Thursday, March 22, 2007

Are Evangelicals "Owned" Politically?

As implied in my "Ok, Back to Blogging Here" post I have been getting my political "ya-ya's" out mainly as the loyal opposition at Street Prophets - a decidedly "progressive" blog; and now my political blogging will come here. I put the scare quotes around progressive because I am not willing to give liberals that word. If being progressive is what moves progress forward, then flying in the face of a sovereign God is not progressive. In fact, as C.S. Lewis said, if we are going down the wrong road the most progressive thing is to turn around and go back to where we got it wrong and start another direction - not to continue forward hoping things improve.

Now, Street Prophets is still a place I cruise through; and I value, if not always agree with, the prime moderator/founder's (Pastordan) opinions. Anyone with half a political brain realizes that the Republican Party is in disarray: its major wings are not unified; and politically and theologically conservative Christians - who have been one of its major bases - are no longer in love with the party. Frankly, I think liberal Democrats have always misjudged our allegiance to the Republican Party - or I hope so.

I hope so because Christians should not identify with any secular political ideology or group - we are the Body of Christ. Our allegiance is to the Kingdom of God and not the Republicans or the Democratics; and we are loyal to the Gospel and not secular conservatism or secular liberalism. Whether Christians see themselves as liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat - they need to understand what J. Budziszewski points out in "The Problem With Conservatism":

From time to time Christians may find themselves in tactical alliance with conservatives, just as with liberals, over particular policies, precepts, and laws. But they cannot be in strategic alliance, because their reasons for these stands are different; they are living in a different vision. For our allies’ sake as well as our own, it behooves us to remember the difference. We do not need another Social Gospel - just the Gospel.
Politically-involved Christians (which I believe we are all required to be) need to read that essay as well as its companion - "The Problem With Liberalism" - because we need to examine our political views in the light of the Gospel. We need to understand the Kingdom reasons we would enter into temporary tactical alliances with secular political forces.

This post got started, and the title came from, reading two posts by Pastordan at Street Prophets called "The Evangelical Vote"
It’s no accident that some of the biggest proponents of beyondism these days are folks who believe that at least some socially conservative evangelicals can be induced to switch party affiliations, from Republican to Democrat.

The thinking goes that if progressive politicians would only mute their stances on abortion and homosexuality, evangelicals would line up with their proper economic interests in the Democratic fold. Butta-boom, butta-bing, third way politics!

I honestly don’t know what drives this thinking beyond tantalizing personal experience. I’ve met a few conservative evangelicals who seem to be on the same page as myself economically or on the war in Iraq. Some of them even seem to be quite a bit more socially progressive than their church affiliation would indicate. It’s great to talk to them, and it’s great to think that they could be progressives some day – but then they go into the voting booth and pull the lever for Republicans just like they’ve always done.
and (should have linked this first probably) "Beyondism":
I think it was David Brooks who coined, years ago, the term "beyondist." A beyondist is someone who urges us to get beyond left/right distinctions, beyond partisan politics, beyond the stymied options of the day . . .
But as Bottum says, the condition for this transcendent bliss beyond politics always seems to be that one’s opponents finally stops being an idiot and comes around to agree with everything you’ve been saying all along . . .
I kinda agree here, but then this
Most religious commentors on politics seem to agree with Wallis that there’s the liberal way, the conservative way, and God’s way. I’d scratch the third. If God has a chosen political stance or method, he so far has not seen fit to share it with us.
This I do not agree with. While God would neither join the Democrats or Republicans - nor call Himself a secular liberal or conservative - I believe He very much speaks to us about all issues including our political stances. Of course, we are required to listen, comprehend, and obey - the big feats for a Christian indeed. I often wonder, since God wants us to be salt and light to a fallen world, whether God actually leads us to positions in both the liberal and conservative camps just so the work of His Kingdom can move forward everywhere (hey, look at the name of the blog)

Even Pastordan isn't really being completely honest here - his faith, and God, inform his politics everyday. He believes God indeed speaks to him on political matters. He no more separates his secular politics from his religious beliefs than I do. It is one reason I love him even though we disagree most of the time politically. We may all have to involve ourselves in the politics of the fallen world; but the "third way" is to seek God in that and not allow our political identities to overwealm our identity in Christ.

However, back to his point: Are theologically conservative Evangelicals owned by the Republican Party? Are the only issues we are concerned about abortion (Joe Carter says "yes" to this issue - well actually bioethics in general) and homosexuality? Not to say our solutions to other issues would align with those of liberals; but are we unconcerned about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless? Are the environment, the war in Iraq, and use of torture by our government unimportant issues - or do we simply disagree on the solutions? Have we taken the time to examine these issues Biblically and theologically? My answer is "yes" - evangelicals as a group have thought about these issues and these issues are important.

Are we "owned" by the Republican Party? This is not the evangelical church I am part of - but what do you think?


  1. The major Evangelical organizations, and the majority of conservative Christian-oriented political groups, such as the Family Research Council, (Joe Carter's employer) are completely driven by a desire for political power.

