Monday, September 18, 2006

Strange Bedfellows?
Republicans and the Religious Right

Joe Carter writes today about the similarities and differences between the political impact of white and black churches in the United States. I was surprised and impressed by the following line:
Both groups, though, need to be more discerning about which party best represents our values. For the past decade, white evangelicals have tended to align too closely with the Republicans and have been disappointed by the outcome. But it is nothing less than scandalous the way that black congregations have tied themselves so closely to the Democrats, even as the party has become openly hostile to Christian values.
It's the "too closely with the Republicans" that gets me, mainly because Joe Carter is one of those whom I would have identified with precisely that policy.

I've been wanting to write about my own political positions and direction for some time now, but it's rather complicated. Suffice to say that while my political instincts have always been pretty conservative, I think that the so-called religious right has been hoodwinked into voting primarily for Republicans based on issues that are largely illusory. I'm referring, of course, to such social issues as opposition to abortion and the gay rights agenda--much of which falls outside the milieu of politics. Most of us would like Roe v. Wade to be overturned, but what if it were? I guarantee you, abortion would remain legal in virtually all the states.

In the meantime, we have thrown our support behind economic conservatives and foreign policy conservatives, many of whom have utter disdain for social issues conservatives. Put simply, they want our votes, but have no interest in passing our agenda; this is why we hear the "Big Tent" mantra every time Republicans start gearing up for general elections. "Big Tent" is simply code for gutting the social issues agenda in order to attract other brands of conservatives who are hostile to that agenda. We don't see Republicans inviting in people who advocate higher taxes or isolationism in the name of a "Big Tent."

How is it that followers of Jesus have, en masse, allied themselves with a party that largely represents the rich and powerful? I'm not saying that the Democrats have dealt with the problems of poverty and social inequality in the right way, but at least there is some attempt to do so. The main point is, should we vote based on issues on which our vote will have little impact, or should we vote on issues on which our vote will have direct impact?

There are two ways for a group to be politically active. One is to throw your support behind the party which you believe represents your interests; that is the position that the religious right has taken for the last quarter-century. It hasn't worked; practically none of their core agenda has been passed. The other way is for that group to throw its support behind individual representatives who share their values, regardless of party affiliation. That way has the failing that it ignores the realities of party politics, in which individual representatives are pressured to follow the party line in order to retain support for reelection. Nonetheless, if evangelical Christians want to be more than a voiceless voting bloc, we're going to have to show a little more political independence.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree with you more on this. There is also, I think, an issue with our Christian witness - if our churches become too politicised, and we start to preach against - say - liberal politics, then will that not make the liberal less likely to listen to the gospel?

    It is right for Christians to be politically engaged (and would be hypocritical of me to say otherwise), but I think that when our churches pretend they deliver a voting bloc, they disenfranchise Christians and create a stumbling block for those who disagree with the church's stand.