Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How can people vote Democrat and be Christian?

Someone recently asked me, “How can people vote Democrat and call themselves Christian?” In other words, how could I call myself a Christian and vote for someone who is pro-choice and wants to give gay people civil rights?

There is a wide spectrum of beliefs among born again Christians on global warming, immigration, poverty, the Iraq war, and so forth. Much of this relates to how groups within the born again community view the world. Some of us have a view of the world that emphasizes dialogue and tolerance. This does not mean that we are weak and against the use of force, but instead believe in using it as the very, very last resort.

According to the Barna Group, a Christian polling service, among the born again Christians, more than four out of 10 are registered Democrats, three out of ten are registered Republicans, and the remaining two out of 10 are independent. I am an independent – always have been. Things are different among the evangelical Christians, though, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats almost three-to-one.

A person can be a born again Christian without being evangelical. I am one of these. I was reared in the Methodist Church, which is mainline Christian but not usually considered evangelical – at least not in the same way as, say, the Southern Baptists. Many born again Christians are not evangelical. All born again Christians have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and believe they will join with God after death (often called “going to Heaven”) because they have confessed their sins and have accepted Jesus Christ.

Evangelicals are a subset of born again Christians. Besides their confession of sins and personal commitment to Jesus Christ, their beliefs also include the inerrancy of the Bible, the existence of Satan as an influential spiritual being, the importance of verbally sharing one's faith in Christ with others, and the idea that not only their life but the world, too, is guided by God’s will.

Now to the reasons why many Christians vote for Democrats:

While many born again Christians are personally pro-life, they are more galvanized by other issues and concerns. The fact that many born again voters rank abortion and gay rights lower on their agenda does not indicate that those issues are unimportant. But these non-Evangelical born again Christians, like myself, are not single-issue voters but, instead, more concerned about a wider variety of concerns. In that context, I see other matters as possessing more immediate importance for our nation: such as, but not limited to, caring for “the least of these” in our society, finding a way for to help people going bankrupt and losing their homes to pay their healthcare bills, doing something about global warming by cutting down on pollution, stopping the overseas flow of American jobs, ending the war in Iraq by making the Iraqis take responsibility for their own security, turning our attention to the war in Afghanistan, going after the Taliban and bin Laden, and doing more than just threatening war with Iran – instead we should actually talk with them and use sanctions to pressure them (which I see that the Bush administration is finally doing).

Many born again Christians tend to be put off by the "culture wars" between the Democrats and Republicans and more drawn toward conversation and reconciliation. In fact, negative campaigning with smears against character get me very, very upset. For better or worse, many of us non-evangelical born again Christians express an interest in influencing the culture through setting good examples through modeling the right behavior and not through the “do as I say, not as I do” mantra.

Many born again Christians believe that gays should not have the right to marry but still have the same civil rights as everyone else - even though they believe that homosexuality is un-biblical and a sin. I realize that this will seem a huge contradiction. We Christians do not want a gay “union” to be called “marriage” because it is one of our sacraments. Marriage is holy and between only a man and woman. While it is true that you can legislate morality - after all, what laws do is define what is right and wrong, which is the essence of morality - a growing number of born again people, including myself, desire to offer compassion to proponents of homosexuality. In other words, while not ignoring the fact that homosexuality may be a sin from a biblical perspective, yet also realizing that Jesus' primary doctrine is to love other people. Many born again Christians strongly reject homosexuality as a valid lifestyle, yet at the same time have a number of homosexual friends or acquaintances and do not want to judge them.

My personal view is that God, alone, is called to judge people. We're simply called to love them. Yet it seems to me that the reverse is true with many Evangelicals: while they say that God loves everyone and only hates the sin, they judge others with hateful vehemence. This upsets me to no end.

But there is another reason why I have not voted Republican for almost two decades: Exodus 20:16 "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

This Bible verse means that you should not lie about another person. The Republicans, in my view, have become a cultural and character-assassination based party since the 1970s. They are vicious toward anyone who does not stand with them or who might question them. They are especially vicious toward their Democratic opponents. Specifically, McCain has broken his word about not using negative, character assassination in his ads. The GOP is practicing lies and hatemongering toward anyone who does not stand with them – Rovian tactics. Why can’t they base a campaign on just policy differences – and tell the truth? Both Palin and McCain stood up there on the stage during the GOP convention telling lies and half-truths about Obama’s policies on taxes, the war, etc. They mocked community organizers, a very Christian mission.

I cannot stand this vitriolic, sarcastic, character-bashing negativity that is streaming from Republicans. It makes me physically ill. I am extremely disappointed in McCain, who was once-upon-a-time my hero. But back in 2000, I didn’t see his true colors. I do now.

So, I, as a Christian, will be voting for Obama come November.