This month’s synchroblog theme is “Faith and Politics” One of the things that bothers me a lot when it comes to faith and politics is when I hear someone say that one cannot be a Christian and a Democrat … so I thought I would write about being a Christian and a Democrat. I will add the links to the other synchroblog contributions to the bottom of this post as they become available.
Contrary to what some people think these days it is possible to be a faithful follower of Jesus and a Democrat at the same time.
Take me for instance. I am a Christian and I am a Democrat.
I wasn’t always a Democrat. I grew up in a conservative Christian community and was a Republican for most of my life. However, several years ago the Republican party went so far right that I had to seriously consider what I believed and why. It was a process but after a lot of thought, discussion, prayer and study of scripture I left the Republican party.
Some people would argue that the bible doesn’t have a lot to say about government but I disagree. I believe that scripture instructs that government should exist to protect it’s citizens and promote a common good for the society it serves. As I studied scripture I came to believe that the Democratic party did that better than the Republican party at this point in time.
Whether we are talking about the sanctity of life, healthcare, education, animal rights, environment, civil rights, immigration, caring for the poor, war, taxes or economy the Democratic platform represents the tenets of my faith “better” than the Republican party. It doesn’t represent it perfectly and never will. I don’t even believe that it should.
Personally, I don’t really like political parties to say too much about religion or God. Of course my beliefs are going to inform how I vote and what party I affiliate with, but I think that government should strive to serve a larger base than one particular religion, even if it is my own. My observation in recent years is that the injection of the Christian religion into American politics has caused more division than unity and done more harm than good. Therefore, recently when the Democratic party didn’t include the mention of God in their platform I wasn’t upset as a person of faith. To be honest it doesn’t really matter to me how many times God is mentioned and actually I think it would be better to leave his name out of political platforms altogether. As a person of faith I am more concerned with the principles and policies that a party is supporting and promoting and how they line up with my beliefs – not whether or not the name of God was mentioned. In fact, I even think that using the name of God in a political platform can come across as emotionally manipulative and before I left the Republican party I had begun to feel like the party had become insincere and manipulative when it came to certain issues such as abortion and same sex marriage.
At first I was timid about speaking out about leaving the Republican party behind. After all I had been part of the conservative Christian community and heard the declarations about how evil Democrats and liberals were. And when I did share my thoughts and doubts and questions about the Republican party with my conservative Christian friends and acquaintances I often got the idea that my faith was being questioned more than my politics.
But as the years have gone by I have met a lot of people who are serious about following in the way of Jesus who are Democrats and they are some of the most loving and kind people I have ever met. And I believe that they have helped to change me for the better.
I have been moved by the way they are willing to give up some of their rights, conveniences and possessions in order to promote the common good. I have been inspired by the way they are careful not to push their beliefs onto others or denigrate people who believe differently than they do. I have been encouraged by the way they are willing to take the extra effort and time it takes to care for our environment and protect animals. I have been emboldened by the way they are so dedicated to the idea that everyone is created in the image of God and deserves to be treated equally with dignity and respect.
Today I am no longer timid about my affiliation with the Democratic party. Today I am even proud to say, “I am a Christian and I am a Democrat”
and sometimes I even add:
“In fact, I am NOT a Democrat in spite of my faith … I am a Democrat BECAUSE of my faith.”
Here are the links to other posts for this month’s synchroblog:
Pulpit Freedom, Public Faith by Carol Kuniholm
Plumbers and Politicians by Glenn Hager
Conflating Faith and Politics by Maurice Broaddus
You Cannot Serve Two Masters by Sonja Andrews
Would Jesus Vote by Jeremy Myers
A Kingdom Not Of This World by Jareth Caelum
I am a Christian and I am a Democrat by Liz Dyer
5 ways to make it through the election and still keep your friends by Kathy Escobar
Why There’s No Such Thing As The Christian Vote by Marta Layton
Pingback: 5 ways to make it through the election & still keep your friends | kathy escobar.
Pingback: Would Jesus Vote? | Till He Comes
Liz, your comment about how other Christians reacted to you saying you were a Democrat really touched me. So often, when we tie faith to politics we only end up hurting those we love, and ourselves. Politics, by its very nature seems to be about getting 50%+1 of the votes. After all, I want a party as closely aligned with my priorities as possible, and my priorities are different than other peoples’. But Christianity is supposed to be about getting to as close to 100% as possible. If you say your politics must be like mine, then there’s a big problem there!
