“God is not a Democrat or a Republican.”  This, we hear ad nauseum from a barrage of sophisticated twentysomethings insistent that partisanship has no place in the Kingdom. Yet, a recent rejoinder I heard merits presentation: “Yes, this is true,” said Matthew Anderson as we were talking at this year’s Values Voter Summit, “but, he most certainly thinks differently about the two.”

Aside from the obvious bombast elicited in this statement, the remark made to me by our own lead writer provoked in me the courage to explore this issue with more intent. I asked myself, “If God really is neither Democrat or Republican (or Labour, Liberal Democrat, Tory), is he  at least (hypothetically) oriented towards one party over another?”

Thankfully, my own inept thinking has been supplemented by none other than John Mark Reynolds—a truly original thinker should there ever be one. Reynolds, who teaches at Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute, put up a recent column at Crosswalk.com titled, “Why Republican: A Christian Examination of History and Conservatism.” It’s fantastic. In this article, Reynolds makes his peace with the Republican party as a Christian; not because the Republican party is sanctified by virtue of being Christian qua Christian according to its platform, but because the Republican party, according to him, shares the values that best resonate with Christian principles of society. Reynolds, I believe, presents his case in this manner to prevent any wrongheaded conclusion that the Republican party is sufficiently Christian in all circumstances. It is surely not. Still, as Reynolds’ seems to suggest, an apparent neutrality from God’s perspective between the two  does not mean that one party need not merit preferential treatment from particular constituencies.

Per Reynolds’ usual brilliance, this piece deserves response, agreement, and from most individuals, a righteous scorn of furious indignation that a man of such caliber could say such a thing when the vehemence of today’s evangelical youth (apparently, we are told) assert exactly the opposite. I, for one, could not agree more with his assessment.

Are all Republicans Christians? No. Are all Christians Republicans? No. However, Reynolds’ assessment does a fine job of highlighting how the two share an understandable pairing.

As he states,

…King Jesus has not yet come to rule and reign on the Earth and so we must go on living in anticipation of His coming. We live this side of Paradise and so have to spend centuries developing a political philosophy.

The philosophy we develop might be wrong, so we hold it more loosely than doctrine. We know other Christians have not yet given up on socialism or a bigger government than we are willing to tolerate. It is not so much their goals we attack, but their means. We long to help the poor and believe in universal health care, but believe that bigger government will do neither well and will hurt our freedoms.

We would give all our money in taxes if we thought it would end poverty, but have seen that it only enriches the state at the cost of liberty. We create statist masters and the poor are with us always.

Children must be cared for, but Christians refuse to make infants of any adult. God Himself gave mankind the ability to defy Him in the garden, so we are hesitant to make any person do good by the force of law.

It is the Republican Party that best represents those values. The Republican Party recognizes that the government cannot replace the family or the church. At its best, the Party refuses to use law to do what parents and bishops ought to do.

As a result, the Republican Party, alone of the two great parties, works to protect the unborn. The Republican Party refuses to put into law the covetousness of most of us that would take what is not our own. The Republican Party best represents those who do not wish to enslave our children to our own choices through running up massive debt.

In this critical moment of our history, it is the Republican Party that supports the bedrock of culture, the family, against unwise innovation.

We do not wish many laws, but we do wish laws that are most likely to produce healthy children with strong values. You cannot save a nation of slaves, just as you cannot enslave a nation of virtuous men.

Let’s be clear that one need not baptize the GOP as the heir apparent to Christendom. Reynolds gives appropriate attention to the moral and social failures of the Republican party. Let me be even more clear: Reynolds does not equate the Republican party as the Christian party. If he did, he would be in error.

To the contrarians and naysayers decrying any allegiance between Republican politics and individual Christian involvement, I would ask why Christians of a supposedly Democratic blend would support the opposite of what Reynolds suggests is important to Christian social thought? If the Democrat party largely supports abortion, why support it? If the Democratic party supports a slow, creeping usurpation of familial roles, why support it? If the Democratic party displaces individual sovereignty in the name of economic paternalism (a function not given to government in Scripture), why support it? If the Democratic party is the de-facto party of secularism, why support it? If the Democratic party supports a latent diminishment of free-speech liberties and the incipient ostracization (and future criminalization) of opposing views, why support it?

Is the apparent alignment between Republican politics and Christian citizens a marriage of mere convenience? Probably so. But it may be of necessity, too, as Christians look to a party that represents their rights and fights for their liberties and values. For the sake of imagery (and satirical value), I would suggest far more that the marriage is more a reality of cohabitation than a solemn vow contractually binding. The cohabitation imagery may be deemed inappropriate, but it highlights our current position in history: We know the two don’t really belong together because there’s been no formal ceremony, but for the time being, its the best we can do to advance any notion of Christian sanity in the political sphere. Perhaps this is in judgment upon the church for not taking its political witness seriously. I’ll let you decide that. As I’m sure we’d all agree, the church qua church should not have its own political party, but this is not to the exclusion of individual Christians having a political voice (this is another topic for another time). And naturally, the voice of individual Christians may be oriented towards one party over another.

That aside, perhaps any agenda between the two ought to begin with: “Insofar.”

