There Is (Not) a God Party

I may have jumped the shark with this title. But, indulge me another sentence or two before clicking away.

Since 1980 it is clear the Moral Majority and its later iterations intended to court and influence the Republican Party. Recall Dr. Richard Land’s call for the consummation of such a relationship rather than a protracted flirtation. Just when progressives hope to inform Christians there is a way to vote blue the Democratic Platform is exposed to be sans god.

President Obama, among others, insisted on voting God back in the platform. Once the vote was taken there was booing in the room.

Many I know believe the Republican Party is the only party for which a Christian may vote. Others contend the issues are broader and cannot be reduced to abortion and gun control. The implication would be that thinking people should vote with the Dems.

Aintsobad may have rightly pointed out that we are not voting for pastor of the United States of America. But, both parties want supporters who catch the vision, the dreams, of what sort of Country we will be. The idea that, in the America Rick thinks so exceptional, voters may be courted and won without including religion is a bit like thinking you could have a Big 12 without Oklahoma and Texas.

We may not be voting for pastor, but despite the semantics, both parties appeal to values. The recent incident in Libya invites questions about what value is placed on foreign policy and what role world religions play. If you have not made that connection, consider the recent comments by Netanyahu regarding Iran and the potential for nuclear armaments.

Who could ignore the values related to government debt, healthcare, and Social Security? Values abound. Republicans do not have a corner on values voting. Democrats can’t be so smug as to call into question values voting when underneath their rhetoric is an appeal to American values. Don’t forget First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the DNC. Or, even the way Former President Bill Clinton couched his endorsement in a vision for American values. This brings into focus the central issue. Who gets to decide whose values win the public debate and gain support for government action? The real issue is interpretation. We will think the winner gets to lay claim to the winning hermeneutic.

Last week I listened to an interview that included Cathleen Falsani. One of Cathleen’s achievements is to have obtained the first, and arguably only, lengthy interview with, then Senator, President Barak Obama on the subject of faith and politics. During the podcast where politics took center stage, she made a compelling statement. Cathleen told listeners that insiders from both parties have been contacted and these insiders shared that neither party will raise the subject of the poor during what is left of the run up to Election 2012.

What Falsani points out is that political debate is for the privileged. And, by implication this means the debate is about preserving privilege not necessarily what is best for, “we the people.” (Except that technically the “we” in “We the people” did not, at the time, include the “we” it does today. If the privileged set the agenda then, maybe we should expect them to do so today without complaint.) When the poor are neglected, left out of the debate, neither party may lay claim to God or represent his intention for the interdependency of humanity.

In short, there is no political party that may lay claim to God, his vision, or his values that refuses to raise the issue of the poor in the run up to the election. Republican Christians flooded Facebook and Twitter with derision for the Democrats who left God out of their platform. Maybe we should have understood that as, “at least they were honest.” For when Republicans claim to be on God’s side but will refuse to consider the poor they are play acting on behalf of God.

Now you see why some of us find it a viable option to not vote. That is, until Natalie comments.

Todd, I share your penchant for “principled dissent.”

Where I struggle, though, is how privileged it must be to even consider abstaining from voting. Historically, no hurdles to voting have been set up in front of white, Christian, straight, literate, middle-class men. But for my gender, I am equally as privileged.

I can’t help but think of the fact that the Fifteenth Amendment took a century to truly apply to American people of color, and how it took the Voting Rights Act, and continued vigilance up through today, to make sure all citizens have access to the polls. So, I feel like I’m throwing away something precious and hard-fought – women have had suffrage for less than 100 years! I have made a decision yet, but thinking of voting as a privilege often denied to others makes the equation that much more complicated…

I felt pretty secure in my arguments with Aintsobad. Rick, like others, considers voting a privilege that should not be ignored. He believes that the only way to change the posture and practice of the franchise is to participate in it with change in mind. I disagree. Natalie on the other hand took a different approach.

Natalie argued, quite well too, that while choosing not to vote on principled grounds may be a solid option, it is really only the option of the privileged. She noted that people not living in or with privilege would likely prompt her to vote for them. Wow!

Think that one through with me. Here is a young lady who dares suggest that we not vote for our own interests, but the interests of others. Natalie at least insinuates that what we really should consider are those who get overlooked in the grand discussions of bailouts and bombings, of nuclear weapons and drones, of dollars and euros.

Consider me chastened. If I cannot find a reason to vote for myself, I should consider the needs of the greatest group of people de-privileged by the systems and structures and vote for their needs more than my own. If it is true that either Leibniz or Locke influenced our Founding Fathers, then just maybe their competing visions of the same aim should be considered defended. If our rights and privileges were to be demonstrated in the way we honor fellow citizens, then our voting should be for them and not us.

Is there a party that would take up that challenge? A group who in the public square would signal a change that some voters will vote for those who are under-privileged by the system and structures, who are disadvantaged in some way by the framework that makes it difficult to grab one’s bootstraps much less pick oneself up by them? We may not get a spot on the ballot come November, but the church carrying out the mission of God in the world should be that party of people thinking more about others than themselves. And, that may need to include thinking deeply about who to vote for – and not so much for a person but a group of people.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.