Thursday, October 04, 2007

Courting Me

"And as for the fact that the Athenians have chosen the kind of constitution that they have, I do not congratulate them ..."

I go back and forth on the duty of a good citizen to be informed about the candidates he votes for. On the one hand I feel bad exercising my franchise in the dark. On the other hand I console myself with the fact that the system was designed with precisely that eventuality in mind, and works surprisingly well for a government nominally run by the willfully ignorant.

In this latest round of voter self-education I have run into the inevitable attempts by Republicans (and Democrats! Exciting new development!) to court evangelical Christians, a voter demographic to which I nominally belong. In fact, I belong to an even less centrist demographic - evangelical Pentecostals (making people like, say, Vonsus, look downright tame).

As usual, one of the hooks used to try and nab my demographic is the issue of legalizing or illegalizing abortion. Like most attempts to court my vote on religious grounds, I find this offensive at worst and problematic at best.

I don't actually know what I would say if someone asked me for counsel on whether or not they should get an abortion. But for the sake of argument, let's say I think abortion is a great sin and a terrible cowardice, to boot. Does it therefore follow that I think my country's laws should forbid it?

It does not. The issue is made clearer for me when I consider religious freedom. As an evangelical Pentecostal Christian I am naturally of the opinion that where Christianity conflicts with other religions, Christianity controls. I am also naturally of the opinion that people ought to be Christian for their own welfare, even if that means (as it usually does) that they can't adhere to any other religions. That's one of the things that "evangelical" means in this context. But does it follow that because I am an evangelical I think all other religions should be outlawed?

It does not. We can even assume, for the sake of argument, that I believe all other religions are demonic conspiracies (which I do not, in fact, believe). Doesn't change a thing. The fact of the matter is that I think the freedom to not follow Christ is an important American freedom, even though I also think it is pretty much the worst decision, pragmatically and morally, that a human being can make. This does not mean that I think the Constitution of the United States is a higher authority than God; it's just a reflection of my belief that attempts to outlaw religious immorality in this country will not, in fact, advance the Kingdom of God.

Similarly with abortion. As I said, I'm not 100% sure what my "stance" on abortion is. But even if I did think that abortion is immoral, why should I want my elected representatives to try and outlaw it? Do we outlaw immorality in this country? I'm not sure that we do. I'm certainly not sure that we should.

Moreover, religious-based political activity makes me uncomfortable as a Christian. The fact of the matter is that most "Christian" political activity is deeply embarrassing to me as a believer. People might start off meaning well, but the next thing you know people think that you're the freak for being cultured, educated, and rational as opposed to, say, Jerry Falwell. I've felt like enough high-profile "Christian" media figures have embarrassed my faith and damaged my personal witness to be highly suspicious of any attempts to court me by legislating my supposed morality into law, thank you very much.

Of course this is easy for me to say; I'm not a politician. If somebody is in a policymaking position and their personal conscience tells them to legislate a certain way, I'm not going to decry that decision just because their personal conscience happens to be Christian. I mean, suppose you do think something is immoral, and you've been elected to make national policy. What do you do then? Can you really look yourself in the mirror every morning knowing you decided to legalize (or fail to outlaw) something you believe is wrong? Maybe you can; I don't know (and I hope I never have to find out). But using promises of what your conscience is going to tell you once elected just feels ... I dunno ... fake? It certainly doesn't entice me to vote for you.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Well said. I often feel very frustrated with politics for similar reasons - there isn't really any party that ever tries to appeal to the "Christian, loves science, can be quite liberal, rational, and forward-thinking" crowd.

Then again, I've heard it said that democracy is working when no one is really happy with their choices. That way, the majority of the country is in the same boat of vague dissatisfaction, rather than a "winning" half and a "losing" half.