  • insofar as the Republican Party is pro-life, I’ll vote Republican.
  • insofar as the Republican Party leverages religious liberty over majoritarian intimidation, I’ll vote Republican.
  • insofar as the Republican Party seeks to cut the fat on Leviathan’s overreach, I’ll vote Republican.
  • insofar as the Republican Party attempts to protect the sanctity of marriage, I’ll vote Republican.
  • insofar as the Republican Party conflicts with paternalism, I’ll vote Republican.
  • insofar as the Republican Party does due diligence to the notion of limits and authority, I’ll vote Republican.
  • insofar as the Republican Party welcomes individuals of faith as a component plank, and not just as a constituency, I’ll vote Republican.

What’s the point of all this?

If there’s any truth to my detection, I suspect that evangelical disillusionment with the Right (and Republicanism) is not so much in substance as it is in brand. There’s legitimate concern here. As Gerson and Wehner’s new book so nicely outlines, the past Religious Right had theological and rhetorical problems.

I suppose I say all this in response to the recent statements of individuals like Gabe Lyons and Jonathan Merritt who’ve gained a veritable following by making sweeping generalizations about the apparent death of the Religious Right and its relationship with younger evangelicals. I want to believe them, I really do, but their rhetoric is as empty as Jim Wallis who in the recent past proclaimed the cardiac arrest of the Religious Right. Consider this statement by Lyons and Merritt.

But by 2008, the Christian tide had turned. With the newly formed “Religious left” at the forefront of Obama’s campaign, many Christians crossed party lines for the first time. For example, double the number of young evangelicals voted for Obama than for Kerry in 2004.

What they are conveniently forgetting is that the inroads supposedly gained by the Obama administration were minimal. As Pew notes

Among white evangelical Protestants, for example, Obama picked up 5 percentage points more support than Kerry (26% vs. 21%). And Obama’s gains were particularly large among white evangelical Protestants under the age of 40. He received 33% of their votes, compared with 12% for Kerry four years earlier.

In general, however, the contours of religion and politics were the same in 2008 as in 2004. Religion remained a very strong predictor of voters’ choices, and the large gaps in the electorate that had developed along religious lines in earlier elections persisted in 2008. Some of Obama’s largest gains, in fact, were among religious groups that already leaned Democratic, such as black Protestants and religiously unaffiliated voters (those who answer “none” when asked about their religious affiliation in exit polls).

Or, Karlyn Bowman from AEI on this past week’s election:

The exit pollsters ask voters to check boxes about who they are and what they believe. Those who checked the box white evangelical/born again were a quarter of the electorate. They voted for GOP House candidates by a whopping 77 to 21 percent. In 2006, they were roughly the same proportion of the House electorate (26 percent), and they voted for Republican House candidates over Democrats, but not as spectacularly (70 to 29 percent).

I’ve got news: It simply is not true. The Religious Right is far from dead; it’s merely decentralized. Statistics from this past week’s sweeping electoral win for the Republicans reveals that the Right—whether deliberately religious or not—contained an appallingly high number of individuals who identify as born again. And what I’m left with is the lurking suspicion that the motivation behind Lyons and Merritt is this: “I’m cool. I’m a Christian…and I don’t vote Republican.”

Moreover, their accusations are largely overshot. Whether what one believes about Christian participation within the Tea Party, the loss of institutional presence has absolutely no effect on actual results. It seems they confuse the lack institutional presence for a lack of political influence. Instead, more keene observations may abound recongizing that institutions do not equal influence. Hence, the significance of the Tea Party—a loosely affiliated, often raucous branch of American politics that defies complete clarification and precise nomenclature. Christian Conservatives were just as present in this election in this constituency as in the past when they might have signed up to receive mailings from Ralph Reed.

Perhaps I’m kicking against the goad and lost all credibility and cool, but it’s my belief that twentysomethings—the so-called “disillusioned generation”—is really a movement of rhetoric and fashionistas. Such is evident in how they’ve abandoned partisan attitudes, but in my opinion, are still just as partisan in conviction and statistical presence.

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Posted by Andrew Walker

Andrew T. Walker is an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

23 Comments

  1. This may come as a disappointment to some, but God is not even an American.

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    1. Pat, you’re destroying my whole worldview. I’ll never forgive you for this. : )

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  2. Andrew – Hopefully this won’t come off as an over-reaction on my part because I appreciate the caveats and cautious you’ve included here, however, my inner Front Porcher is freaking out right now so I still need to say something about a few of these statements:

    “Insofar as the Republican Party is pro-life, I’ll vote Republican.”

    I really wish we could simply remove the words “pro-life” from our political conversations. They’re not helpful. The Republican party is anti-abortion and therefore in favor of protecting the lives of unborn children, which I appreciate immensely. I don’t vote Democrat because I can’t vote for someone who supports abortion. That being said, can we really call a hawkish party like the GOP “pro-life”? Are they in favor of preserving the lives of the thousands of civilians that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in wars that perhaps never should have started and that certainly should have ended long ago? (At least if we have any interest in actually abiding by just war theology rather than simply invoking it as a convenient veneer to justify every expansionist American impulse to advance our own agendas over the dead bodies of non-white people in other nations?) I can’t call the GOP “pro-life” as long as they support unjust wars. In my mind, the GOP is in favor of unjust wars, therefore is in favor of murder in the fighting of those unjust wars. While the scale may be different than the form of murder supported by the Dems, both parties support a form of state-sanctioned murder, so why should I support one over the other?

