Friday, September 15, 2006

How "Christian" is the "Christian Right?"

(I wrote the original version of this during the 2004 Presidential election campaign and it received terrible responses on I posted the same thing again with no revisions, on my MySpace group Christians For Social Justice, this time to much better reviews. I'm now featuring it here in a revised & updated form as a way of kicking off my new Blogspot locale, and to stimulate any ensuing discussion.)

“God is a Republican?”

Probably one of the most obnoxious persistent dichotomies held to among Christians in recent years, that of equating “Conservative Republican” with “Bible believing Christian”, may finally about to be shown the door.

I find it interesting, as one who grew up in the aftermath of Viet Nam & Watergate, to observe how recent history has unfolded: Nixon, a Republican resigned in disgrace from his Presidency in 1974 as a result of the meddlesome Watergate scandal. The country rightly scorned him and he was put in mothballs as a political force. Not quite 7 years later, the Republican party was back on top again. And this time repackaged and re-sold with an image as a party of Christian virtue that helped sweep Ronald Regan into office. Had we all a very short memory?

Apparently so. It was Reagan’s cutbacks that turned many of the mentally ill out on the streets in the early part of his administration. It was Reagan who unceremoniously yanked the Solar Panels off the roof of the White House (after his predecessor Jimmy Carter placed them there) and went on to champion Big Oil and encourage everyone to be driving their Petrol-consuming vehicles. The next 8 years were marked by selfishness and irresponsible stewardship of resources, as Young America was led to believe we could “have it all.” (I hear President Bush recently replaced the solar panels. My, my how times have changed!) When I was in college during the Reagan administration, students seemed convinced even late into his 2nd term that "Reagan is going to get us jobs!" I returned to school a few years later when Bush's father was President, and students were very scared about the prospects of finding work after graduation.

But still, the obnoxiousness persists. I've been in chat rooms where I've observed certain individuals declaring with seemingly inerrant tone that a true Christian would only vote for Bush, that they can't possibly be for Kerry or Nader. Of course, I’m convinced that this is more than a little stifling & pharisaic in tone.

The rationale behind this spirit of the Pharisees happens to be rooted in the differing views candidates and political parties hold on abortion and homosexuality. But this becomes problematic for a number of reasons:

As an example, Bush is opposed to gay marriages, but is in favor of “civil-unions’ for gays, or at least doesn't seem to be interested in actively dismantling such unions. But how are they any different, in the qualitative sense? Incidentally, Vice President Cheney favors Gay Marriage.

2)What is an unborn child in the economy of God? If we are at all going to say that babies are important to God from conception, then let’s be consistent and admit that Iraqi babies are also. Any pregnant mother that is killed in the line of battle, is an abortion. Period. And this all in the context of a war that was highly questionable in its motivations as well.

3) Conversely, how can anyone even pretend to address the abortion issue without addressing the sociological issues that have brought it about? Those include: poverty, education, health care. The best environment for someone to “not” have an abortion is a well-financed social service system, so that pregnant women can be sure of being able to raise a child under less financial duress.

4)All of which doesn't even touch on the other issues I feel are just as important. Eisenhower, in his last speech as President, warned us that the military industrial complex (hereto after referred to as MIC) was a grave threat to society. As a Christian, I feel that holding back the MIC from abuse of influence is important. The was in Iraq is certainly the result of the oil industry’s constantly being a thorn in the side of peace in the Middle Eastern region. Also, to me a President even halfway interested in godly pursuits will be about getting us off of foreign oil, phasing out he gasoline engine & heat, enforcing the anti-trust laws, etc. A strong healthy economy is also the best guarantee of fewer abortions- making sure people feel like they want to have babies, if that’s our goal.

In fact, let me even raise the stakes of controversy here a little higher:

The Catholic church has recently issued a statement condemning gay marriages. Fine. But people who remember the recent sex-abuse scandals are not likely to feel that Rome has any place telling others how to live their lives, when they didn't do such a hot job with dysfunctional sexuality at their own doorstep.

*Aren’t we evangelicals risking the same kind of credibility gap in giving such unquestioning support to Bush, when all evidences are that he didn’t do his job well in preventing 9/11 & misled the country on the level of urgency to go to war in Iraq?

*Aren't we risking similar disconnect when we address only the legal side of abortion and fail to speak to the aforementioned sociological issues that cause abortion to happen? Or even more so, when we scream about "my taxes" and scoff at "entitlements" in the face of so great a need as a pregnant woman?

*Aren't we in danger of like short-sightedness, when we harp on the part of the Bible that address sexual immorality, but leave out God's view of such things as greed and materialism? Take note of the following verse:

Ezekiel 16:49 "'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen"

God destroyed Sodom, largely due to selfish greed! Yet I've presented this point to outright derision & scorn from those who have a hard time deling with the reaility of this. But doesn't God care about both greed and sexual sin?

Jim Wallis, editor of
Sojouners magazine and author of the best-selling book God's Politics says that the Religious Right is beginning to lose control, and that the monologue they created is being replaced by a true dialogue. It's about time. And it's probably a pretty accurate assessment. Just this week I happened to catch a broadcast of "The 700 Club" and note how Pat Robertson and some of his reporters were wringing their hands over the impending defeat of the Republicans by the Democrats in several key political races this November. His correspondents were going to spend a couple of days in the field pretending to be like real reporters in the Big Networks and try to figure it all out. How boring. I got a better story for them to go look into: I just learned that in BC, Canada they are calling for visas for Mexican farmworkers to come in and fill much needed gaps in Agricutural labor. Pat, why are you so hyped up about the Republicans?

In the near future I plan to address the issue of this fall elections and explain how and why I plan to cast my vote in various key races and issues. And it's not going to be popular with some sectors of Evangelicalism. Too bad, because the need for "dialogue" these days couldn't be greater.

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