White Christians continue to be the most consistent voting bloc for the Republican Party, but this puts their adherence to their religion in question.
Religion is almost as old as humanity itself. Many of us feel spiritual connections to the rest of the world and oftentimes use that as the basis of our religious beliefs. This can create a conflict of interests at times when it comes to our political beliefs. Our government operates separately of any religion in theory, yet many people in our country strictly adhere to their religion when it comes to their views of how our government should operate. We have hardly ever managed to have a President that is not a practicing Christian. This is not innately problematic being that nearly 70% of our population are Christians. This only becomes an issue when too many people of that 70% choose to make policy based on their Christianity. However there is a deeper issue as well that negatively affects both our government and Christianity itself. That deeper issue is that many white evangelicals conveniently forget certain parts of their religious doctrine and end up acting more sinister than sanctified.
White evangelicals are the main focus of this discussion but this discussion is by no means only limited to them. White evangelicals voted Republican between 75%-81% from 2016–2018. Christians in general make up nearly 75% of the Republican Party and whites make up nearly 90%. This data shows us that the Republican party’s base is largely intersectionally white and Christian. I provide that context so that it’s clear I’m not just cherry picking white Christians solely based on personal bias or anything of that sort. The topics we will confront are abortion, immigration, and military activity.
Abortion is a bit of a tricky topic when attempting to integrate it into Christianity. The approach people go with is viewing unborn fetuses as a human being. Thus, killing one to them is murder. “Thou shall not murder”, is the sixth of the ten commandments. If Christians in America left things there no one would have a problem with them over it. The issue is that these Christians, who are far from perfect themselves, try to shame everyone who does not agree with them and tries to make their religious beliefs law. Our first amendment guarantees our freedom of religion, and that freedom was strengthened by the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Case in 1973. Christians and Republicans must grasp the concept that attempting to regulate the lives of other citizens to this extent cannot be justified by God.
“When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”” John 8:7 NRSV. We as American citizens, but most importantly as people of God, do not have the right to regulate others’ life and decisions simply because they are not of God or because we do not approve of them. As stated in Romans 3:23, we all have sinned; thus fall short of the glory of God. It is not our jobs as believers to cast judgement on others, nor is it our job to infringe on their personal decisions that do not affect us in any significant way. I am personally against abortion, but I am still pro-choice because of the reasons I just laid out. Abortions being legal does not force anyone to get one if they are personally opposed to it. Legal abortions simply mean that if one wants an abortion it is available to them. If you are anti-abortion, chances are you aren’t truly pro-life. You are most likely anti-choice. This is so because the vast majority of people who oppose abortion are also pro war, miraculously morph into deaf mutes when a black person is killed by police, and oppose gun reform even though it could lead to less murders and mass shootings. They either hold these positions or do not allow holding a contrarian position to stop the from voting for the Republican Party which largely back these positions. How do any of the positions I just named reflect a “pro-life” stance? Feel free to comment and let us all know.
Immigration has been a very touchy subject for decades in this country. Who should we allow in, and what should we make them do to become citizens? The Republican Party has made a clear stance on the matter. Donald Trump’s signature policy of his 2016 campaign was building a wall and banning all Muslims from entering the country. It is true that radical Islamists were to blame for the September 11th attacks. However, it is also true that white nationalism is the leading cause of terrorism in our country. In spite of this, the religious right swooned over these policies and gave Trump the momentum he needed to win the nomination and ultimately the Presidency. This begs the question; what does the Bible say about immigration? “When a foreigner sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The foreigner who dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34 MEV. Obviously, their reactionary opposition to immigration is not based in religion, so what is it based in?
The Republican Party is viewed as the conservative party of American politics. This means that they are, allegedly at least, opposed to changes. This in a vacuum isn’t a horrible position. Unfortunately, we do not live in a vacuum. America has a long history of injustice. We were founded on the principles of justice, equality, and democracy but have hardly ever lived up to those ideals. As colonies, we stole the land of the indigenous peoples that were already here and enacted a genocide on them for good measure. Perhaps this is why so many people have such hysteria about immigrants’ behavior. The emigrants that founded our country acted so barbaric to the natives that maybe we’ve always innately feared this would come back to bite us in bad karma. This is debunked by the pure facts that show immigrants are nearly half as likely to commit a crime than native-born citizens. So honestly, truly, what is this mass hysteria based in? The answer is not very pretty.
