While I am currently registered as an independent it would be hypocritical of me to pretend to be an objective moderate. I lean toward the position of the Democrats on most issues. When the Republican National Convention was being televised last week I showed no interest. I can’t relate to the party, their platform, or their candidates. On the other hand, I was quite excited to hear a couple of speeches from the Democratic National Convention: the one by First Lady Michelle Obama and other by my future mayor, Julian Castro. The Democrats tend to represent people I know and the people for whom I’ve cared most of my life.
I do my best to remain critical of the party I favor though. I try to use my commitment to Christ as a critical lens through which I can view and assess our politicians. I know my political values are not necessarily one and the same with Christian values on all issues. This is not to say that I don’t try to think as a Christian about social matters. Rather, I admit fallibility. I am bound to be wrong. I won’t bracket my faith though, or pretend that it does not influence how I vote, or what political agendas I support. I can’t deny that my religious values create internal conflict as I try to think about our nation’s politics.
I understand there are Christians who find the Republican party to better reflect their religious values. This doesn’t surprise me. I understand their presuppositions and I think that many of them vote Republican because they think it is the best option for a Christian.
Then I know Christians who don’t align with either party. I think I respect them the most! I wish I could be more like them at times. (I speak of the American context, not the global one.)
Last night a friend sent me a link to an article titled ‘Democrats Remove All References to ‘God’ from 2012 Political Platform,’ but he did not include commentary. I don’t know the motivation, but I respect the man, so I assume he wanted to know my thoughts. It may be that he knows I lean leftward, so he wanted to know if this bothers me.
Why? First of all, I know that there are Christians who are part of the Democratic Party. I know they are loyal to the party and they vote for the party’s ticket. This doesn’t mean they are “right,” but they live their religious values the best they can in the political arena.
Second, I know there are Christians who are Republicans. When I put these two together it is a reminder that no party speaks for the Christian God. Christians may be in both parties. Neither party is “Christian.”
Third, we are part of a pluralistic nation. What is meant when we say “God bless America?” Which god? Last night Mayor Castro said, “God bless America.” He is Roman Catholic. He may be invoking the Christian God. But “God” seems to me to be quite bland when connected to politics. It is more a god of the deist than the God of Christianity. It is a god who favors a particular nation over the other nations of the world rather than the Creator God to whom all nations are accountable and over whom the Creator God remains sovereign with his Son, Jesus the Messiah reigning from his “right hand” of power (a confession based on the doctrine of the ascension). I don’t expect a political party to rally around the Christian God. There are other matters than hold parties together–even the “God and Country” Republicans do not all value the God of Christianity.
Fourth, and most importantly, the God of Christianity is free from our systems, from our theological constructs, from our political alliances. Bobby Grow wrote a post the other day titled, “We are Not the Masters, God is!” He addresses Karl Barth’s views on God’s freedom and he explains, “Put simply, Barth does not want to offer a theological method or approach that makes God bound (or a predicate) to his own creation—so Barth wants to make sure that anything we say or do, Christianly/theologically, understands that God is sovereign and free.”
This is important. When we talk about the Christian God’s relationship to our politics we must remember that God is never on our side. He is not confined to the Republican agenda, the Democratic agenda, the Libertarians, the Socialist, the Marxists, or fans of Ayn Rand. Our God is not our God because of us. Our God is our God because he chose us freely.
If we are blessed we are on the side of the Christian God on various matters. We find ways to care for the “least of these,” for the poor, for the downtrodden. We take care of our orphans and widows. We do not submit to false deities like Mammon or Ba’al or Mars (sadly, we fail here all too often).
So do I care that a party uses so-called “god-talk?” No. I don’t, because I don’t think a party can monopolize God and I don’t think in a pluralistic society a party can share the same deity for adoration and worship. I rather that we be honest about this. Christians live as Christians. Live your faith in the political arena with wisdom. But parties cannot be faithful to God as a whole. It isn’t possible.