Personally, I am what philosophers call a communitarian. (It flows from Aristotle and later people building on his system, like Alisdair MacIntyre.) This basically means that I believe ethics and the good life is tied to a certain community and tradition. This isn’t relativism – I definitely believe there are right and wrong, but I also believe the way we reach for the best life possible is tied to the people around us. That means I’m distrustful of talk of “rights” that focus so much on the individual. And it means that the GOP, DNC, and certainly libertarianism miss a very important part of what I’m about. (They’re all coming out of that rights-based approach to life, in various ways.) I think the fact that I’ve always felt a bit distanced from the left vs. right divide –most days it’s like I’m sitting on the sideline as other folks hash things out, a bit skeptical about whether the discussion they’re having is really the important things at issue– I’m a little less affected than you are by some of this stuff. It’s not just being politically jaded, it’s about seeing morality and values through a different set of lenses.
All of which is to say: while I haven’t lived out your struggle to identify as a Democrat, I can easily see why it’s so important and painful to you. And I think in a lot of ways, I’m probably more receptive rather than less, to this idea that no party will ever line up perfectly with my priorities. That’s my life!
Pingback: We The People | Wendy McCaig
I agree that we find ourselves choosing between very imperfect parties and platforms. But fortunately, we are still free to worship God, despite all the rhetoric about infringement on religious freedom. And I agree that much of the platform talk about God is an attempt to manipulate; I wonder if it would qualify as “using God’s name in vain”? I’m a follower of Christ first, and any candidate who demonstrates integrity and prioritizes the poor, the earth, and the next generation is likely to get my vote.
Carol – Yes – I do think it can be considered “using God’s name in vain” when it is used to get a vote or a donation.
Pingback: Plumbers and Politicians | Glenn Hager
Great thoughts, Liz! We just need be ourselves. I am a weird hedgehop of perspectives that is usually in flux. I hate it when people try to label me or demean me for differing with them. So, I am a proponent of people talking to each other, getting their news from diverse sources, and morphing in their views.
Thanks, Glenn. You mentioned getting news from diverse sources and listening to others point of views … I think that is so important.
There are a lot of Christians who think that they should avoid listening to people who differ with their views. I never understood that.
How can we expect to continually be transformed if we never allow ourselves to seriously think about ideas and views that are different than the ones we presently hold?
I do try to read and listen to sources that are more conservative than I am or that support the Republican party. I admit that at present time I find it a little difficult to find a good conservative source – one that isn’t caught up in spreading some crazy conspiracy theory and offers a reasoned approach to conservative Republican views and opinions. I end up listening to this stuff because I want to hear the other side but I would love to find something that isn’t so theatrical. Any suggestions?
The funny thing is that I became a Democrat by listening to differing views when I was a Republican. So I guess my conservative Christian friends who are Republicans would probably say that I would still be a good conservative Christian Republican if I hadn’t listened to that “stuff”. LOL
I love your post, Liz … and I’m intrigued by Theodore’s comment. Very interesting on both counts.
Thanks Sonja. Theodore’s comment is intriguing. I have communicated with him enough that I think his biggest issues with the democratic party is that they are pro choice and he also believes that legalizing same sex marriage will end up limiting religious freedom. I think his objections to the Republican party is their neglect and treatment of the poor, sick and needy. He is a strict catholic and those things line up with his Catholicism.
Pingback: October 2012 Synchroblog – Politics and Faith … What do you think? Link List « synchroblog
Near as I can tell, the choice between Republican and Democrat is which two of the four sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance do you want to commit.
American politics is not compatible with Christianity. At all. The American government is not compatible with Christianity. At all. American business is not compatible with Christianity. At all.
We live in a culture of death. The only question is, do you worship Mammon and Maloch or Mammon and Mars. You are NOT given the option to truly worship Jehovah in freedom any more.
Theodore – thanks for commenting. I assume that your lament comes from the fact that the Republican party is neglecting the poor, sick and needy and the Democratic party is for keeping abortion legal and making same sex marriage legal. Even though you and I disagree about abortion (I am not “for” abortion but believe that people should be able to make their own decisions about it) and same sex marriage (I don’t think same sex relationships are sinful and don’t think that legalizing same sex marriage will affect religious freedom) I do agree with you that Christians should not expect a political party to line up with their religion completely – that isn’t even the purpose of government. As Christians I do believe that we should participate in the political process as good citizens and I believe we should decide which party or candidate represents our values and beliefs better and would best serve (in our opinion) the greater good of our community but we are putting the wrong expectations on government if we expect it to totally line up with our faith.