American Xenophobia is based in racism. White people here in America are not innately racist, but they do come from a rich tradition of racism. Every generation of people has had a different manifestation of allowing racism to have a sizable impact on our society. From slavery, to Jim Crow segregation, to mass incarceration it’s all racism and it has never been ended, merely allowed to continue on in a different form. Yes, we have made progress but we do not live in a post racial society. The Republican Party stokes this distrust by blaming immigrants for crime, job loss, and bloated government spending. It’s an easy answer to a nuanced and difficult discussion. It is also factually incorrect and morally bankrupt. It is more than likely that working class Americans lost their jobs due to mass layoffs by a multinational corporation simply looking to maximize profits. Those same colossal corporations serve as mega donors to the Republican Party, and ultimately end up having many of those same workers that they laid off, vote against their own interests. This divide and conquer strategy has held the working class back for decades; all because many white Christians can’t tame their racial and cultural biases.
The Republican Party is not the only party responsible for our current immigration crisis. The Democratic Party is complicit as well. President Barack Obama deported more people than any other President in our country’s history. While not very many on the religious right voted for him, many of us on the religious left did. We cannot, in good faith at least, be outraged over the kids in cages at our border and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids now taking place in the Trump era without also bringing up the failings of the Obama Era on immigration. We must also acknowledge that much of the immigration crisis is due to our country’s neo-imperialist actions in Latin America.
The American government has, for lack of a better term, an addiction to war. When discussing policy changes in the realms of healthcare, education, and poverty relief proponents are continuously asked, “How are you gonna pay for that?” Unfortunately, this same question is hardly if ever asked when someone proposes increasing military spending. This is all in spite of the fact that we spend more than the next nine countries combined on our military. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. offered a principled approach to this topic during his life. “ Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world.” This statement is based not only in benevolence, morality, and compassion, but also in Christian principles. All of those ideals are key components of Christianity as a faith. How can the religious right of this country continue to support a political party that is so morally bankrupt that it prioritizes military spending over healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and housing the poor? This question is not just limited to the religious right, but also for the religious left.
I must offer context to the video above. During the 2008 Presidential Primary, a clip of Barack Obama’s old pastor, Jeremiah Wright, made major headlines because he uttered the words, “God damn America”. This caused major controversy and ended up forcing Obama to disown his former pastor. However, when listening to the full context of his statement it is clear that Rev. Dr. Wright said nothing that was wildly outlandish. He based his entire sermon on both the Bible and world/American History. Rev. Wright alluded to the horrible mistreatment of minorities and women throughout our country’s history. He then contrasted that to the word of God. He also cited the war in Iraq as being not of God. He said, “war does not make peace. Fighting for peace is like raping for virginity”. He said that governments do three things that God does not. Those three things are that governments change, lie, and fail. As Christians, our entire belief system is based in God not doing any of those things. Ergo, Wright makes a compelling case of why we cannot and should not get governments confused with God. In spite of all of the great arguments he made in the sermon, Obama still rejected his remarks and denounced him. The full sermon titled, “Confusing God and Government”, can be found here.
The unanimous rejection and refusal of Rev. Wright’s statement foreshadowed what was to come of the Obama Presidency. He promised to end the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but only ended up leaving us with more wars than before he entered office. He dropped an obscene number of bombs via drones in the Middle-East and these drone strikes killed civilians 90% of the time. This is psychopathic behavior that very few of us have reconciled. How can we on the religious left continue to allow our politicians to engage in such disgustingly amoral activity? Murder is wrong. Killing innocent people is even worse. Obama did indeed end the war in Iraq, but he failed to end the war in Afghanistan. Recent reports show that the American public was lied to over and over again about this war. Not only that, but that the American military had no sense of direction the entire time they were there. The war in Afghanistan spans nearly twenty years and 3 Presidential Administrations. Both Republicans and Democrats had power in this time span; as such, both parties must answer for these atrocities. We as Christians and as Americans must find answers as well so that this never happens again.
The religious right, which is largely white and largely Christian, must make a choice. They can either abide by their religion and accept others even if they choose to have abortions, are immigrants, and are against war or they can continue to back the Republican Party with their racism, sexism and xenophobia knowing that none of it is of God. The United States government has no national religion, but Christianity is its defacto religion. This isn’t innately terrible, but if this is going to be the case, the religious right must prioritize acceptance, benevolence, and compassion instead of condemnation, racism, and violence. If America is going to serve as a “City on a Hill”, we must be more invested in welcoming immigrants with open arms as opposed to ICE raids and demonization. We must leave women the freedom to choose what is best for their lives and bodies; not condemn and seek invasive control over them. Lastly and most importantly, we must not allow our government to continue its imperialist assault on the world and instead use diplomacy and cultural acceptance with the entire planet. These things are not only reserved for the religious right to ponder, but also for the religious left. If we do all of these things, then we can truly say, “God Bless America”.