Yes We Can (be Christians and vote Progressive)

Election time is crazy. There is a barrage of nutty ads and acerbic political diatribes on land, air and sea, also known as TV, radio and internet (surf, anyone?). Normally pleasant and mild-mannered people get on social media and go-off on this or that issue, often slinging mud, stomping around and acting like everyone who disagrees with them is a complete idiot. This often turns friends, family members, and casual acquaintances into enemies. This is terrible and completely uncalled for. So listen up, you sinners, as I have a political meltdown, insult the opposition and proclaim that anyone who dares to disagree with me is dumb and probably likes the Yankees.

Well no, not really. I hope not to do that. But, from my Facebook profile picture, it is obvious that I have a preferred candidate in mind. Having spent the first 22 years of my life in a “red” state (Republican, not Communist), I have collected binders of friends and acquaintances who identify with the Republican label and vote accordingly. Most of these Conservative types are Evangelical Christians and content to either not challenge me on my advocacy of President Obama or at least judge me silently and keeping it to themselves. However, there are other acquaintances, especially on sites like Facebook, who act as if I am a sinner to vote for Democrats in general and President Obama in particular, and feel at liberty to insult me for doing so, either directly or tacitly.

Such things occur, they are generally unworthy of our time, and I am not going to offer an emotive backlash here. However, on the eve of yet another hotly contested election, I think it only fair to state why I am a voter who consistently (but not always) casts a ballot for Democratic candidates. I do so primarily because I am a Christian who values justice, equality and people more than I do power, money and popularity. Below I have discussed multiple issues that resonate with my understanding of what it means to be a Christian in the United States of the 21st century and how the Democratic party best aligns with those values. I guess I don’t necessarily care if anyone reads my voting rationale, but anyone who argues that Christians ought to vote for Mitt Romney and the present spate of Republican candidates has their work cut out for them if they bother to consider what I say. I humbly submit that they have it the wrong way around.

I freely admit that I am biased. I do not come to the polling booth as a dispassionate observer who objectively weighs an exhaustive list of facts concerning each candidate, what they have done and what the probabilities are that we can actually believe what they say they will do in the future. In what has become an unfortunate two-party system, I am biased towards the Democratic platform, not because I think it gets everything right, is completely ethical or doesn’t deserve any criticism, but rather because, in general, it aligns with my most cherished values, values that I have in a large part because of my Christian worldview. Of course there are exceptions to this, but I am convinced that (at least in recent decades) Democrats align with Christian values on almost every front. So here is a list of topics that I find most relevant to this discussion and my support of the Democratic Party in general, and President Obama in specific:

Abortion: Oops. This is actually a reason to not vote for Democrats, but I have to acknowledge it for the sake of my own credibility. Abortion is the most obvious exception to my thesis and an issue that I find particularly repugnant and embarrassing for a political party that otherwise tends to defend the weak and the powerless, the vulnerable, the immigrant, the transgender individual, the homosexual, widows, orphans, and the sick and the old. I wish that left-leaning politics cared as much for the un-born as much as it does for the already-born. That being said, it is equally clear to me that Republican politics makes the same mistake in the opposite direction, namely, that they care more for the un-born than they do for the already-born. This is most obvious in their willingness to fight tooth and nail against abortion, but after the baby is born and the single-mother or disadvantaged family needs additional assistance to survive, Republicans are quick to cut welfare assistance programs across the board and label everyone who uses such programs as con artists, welfare queens, and lazy degenerates, etc. (unless it is a corporation, like GE, then such welfare recipients, especially those who pay no federal taxes, are lauded as savvy business people).

This is a problem. So, as I see it, to vote for Republican candidates merely because they are anti-abortion is a failure to grasp what it means to be truly pro-life. As I already said, Democratic candidates make the same mistake in a different direction, so I find the issue of being for choice regarding abortion or against it to be an insufficient reason to pick a political candidate on either side.

This is all the more obvious when we consider that since the Supreme Court decided to legalize abortions (Roe v. Wade) we have had multiple Republican Presidents and majority Republican Congressional sessions with little to no progress against abortion. Given that so many Christians make abortion THE single issue that decides their vote, one has to consider that it’s in Republicans’ best interests to never fully defeat abortion lest they lose such a polarizing issue that they can use to whip up unquestioning allegiance from religious voters. I also wonder what kinds of other evils we let in the door with any political candidate who we voted for solely on their stance regarding abortion. And this leads right to the issue of what it truly means to be “pro-life” and caring for the “already-born” as much as the “unborn.”

