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The weird side of Christians and politics

Preamble: Understand in reading this post that I’m a swing voter and my #1 criteria for voting is, “Can this person lead in the role they are running for?” Side issues mean almost nothing to me in light of that one framing question.

I cringe when I hear evangelical Christians being grouped together as a block of voters for two reasons.

First, it’s a self-indicting judgement in how we view ourselves that we would only identify people with a certain political ideology when Jesus has commanded that we reach all people, all neighbors, with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Second, many of the solutions to issues Christian seem to care about from established political parties have been proven to both not work in society; the people who are elected because of their viewpoints on single issues often come with baggage that is distinctly against Christian values.

Some examples: 

  • Gay marriage is no more an attack on my marriage than the billboard for no fault divorce I pass on my way to work. Actually, the guy with the handgun next door is far more dangerous to my marriage than the gay couple across the street. Violent crimes in America are way, way down versus 2 decades ago. But handgun sales are way, way up.
  • There are millions of children in this country brought here as children who went to school with our kids, who have said the pledge of allegiance every morning next to our kids, and who have dreams just like our kids. But because there is no pathway to becoming a legal resident they are stuck. I can think of no fathomable reason Christians don’t advocate for them. Those kids aren’t dangerous– their homeland, the United States of America, doesn’t love them back. It’s heart-breaking. We are all immigrants to this country. We should be advocates for the Dream Act.
  • Health care costs are killing people. Literally. People are dying because they can’t afford basic health care. And yet, doctors are reimbursed less now than 20 years ago. Privatized, for-profit health care coverage and agressive pharmaceutical companies built on 19th century patent laws are bankrupting our society while getting tax breaks on their profits from the government and distributing tiny dividends into your 401k. You can’t argue for both a balanced budget and decreases in corporate taxation. The same companies that caused this current economic crisis are continuing to profit from it while trying to shirk their most basic responsibilities as corporate citizens. That’s what happens when you let the wolves run the chicken coup. They think about eating meat tomorrow with no source for tomorrow’s eggs.

What’s the point? 
The point is this, you can’t be a single issue voter and think you’re part of the political process. These are complex problems and deserve our attention. We can’t walk into a voting booth, in good conscious, and cast a vote over abortion or gun control or tax reform or the economy and think that we’ve done our part.

Doing our part means getting involved at the local level. It means advocating for the sick and oppressed on your block. It means standing up for the powerless in your life.

When you get to know the people these things effect your perspective will change. When you get to know the gay couple across the street you’ll see that they love each other just like you love your spouse. When you get to know the crazy guy with the guns you’ll see that he has guns because he has deep-seeded fears that a gun can’t fix, a counselor can. When your kids best friend can’t get into college because he has no way to get a green card, it won’t be an issue it will be Joseph’s story. When your next door neighbor dies because she couldn’t afford the medicine anymore it won’t be a matter of corporate rights, it’ll be an injustice.

Doing our part and doing the right thing might mean not getting what we want or doing what we’re comfortable with all the time. When we take things out of the rhetoric of issues and get to know the people they effect, we’ll see our perspectives shaped by a deep desire to help.

Friends, we weren’t called into ministry just to love the people who show up at our church or whose kids show up to youth group.

We were called to a messy ministry of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

24 replies on “The weird side of Christians and politics”

Clear, concise, intelligent and theologically sound.

Some people are going to trash you, lol.

Right on the nose in every particular. Well done Adam.
Jay

2 Disclaimers:
1- I generally agree with your post
2- I’m basically libertarian in my political ideology.

Okay, so here’s my two questions for you Adam:
1) Could you clarify what you mean about the guy with the gun being more of a threat to your marriage? I’m just not understanding. I agree with your point that the gay couple across the street is not a threat to your marriage.

2) I agree about single issue voting, but do you feel that you can vote for someone who says “abortion is okay, and I’ll support that” (I do believe that this will probably never be settled on a national or state level, and the thing that Christians need to do much much better at is helping and supporting those in crisis situations).

Would love to hear your thoughts bro.

