The Plight of the Christian Democrat

November 04, 2012 Tagged with: politics

Why I am a beautiful Christian Democrat: I enjoyed this post and agree with it in large part. At some point – the 1964 Republican Convention, say some – the Republican Party established itself as the Christian face of American politics. What followed was a general ostracising of Christian Democrats, which has bothered me for years. It’s only gotten worse as American politics has polarized over the last decade.

I am a Democrat because I understand that theological conservatism and political conservatism are two different things. I am theologically conservative, meaning that I believe all that stuff in the Nicene Creed about the virgin birth and the resurrection. Especially the resurrection. But theological conservatism and political/social conservatism are entirely different things. Jesus was not conservative or liberal, and the idea that Jesus would identify wholly with either of our political parties is ludicrous.

I am a Democrat, and many people from my church have expressed surprise at this, some even wondering if this situation is even possible. In many churches, it’s simply assumed that you’re a Republican.

This manifests itself most often when I’m with a group of Christian friends and one of them just launches into a diatribe against the President (who I’m not a huge fan of, incidentally) or some other aspect of Democratic politics (or the strawman they’ve created in their heads, at least). I’m always mildly perturbed that they just assumed they were “safe” because, in their mind, no one from their church could possibly be anything but a right-wing conservative.

When these situations occur, I always want to ask, “Since you apparently cannot conceive of the idea of a Christian Democrat, then tell me, am I not a Democrat, or am I not a Christian?”

(Note that when I say “I am a Democrat” that shouldn’t be automatically translated to “I agree with everything Obama and Pelosi do,” though that’s a favorite strawman that the right like to attack. In my case what it means is that I evaluate every situation on its merits, but more often than not, I find my answers agreeing with the Democratic Party. Sometimes I don’t. I delegate my political opinions to no one. That’s called discernment.)

Comments

David Morefield says:

The really negative aspect of all this is the way politics have redefined religion itself in our society, and not for the better. At one point, the Democratic party was the “Christian” one because it was more closely associated with programs that involved feeding the hungry, helping the needy, etc. which is in line with what would have been called “Christian charity.” At some point (I’d put it closer to the early 80s) the Republicans posited – and not unreasonably – that this sort of thing shouldn’t necessarily be in the purview of government; that true Christian charity occurs neighbor-to-neighbor out of the goodness of our hearts, and not via government bureaucracy with forms and quotas.

Unfortunately this happened at the same time the Moral Majority was on the rise and redefining “Christianity” as more judgmental and intolerant. Not the “love thy neighbor as Jesus would” variety of Christianity, but the “follow these rules or go to Hell no matter how good you are otherwise” variety. This movement (and BTW, I lived in Lynchburg, VA at the time; Jerry Falwell’s hometown) rose up at least partly in response to the “godlessness” of the hippy generation, who by definition were liberal, and thus into “peace and love,” just in a decidedly secular way. So somehow the traditional Christian notions of charity and tolerance became associated with government handouts and moral laxity, leaving “the Church” with only the religion’s negative baggage. If “love without judging” and “live in brotherhood” are relabeled as the mantras of goofball hippies and the party that panders to them, then what is the Church (and GOP) left with but the “fire and brimstone” stuff, which let’s face it never had very broad appeal.

My point being that sometime in the last century, Christianity itself was redefined in this country so that where the rank-and-file once viewed it as a faith based on charity and love for all mankind, now it’s perceived as one dedicated to legislating morality. And while as a Republican I lament that the party is associated with intolerance and prudishness, as a Christian (and son of a Methodist minister) I’m much more concerned that religion itself has been similarly redefined. I know too many people who assume that political conservatism and Christianity are the same thing, and if you don’t believe in the GOP platform, then the Church has nothing to offer you.

It’s not just your congregation that’s bought into this false divide; I have a good number of liberal friends who are atheists, and I get the distinct impression it’s at least partly because they can’t reconcile their political beliefs with what they perceive as the contradictory and monolithic views of “The Church.” It would be complicated for them to tell their friends, “yes, I go to church, but this one’s different, it’s a good church.” So instead they just say, “God is a hoax”, get their nods and move on to the next subject.

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