I vote Democratically, as a Christian, because the Democratic party has a better understanding of what being truly “Pro-Life” is all about (excepting abortion).

Pro-Life is: Welfare

I argue that legitimately being “pro-life” means that one is not just against abortion, but that one is also for caring for families and newborns after they are brought into the world. The democratic platform clearly takes this aspect of care more seriously than does its rival political party.

Some of my Christian friends try to counter that it is the church’s job to take care of people who need assistance. I completely agree, but I must point out that if churches were doing this on a sufficient scale there would be nothing for the government to do. As it stands, the present need is greater than churches can or will meet. Given this situation, would we argue that we are good, Christ-following citizens if we just allowed the people who needed help to suffer and released our government from protecting and sustaining its most vulnerable citizens? The question to ask is if it is more Christ-honoring for our government to serve the poor or to NOT serve the poor? Democrats get this answer right (even if they do not always know it is Christ they are serving when they serve the poor).

Pro-Life is: Healthcare

Affordable if not universal health care is also part of what it means to be pro-life. How can we be “for life” while at the same time denying people reasonable medical care on the basis of how much money or insurance they have? Did Jesus not heal people for free and does the entire Bible not advocate for the sick and the old, the weak and the poor without consideration for profitability? The Democratic platform clearly takes this pro-life ideology farther than their Republican rivals.

Pro-Life is: Anti-War 

Being pro-life also means being against war. How can we claim to champion life while destroying lives with military weaponry? Does Christ not command that we love our neighbors and enemies? Does “loving” our neighbors mean that we drop bombs on them or that we only consider our “neighbors” to be people we like and get along with? Not always, but Democrats are often more likely to resist advocacy for war than their Republican counterparts, and this is highlighted rather well by President Obama, who has ended his Republican predecessor’s pointless war in Iraq, significantly drawn-down forces in Afghanistan and consistently sought diplomatic and non-military solutions with Iran and other would-be hostile nations like Iran and North Korea. Contrast this with candidate Romney (and John McCain before him) who always indicate nothing but criticism for President Obama’s preference for diplomacy and have favored an ill-defined “tougher” approach on Iran. I suspect that this is either useless political rhetoric or a prelude to yet another needless military endeavor for the United States (and one that could perhaps trigger a world-war type event between Israel and its Western allies on one side, and Iran and the rest of the Muslim world on the other). Either way, war is not the way of Christ. In recent decades, Democrats have gotten this right, not Republicans.

Pro-Life is: Anti-Gun

The Democratic platform also consistently seeks to limit the types and capacities of killing “tools” like guns. Republicans and their deep-pocketed NRA backers do every possible thing they can think of to thwart even the  most mundane and reasonable limits on firearms and the related, death-enabling accessories. In fact, the GOP does everything it can to capitalize on selling ever more weapons and accessories, and rolling back existing laws and restrictions, all under the guise of pretending to champion the 2nd Amendment.

As mentioned above, Jesus told  his followers to love their neighbors/ enemies as themselves. Pretty hard to  imagine that he would count killing people with guns as “loving” them. A New Testament case might be made for the appropriateness of cops and soldiers (representatives of the state) having and using firearms in some instances, but not citizens. Progressives are on the moral and ethical side of this issue. Republicanism is on the side of death.

Pro-Life is: Anti-Death Penalty

Similarly, is it not duplicitous to say that we are “Pro-Life” while supporting the death penalty? Again we must ask, “Does ‘loving’ our neighbors mean that we kill them or that we only consider our “neighbors” to be people who have never violated serious legal codes and those we like or have never sinned against us? I cannot fathom that Jesus would argue that he didn’t mean criminals to be included as our neighbors or that loving them means we kill them. While there are always exceptions, usually we can accurately predict who is against the death penalty and who is for it based on the political platform they identify with. Republicans are regularly on the pro-death side of this issue, not pro-life. Democrats usually get this right.

 

Pro-Life is: Pro-Environment

The Democratic platform consistently (but not always) seeks to limit the amount of damages that governments, businesses and individuals can inflict on the environment and its flora and fauna. A key principle for Christians on this front is that we have been given the charge to “take care of the Garden” and that it is duplicitous to say that we love/ respect God while we turn around and destroy/disrespect his creation and creatures. This  is particularly appropriate when our excuse for doing so is: “We can get rich.” For contrast, the Republican party has consistently argued that environmental protections should be set aside in the name of economics, and tried their best to convince us of the demonstrably false claim that people and companies would “do the right thing” on their own without government regulations and oversight.

Casting aspersions on climate change if not outright denying its reality altogether and trying to mock President Obama’s concern over the issue, candidate Romney and his fellow Republicans have explicitly stated that they are “not here to heal the earth,” but to boost the economy. In their confused minds, Romney and the Republicans can only see these two things in competition with one another. As such,  Romney has made it known that his energy plan is to develop and exploit as much fossil fuel as he can in North America and to scale-back support for alternative, clean renewables. Not only is this not observant of what it means to be a steward of the Earth, but it also creates security problems for the United States by guarantying a market for petrol-dictatorships who hate us and want to destroy us. It also assures that we will be in no better energy situation 10 years from now than we are today. This not an acceptable “energy strategy” in the least. Democrats do a far better job of following Jesus and being pro-life on this front.

Pro-Life is: Being a Jesus-Follower 

I hope that I need not convince my Christian friends that Jesus is an advocate of life (for everyone, born and unborn alike). Given the current Republican Presidential candidate’s unChristian faith, I am amazed that so many of my fellow believers are willing to vote for him over and against a man who professes his belief in the Jesus we find in the pages of the Bible. Granted, President Obama’s support of abortion rights should raise eyebrows of his fellow Christian believers, but again I suggest that it is a poor move to make abortion THE issue over whom we vote for when there are so many other Christ-honoring issues at stake. I have written an alternate blog-post concerning what I consider to be perhaps the 10 best reasons to reject Mormonism, but the heart of the matter is that Mitt Romney is not just a non-Christian, but that he actively promotes an alternative religion altogether. If Christians take their faith seriously and if they believe that the Jesus represented in the Bible is unique among all of history, then how can they justify voting for someone who denies this? It blows my mind. Since the economic argument is what I hear about most from Evangelical Christians, their advocacy of Romney suggests that their priority is money or a political agenda that serves something other than Christ and truth, and that is a problem.

That pretty much sums up the majority of reasons I vote for Democratic candidates, but there are 3 other issues I also think worthy of consideration:

Taxes: The Democratic platform consistently seeks to promote a fair tax system where those companies and individuals who benefit most from our nation and economic model of capitalism bear the greatest responsibility for supporting that system. Presently, the USA has among the lowest personal tax rates in the world for developed, first-tier nations. While no one particularly enjoys taxes (or increasing taxes), the fact is that good nations need good governance and good governance is not cheap or easy. Additionally, given how much our national debt has benefited our nation, it is past time for us to start paying down our debts. The only reasonable way to do this is to both reduce spending AND raise taxes. This is precisely what realistic plans from Democrats and President Obama have suggested and demonstrated willingness to work on. For contrast, Republicans have absolutely refused such efforts and stymied all attempts to raise taxes and close loopholes on the wealthiest individuals and corporations in our nation. This might get them re-elected, but it does nothing to address budgetary short-falls or reduce the national debt.

Economics: As has been suggested in every other category here, Democrats’ highest value is not economic prosperity, but rather ethical governmental, individual and corporate behavior and limits. This is not to say that the Democratic platform doesn’t value economic development at all, but rather that it is only one of several very important components that responsible governments must manage. For contrast, the Republican party has consistently made money their god and has expressed willingness to sacrifice everything else (except guns and bombs) in order to pump up the Almighty Economy. Romney in particular has made economics his highest priority and expressed willingness to do whatever it takes to promote growth in this area. That sounds wonderful until we consider that “whatever it takes” means cutting programs for the least advantaged people in our society, favoring tax-cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations, perpetuating the destruction of our natural environment/ life-support system for money and continuing to kick-the-can down the road farther and farther regarding our addiction to fossil fuels and the reduction of our national debt.

Christians, alternatively, who recognize that money is not God, have no business voting for a candidate who has expressed such fealty to economic growth at the expense of everything else. Like abortion, what other evils do we let in the door with a candidate who talks of little besides money? And just for the sake of argument, I’d also like to point out that since President Obama’s inauguration, the United States has experienced a significant economic turn around and added a significant number of jobs. Wages have also gone up. This is nothing short of amazing considering the economic quagmire he was handed by his Republican predecessor. This isn’t to say that everything is wonderful, but we are better off now than we were 4 years ago. Voting for President Obama is also a vote for a continuing, responsible economic recovery.

The Constitution: The Democratic party consistently (but not always) seeks to protect individuals’ liberties as protected by the U.S. Constitution. The President is under oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and to do so despite his personal feelings. Regarding the issue of homosexual or other marriage, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in particular reads (in part) that, “…Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This is a good thing, as is Thomas Jefferson’s later introduction and application of the phrase, “separation of church and state.” Humanity has proved again and again that theocracy (religious rule) is a terrible thing, and that has been true wether it’s Christians or Muslims or any other religious adherents at the helm. Theocracy only works when everyone believes, thinks, interprets and acts exactly the same (which is to say that theocracy does not work and never has, especially in secular, democratic nations like the USA).

Regarding the issue of gay marriage, it is clear that laws prohibiting it are unconstitutional when the only justification for such laws is built on nothing more than the religious beliefs of one segment of society. As such, I am for marriage equality and marriage equity (thanks to Sarah McConnel for helping me understand the difference). My Christian friends may argue that gay/other marriage is against Christian family values and as such, Christians ought to vote for candidates against it.

I understand this criticism, but again there are at least four things we should consider:

1) Jesus never forced other people to live according to his beliefs/ knowledge. Instead, he always invited people to follow him of their own free-will.

2) As a matter of practicality, I seriously doubt that any person who identifies as a homosexual will want to hear what Christians have to say about Jesus if he or she perceives that Christians want to assign them a place in hell and/or deny them equal rights under the law. Just imagine yourself in their shoes if you can.

3) Denying equal marriage opportunity (or allowing it) will neither cause nor prevent homosexual relationships, but it might just offer an added incentive for committed, monogamous, long-term relationships rather than the opposite. I suggest that Christians advocacy for equal marriage opportunity might just make it easier for people to take a step closer to Christ rather than chasing them away.

4) If I can step out of the cultural expectation that Christians must oppose homosexuality, we Christians also have to consider that God does not make mistakes, and that if God creates gay people (and there is every indication that he does), then they are not mistakes either. If you are like me, and you didn’t select your sexual orientation off a menu, then perhaps we should extend the same courtesy and credibility to fellow humans who relate  that they have been created differently. It strains all credibility for an anti-gay Christian to say that they know how God created somebody else better than that person knows themselves.

For a further exploration of why heterosexual, binary Christians should support same-sex marriage, this blog post may also be helpful: Yes, Christians Can (and Should) Support Same-Sex Marriage.

As I said, other than the unfortunate position on abortion, President Obama and the Democrats in general best represent me and my pro-life Christian values. I don’t necessarily think people are dumb for voting Republican. They can be on a case by case basis, but so too can Democratic voters be complete idiots. However, to say that Christians ought to vote for the Republican candidate because of that party’s claim to be “pro-life” is either to misunderstand what “life” is or to misunderstand what candidate Romney and the general Republican platform stands for. Can we be committed Christians and vote Democratically and for President Obama?

Yes we can.

Thanks for reading me,

-CL

Commenters: Jamie Dugger   Jim Holt

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About C_Lambeth

I currently live in the Pacific Northwest. I graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor's of Science and from George Fox Seminary (now Portland Seminary) with a Master's of Divinity. In addition to knowing Christ and helping others know him, I am passionate about peace, the environment, Christian feminism, justice for all (not just the wealthy) and being a lifelong learner. Please feel free to comment on any of the posts here or to suggest new posts altogether. Thank you for reading me! -CL
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12 Responses to Yes We Can (be Christians and vote Progressive)

  1. Pingback: I VOTED: And I Made The Sticker. But Would Anyone on the Right Wear It? « Momfy's Blog

  2. C_Lambeth says:

    One of my favorite contemporary authors, Thomas Friedman, expands on the idea in the New York Times:
    “Why I am Pro-Life”

  3. Jim Holt says:

    Thank you for your thoughful and detailed review of the topics at hand.

    • Jim Holt says:

      Thanks for editing my comments so that you can continue your spin. I count you part of the left now, even though you try to make your readers think you have a biblical world view.

  4. C_Lambeth says:

    Well, Jim, I think the guidelines for posting on the blog are pretty clear: “Respondents who do not honor the spirit of legitimate & friendly dialogue may find their posts unapproved, edited or removed at any time.

    I usually just ignore people that want to pick a fight, but I am willing to give you another chance. If you would like your future comments to be posted without redaction, then they must be devoid of emotionally laden drivel and name calling.

    Comments also need to be manageable (one issue at a time) and relevant to the topic at hand. For my part, however, my political perspective is thoroughly biblical, but if you think I have gone wrong in some aspect, then it is incumbent upon you to raise an argument, but not to sling mud. I invite you to do so if you are able.

    Finally, if you believe that attempts to label me as part of “the left” are a valid means to discount what I say, then you fall victim to the same argument, for you have done nothing other than demonstrate that you are part of an alternative political perspective that might also invite a label. I ask you to do better if you can.

    -CL

  5. Jamie Dugger says:

    The discussion of whether Obama’s Christianity is biblical christianity begins and ends with this statement: “there are many paths to the same place.” There are others as well from this article that are very much in disagreement with what early followers of Christ believed: http://sojo.net/blogs/2012/02/21/transcript-barack-obama-and-god-factor-interview

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Jamie,
      I understand and even appreciate your desire to maintain the exclusivity of Christ, who he is and what he uniquely offers. That being said, you don’t get to decide who is a real Christian and who isn’t. The best we can say is that this or that idea about Jesus is not a traditional formulation of Christian faith, and perhaps one that we vehemently disagree with as well. Nevertheless, being a Jesus follower is not (and has never been) about believing all the right things about everything.

      God’s grace and salvation are not contingent upon our having or accepting the right information or even living it out, but rather upon not refusing them/ God’s generosity. Even if our President is unclear about Christ’s uniqueness, your declaration that he (the President) is not a real Christian is unhelpful and sounds as if you have concluded that your own understanding is infallible and complete. Would you have us believe that you are perfect in your knowledge of God? Does an admission that you are not perfect indicate that you are therefore not a real Christian? I hope not.

      I suggest that we would all be better off if we took Jesus at his word not to judge others, rather than usurping God’s job to decide who’s in and who’s out. Furthermore, if we argue that “following Jesus” means that we do what Jesus did, then as my original blogpost indicates, it seems that President Obama comes closer to that designation than do his Republican rivals (at least on many issues).

      -CL

  6. Jamie Dugger says:

    You can choose to edit or completely delete this post if you want. My issue is with your claim with the president being a Christian after he believes in many paths to the same place. There are certainly areas for disagreement within Christianity but this is not one of them. He is the substitute and only one capable of paying our sin debt once and for all and the only way to the father if we accept his way. Otherwise we will stand in judgement for eternity. If one rejects Christ as the only way then what has been constructed is a belief system other than Christianity. For what it’s worth the points about taking care of the poor is a good one

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Jamie,
      I recognize your theological protests of some of the specific beliefs President Obama espoused 8 years ago in the article you cited. Do you know if his faith has changed or evolved at all since then?

      I agree with you that two of the specific points you pulled out and want to highlight are significant challenges to historical notions of Christianity. I certainly don’t want to make light of either sin or the salvific uniqueness of Christ. That being said, it still sounds like you are trying to make the case that being a Christian means that a person believes the right thing about everything and that this is required for someone to be saved. Is that what you intend?

      My understanding of Christianity is that it’s not a list of abstract propositions we give mental assent to and check-off like a voter-ballot, but rather a dynamic, real-time lifestyle of choosing that is grounded in trust in the relationship and grace of Jesus Christ. Think of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham’s faith was not a passive, verbal profession of accurate facts about the the Father, but rather a willingness to raise the knife over his only begotten son. His God-following was seen by his deeds, not merely his words. If President Obama calls himself a “Christian” and does his best to honor and follow Christ in his actions, then I suggest that he is perhaps more “Christian” than you give him credit for. Again, this doesn’t mean that he does not have some theological reflecting and growing to do, but it should give those of us who dare to consider ourselves “mature Christians” pause before we try to say what President Obama is and what he isn’t.

      I still agree with you that merely calling oneself a “Christian” does not a Jesus-follower make. After all, most Mormons try to call themselves “Christians” too, and I am certainly hesitant to accept their self-designation. Nevertheless, my understanding of people is that we are all on various spiritual journeys and, until the moment we die, none of our beliefs are ever truly “settled.” As such, I cannot be as quick as you to say who will “stand in judgement for eternity.” It’s just too presumptive and asserts that we have knowledge and authority that is reserved for God alone. After all, is Christ’s grace not sufficient enough to cover a multitude of sins? Even ones that fall short of a full understanding of his uniqueness in offering salvation? I believe it is.

      your friend,
      -CL

      PS: I only edit comments that are rude or comprise meandering rants that try to dominate conversations. You’ve got nothing to worry about there.

  7. Pingback: Hypocrisy Lecture « life of a female bible warrior

  8. This is an absolutely wonderful blog! We think a lot alike.

  9. Pingback: Religion, Politics and the Death Penalty | Exploring Faith

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