Thanks for the thoughtful response. Obviously, to save words I kept it basic. Here’s my thoughts on your questions.
1. If you listen to those on the right talk about gay marriage you hear language of assault and violence. They say things like, “gay marriage is an attack on traditional marriage rights.” They make it seem as though a gay couple will physically attack my family. All I’m saying it that rhetoric is silly. If we want to talk about actual risk to my family the guy with the handgun is more of a physical threat to my family than a gay couple across the street. If we want to use language of assault, let’s talk about Christians who have commited murder in their hearts by buying a guy with intent to kill an intruder.
2. Politically speaking, Christians have gotten played on the abortion issue for 2 generations. They know you’ll vote in all of their weird non-Christian things like taxing the poor while the rich make billions, if they are anti-abortion in word but not action. Since the mid-1970s we’ve seen no movement in the republican anti-abortion strategy. Honestly, nothing will change on that issue and we need to get over it and work on a different, less political strategy. Meanwhile, big business has our country on the verge of collapse.

Okay, so issue number 1 has a lot to do with the terminology as you described it. I was just trying to clarify. Like I said, my gay uncle doesn’t threaten my marriage at all. We’re cool.

I would recommend (though I’m sure you have) reading the Freakonomics chapter on abortion. (let me know if you haven’t and I’ll give you the abridged version outside of this forum). It makes a great case for what you’re saying here – basically that the problem isn’t law, but caring for those at risk.

I won’t take issue with the points you bring up, although it is clear that we do not agree. I will point out that there was a time when family took care of family members. When the family needed help THEIR CHURCH pitched in. I believe the extent of our social problems are the extent to which we have deviated from God’s basic plan: marriage, family, and the church body. The government, regardless of which side of the aisle in in majority, cannot assume the roles that family and church should be doing.

Great post, Adam. I am always feeling compelled to challenge my world views through the lens of my applied faith. It is not a simple or easy exercise, to be sure.
I would argue that the “no-fault” divorce billboard is far more damaging to our hetero marriages than any loving, legal gay marriage ever could be. I could almost get behind Christians getting riled up against something like that, but of course, that never happens because that divorce attorney is protected by the virtues of capitalism and the free market, right??

“My #1 criteria for voting is, “Can this person lead in the role they are running for?” Which is exactly why you voted for Obama in 2008, right? You weighed his leadership experience against McCain and found McCain wanting as the person who could lead. It was strictly the man Obama’s leadership ability and experience versus the man McCain’s leadership ability and experience. It had nothing to do with the two tangents that you just veered off on….gay marriage and abortion. Just out of curiousity…when you weighed their leadership ability and experience on your scales, was it even a close call?

IMO McCain forfeited to Obama in the selection of Sarah Palin. It was inconceivable that a Republican could move forward after the Bush years. I was actually hoping for Edwards/Obama in 08… but his life fell apart. You happened to notice the Obama camp lead one of the largest people movements in history, right? That wasn’t leadership?

Very good point about the Obama “camp” leading one the largest movements ever. True dat. But your framing question is “Can this person lead in the role they are running for?”. So did you mean to say “Can these people lead….?” because apparently the VP choice is also crucial for you, if McCain forfeited because of that. And who would “these people” include…VP, Chief of Staff, Director of Press Relations, etc…everyone in the camp?

This is a great blog Adam. I’m amazed at how quickly we point to Obama’s leadership as being the problem with this country instead of looking at the “log in our own eye” (all Christians- liberal, conservative or in-between). We need to look at the world through the lens of the Gospel. I don’t think Jesus ever told the poor to “pull up your boot straps” and get a job, he just loved them.

So true, Tom. You know what’s sick? It’s not that companies don’t have the money to hire. They are just sitting on their profits right now. So many of these massive companies are making massive amounts of money, demanding they don’t pay taxes, and refusing to hire anyone until the government gives them bigger kickbacks for hiring people. What’s awesome is that this prolonged waiting game is beginning to result in a revolution of the small business.

Adam, this is my new favorite post you’ve done. I love everything about it and I’m so glad you wrote it. And just for the record, tho I know I’m very late in this discussion. I’m a christian and I will continue to vote for abortion rights, and funding for planned parenthood even though I think abortion is wrong, because I also believe that women dying from botched back alley abortions by hacks is also wrong. Actually more wrong.

It seems as if we are quick to blame either side and I have seen that in my own life. I do not agree with your thoughts on politics as it seems you are making assumptions about the “side issues” not being as important as if the person can lead for the job. Obama does not stand on anything biblical and for a Christian to push abortion, gay rights and so forth is not biblical. Simply not biblical. We are called to love those and be the church but no where in scripture does it say for us to conform to society just because the new candidate has a bunch of slogans and lead a “movement” or to make history. Movements only matter if it is a movement of God-centered principles. I’m not blaming Obama but he has not helped our situation in this country.
The character of the man matters more than if he can “Can this person lead in the role they are running for?” Side issues mean almost nothing to me in light of that one framing question.”
Side issues do not matter. Abortion does not matter? I might be misunderstanding you but, yes Adam the side issues do matter. When we stand before God side issues do matter, not just our intentions, but our daily decisions and character.