    “Insofar as the Republican Party seeks to cut the fat on Leviathan’s overreach, I’ll vote Republican.”

    If Leviathan refers only to the nation-state, I’m with you. But what about corporations that ride rough-shod over the individual in the name of extra bonuses for the CEO and board? One friend of mine works absurd hours for a company because they’re too damned greedy to hire another employee to cover his area. As a result, he’s constantly out of town, which puts a strain on his marriage and his relationship to the church. Why do corporations – which have the capacity to be every bit as tyrannical and oppressive as over-large political entities – get a free pass from most so-called “conservatives”? If you’re really conservative, aren’t you interested in protecting the family and other traditional staples of American life? If that’s the case, how can you continue to support a party that allows corporations to absolutely murder those institutions?

    “Insofar as the Republican Party attempts to protect the sanctity of marriage, I’ll vote Republican.”

    Sure, but can we really say a party in which such an inordinately high number of politicians aren’t honoring their marriage vows is really protecting the sanctity of marriage? Surely “protecting the sanctity of marriage” requires more than the aggressive push for new laws. In fact, isn’t that precisely the problem for the Dems – you have a problem, they have a new law to solve it. So why does the GOP get to say it defends the sanctity of marriage when so many of its high profile leaders get caught, quite literally, with their pants down?

    “Insofar as the Republican Party conflicts with paternalism, I’ll vote Republican.”

    They oppose paternalism in so much as it affects Americans. But they are very much in favor of paternalism abroad – what else would you call the “nation-building” projects in the Third World?

    “Insofar as the Republican Party does due diligence to the notion of limits and authority, I’ll vote Republican.”

    Again, limits and authority in what spheres? I love that they want limits in the political sphere. I just wish they’d actually think about sensible limits in other spheres, like limits to our defense budget or limits to our meddling in other nation’s affairs, or limits to the protections we give corporations. If they started talking about limits in those spheres, I might actually have to think about taking them seriously. But until they do, I see them as simply another side of the same coin: An impersonal, large-scale entity that tries to get in between people and their loved ones and their places. The Dems do it through a paternalistic nanny-state, the GOP does it through blind support of corporations and unjust wars. But at the end of the day, they’re doing the same things.

    Apologies for the length of this comment, didn’t mean to write a book. I just get really fired up about this stuff and when I try to write about it a lot comes out. I’ll probably write more over at the blog so I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts here or over there.

    Peace

    Reply

    1. Jake,

      First, great comments. I am largely in agreement with you in everything you said.

      I would comment more extensively, but my time is limited. So I’ll just comment by saying that the “insofar” language is used in the most general of ways. In all of the items I outlined above, there are inconsistencies within the GOP. You nailed it. I used that language more as a buffer than I do any precise approximation.

      I hope that helps. Your comments are appreciated.

      AW

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      1. Andrew – Alright, thanks. That helps clarify things for me. I know you’re super busy right now so thanks for responding at all. (Honestly, I’m kinda amazed you find the time to write anything. I’m working a few jobs right now and find I have no writing time whatsoever, so I’m impressed that you’re able to find the time given all that you have going on.)

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  3. Jesus was a peaceful, radical, non-violent revolutionary, who hang around with lepers, hookers and crooks; who never spoke English; who is not an American citizen; anti-capitalism; totally anti-death penalty; anti-public prayer (Matt 6:5); but never once anti-gay; didn’t mention abortion; and was long-haired, brown skinned, homeless, middle-eastern Jew — John Fungelsang

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    1. Christian Left, that quote needs some serious critique as the context in which its given (at least here) would seem to imply some things about Jesus that I would say is untrue.

      “Jesus was a peaceful, radical, non-violent revolutionary, who hang around with lepers, hookers and crooks; who never spoke English; who is not an American citizen;”

      I’ll give you most if not all of this, though ‘radical’ needs some qualification.

      “anti-capitalism” – this is absurd. Its an anachronism to assume Christ commented on this at all. He was for sharing and community, but those ideals don’t contradict capitalism.

      “totally anti-death penalty” – Jesus was against personal revenge. Jesus actually gave the law of the death penalty, its difficult to say he was against it. Plus, when he returns there will be many “death penalties” that he personally doles out.

      “anti-public prayer (Matt 6:5)” – this is a absurd too. Jesus tsaught against prayer for the sake of appearances, but he led public prayer.

      “never once anti-gay” – Jesus loved/loves gay people. However, he gave and upheld the law that forbade homosexual practice. To assume otherwise is completely naive.

      “didn’t mention abortion” – it apparently wasn’t an issue in 1st century Judaism in Palestine. However, his followers of the next century certainly did. Supporting abortion doesn’t jive with the non-violent Jesus mentioned above.

      “and was long-haired, brown skinned, homeless, middle-eastern Jew” – no qualms with this.

      I’m sorry but its horrible to distort our Lord for political expediency…and yes the Right has done it too.

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  4. >> I really wish we could simply remove the words “pro-life” from our political conversations. They’re not helpful … Are they in favor of preserving the lives of the thousands of civilians that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in wars that perhaps never should have started … (At least if we have any interest in actually abiding by just war theology rather than simply invoking it as a convenient veneer to justify every expansionist American impulse to advance our own agendas over the dead bodies of non-white people in other nations?) I can’t call the GOP “pro-life” as long as they support unjust wars.

