In these 2 weeks my goal is to break down as simply as possible why many in Christians in general vote for either of the two major parties in elections. Christians who are staunchly Republican may wonder why someone who shares the same beliefs, values, and worldview would dare vote for a Democratic. Christians who are staunchly Democratic may wonder why someone who shares the same beliefs, values, and worldview would dare vote for a Republican. Christians who are neither of these may wonder the same about either.
[In the last post we asked why so many Christians voted Republican.
The following post is on why so many Christians vote Libertarian.
The final post is on why so many Christians abstain from voting.]
WHY SO MANY CHRISTIANS VOTE DEMOCRAT
Christian progressives tend to be from a younger generation. They tend to have a delayed reaction time when responding to what they see as threatening. They also have a greater need for flexibility, and a greater tolerance for uncertainty. This attracts them to progressive values, taking more oblique measures toward perceived outside threats, promoting elastic boundaries, and demanding restitution for past inflexibility. But it’s not just about personality. It’s also about ideology.
Founded over 180 years ago as an off-shoot of Thomas Jefferson’s Anti-federalists, the party has changed over the years, and today is less focused on America as a democracy per se than it is on what is commonly called “liberal” or “progressive” values. Liberty implies freedom, and progress implies movement forward. It’s important to unpack this and understand what it means, both for those who call themselves progressive and for those who don’t. It has been frequently maintained by many that the Democratic party stands for freedom and equality, and is therefore in the spirit of Christian religion.
It’s been a long story. The controversial Andrew Jackson split the Democrat-Republican party by becoming the first Democratic president, running on the ticket of the first party in its time to represent most of the voting population. While diverse, the party began with unified support for farmers. Over time, from Buchanan to Wilson, it stood for limited government, small business, the gold standard, both fighting and not fighting the Civil War, anti-imperialism, big banks, low taxes. But each of these has its exceptions. And if you notice, most of these issues trace back to economics and government power.
Enter the New Deal and Civil Rights
The New Deal is still controversial to this day, but is arguably what began to separate Democrats from the so-called fiscal conservatives who would later become part of the Republican party. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt, perhaps the first premiere mascot of today’s Democrats, banks would be regulated, unions would be strengthened, public works would be financed, and federal aid would be given to the unemployed, all with the increased taxes on the nation as a whole. We became acquainted with a welfare state, using our fundamental resources as a nation to build itself in unity for its own welfare. This happened in reaction to the Great Depression. Then came Truman, Kennedy, and the Civil Rights Act, which radically paved the way for minorities, women, the handicapped, and other minority groups to gain equal treatment in society.
To liberate means to free, to release, to alleviate, to empower. Because dedicated Christians believe in the power of the Word, being free from sin and sickness, releasing the poor from injustice, progressive Christians view the Democratic party as one that clearly represents their values. To them it is a party that is equal and fair to all, but more importantly, stands for the values they believe the “founding fathers” stood for. To progressive Christians, the Democratic party of Roosevelt and Kennedy has ridden the same revolutionary wind of not only the Declaration of Independence, but also of Christ and his ministry.
The Founders in the Eyes of Progressive Christians
The founders of America were for the most part religious men who ascribed to Christianity and vocally endorsed the religion as vital to the nation they were building. However, they did not overtly say that in The Constitution that America should be an exclusively Christian nation, but left it up to the citizens to decide what they would be. Furthermore, the founders were not perfect, and not inspired. Their document is open to flexible interpretation, especially since they were slave-owners who declared that “all men are created equal.” They made the charter “to form a more perfect union,” one that must be open to change in order to perfect itself as time moves on. To “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,” and “promote the general welfare,” the government must protect people from oppression, promote equality, and provide basic public works for the common good. The “blessings of liberty” are the laws that grant us the freedom to choose how to behave.
Because of this, progressive Christian voters tend to support whatever applies the ideals of the Constitution to today’s arising issues, as well as promotes the Spirit of Christ and his ministry. To some, the separation of Church and State as seen in the First Amendment means that although we love Christianity, we will not force other people to practice our religion or be exposed to it through legislation. To others, if America is truly a Christian nation, her government is tasked with the full ministry of Christ, making equal the lowly.
But here’s the thing: Many Christians who vote Republican believe something very similar, that The Constitution should protect religion, and for some, that our laws should even reflect Christ. Once again, a great deal of it comes down to the values shared by the progressive religious leaders of the 1930s and 1950s. Because of this, the “religious left” tends to push for more government intervention and less monopolizing when it comes to welfare programs and fair work, as well as push for less restrictions on what we call “social” or “moral” issues, instead opting to grant freedom to society to decide these matters for itself.
