Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vote Christian or Vote Conscience

Surprisingly, Rick Perry’s still campaigning and a close preacher friend of his, Robert Jeffress (conveniently preaching from Dallas, Texas) is telling members of the GOP to not vote for relatively popular candidate Mitt Romney simply because he’s Mormon. He qualified this so as not to see bigoted by saying he believed Romney was a moral man, but he thought that Christian citizens would prefer a competent Christian. At least he qualified that patently biased perspective; that you should only vote for someone if they share your religion; by saying they should be competent. I wonder how he expects the everyday Christian who is only moderately politically active to discern whether someone is competent. And what does he mean by this term? Does he mean someone who knows what they believe in terms of Christianity or in terms of sound policies for fiscal and social purposes in their campaign? If it’s the latter, then it could make sense, as long as they’re not expecting this person to try to legislate unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity. But if it’s the former, we have an issue that I’ve visited before in “Mormon Candidate Discrimination”. It shouldn’t matter whether the person you vote for agrees with you on everything, but only if the candidate holds a majority of the policies that you would advocate as well. If Rick Perry is incompetent, but a Christian, would you vote for him solely on the basis of his religious affiliation as opposed to whether he’s actually capable of running the country? If Mitt Romney is more effective as a president than Perry, then don’t you have a responsibility to vote for someone who will try to improve America as opposed to voting based on the status quo? So much of this depends on where GOP voters’ priorities are and I hope more of them reflect the tendencies of other nominees, like Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain, who apparently think it’s a non-issue, however crazy they are for thinking God told them to run.

It’s astonishing that we still insist on making such a big deal about what are first and foremost personal convictions that people happen to hold. There has commonly been a difficulty in America of choosing between loyalty to a faith and loyalty to a country. Christians have been able to resolve this problem pretty well throughout history, commonly citing Romans 13:1, which states that believers should respect the authorities, since any authority is supposedly established by God. This is an idea that persisted in spite of the Protestant Revolution with some qualifications. Protestants would argue that they can respect authorities without conforming to them ultimately when they feel they conflict with God’s law. Ultimately what can result is antinomianism, which technically is formulated as the belief that moral law by religious authorities is not in any way pertinent to salvation, which is solely through faith. But one can observe a different form of “antinomianism” (literally being against laws; in this context, civil/secular law) which suggests that a theocracy should be established, where the citizens are governed by Christian based laws, not secular laws of the land. This explicitly manifests most commonly in Dominionism, but many Christians might overlap with that unknowingly with desiring that we apply the Ten Commandments in legislation or claiming the country was founded on the Ten Commandments, both of which are either dangerous or inaccurate. Fundamentally, it shouldn’t matter whether a person is Christian, Jewish or any religion one could describe as long as they conform to the Constitution consistently. Many Christians speak so highly of the Constitution and claim it is based on Judeo Christian jurisprudence and the like, but they neglect to consider that all the Christian scriptures were written in a fundamentally different time with city states in Greece and Rome in one form or another and going further back in Jewish law, more tribal ideas that don’t really conform in any significant sense to modern representative democracy. An elite group of people made decisions about policy as if they thought they always knew what was best for the people. But that wasn’t always the case. With the form of government we have enumerated in the Constitution, there is a greater potential for people actually getting their voice heard and getting their desires fulfilled in terms of legislation, as long as it doesn’t conflict with other laws. If you want the people as a whole represented, you don’t need to vote based purely on yours or a candidate’s religiosity or religious affiliation, but on whether they will treat everyone fairly according to basic principles of American law.

Christians have never needed the government’s endorsement of their faith or the church in order to exist. They take people in for various reasons and maintain themselves through tithing and donations of other sorts and have never needed federal support, primarily because they’re tax exempt and thus are prevented by law from intervening in political affairs as a church and non-profit organization under tax law. There’s also the general theme in Christian scripture that the Church will be supported by God itself through all the tribulations, so I don’t see why any Christian makes a big deal of government endorsement of them as essential. The fact that anyone thinks Christians need prayers sponsored by government entities or any representations of their religious history in a religiously neutral context, the governance of the whole United States or any individual state, suggests a strong insecurity that is ironic considering the privileged status Christians have. You are not automatically judged to lack morals by people, like atheists are, nor are you associated automatically with negative stereotypes that have no obvious counter example people can bring up. If someone alleges Christians are bad, people can find an equal amount of good Christians to counter that claim. As much as there are good atheists, people refuse to see them and the stigma remains in spite of more education and more prominence of atheists in church/state issues. This is a dangerous problem of popular opinion that exists with many, but not all, Christian voters and it stands to reason that they should not be seen as harmless by any stretch of the imagination. If they ally together to do something, you should keep your eyes on them for the simple matter that their perspective is commonly opposed in one way or another to fundamental rights and principles found within the Bill of Rights. They disbelieve people have a freedom from religion along with freedom of religion, they seem to insist as if it’s obvious that the majority rules and the minority shouldn’t have any influence over them and other ideas propagate through candidates like Rick Perry in particular regarding the constitution as it relates to their personal and communal religious beliefs.

If you want to vote in legislation based on your beliefs, at least consider the rights other people have of non interference in the practice of their religion or general ethical behavior without religious backing. If you think it’s unethical to abort a child, try educating children about birth control and responsibility in the same breath. Teaching children about safe sex is not an automatic condoning of pre marital sex anymore than giving a child a bb gun is asking them to shoot cats for fun. If you have problems with gay marriage, perhaps you could establish better standards for straight people marrying in the first place or keep divorce rates much lower by association of taking Jesus seriously when he commands you not to get divorced unless your spouse is unfaithful and trying to get the no-fault divorce law repealed for an explicit example. If you made that commitment, then stick to it, since you hold yourself to faithfulness before God except in the extenuating circumstance mentioned prior. Any issue of policy can be solved and campaigned for by people of faith without resort to legislating religious morality of a particular worldview upon everyone else who doesn’t necessarily share it. The difference is between voting your convictions and voting your conscience. If you want to change things, vote for action that is not oppressive to others, in the thought that people will give you the same courtesy and not vote for things that suppress your rights.

When you start advocating that a Christian only vote for a Christian, what’s to stop you from discriminating based on specific doctrinal differences of your politicians as a logical progression? The only thing stopping you is the rationalization in your head that you’re all the same, but that’s not the case. Christians can disagree fundamentally on a great many things, let alone the differences between Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox groups throughout history. Just because Mormons are the newest group of people with historically Christian overtones doesn’t mean they ought to be discriminated against because they don’t share particular mainstream Christian beliefs any more than Protestants would call Catholics “whores of the Pope” or such obscenities and call that fair. That sort of bigoted and ignorant idea has hopefully died away since the controversy with J.F.K. running for president decades ago, so this issue will eventually become less contentious with time and education. Bottom line, you should vote based on practical concerns, not superfluous issues that ought not to matter in the 21st century in as religiously diverse a country as ours. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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