Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Politics and religion

What message do you take from the election? OH boy. I hate to open that can o' worms. But I suppose the one thing that really bothers me is that self-described Christians came away from the polling place voting overwhelmingly in favor of one candidate (Bush). Evangelicals came out in droves, pastors were urging their flocks to vote for Bush. I hear pundits saying the only hope for Democrats is to find someone who is comfortable talking about their religion (and Christian religion, of course) in public. Religion turned the election in favor of Bush, they say.

I know that abortion is incredibly important. You really can't be a fence-sitter on that one. And the issue of homosexuality seems to strike a chord in people; I've blogged about that before. But are those the only issues where Christians should take a stand?

If you take a stand on the sanctity of human life, if you protest in front of abortion clinics because the destruction of a human fetus is immoral, do you also express the same outrage at the taking of a human life in combat? I'm not there yet, but frankly I respect those who are. It is hard to take that commandment seriously, in all its ramifications. I know people who are adamantly opposed to the death penalty on the same grounds. A life is a life is a life. If it is wrong for a woman to abort a fetus, it is wrong for a soldier to aim his rifle at someone and squeeze the trigger. It is wrong to consume so much of the world's resources, at the expense of others. It is wrong that the things we buy at Wal-Mart are so incredibly cheap because a child in an impoverished country labored to create it. For that matter, it is wrong that there are thousands of Americans who work at Wal-Mart full-time and yet don't have healthcare or the means to make ends meet.

How about concern for people who are starving to death? World hunger should keep us awake at night too. How about the genocide taking place in Darfur? A life is a life is a life. Life is sacred, God-given. We ought to do all we can to protect it.

But that's hard, isn't it? Being against abortion is easy in many of our churches and communities. Taking a stand against war is "unpatriotic." If you lobby for the lives of the unborn endlessly, people admire your persistence. If you talk about the Sudanese endlessly, my hunch is that many of us would be scorned ("what's his deal?"). Want to feel like one of the martyrs of the early Church and really be scorned for your beliefs? Take the Bible seriously, even when it means you can't wave the flag and vote for the guy your pastor says you should. Take a stand, shout it from the rooftops. That takes guts. Fight for the rights of the poor, fight for the living wage movement. Urge your employer to make sure that everyone, from the gardeners to the janitors, receive adequate compensation and a reasonable chance to particpate in a healthcare plan.

Practicing Christianity when it is easy and convenient isn't bad, but I don't think it ought to stop there. Are there situations where our faith might lead us to vote against the party we usually vote for? Or do we selectively invoke it? If a vote could save more lives, but would allow those "immoral" gays to live in peace together, would we do it? Is it really *Christianity* that drives our voting behavior? Or is "Christianity" our shorthand for "Protecting/enforcing my view of the world"? I don't think those are one and the same. I suspect that some of us will learn, each in our own time, that Christ doesn't really draw a distinction between a Sudanese woman, Iraqi citizen and American fetus.