I received the following comment from Canadian Atheist on a recent post: “Good piece, Bill. It brought to mind a piece I was thinking of working on. It's a bit off topic and political in nature but maybe it will give you an idea for another blog post. I've been wondering about the Republican Party there in the US and how they've been pretty much taken over by theocrats. The thing that bothers me is how they seem to favor things that would be distinctly against the things that Jesus supposedly taught, such as greed, power, the death penalty etc. Maybe you could give me your thoughts on that?”
The marriage of the Republican Party with “theocrats” bothers me as much as, or more than it does you. My view, however, differs from yours. What I see is more the other way around: Theocrats have been taken over by the Republican Party.
In the more than half century since President Eisenhower, the Republican Party has moved steadily rightward, absorbing a diverse group of political views. It now includes former southern Democrats, hawkish neoconservatives, libertarians and lately “Tea Partiers.” Moderates have been steadily crowded out of the party.
During this same period, evangelical Christians have become more and more outspoken politically. They have always, to some extent, been political, but it seems even more so during my lifetime. At one time it was fear of Communism. To some extent this was a legitimate fear, as Christians and Christian missions were often the targets of repression in Communist nations. This of course, was blown out of proportion in America by McCarthyism and certain Communist-hating radio preachers.
Then it was fears of a Roman Catholic takeover when John F. Kennedy ran for president. [Ironically a Roman Catholic running for the Republican candidacy for president in 2012 sounded more like the Catholic that President Kennedy was feared to be and yet received endorsements from many evangelical leaders.]
And then in the early 70s with the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the religious right came to the fore as a political movement. The issue of abortion, along with greater freedoms granted to homosexuals, became the rationale for their existence. And as “freedom of choice” and sexual liberty more and more came to be causes for the liberal left, their antitheses became causes for the right – the Republican Party.
And so, evangelical Christians became another addition to the Grand Old Party. Some may see this as a marriage of convenience, but it appears to me more like a few marriages I’ve seen: The well behaved, genteel young lady marries a rowdy young man who has little potential, thinking that somehow she can be a positive influence on him to change his rowdy ways. Or as Willie and Waylon used to sing: “She’s a good-hearted woman in love with her good-timin’ man! She loves him in spite of his wicked ways that she don’t understand!” She usually ends up excusing his behavior or becoming just like him.
And that’s what I think has happened. Evangelical Christians have become so blinded to the faults of the Republican Party they’re married to, that they have adopted Republican “standards” as though they were biblical standards.
And now, what do we have?
A political party in which every member is bound by oath not to raise taxes; a party that wants to balance the budget by allowing the wealthy to get wealthier while taking away services from those who need them; a party whose main goal seems to be to assure that our current president fails; a political party where hate-mongers and conspiracy theories are not only tolerated by encouraged.
And religious leaders who go along with these pronouncements and policies, who almost seem ready to baptize them with a “Thus sayeth the Lord.”
Let me be clear. I believe that abortion is sin; it is the deliberate taking of an innocent human life. It needs to be addressed. But there are other life issues that need to be addressed. How many innocent people are put to death by wrongly applied capital punishment or by war as “collateral damage”? These are issues that can be dealt with by government action.
And yes, the Bible clearly condemns homosexual sex as sin. But it also condemns extramarital sex and premarital sex. Why are we willing to overlook the affairs of our political leaders as long as they campaign against another kind of sexual sin? Why do we think we can legislate sexual morality?
And isn’t our message a message of forgiveness, of redemption, not condemnation?
And doesn’t the Bible condemn greed more often than these other sins?
My fear is not that the “theocrats” will take over this country. Frightening as that may seem, it’s a long shot. My fear is that by this marriage of the church to a political party, the message of the church is being compromised, that in our desire to change our country politically, we have become less and less relevant and soon no one will listen.
I am also concerned that there are may be those who will condemn me for speaking on this issue. I’ve lost a few friends already. But I’m not attempting to convert anyone to a political position. What I am attempting is to urge my fellow evangelical believers into examining and rethinking their political prejudices in the light of the Scriptures.
And of course, to answer my friend’s question.