In 1981, Billy Graham warned evangelical Christians about a “wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right,” warning that the “hard right (had) no interest in religion except to manipulate it.”
Such a dire prophecy, now in 2018, has manifested itself in modern Republicanism, and many good, well-meaning Christian souls are blind to that sad occurrence. In fact, the GOP now has such a stranglehold on evangelical Christianity that many cannot see where one ends and the other begins. It’s as if American Christianity – along with all of the values and morals that go specifically with that term – has come to equate with Republicanism. And both are starting to suffer because of this union of politics and religion.
First things first: I am not a Democrat. Nor am I a Republican. Rather, I am a proud independent who knows that that singular label expresses only my political affiliation, not my spiritual views. And this independent is here to warn Christians that (1) Republican values are not always Christian ones, (2) sometimes Republicanism is actually antithetical to Christian values and (3) the Republican claim for moral superiority is based squarely on a blatantly specious religious attachment.
As far as I can tell, the Republican monopoly as the “Christian Party” hinges mostly on two hot-button topics: abortion and gay marriage. In a recent interview, Tony Perkins, president of the evengelical activist group the Family Research Council, stated the Religious Right had grown “tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. ” Asked to elaborate, Perkins cited Obama administration’s “restrictive posture toward abortion rights and its ‘religious freedom’ executive orders,” which, at their heart, attack the civil rights of LGBTQ Americans.
I believe the Republican stance on these two issues could be debated scientifically, ethically and/or religiously, at least to some extent; however, neither is the point of this piece. Rather, I’d like to focus on other political topics that modern-day Republicanism fights against, even though I believe a Christian perspective, with Bible verses in tow, would actually support them on a moral level: the environment, immigration, the poor and health care.
The Bible is clear in each of these areas: Mankind is commanded to “serve and preserve” all of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15), not ignore major environmentalist concerns because they may hurt business; to treat all “foreigners” as if they are “native born” (Leviticus 19:34), not indiscriminately kick immigrants out, lock up their children and close the borders to struggling refugees; and to “freely open (his) hand … to the needy and poor” (Deuteronomy 15:11), not financially gut programs that are designed to help those who are less fortunate. And please remember that Jesus himself was a poor, empathetic, compassionate nomad who “freely” healed the sick (Matthew 10:8) and who helped the ostracized, the poor, the outcast, the needy, the widowed and the disenfranchised, all while condemning the rich Pharisees in power who would never “lift a finger to help” any of these less fortunates (Matthew 23:4).
These points can be debated, of course, but if you disagree across the bord, my guess is that you’re conflating Republican values with Christian reasoning. And that’s the very trap Billy Graham warned us about in 1981.
Just so I’m clear: All of this is not to say the Democrats should be the ones to claim the “Christian” label, as that’s just fallaciously swinging the pendulum of manipulation to the other party. What I am saying is that it is high time for Christians to start knowing the moral precepts in their Bible (all of them, not just a select few), to start thinking for themselves with a much larger moral compass in mind ), to stop allowing the hard right to “manipulate” them for political gain, and to call out their leaders – Republican and Democrat alike – when they are acting and voting in an “unChristian” manner.
And ultimately, for the sake of spiritual credibility on the political stage in a secular world, Christians themselves must start redefining that “Christian” manner well beyond the Republican agenda.
Guest columnist Robert Archer is a registered independent. He majored in religion and English at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.
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