually sits with the air of a Southern gentleman in his spacious office as aides tiptoe in with items of interes. But the genteel clam is momentarily dispelled when Buchanan is challenged on whether ministers belong in political office. Leaping up, Buchanan rushes to his cabinet and pulls out a large, worn black Bible. "See here," he says as he lays the Bible open on a coffee table. "It says the magistrate is 'God's minister.' That's me.
Religion, he said later as he ambled across the street to the Capitol, was his particular salvation in Washington where, he feels, sin in ever-present and beckoning, particularly for congressmen.
For the last few years Buchanan has been attending the First Baptist Church, a small biracial congregation along the Potomac on Maine Avenue. Buchanan, who served as an interim minister there for eight months in 1972 and 1973, credits the church and its congregants with opening up his perspective toward, blacks and other minorities.
"After being there with my brethren i learned that black and white is all the same." Buchanan says as he plays with his tie, a stickpin in the shape of the cross imbeded in it. "That who church is precious to me. I need it more than any man, that's for sure." Robert Cornell
It's early morning when Rep, Robert Cornell wakes up and conducts mass, dressed in a priest's ceremonial garb in the silence of his Capitol Hill apartment.
"It's a lonesome exist here, especially for me," the 57-year-old congressman form Wisconsin says, his eyes sad and little tired. Every day after mass cornell works from 8 in the morning to midnight before returning, bone tired, to the solitude of a bachelor's flat.
It's a dramatic change of lifestyle, Cornell says, for a man used a living with 30 other priests, enjoying the camaraderie of men pledged to poverty and celibacy. His official residence is still in the abbey a Saint Norbert College in Depere, Wis., near Green Bay, where Cornell taught history for 27 years, but he's rarely there.
Long active in local Democratic politics. Father Cornell first ran for Congress in 1970 and was throughly thrashed by his Republican foe. One of the reasons for this early defeat. Cornell believes, is that many older Catholics have trouble accepting a priest in politics.
In the winter of 1970, after the election, Cornell journeyed to Kaukauna, a small Wisconsin town which is heavily Catholic but went strongly for his opponent. "An old woman came up to me and said she didn't vote for me." Cornell recalls, "She said "All these priests are running off to get married and you want to go to Congress when we're short of priests.'"
The priest htthen explained to the old lady that he was just a history teacher and that if he left they could find another to replace him."I guess she thought then I was alright," Cornell grins. "I bet I got that one the next time."
Cornell ran and lost again in 1972 but, finally, in 1974, the year of the great Watergate backlash, he won. On election eve of that year Cornell announced that, given his clerical wardrobe, he'd probably be needing neckties. He soon got them by the score from his constituents, may of them outlandish, incandescent glowing types. "I got rid of them by giving them as Christmas presents," Cornell, who now wears a clerical collar full time in the interest of simplicity, says, smiling. "But they got back at me. Bill Hughes (D-N.J.) gave me this as a present the next year." And he holds up a large wooden duck.
Father Cornell is the second priest to be elected to Congress in recent times, the first being Robert Drinan (D-Mass.) elected in 1970.
Like the other clergymen on the Hill. Cornell seems comfortable in his new surroundings, although his office seems a little bare, more like a monk's cell than a congressman's office. "I knew I was accepted when I was in the hospital getting a hernis operation" he says, sliding his black shoe along the worn green carpet. "I got a card from Dave Obey (D-Wis.) saying he hoped I'd recover from my vasectomy. Well, that's a hell of a joke on an old celibate like me."
An elderly woman passes his office door as dusk is turning into night and tells the priest gently, "Don't work too hard, father." He looks over nods, and picks up some candy from a glass jar. "Well it's all right. It's a lonesome life," he says munching. "But it's something I choose and that's it." Tennyson Guyer
Most of the ministers on the Hill are liberals, but Tennyson Guyer is different. He's a tough, no-nonsense conservative.
A minister of the 100,000-member fundamentalist Church of God, Guyer looks like Ernest Borgnine dressed as Mr. Clean - white shoes, white belt, white tie. A onetime circus clown and professional orator, Guyer, 64 sees himself as the representative of the God-fearing, clean living folks of the great Midwest.
He is a man of many speeches, an old-fashioned orator who claims to have made over 1,000 appearances at various Rotary Clubs, conventions and commencements across the country. Copies of his speeches clutter his office, summarized on index cards, filed in folders or packed away in the closet on cassettes. His favorite topics, Guyer says are such patriotic and religious themes as "America the Dutiful" or "God Smiled On Us"
While Guyer insists he has a Christian's love for his fellow man. He doesn't believe the taxpayers should pay for it. "I mean the real shame about these single welfare mothers isn't that the kids may be starving," he said, as he picks through the index cards on his desk. "The real crime is that there's a father out there not supporting them."
Guyer speaks across the country often for free, on morality. He believes Watergate has been unfairly miscast as a great breach of ethics by members of his party. "The saddest part about Watergate is that it was so unnecessary," he said solemnly. "Look, in Washington there's probably 3,000 worse crimes committed every week," he says. Public Acceptance
While they are reluctant to term termselves God's chosen politicans, the clerics on the Hill do believe they are riding a crest of public opinion. They point to Jimmy Carter's religiosity with pride and some like Edgar of Pennyslvania and Cornell of Wisconsin are certain they'd never have won in their districts without their clean clerical images.
Intergrity, the political ministers are saying, is good politics, or at last the appearance of intergrity. It's a good time to be unassuming, to live modestly and steer clear of cocktail parties. Perhaps it's better to preach than practice law, as a prelude to politcs.
"People don't trust Presidents or congressmen anymore but they do trust individuals." Bob Edgar observes as he prepares to enter the confusion of the House Mayor. "But I guess we have a certain advantage. I mean a [WORD ILLEGIBLE] trust level is still pretty high."