    Jake: I hope you know you aren’t using “just war” in its traditional meaning. You are distorting the term. You can say you don’t support these wars all you like, but you can’t say the view you are expressing has anything to do with “just war” as developed by the church.

    Responses have been given to the undertones of your comments by folks as disparate as Luther, Niebuhr, and Paul Ramsey. You are free to argue with them (and me) but positing as an established fact that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are “unjust wars” isn’t going to get you very far with serious people. You’re taking a political view, and that’s fine but it is a political position not the traditional Christian one as you seem to think.

    Just off the cuff …

    -Niebuhr did not accept that “war is merely an ‘incident’ in history” but rather is “a final revelation of the very character of human history”.
    -Ramsey’s understanding of just war was that is was the expression of Christian love by a 3rd party in defense of the innocent.
    -Luther’s pungent remarks about “loosing the ropes and chains of the savage wild beasts and letting them bite and mangle everyone, meanwhile insisting that they were harmless, tame, and gentle creatures; but I would have the proof in my wounds” are still applicable.

    At the end of the day nonviolence is unworkable. To the extent that it does work is because it is parasitic on forms of order secured by violence. And attempting an anti-war argument that tries to define war as a special case of applied violence that can be rejected without also rejecting all the forms of violence we enjoy is very hard to do. Hence the hijacking of the term “just war”.

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    1. Mark, I think you misunderstand Jake. I don’t think he’s advocating pacifism but just making the argument that the Iraq and Afghani wars are unjust and don’t fit the criteria for just war. If you want to argue his point I think you have to show how those wars do meet the just war criteria.

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  5. Casey: I got what you think I didn’t. But I don’t think you get the implications of trying to avoid pacifism (and the problems that come from defending that) by saying it’s just this particular war(s) one opposes, and this is a standard anti-war tactic generally. It is not for nothing that pacifism has been called “anti-warism.”

    The burden of proof is on Jake to show that they were not just wars, and despite the fact that a negative case is always far easier to make he gave no reasons for thinking them unjust that have anything to do with just war theory. The truth is that just war theorists accepted the right of sovereigns to wage war, and if one doesn’t then just war theory can’t help at all.

    He mentioned non-combatants killed by the war. It is an unfortunate fact that non-combatants will always be killed in war, but the truth is that the founders of just war theory could not even conceive of an entire military system and weaponry constructed to minimize casualties. This is a grand leap beyond what they had hoped to instill -a distinction between combatants and non-combatants -but for the reasons I just gave we can see that just war theory has been deeply embibed by our culture. The founders of just war theory couldn’t even imagine an army that would build roads, hospitals, and schools for the population at large.

    I don’t bear the burden of proof about whether Iraq and Afghanistan wars were just. Jake does. I’d want to hear what wars he thinks do meet the just war criteria to know if there is any hope of a discussion at all.

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  6. Mark – I’m not arguing for pacifism. I’m arguing for an honest application of just war theory. I’m not a pacifist, I just sound like one because most the so-called just war theorists I know don’t take just war seriously and instead try to invoke it as a way of baptizing American imperialism. (Admittedly I’m speaking anecdotally from my experience with fundamentalists in the midwest, so I’m aware most just war thinkers are more reflective about the matter.)

    The Iraq War wasn’t primarily defensive, even in the worst case scenario that Saddam did have IEDs (and we all know how that claim turned out), those weapons weren’t a threat to us because he didn’t have the means of getting those weapons to us. If you want to argue that we should’ve fought in order to defend other nations in the region from that threat, that’s a more defensible position, but it still doesn’t meet the demands of just war theory as I understand it. Nor was the Afghan war defensive. It wasn’t the Taliban that attacked us, it was Al Qaeda. What needed to happen was a more sophisticated analysis of the situation that acknowledged that we were not at war with nations, but with an underground terror network.

    What we got instead was an ill-defined “war on terror,” in which anyone could be made into an enemy, even if they posed no immediate threat to us.

    Additionally, given Bush’s nation-building goals and the history of that region of the world, would any sober-minded individual think we had a “reasonable chance of success” in either war?

    So there’s two fronts in which I think both wars fail the test: Neither Afghanistan or Iraq posted immediate and direcct threats to the United States, meaning neither of those wars can be construed as primarily defensive. Al Qaeda posed a threat to us, but that’s a distinct group from either of those two nations. Also, given that Bush framed both wars as nation-building efforts, there was no reasonable chance of that mission actually succeeding (as evidenced by the fact that we’re still over there). If Bush and the GOP had defined it as a war against Al Qaeda and defined their goals in attainable ways, that could meet the criteria of a just war. But attacking nations that posed no direct threat to us and defining the mission in such a way that there was no chance of succeeding… that’s two major ways in which both wars fail to meet the criteria for a just war.

    Also, regarding who has the burden of proof, I think in the majority of Christian traditions war is seen as something to be avoided, something that is evil except in the rarest of circumstances. So the burden of proof ought to rest with the person arguing that a war is just. Our default mode should be to avoid war, therefore the burden of proof is with the war-maker, not the war-avoider.