How They View The Issues: Let us generalize and summarize a progressive Christian stance on major issues. It is important to understand that not every progressive Christian aligns with all of these stances on all these issues, or for the same reasons. I will represent these as from a generic Christian Democratic viewpoint.
Church and State—The Constitution guarantees the right to pray in private spheres, but Christians are not to force others to hear them pray in a position of power. If we expect Congressmen to lead prayer, for example, we would have to ask what denomination and what kind of God they are praying for, and whether we agree doctrinally with their theology. Having the Ten Commandments in places like courthouses does not make us more Holy, nor do we think it helps us evangelize to Americans who are not Christian. Those who seek to combine Church and State to use power to make others be Christian are doing a disservice to the Gospel, seeking the power of man to try and compel people by force to behave in a Christian manner, without looking at the heart, as God does. To be fair to other religions, we must permit them to exercise their religion freely, and let the power of the Word itself compel them to Christ, not man’s laws.
Welfare—The Bible teaches we must help the poor, and that people need to be taken care of. If America is to be in any way seen as a Christian nation, it is her government’s duty to take up for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. We like it when businesses and individuals give to charity, but we do not see it enough, and corporations usually do it just as a tax write-off. Where they fail, high taxation, particularly on the rich, must be implemented to redistribute our resources to those who need it most. It is essential to the ministry of Christ to be just for the poor. “Justice for all” means economic prosperity for the working class, marginalized classes who are oppressed by the rich, and for those who are unemployed. A strong, organized, well financed government can assist the impoverished and represent the minority groups often divided by prejudiced people in power.
Race and Class—Racism is wrong. The Democrats were the ones in the 1960s who took up the cause of the Civil Rights Era, and Martin Luther King Jr. always voted Democrat. Although Democratic party of the 1800s fought to keep slavery, the civil rights values of the current Democratic party are those same ones held by Abraham Lincoln. It is our Liberation Theology that the founders had which freed the slaves, earned voting rights for women and blacks, and have continually established justice for the oppressed, a constant cry of the Gospel. Current efforts to sweep racism under the rug are misguided and halt the progress of seeking justice and equality in society.
Reproduction—Having an abortion is unfortunate, and almost no woman would happy have it performed. Some say that as much as we hate to see a potential adult life taken, a woman’s right over her own body is sacred, and in some cases, such as rape, incest, or a painfully handicapped child, the misery of abortion is less harsh than the misery of carrying the child to full term. To others, abortion is indeed murder, but if it remains legal and well funded it will at least be done safely and humanely. We would rather government programs prevent poverty and abuse so that women are less driven to commit abortion out of necessity. If a woman is going to abort her child, I’d rather it be with a doctor than in a back alley. In accordance with a Consistent Life Ethic, whatever our stance on abortion, we should focus equally on protecting life after birth, which involves universal health care, capital punishment, and militarism.
Sexuality—Not everyone is raised Christian, and so I would rather at least young people who are promiscuous be given access to birth control. The media we consume should be regulated by the parents more than the government. Discrimination and bigotry against homosexuals is wrong, whether or not it is wrong to “be gay.” Some will indeed say that God’s plan for families is very specific, but that the nation should let individuals and churches decide what unions to honor. Even if homosexuality is immoral, the government should only legislate morality that protects people from harm, not interferes with personal choices. Others will indeed say that homosexuals have been an oppressed minority and that Bible passages condemning faithful homosexual unions are taken out of context.
Public Education—If young children are innocent, they all deserve equal access to education. Public education provides that. God never took the task of teaching the Bible out of the church and home, so it is not the public school’s responsibility. Children should be able to pray freely, but not be forced to hear a stranger’s prayer. It should be up to denominations to teach their interpretation of Genesis, and how much of the theory of Evolution they believe. Textbooks should teach the founders were fallible men. Parents who do not want their children to be exposed to certain literature can negotiate that with administrators. Sex education should teach children the consequences of premarital sex so that they can at least be prepared to not let their sexual activities bear more damaging consequences. It is unethical for teachers of different denominations to use their position of power to coerce children into their religious views. Rather, children can organize themselves to evangelize and influence their peers in such a setting.
