Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Principles and Policies for Christian Voters

If you read the title of this post, you might think that it is the title of a Religious Right group teaching church goers on how to vote Republican. This is just the sort of thing the Christian Coalition put out in the 90's.

Well, now Christian Democrats are using the same tactics. The very thing the Dems slammed the Religious Right for doing in the 90's, they are now doing. Sojourners has put out a pamphlet that directs Christians on how to vote on the issues. They call it "an issues guide for Christians." You can read it here.

To their credit, there is actually some good stuff in it. Here are their basic principles that they believe should guide Christians on what to vote for:

Compassion and Economic Justice
- Work must work and provide for family economic success and security.
- Children should not be poor.
- Extreme global poverty must end.

So far so good. These are things we can all stand for.

Peace and Restraint of Violence
- Bring peace to Iraq.
- Eliminate nuclear weapons.
- Support security and freedom in the Middle East.
- Strengthen the United Nations and international law to fight terrorism.

These views fall squarely in line with the Democratic Party's foreign policy. While I agree that these general principles are based on Christian values, the way you go about achieving these goals will vary depending on whether you are a Republican or Democrat.

Consistent Ethic of Life
- Dramatically reduce abortion.
- End capital punishment.
- Stop genocide.

This is where the supposed "Christian values" look more Democratic than Christian. If Sojourners really wanted to have a "Consistent Ethic of Life" then their language about abortion would match their language about genocide and capital punishment.

Notice how they want to "End" capital punishment and "Stop" genocide. But when it comes to abortion they can't bring themselves to use strong language like that. They don't want to "end" abortion or "stop" the mass genocide of unborn children, instead they only want to "dramatically reduce."

This kind of pandering to the Democratic party has no part in a pamphlet that claims to be espousing "Christian values." And conspicuously absent from the list is any discussion of ending "euthanasia." Once again, Sojourners shows their true colors.

Racial Justice
- Reverse racial disparities.
- End environmental racism.

Again, these basic goals and principles line up with Christian values. The way to accomplish these goals will differ based on party affiliation.

Human Rights, Dignity, and Gender Justice
- Establish humane and holistic immigration policies.
- End torture worldwide.
- Stop human trafficking, promote religious freedom, fight HIV/AIDS, and defend the rights of women.

Strengthen Families and Renew Culture
- Strengthen marriage and families.
- Restore integrity to our civic and business practices.
- Prevent violence.

Good Stewardship of God’s Creation
- Reverse global climate change.
- Prioritize clean air and water.
- Develop clean and renewable energy.

In these last three sections are some of the issues that Christians should be able to rally around the easiest. Christians from both parties shouldn't have views that are so different that they couldn't work to accomplish these goals.

So in this "Principles and Policies for Christian Voters" pamphlet we see some good ideas mixed in with some hypocrisy. While it clearly has a bent toward policies that align with the Democratic Party, there are some positive ideas that Christians can get behind.

There are two thing, however, that are somewhat disturbing about this pamphlet. First, it is scary just how much like the Religious Right it is. It is scary for a any group to try to suggest the "Christian" way to vote on all the issues. Sojourners needs to be careful with these sort of suggestions. They sound eerily like the Christian Coalition of the late 90's.

Secondly, it is disturbing to read what Sojourners believes is a "Consistent Ethic of Life." It is neither consistent nor much of an ethic at all. If they hope to motivate conservative Christians to be more passionate about economic, environmental and peace issues, they need to come clean about their lack of passion about life issues.

It is hypocritical to want to "end" genocide in Darfur without also wanting to "end" the genocide of the unborn in the U.S. Sojourners says, "All life is a sacred gift from God, and public policies should reflect a consistent ethic of life." I hope they eventually come to terms with the fullness of what this really means, especially when it comes to abortion.

Finally, I would just caution all Christians to be careful whenever any group decides that their way to vote is the "Christian" way to vote. Just as conservative Christians should be cautious with these sort of statements from the Christian Coalition, liberal Christians should be cautious with these sort of statements from Sojourners.

There are, no doubt, biblical principles that we are called to follow when it comes to public policy. But we each need to humbly admit that we all come into politics with our own biases even as we strive to put our Christian values above it all.


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