Faithful Politics

Being faithful with our politics, not political with our faith.

Thoughts On The 2012 Values Voter Summit

Last weekend marked the 7th annual Values Voters Summit. This event, sponsored by the conservative Christian group Family Research Council, is held every year in September or October. Unlike the Republican and Democrat National Conventions, the event is not as closely covered by the mainstream media, but it is an important event that displays the current state of Christian evangelical political views, and this year is particularly significant in light of the upcoming Presidential election.

To be frank, from my perspective, this year’s Summit displayed an extremely strong show of support for the Republican party, and an accompanying disdain for the Democratic party and for our current president. This is alarming to me, as it basically seems to send the message that in order to be a faithful Christian in America today, you must align completely with the Republican party.

In the words of singer-songwriter Derek Webb in his song, “A King and a Kingdom,” this idea is one of  “two great lies”- the first being when Satan told Eve that she would not die if she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the second being that “Jesus was a white middle-class Republican, and if you want to be saved, you have to learn to be like him.”

Partnered with this idea that one must be a Republican in order to be a Christian is an idea that the Democratic party is an entirely negative influence on America. Even the four short phrases on the website for the Value Voters Summit (found here) are an obvious attack on the perceived direction that the Obama administration is leading our country: “Limit Government. Reduce Spending. Champion Traditional Values. Protect America.”

There is a clear opposite to each of these statements- a subtle way of saying that President Obama is trying to expand government, increase spending, destroy traditional values, and, apparently, put America in danger (this is presumably a reference to the recent attacks on American embassies in the Middle East- Republicans such as Mike Huckabee have blamed the violence on the Obama administration’s poor handling of the controversy surrounding the Innocence of Muslims film.)

All of this intense divisiveness was brought to light most strongly by the address given by Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. He gave the keynote address on the Friday evening of the event, and it has become the focal point of the event in media reports. In fact, most of the articles I found through a quick Google search of “Paul Ryan at Value Voters Summit” basically summarize the speech as a criticism of Obama. This article used phrases such as “Ryan blasts Obama” and “Paul Ryan…offered a harsh indictment of President Obama’s values and leadership.”

Ironically, here is how Governor Ryan ended his speech:

“Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country. Let’s put these divisive years behind us. Let’s give this effort everything we have. Let’s get this done, and elect Mitt Romney the next president of the United States.”

My understanding of the Christian faith teaches me that as followers of Jesus Christ, we must remember that we are called to promote unity and reconciliation; that we are to place others as more important than ourselves in every area and show respect to other views. We are to act and speak authentically in every area.

Now, I do not know Paul Ryan personally. I understand he is under extreme pressure to garner support for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, and in a sense, he is just doing his job with these comments. But to spend an entire speech criticizing virtually every action of our current President’s administration, attacking him from every direction and assuming to know all of his intentions, and then to end that same speech by saying that we should “put these divisive years behind us”- that just does not strike me as authentic, and it makes it difficult for me to throw my support behind this campaign, even though I do support many (although definitely not all,) of their initiatives and views on the direction that American should be going.

Ultimately, I believe we need to fight against this division that is being created between Republicans and Democrats, and between Christian Republicans, Christian Democrats and Christian independents. We will never get far unless we learn to have rational, respectful discussions on the important topics at hand. We have to resist the urge to paint our opponents with such broad brushes of negativity and recognize the areas where we can agree. None of us have all the answers, and we would do well to admit this right away and move forward with an attitude of fostering cooperation and working together to solve the problems at hand.

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