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  7. Jake: I didn’t say you were a pacifist and I clearly say how you wanted to avoid that -but my comments stand nonetheless and you’ve not answered my question about examples of just wars on your view. And I’m not arguing that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are/were just. I think they are, but I’m not going to argue it here at this point. I don’t need to to make my original point that your view on just war theory is not the classic just war theory of the church.

    You imply that JWT has a presumption against violence. It does not. To reduce the tradition to “war-conduct” questions is to put the entire weight of the tradition on what can only be contingent judgments, which distorts our moral and political vision as it did when it led many Catholic thinkers to the conclusion that nuclear weapons rather than communist regimes were the primary threat to peace.

    You say a “just war” must be defensive. But there are instances where not waiting for an attack is acceptable, but may even be morally obligatory. BTW, what was the direct threat of Nazi Germany to the US in 1941 when we declared war on it? We declared war on them and they did not attack us. Was the war in Kosovo a just war? Where was the direct threat to us? And what about wars of independence in any number of nations? What does your view of JWT say about any of those?

    Before the Iraq war there were 50,000 US troops in Saudi Arabia and flying missions over the north and south of Iraq to keep Saddam from massacring the Kurds and Shia. Within a year of the war they were gone because no longer needed. Now we have 50,000 troops in Iraq. They just moved from SA to Iraq. Defense was at the heart of the entire operation and still is. You talk as if the only form of defense is self-defense. But that wouldn’t be a properly Christian view now would it? As many noted at the time, including Tony Blair, the moral issues alone were sufficient justification for the war. I am in that camp and always was, as was William Kristol and the “neocons”. I and they did not approve of the overemphasis on WMD, not because the intelligence turned out to be false, but because it was not the greatest justification for the war in any case.

    Anti-war zealots have no problem accepting states of war. Look at the prison state of North Korea. A state of war exists inside the nation’s borders, and a brutal one. Is that a just war? No. Many, including myself, think that all it would take is for South Korea to declare citizenship for any NK that can make it across the border for the NK regime to collapse and the rebuilding of a unified Korea to take place. But it would involve sacrifice of money and precious order. A state of war exists, here and in many places, because good people do nothing and even support evil regimes that provide a sense of stability. A state of war existed in Iraq before the “Iraq war”. These states of war are not just, and JWT is used by political hacks to ensure that the status quo order is maintained. JWT perverted and in the hands of the political hacks is used to defend all manner of evil.

    JWT as a term has been hinjacked by the anti-war folks who offer platitudes that are not even remotely Christian. We have duties to defend those in need, and this implies violence. People in need of defense are suffering violence and those that look away and tend to their own personal comfort are complicit in their destruction.

    We can’t even define war in a way that satisfies, but yet we must endure lectures about what does and does not fit some ideal concept of JWT as interpreted by those who can’t be bothered to list any examples of just wars.

    Finally, you say “war is seen as something to be avoided”. Yes, it is to be avoided unless the alternative is worse. Which takes us back to where we started doesn’t it?

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  8. >> That being said, can we really call a hawkish party like the GOP “pro-life”? … both parties support a form of state-sanctioned murder, so why should I support one over the other?

    Not to beat this to death, but this is really important so let me take another poke at this commonly expressed idea that Republicans (or anyone) are not truly “pro-life” because of other issues that are morally equivalent.

    First, the moral equivalency here is astonishing if you think about it. If you don’t distinguish between killing and murder, then we all support state sanctioned murder. We all live with the comfort that the police will come visit violence with deadly force if necessary when we call them as we do whenever we feel threatened by criminals. If killing and murder are synonymous we’re all guilty of supporting state sanctioned murder. Of course that is wrong because killing isn’t always murder, and if I call the police when I hear and intruder and he comes and shoots him dead -either because he is shot at or even if it is a tragic error- because murder requires intent. The bottom line is that there is no moral equivalency between the murder of an unborn child and the accidental killing of anyone under any circumstances. Because a) murder requires intent and b) unborn children don’t even have the possibility to gauge risk and make the moral choices that adults do that could minimize risk of death where possible. This latter reason is why many think abortion is the most heinous of sins. It is a whole set of grevious sins rolled into one.

    Second, the moral equivalency is a tool in the service of something. In other words, it is no accident that anti-war agitators are continuously making extremely dubious moral equivalency arguments. This simply masks the fact that unless one is truly indifferent (not a good thing) or one truly sees both sides of an issue are equally guilty, one is on one side or another of a struggle. Usually moral equivalency is just a way to hide the side that one has chosen.

    If you don’t like the current examples just look at the past. I’ll add to what JMR said in his article. Historians have shown repeatedly that race-bating politicians tending to gravitate towards one political party, and by the 1820s the two major parties could easily be distinguished on the issue of race. They have confirmed what everyone long knew, that by the 1820’s a congressman from one party had a one in two chance of voting with the pro-slavery block on a given piece of legislation, yet in another party the odds were one in twenty. Or look at Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act in 1830, which he threw the full weight of his office behind. It was a hugely unpopular bill that had very little support in the North because it chiefly benefitted white southern slaveholders and had little benefit for the northerners, and in total violation of most of the Indian treaties to that time. But the Southern block rammed it through on a close vote after repeated failures with very few Northern votes (no doubt trying to curry favor with the few northeastern wheeler dealers that could benefit) after repeated political gamesmanship as the northern electorate and their Congressmen fought tooth and nail.

    Why does this matter? Because now that moral equivalency has been used as a tool against the view of JMR in his article. But as we see in the case of the Indian Removal Act, the fact that it required some unscrupulous Northern politicians to act against the wishes of their constituents does not mean that both sides are “equally guilty”. We all bear complicity in slavery, abortion, Indian genocide, and on and on. But the fact is that doesn’t mean that both parties are equally at fault. In a given time period one party often takes positions it will deny in later years. And to the extent they can’t deny it they’ll always employ moral equivalency arguments -“But they did it too!” But it doesn’t wash. Certainly not if one side was 90% in favor of acting that way and one side was 90% opposed. One’s group affiliation (political or otherwise) means a lot, despite what anyone says. So it is today with comparisons of accidental civilian deaths with murder of the unborn. It’s total balderdash and cynicism, and it isn’t a neutral view at all. And it’s the same old story. Wash, rinse, repeat.

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  9. We have a two-party system. Once you get past the primaries, you can vote for the Republican nominee, vote for the Democratic nominee, throw your vote away for a third party candidate and let other voters decide the election, or not vote at all and let other voters decide the election. You cannot be a cafeteria Democrat or cafeteria Republican in the voting booth during the general election. Get over it. You can comfort yourself that Republican elected officials will not succeed in ending abortion and Democratic elected officials will not succeed in ending war.

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  10. I think some of the disillusionment with the Republicans is that, in reality, they haven’t moved the ball on abortion in any meaningful way.and they have simply used Christians as a voting bloc by stoking our “fear/anger/convictions/concerns/whatever” about particular issues that cloud our ability to see other policy issues that they promote to our hurt.

    I don’t think we can expect either party to be without problems, and I appreciate your use of “in so far”.

    One other thing, it’s actually NOT incumbent on those who oppose the Iraq/Af-Pak wars to demonstrate their being “unjust”.

    Augustine did not develop just war theory for the sake of debunking war, but rather to establish the standards by which those who desire to go to war may evaluate if war is warranted.

    It was designed to govern the exception when Christians can support it, not to justify the assumption that it should be a feature of our body politic that Christians simply accept.

    Respectfully, it’s ON YOU, as Christian,(if you support those wars) to justify them.

    And, oh yeah, Luther was wrong. And Niebuhr is right insofar as we take him to mean that war is a tangible evidence of the brokenness of the world–and is therefore inescapably sinful (in a participatory, cosmological sense) and tragic, even as we are sometimes unable to avoid our taking part in it.

    Re: Ramsey…I get the ethic there, but how I wish, wish, wish, that those of my brothers and sisters who seem incredulous at a pacifist or narrow just war understanding would at least give consistent voice to the tragedy and sinful character of war even while they believe it to be necessary.

    There’s no war we can shrug at or even believe it to be noble. Even in Ramsey’s case we have to remedy tragedy by tragic means.

    A bit of perspective like that would be welcome to our discourse.

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  11. >> I think some of the disillusionment with the Republicans is that, in reality, they haven’t moved the ball on abortion in any meaningful way.

    I don’t think these claims are true. I suppose you must have an absolutist view such that the evidence is that it hasn’t “ended” yet, whatever that means in this context. So what does account for the wide perception that there has been a dramatic rise in those who properly label themselves “pro-life” in the last two decades? To whom do we attribute this? Luck? Fate?

    The parallels between abortion and chattel slavery are striking, and I’ve looked at this in quite a bit of depth. The sides, the arguments, the moral equivalent justification, the politics of it, and on and on. The fact is that even successful movements do not follow a straight line and are very long term ventures that are not for the feint of heart. The truth is that many give up hope before the faithful see it through. Defeatists abound even on the eve of success, and even afterwards. It is as it has ever been. If you want a dose of realism study American history. What you are expressing is not realism, but cynicism.

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  12. >> it’s actually NOT incumbent on those who oppose the Iraq/Af-Pak wars to demonstrate their being “unjust”.

    Nathan: Though I said the burden of proof was not on me at this time, for those that were paying attention I gave a justification anyway so I was by no means saying that no justification was needed in any case. I implicitly granted the point for the sake of argument in giving a justification if you noticed. So now I officially (rather than implicitly) grant the minor point about burden of proof for the sake of the more interesting one, and repeat the justification below. Which means, that if it wasn’t the burden to say why the Iraq war was unjust at the outset, the burden is now of those who disagree with me to say why my reasons are wrong.

    1) The Iraqi no-fly zones (almost totally ignored by the media and the public in the U.S. and in the U.K. despite both the participation of both nation’s military) were established to protect the Iraqi minorities (Kurds and Shiites) in the north and south of Iraq to keep Saddam’s government from using his military aircraft to attack them in the 90’s after the 1st Gulf War.

    2) There were approximately 50k troops in Saudi to base the aircraft, supporting men and material, and rapid-response troops in case he made a move on either the minorities or one of the neighboring countries that the aircraft could not counter.

    3) The official end of the No-Fly Zone War is considered to have ended on March 2003 when the 2nd Gulf War began. Thus the 1st Gulf War, the No-Fly Zone war, and the 2nd Gulf War were really one extended conflict.