    The proof? The current President's Administration has authorized and systematically used torture on terrorism suspects. Not to mention rendition, secret CIA prisons and outsourcing torture to other countries like Saudi Arabia. . Even the watered down restraints passed by the last Congress were met with a "signing statement" that allows the President to bypass that meager law if he wishes. Keep in mind that even a few years ago, such things as "Coercive Interrogation" would have been morally unthinkable and abhorrent.

    What was the response of the major Evangelical groups, both the political orgs and the Church associations? For that matter, what was the response of the average Evangelical Christian? ...crickets chirping.

    Go look at their websites of the major Evangelical groups and do a search on "torture". See what you come up with. Pretty much zilch. Except the Traditional Values Coalition which actually supports it outright. The only major Christian group that I have seen making any kind of noise about it has been the Catholic Church, and then mostly from Rome.

    When it comes to torture being carried out by our Government in the US, Evangelicals practice a strict "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. They just don't seem to care whether or not terrorism suspects are tortured or even treated inhumanely.

    Funny thing, thats not the Christianity I was taught growing up and that I respected. Instead all anyone seems to care about is the gender of the person I go home to at night. Its the moral Achilles heel of Evangelicals. I think its discraceful, disgusting, shameful, and deviant. And unlike say, homosexuality, the blatant lack of concern by Evangelicals on this issue shows a truly corrupted moral character.

  2. Hi Patrick,

    Good to see you again.

    Let us be clear. I am talking about evangelicals and their churches - and not the political NGO's that the media tends to rush to for an interview. I am far more concerned with the butts in the seats than the FRC, etc. Focus on the Family and their like are mostly single issue political action groups; and not particularly the churches, seminaries, church organizations, etc. that make up Evangelicalism.

    In that sense, I am not sure you know what "the average evangelical" says about torture; or how much that affected their vote last November - and what it will do in November 2008. I am not sure I know either and I am part of the movement - which is sort of the reason for this post.

    However, it is curious that (knowing how much time you spend at Joe Carter's site) that, while you were connecting him to the FRC you didn't mention this post he wrote after he went to work for the FRC;

    "I can't make excuses for us on this one anymore: We have to take a firm stand against torture. Yes, there is a debate about what exactly is meant by that term. So let?s define it in a way that consistent with our belief in human dignity. And then let's hold every politician in the country to that standard. Our silence is embarrassing."

    or the Symposium on torture he sponsored long before that (December 2005) with very anti-torture posts by a number of theologically conservative Christians.

    I assume you knew about this stuff - why didn't you mention it to give some balance to your comment?

    I also assume you know that the National Association of Evangelicals recently came out in opposition to torture. I know you will think that is late (I do too); but we are talking about bringing 27,000ish churches into agreement before they can take a position in their name.

    Now, being pretty sure you knew all this - why the lack of balance in your comment? There is not even a hint of "at least you idiots are finally getting it together" in what you said.

  3. oops

    That was 60 denominations and 45,000 churchs the NAE had to bring into line on it's statement on human rights and torture.

    That is work they are still doing within their constituancy

  4. "If being progressive is what moves progress forward, then flying in the face of a sovereign God is not progressive."

    That, of course, depends on your perspective and set of values.

    The statement is true for the Christian, but certainly not seen as true by secular evolutionists.

    As for Christians not belonging to any secular ideology, it's certainly refreshing for me to hear an American Christian talk that way. Most of the rest of us outside of the States think that your religion and politics are just a little too closely knit, which is exactly what you fled from in the first place when you formed your own union, isn't it?

  5. Alan,

    Of course, I think the existence of God is THE reality - so the error of secular evolutionists isn't my problme :-)

    Certainly, I also do not think the political state in the US is anywhere near the theocracies the colonists fled - nor do I believe there is a real threat of theocracy in the US

    However, that doesnt mean a Christians secular political priorities should be higher than their Kingdom ones

  6. Good post, JCH. I agree with most of what you have to say. I think it's instructive, when imagining whether and how Christians as Christians (rather than as parents, union members, gun enthusiasts, etc.) should act politically, to look at historic examples. They give us some distance that we typically lack when considering the debates of our own times. My favorite example is Lincoln, who observed that both North and South prayed to the same God, that the prayers of both could not be answered, and in fact the prayers of neither had been answered fully. In a private note he said of God's providence that two sides in a conflict could not both be right but they could both be wrong. I think he was on to something, and I think that in retrospect his view is almost impossible to argue against.

    In other words, I tend to be suspicious (as you seem to be) of identifying "God's way" with anything like faction, party, etc. God's will, providence, or whatever you want to call it is not necessarily, or even typically, revealed through the concerted actions of Godly people but rather through the clash of different factions that do not by any means "own" God.

  7. Good work. I plan to read both of the "The trouble with . . ." essays. I'm afraid that most of the church members I am most familiar with are indeed captive to a political party -- in this case, the Republican one. Bush, Rove, et. al. seemingly can do no wrong, as far as they are concerned.

    I found this through the Christian Carnival.


How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly