I hear something like this all too often: I want to vote for the party (/candidate) who is most in-line with my values.
Putting aside the fact this is probably not true about either candidate — McCain is an awfully liberal Conservative, and Obama is a pretty conservative Liberal — what really bugs me, especially about the Christian view point, is that this ‘values based’ voting isn’t working.
As someone raised with Christian values, I can say definitively that the “values” espoused by the most recent Republican president were not similar at all to mine. Rather, it is the “party line” that claims to be Christian in nature.
What’s clear is that this party line does not necessarily produce a Christ-like result.
Here’s a tremendous example: Most evangelical Christians hold the belief that sex is for marriage. Because of that fact, Conservatives would prefer to teach abstinence-only sex education. We’ve had a Conservative in power in the States for 8 years now, who’s party holds firmly to that line.
What’s interesting is that the approach — the purported “value” — has failed to make any difference. Teenage pregnancy continues to soar, and in fact, is higher among evangelical Christians than any other religious group.
The value may be a good one, but the method of communicating it: fear, disinformation, threats… these things aren’t working. It turns out that a much better approach is to teach teenagers the reality of the decision — to teach them about the risk and responsibility that comes along with the act, so that they’re equipped to make the right decision.
You can’t teach a value without passing along the reasoning behind it — failing to do so makes the assumption that people are stupid and will follow blindly.
And this, I believe, is the central assumption in the Neo-Conservative movement. We, the people, are expected to blindly follow our government because they’ve claimed the moral high ground. Because their stated values are conservative, every decision they make must be equally righteous.
But they’re not. Liberals do a far better job teaching children about the risks involved in pre-marital sex. We may claim to have the better position, but the fact is, we’ve failed to communicate it. Similarily, we can claim to have the better position on abortion — surely killing babies is a horrific thing to have happen. But we can’t legislate it out of existence. Even if it were illegal, it would happen. Isn’t it much better to, as a certain candidate recently advocated, try to educate and protect people better so that no one ever has to be faced with that choice?
The reality is that voting Conservative does not guarantee that your values will be applied to your country. It guarantees that the candidate who claims to share those values will get to leverage his claimed moral high ground to back his decisions in the press, and on the world stage… but look where that’s gotten us…
Isn’t it better, then, to vote for someone who will put into place a process which will result in your values being applied? If your goal is to see less teen pregnancy, maybe its not better to vote for the gal who says “pre-marital sex leads to damnation… and by the way, you’re not allowed to ask me any questions about my unmarried teenage daughter who is pregnant, because that’s private.” Maybe its better to vote for the guy who teaches his children “teen pregnancy has the following observable and detrimental results…”
Burying sin underneath a facade of moral values doesn’t do anything to improve the state we’re in. Burying greed underneath a facade of (self-)righteous capitalism doesn’t do anything to fix the economy. Starting oil wars while claiming you’re on a mission from God doesn’t do anything to communicate the love of Christ. And espousing hatred and fear at your political rallies because you like your voters ignorant and afraid won’t fix a nation on its knees.
God gave us brains — they’re a special gift from Him that allows us to reason, understand and discern — that we can use to teach other. God gave us His Word because it contains the best plan for His kids. Everything He asks of us makes sense. We don’t need to follow it out of fear or out of a desire to be holier than those other guys. We should follow it, share its principles and apply them to our government because they make sense. Doing so does not require everyone to believe the same thing as us — but we sure could share it a lot better if we didn’t push everyone into one of two obscenely polarized camps.
The New Yorker has an excellent article full of some of the sad facts behind this rant: that we, as evangelical Christians have, at best, failed to impact the world with our values… at worst we’ve become pharisees: talking a righteous talk, judging everyone around us, but forgetting the message and not doing a lick of good for the world we’re in.