If you vote because of a single issue you care about you are not part of the political process, you’re getting played by people with an agenda that may or may not reflect the heart of God. The republican party has used the abortion issue as a tool to getting votes for 3 decades. And what has changed? Nothing. Roe vs. Wade is not going away. To continue to believe that one day abortion will be outlawed is simply denial.

New approaches are needed. Agreed?

See Katie’s comment above.

I only mentioned one of the issues. Yes I agree that we need to try everything we need to change roe vs. wade but I’m not going to vote for a person that does not stand for the rights of these children being murdered everyday, we are in one of the biggest genocides in history. You are basically assuming that ALL republicans are using voting against abortion for a different agenda. Sure, there are some that are not representing truth but I can say that the liberal side more often than not does not stand for the truth of what needs to happen in this country.
For you to say Roe vs. Wade is not going away is to give up, I choose to hope and pray that one day we can overturn it. It will be difficult but why throw in the towel on an important issue? Denial, sure you can say that but that it is having a give up mentality and I choose not too.
New approaches are important and needed, yes I agree with you on that.

Please understand I’m just debating a point here and make no attempt to be combative.

===
I take issue with the proposition you seem to make that if I don’t agree with you on grey area issues that you are on the side of the Bible and the truth whereas anyone who disagrees with you must not be. That’s a really hard way to take your arguments seriously. Let’s walk together in the understanding that while we might both be brothers in Christ, and we may even read the Bible with the same hermeneutical frame, we may come to opposing conclusions/interpretations as to what the Bible is telling us.

A couple thoughts to your points:
1. Call your congress person and ask them the likelihood that Roe v. Wade will be overturned this congressional cycle. When they say it’s a priority, ask about meetings today, this week, or this month which you can confirm. I think you’ll see that percentage is likely between 0% and .5% that there will be significantly this year… and maybe 1-5% chance it will change in your lifetime. So, if you want to make a difference you’ll need to change your strategy.
2. It seems as though Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about this in the Scarlet Letter. You can’t legislate morality on people. Moreover, this was Jesus’ strategy. Jesus cares about the condition of your heart more than he cares about the condition of your physical body, correct?
3. I might suggest that you volunteer a few days at a local Planned Parenthood. What you are likely to see is that they serve the practical family planning needs of all people, regardless of religious persuasion or economic status. I’ve not done it but I have many friends who have. They all describe Planned Parenthood as doing the job the church refuses to do.
4. I would argue that the Republican position is just as pro-life as the Democratic position. I’ve never heard anyone cheer for more abortions on either side of the aisle. What is different is their approach to the problem. The Republicans want a law banning the practice. The Democrats want to protect the practice while funding alternatives and providing eduction.

Actually we help with pregnancy centers which helps get girls that would abort and help them with adoption, my family counsels women on these issues. planned parenthood, although might want to help more often than not they lead them to abortion at times. I do not support planned parenthood but we are doing all we can to help girls to save the child. Planned parenthood is not the answer, I agree the church is and through the christian pregnacy clinics, we are making headway. Your blanket statement that planned parenthood is doing the churches job is not correct. Christian pregnancy centers will counsel anybody from any walk of life or belief and share the love of Christ and the gospel with them. Planned parenthood does not.
The democratic view is for pro-choice for most of the candidates (especially Obama). I’m not debating that it is a party decision but if you just line up the beliefs from the candidates you will see this.
The church should be the answer, I totally agree. The government is not supposed to legislate morality but the law was made to be upheld from a right and wrong standpoint (which stems from God’s Word and conscience). Morality is important and when any country in history caved morally, it fell.
I’ve enjoyed commenting, Thank you for hearing my view.

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/06/how-to-destroy-a-culture-in-5-easy-steps

“Taking action is perhaps the wrong word, though, since what is most often necessary is deliberate inaction. For example, if every Christian in America who claimed to be pro-life would simply refuse to vote for any candidate—regardless of party—who supports abortion, the abortion laws would change within two election cycles.”
And
“Sadly, such inaction has never happened and is unlikely to occur in the near future. America has produced an overwhelming number of Christians who are adept at explaining why they can support issues that are antithetical to Christianity and depressingly few who can give reasons why we should adhere to the teachings of scripture and the wisdom of the church.” Guess which one you are Adam!

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