    The No-Fly Zone War to protect the Kurds and Shia had become untenable by the early 00’s as U. S. and British aircraft were shot at with impunity by AA weapons. Another problem was that the NFZ war had become untenable is that it became a political problem since the basing of U. S. troops in Saudi were a grievance listed by Osama Bin Laden as one of the motivations for the attack on 9/11. The choice was to give up the struggle to protect the Iraqi minorities and leave, or remove Saddam from power and try to leave behind a decent society that would not try to kill its own citizens.

    4) The upshot is 50k troops based in Saudi in the 90’s for the protection of the enemies of a genocidal ruler were removed in the 2nd Gulf War and now 50k troops are in Iraq proper providing what in essentially policing and support actions with the support of the Iraqi citizenry. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iPXciunRc2PXMN3VHyMfi1DIsIuQ

    Humanitarian concerns were present from the start of the Iraqi conflict from start to finish. Bush made the mistake that Blair did not in not emphasizing the moral case as the top and best reason for the war, and though not deprecating the moral case (which he did quite forcefully make) he emphasized WMD overmuch, which it turns out Saddam had even convinced own generals of the lie that he had them, one of the more incredulous actions in the annals of modern statecraft. Bush did not lie in any way, nor did the intelligence chiefs of the entire world, but he failed to see that the more philosophically robust and most lasting case is always going to be the moral one after the war when the recriminations begin, as they always do. But the moral case was there and the critics of Bush’s argumentative emphasis from the right who supported the war were present from the beginning. William Krystal was particularly eloquent about it, and there is quite a bit more to it than I’ve said but I’ll not belabor it now.

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  13. >> I think some of the disillusionment with the Republicans is that, in reality, they haven’t moved the ball on abortion in any meaningful way.and they have simply used Christians as a voting bloc by stoking our “fear/anger/convictions/concerns/whatever” about particular issues that cloud our ability to see other policy issues that they promote to our hurt.

    Well you say we have cynical Republicans that don’t give a rat’s behind about the unborn but cultivate pro-life sentiment for votes, and yet the Democrats want your campaign dollars to stave off the dastardly Republicans who they say will limit abortion. take away a woman’s right to choose (abort).

    Ah, but you’ll say the Democrats are cynically playing on the Democratic fear that the Republicans actually are reliably pro-life just to gain campaign funds when in reality the Republicans aren’t doing anything on it. How about the narrative of the middle demographic on any moral issue who doesn’t have very strong views one way or the other and invents greater abstract outrages (hypocrites!) to fume against that are safe and not unpopular to express. So the main action is between the true believers on each side while the cynics stay disengaged unless and until they can side with the winners and take a victory lap. Same as is ever was.

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  14. Michal Zapendowski November 14, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Thank you to the person who posted this column for starting a very interesting discussion.

    The Republican Party stands for three things, and I don’t think anyone will disagree with these:

    (1) a completely free market (and reducing the social safety net),
    (2) the promotion of a “superpower” status in foreign policy through the aggressive use of American power – including (but not limited to) military power, and
    (3) the use of the public police power to enforce traditional social values — such as opposition to homosexuality, abortion, etc.

    Would Jesus Christ have supported the free market, over social welfare policies? The Gospels are replete with examples of Jesus’ compassion that suggest otherwise. This is why the Catholic Church and many other Churches preach a social gospel, and maintain the world’s most extensive welfare system, as well as why the Christian Democratic parties of Europe – which have their roots directly in Christianity – have uniformly supported expansion of welfare in their societies. The idea of forcing mothers to go to work, of being “tough” on children in working families, of forcing people to go bankrupt because of their own medical problems, all of these things are not really very “Christian” if you really think about it. So if anything, the Republican Party is anti-Christian on this leg of the three-legged stool of policy. But there are two others, so moving on…

    In foreign policy, would Jesus Christ have supported a nation’s desire to maintain “superpower status,” including the use of military force and the aggressive use of its diplomacy abroad to promote its own power and influence over other nations? I don’t think that Christ paid much attention, during his Ministry, to foreign or economic policy questions, to be honest — he was much more interested in reaching out to ordinary people, and building a movement, than he was in the petty geopolitics of the day. But insofar as the question is even relevant, I think the Republican Party’s stance on foreign policy is more similar to that taken by the Roman Empire, than it is to Jesus himself. I just can’t really imagine Jesus ordering an invasion — can you?

    Moving on to the third leg of the policy stool, the Republican Party clearly seems to take positions that are aligned with traditional Christian values, and this of course is why the GOP has the fervent support of the “Christian Right.” However, would Jesus Christ have supported the use of government police power to “force” people to make certain choices, and ultimately to throw people in jail if they do not, in the name of promoting traditional values? One anecdote from the Gospels speaks most clearly to this question: that of Mary Magdalene. Jesus did not oppose the stoning of Mary because he condoned prostitution. He did it because he believed compassion was the solution to social problems, rather than strict enforcement of the laws. In this view, Jesus was directly opposed to the Pharisees. Even more to the point, the Bible – Old and New Testament – is replete with examples of God giving mankind free choice to commit sin (precisely in order to allow mankind to turn down that choice, freely). Outlawing bad behavior, threatening people with jail time and with fines if they do not conform with traditional social values, is therefore directly contrary to the teachings of the Gospels and to the Bible in general. If you’re a true Christian, you simply can’t make the logical leap from the Bible’s apparent condemnation of homosexuality directly to the conclusion that homosexuality should be outlawed. The same goes for abortion and any other “sinful” invention of modern times. Jesus would have let people commit sin, he would not have threatened them with stoning or with jail time — he would have done what he did with Mary Magdalene, and tried to fight sin with love. So in this sense, the Republican Party is more similar to the Pharisees who crucified Jesus (essentially for blasphemy), and who wanted to stone Mary Magdalene, that it is to Christ himself, or to his teachings.

