Friday, January 25, 2008

How Would Jesus Vote? Believe it or Not, Someone Actually Knows!

Always looking for blog fodder for me, my husband brought home a book written by the late D.James Kennedy, PhD. The book, co-authored with Jerry Newcombe, is entitled: How Would Jesus Vote? A Christian Perspective on the Issues.

This book deserves a look, not because there appears to be anything of true merit in it, but because it does provide a look into how the leaders of the "Christian Right" think. It saddens me, as I read this book, to realize how these men have bought into their own form of politics, as well as their inability to see right from rhetoric, despite their many years of education. They're as confused as the "Christian Left", but much more outspoken, and, for some insane reason, they're believed by many more Christians. Some critical analysis, though, shows just how off-center their thinking is.

The first thing Kennedy laid out in the book is his assertion that politics and the Bible really do mix. In fact, his first chapter is entitled, "Do Jesus and Politics Mix?". The chapter is expounded upon nothing except his own opinion. He throws in a couple examples, the "Christian branch" of the Nazi party for one -- which to me seems to implicate the Christian Right more than anything -- and generalizations about Christians who he claims say we "should look only at what Jesus said as opposed to the whole Bible". Of course, he goes directly to the extreme, and I know few Christians that believe we should only look at what Jesus said as opposed to the whole Bible. I do know many Christians, myself included, who believe that the direct words and actions of Jesus should be taken with more thought and study than the entire Bible. I mean, when God comes to earth in the form of a person, it seems to me that you have direct access to the mind of God and should take advantage of that! Not that the rest of the Bible isn't important, but I have to wonder about a pastor who appears to not understand the direct authority and importance of Jesus Christ and his teachings.

In the same chapter he provides two Biblical examples of Jesus stating that politics and Christianity mix. Those two examples are: "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are God's" and that we are called to be "salt and light". Then he goes on to... not explain how these verses (which "salt and light" aren't even specific verses!) imply political involvement on the part of Christians today. He does delve deeper into that in the second chapter, but still offers no explanation (but whole lot of rhetoric!).

He finishes the chapter claiming that he's not looking for a theocracy and that it is the call of Christians to make this world a better place. While I do agree with him that it is the call of Christians to make the world a better place, I don't agree that we do so by trying to defend the immoral history of our country or by pretending that we can do so by forcing people to accept Christian moral law. Whether he wants to admit it or not, he is looking for a theocracy, just simply a thinly veiled one. In fact, in chapter 2, he talks about how the government should "encourage" the church. I don't want the government doing anything with the church or my Christianity. It is that nature of government and bureaucracy to grow! What starts as "encouragement" quickly grows to "involvement" and then moves onto "control."

Before moving on in this book, though, I have to state what I think appropriate Christian involvement in politics is. Unlike Dr. Kennedy and Mr. Newcombe, I don't believe I have the final answers and I don't believe that I really know how Jesus would vote. But, I do believe I have some idea on how a Christian can approach this topic without becoming caught up in political rhetoric, or dragging the name of Jesus Christ through the mud and into the mess.

I do believe that God cares that we vote. I do believe that we have been given a tremendous blessing and realized an inherent right to run our own government. It is wrong to not take part in the political process of our nation. So, then the question is how do we do that?

On the voting end that can be difficult. First of all, Christians have a natural tendency (and God-given responsibility) to protect life. I believe that when I finally get to the chapter on Life Issues, I will be in almost complete and total agreement with Dr. Kennedy and Mr. Newcombe. But, we also have a responsibility to look beyond just the abortion and stem cell issue and look at how a candidate views all aspects of life. For instance, is the candidate going to further screw-up things in the middle east and throw away the lives of thousands of more U.S. troops and Iraqi citizens while professing to be pro-life here at home, and yet not moving any legislation to change abortion laws? Is the life of a yet-to-be born U.S. baby more valuable than an Iraqi child or father?

I'm not saying that one is more important than the other, but I am saying that making a decision on a candidate has to go past valuing just the life of an unborn child. I am unequivocally opposed to abortion, and yet 8 years of a "pro life" president has not changed much on the abortion scene in the U.S. , and for someone who is "pro-life" he sure jumped into war awfully quickly. We have to think beyond the issues that the "Christian Right" are always throwing in our face. It's interesting to note, too, that if you go back to the founding of the "Christian Right" that at its inception, it was not a pro life organization. See the book Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelicals Lament by Randall Balmer. While I don't agree with everything Balmer puts forth in the book, his history of the Religious Right is extremely interesting.

I also think that God does want to preserve marriage, protect the innocent and keep our children safe from predators. All these things are important to vote on. They are not issues for us to use to bash our opponents with, exaggerate the facts about or slam the Bible on non-believers with. There's enough evidence to argue with that we don't need to shove the Bible down anybody's throat in order to present an argument for or against any legislation.

As people who shape policy, I think we need to change gears.

First of all, I think that it is completely wrong for the church to be politically active. I especially think it is out of line for pastors, ministers or any other professional staff to take on politics. Yes, individual church members can be called by God to political action. But, no, the church shouldn't be political. I'll get more into that when I discuss chapter 2 from this book.

Once I read, perhaps in Christianity Today, about the start of the pro life movement. The original founders were, indeed, Christians. But when they first began the public battle about abortion, they fought it on medical and ethical grounds. Yes, their faith shaped how they viewed abortion, and yes, the Bible teaches that abortion is wrong. But they didn't use their faith and the Bible to fight a fight that wasn't in a religious venue. They used logic and medical facts. They started to get somewhere with the struggle and then the Religious Right joined. They injected faith, the Bible and God. We're they more godly than the original pro-lifers? I would argue that they were less Godly (mostly because of their views on race). Certainly they were less logical (or wanting to incite emotion in a large group of people...), because they changed the argument and made it one that couldn't be settled unless everyone in the nation agree with the Bible.

So, maybe these politicians who are trying to shape policy need to keep that in mind. Honestly, I saw a picture of Huckabee standing next to his touring bus the other day. On the bus is painted, "Faith, Family" and something else. The thing that struck me, again, is that he's playing the "faith card". Is he trying to say that none of the other candidates , like Ron Paul or Barack Obama have faith? Even if he is the only Christian running, then don't we still have to ask questions like: Is he able to handle international relations? Does he understand the complexities of the war in the middle east? Does he have the education and training to handle those issues on an international level?

What we shouldn't be doing is simply voting for someone because some lobbying group says that they should be voted for, and we shouldn't be voting for one specific issue (like voting for Huckabee simply because he supports home schooling -- I doubt that we'd be homeschooling if the Taliban takes over the country because we don't have good foreign policy!). God expects us to critically think, pray, and follow the convictions that he places in our hearts.

And, because we all think differently, we aren't all going to vote the same way!


MarlaQuack said...

Hey Deb, you should consider putting a counter on your blog so you can see how many hits you are getting and where people are finding you from. I'm getting quite a few hits from people coming from your blog.

Deb said...

I have a secret counter!

Glad my blog is sending you traffic. It's vice versa as well. (my counter keeps track of where the hits come from, too)

Jim said...

Hi Deb, I have been reading your blog for the first time and find it both thoughtful and thought provoking. Through the years I've been regularly updated on your family by your mom and have admired the selfless way you live your life. Due to the miles and years between us we don't really know each other well but I'm proud that you're my cousin.