Crime—The Word is clear that sin is wrong, and is punishable. The government is tasked by God with punishing evil. It is also tasked with being just and merciful. Being just doesn’t just mean punishing wrong, but punishing it fairly, considering the context, and creating an environment that does not breed crime. The death penalty has been used inconsistently and wrongfully, and should therefore be restricted or even abolished, especially if Christ’s crucifixion and teaching tell us that “eye for an eye” is the Old Law. In the spirit of mercy and regeneration, we should focus more on rehabilitating criminals than leaving them to rot for their mistakes.
Drugs—Recreational drugs are a risk to individuals and society. They can destroy families and poison society with addiction. Legalizing safer drugs like marijuana may deter people from using more harmful drugs. Minorities and the poor are penalized more harshly for drug charges, and our justice system must take action to change this.
Illegal Immigration—Although Democrats are divided about how to handle illegal immigration, liberals tend to view America as a sacred place where the oppressed from other nations can come to worship freely, for example. Illegal immigration is problematic because it is lawbreaking and prevents the government from monitoring the flow of sojourners. Yet God’s people are sojourners, and must give much respect to a person that can be easily taken advantage of because of their sojourning status. A path to citizenship should seriously be considered for those who broke the law to enter, but demonstrate good citizenship.
The Environment—God made the earth, and we should care for it. Damaging the environment is wrong. Climate change is a result of greedy corporations and irresponsible living combining to disregard humble living and careful production of goods. The effect is that God’s creation is being spoiled. The poor are also hurt when resources like water are polluted by big oil and other efforts of the 1% to make easy money on the poor. The government must legislate laws to protect the poor from the consequences of greed and ungrateful, careless industry.
The Market—The Bible does not say much about trade, other than it must be honest. But it does say often that it is wrong for the rich to oppress the poor. The government is tasked with carrying out justice, including the protection of the poor from dishonest business. God rewards people who work hard, but the corrupt stand in the way of the hard-working poor. Business should be regulated to prevent dishonest gain from the super rich (who are not likely to enter Heaven easily). Raised taxes on the wealthy can channel money on public works that assist the needy and oppressed, fulfilling the mission of Christ.
Weapon ownership—We know the Second Amendment guaranteed the right to own weapons. But we do believe that they need to be regulated in order to prevent deaths. In the spirit of turning swords into ploughshares, we should focus more on turning away from guns than promoting them as a value. The family is the basic unit of the Church. Since children are more likely to be killed by their own parents’ gun, the government should step in and create more regulations until this changes.
Warfare—As Christians, we must promote peace across the world. As a powerful leading nation, we should not seek to create monsters abroad, just as Washington warned could happen. A truly defense war may be just, but continually going overseas to destroy potential enemies is not. We want to follow the Old Testament prohibition against vast military hardware and a huge army. If we believe in democracy, we must let it fight for itself, not try to meddle in the politics of countries we invade. We will support the state of Israel because it is part of the UN, but seek to negotiate peace between Israel and Palestine. We may fight terrorism, but we will not compromise the values of the Gospel in doing so. We do not want torture, irresponsible carpet-bombing, or a lack of diplomacy. We support sanctions before jumping to war. Eagerness to go to war in the Middle East is motivated by a racist desire to oppress an oppressed foreign people, as well as access to oil for corporations, and is not Christ-like.
Why do they NOT vote for Republicans?
At best, Christian Democrats view Republicans as misinformed and inconsistent, combining Church and State in ways that hypocritically enforce social morality but not social justice. Republican leaders write laws that harm the vulnerable, oppress minorities, and give too much power to the rich who serve money and not God. This is also why some may go as far as to view Republicans as racist, money-loving, war-mongering hypocrites who use the ways of the world to force a skewed Christianity on the world.
What do they fear?
UnChristlike leaders, intolerance of diversity, hate crime, persecution, corruption on Wall Street, society falling apart, Christ saying “I know you not.”
What do they love?
At the heart of Christian Democratism is, I think the belief that God set up the Church and the family to teach moral values, and the civil government is put in place to preserve justice by defending our rights and promote our general welfare. Because of this, America is blessed with a legacy of freedom we must carry forward. Resistance to justice will always come from the powerful and the bigoted, and it is the duty of progressive leaders to fight such injustice through rulings that makes us equal under the law and grants us equal opportunity to prosper. A godly government will safeguard the rights of the easily trampled on and give society itself the freedom to act upon its own social morality.
If you area a Christian who is staunchly Democrat, I invite you to share your reflection. How much of this represented you?
If you are a Christian who is staunchly Republican, or anything else but a Democrat, do you better understand why so many Christians vote for Democrats?
In last week’s post, we did the same thing with Republicans. I attempted to equally represent Christians who vote for Republican candidates.
In the next post, we examine Christian Libertarians.