    This doesn’t necessarily mean that the U.S. Democratic Party, or any other political party in this world, is “truly Christian.” Churches may be Christian, but not political parties, which by their nature — because they dabble in power — are uniformly corrupt. But if you are looking for the “most Christian” political party out there, I think the Republican Party in the United States is a pretty wrong choice, and a party that a Christian in good conscience should not vote for.

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  15. >> Would Jesus Christ have supported the free market, over social welfare policies? The Gospels are replete with examples of Jesus’ compassion that suggest otherwise. This is why the Catholic Church and many other Churches preach a social gospel, and maintain the world’s most extensive welfare system, as well as why the Christian Democratic parties of Europe – which have their roots directly in Christianity – have uniformly supported expansion of welfare in their societies.

    Jesus supported a social safety net, not socialism. Don’t try to read modern economic categories into the bible. All flavors of socialism and capitalism have within them social safety nets -the question is not which system has the largest social safety net, but the best one all considered. You are begging the question (God would want the best social safety net) by saying socialism has the best social safety net, and assuming that capitalistic systems have the worst ones. What Bible passages show either? None, unless you want to offer one.

    You are also begging the question on foreign policy. Would God favor a system of belief, say the “realist” (misnomer) school of thought that says that we should not act when genocide is being committed in another country? What Bible passages would lead us to think that? None. God favors the foreign policy that respects and protects human dignity and I don’t think he is as concerned about politics as you are. I think he is deeply grieved that North Korea is a prison state where human dignity is trashed daily and systematic egregious abuses are committed with full knowledge of a powerful neighbor of the same people group who is mainly concerned about their own peace while next door people are starving and dying because their brothers in the south don’t want the disruption of famished people in their country. Force or even the threat of it might free these people but the anti-war crowd is fully committed to the status quo situations all over the world.

    “Peace” to the anti-war left of center is a self-centered politicized “peace” in certain places that tolerates and approves of astonishing levels of barbarity to maintain a local “peace” for themselves that is anything but love of neighbor. And to salve their consciences, when these gross evils are finally exposed as they always are they duplicitiously offer “we didn’t know” and say triumphantly “never again” before going right back to the same old justifications of evil to maintain their politicized local “peace” that they are so fond of. So let’s stop begging questions about God being some left-of-center anti-war type. God is God, and we’ve got to figure out what system best exemplified what we think he wants and call it our own. This is the work of politics. We can’t directly appeal to him or scripture directly to support us. The American Civil War was fought by people who believed in the same God. Who was right? You’d do well to study this question in all its complexity for a a few years before deciding you are informed enough to really have a deliberated position on how God intended military power to be used.

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  16. Lawrence Kuhlman November 15, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Reply to “Michal Zapendowski”

    I think you are confusing Jesus’ views on religion with his views on state laws.

    “The idea of forcing mothers to go to work, of being “tough” on children in working families, of forcing people to go bankrupt because of their own medical problems, all of these things are not really very “Christian” if you really think about it.”

    This is a backwards argument. The government does not force mothers to work or force people to go bankrupt. The inverse of this is forcing people to contribute to the health and welfare of their neighbor. Jesus preached we should love our neighbors as ourselves, not force our neighbors to pay our debts. You mention the church is the largest welfare system in the world which I havnt looked up and I will take your word for it. This fact does not support your argument though. Because we as the body of Christ come together and voluntarily give of our time and money to those less fortunate than ourselves is counter to your argument that we must then also impose taxes on all citizens to force them to emulate our own giving. Taxing a populace to duplicate what we do of our own free will cheapens the act.

    Here you make some really bad conclusions “Even more to the point, the Bible – Old and New Testament – is replete with examples of God giving mankind free choice to commit sin (precisely in order to allow mankind to turn down that choice, freely). Outlawing bad behavior, threatening people with jail time and with fines if they do not conform with traditional social values, is therefore directly contrary to the teachings of the Gospels and to the Bible in general.”

    God’s position on free will is not disputed just what you conclude that means to the governance of society. Are you trying to say there should be no laws what so ever because any man made law would inhibit mans God given right to sin? This is a ludicrous conclusion. When Jesus said he did not destroy the old laws but that he fulfilled them. The laws he was talking about were religious laws not secular. He even states to give unto Caesar what is Caesars’. He also states we are supposed to obey our bosses and masters. One can hardly do this if we pretend all of mankind’s laws are a hindrance on our right to sin.

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  17. Since I started my www ministry in 1996 I have been expanding it constantly to the poin where it now numbers hundreds of pages, which have received as many as 500, 000 views a year. I would urge those interested in this topic to view the two pages in which I address it at gret length and depth at http://JesusNoRepublican.Org/ & http://JesusNoDemocrat.Org/.

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  18. […] reader. Let’s just add this data to all that has been ably said here by Messrs. Anderson, Walker, and Domenech about the political proclivities of young Evangelicals. I still think that Matt […]

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