I’m already sick of all the drama surrounding republican and decmocrat presidential hopefuls, but there is something interesting going on within the Christian community in response to the upcoming election. To me, the word “conservative” automatically renders a Red State amalgamation of anti-abortion, pro-capital punishment, anti-environment, and overall pseudo-patriotic Christian American sentiments that boil down to the idea that the government has to be an extension of God’s morality since we can’t seem to do it ourselves. Now, this is a stereotype and is only accurate for a lesser or greater value of “true” depending on the individual, but if anything is clear to me it’s that conservative politics and modern Christianity are bedfellows who can hardly keep their hands off each other in public. Hence, the old guard of the “Moral Majority” (i.e. Focus on the Family poo-bah James Dobson) are trying desperately to keep Christians “on task” until the next election, nary saying a bad word about the current administration and making a moniker like “Focus on Abortion and Gay Marriage” seem more apt a title for their organizations.
[Note: I am well aware that the actual Moral Majority organization was founded by Jerry Falwell, but I use the term loosely to describe those who feel they have a Biblical basis to dictate morality to the rest of us, just like it’s usage in the Green Day song “Minority”]
Some Christians want to deal with some great and more important issues (i.e. ones that will unite people to do good instead of yelling “RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE!” and trying to force people into social change through law), author of the best selling book The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren speaking out about the AIDS problem in Africa and Global Climate Change and receiving sharp criticism from the old guard. Apparently, Warren’s sentiments did not received the “approved” stamp from the fossils that some conservative Christians worship more than God, and others like him have received the ire of the Dobson and others. Is Dobson advocating environmental recklessness and a lack of compassion for other countries? Perhaps, but what is indeed sure is that he wants to keep people on the talking points, stoking the fires of controversy and partisanship that go along with gay marriage and abortion issues, and thus far Republican candidates seem to be playing ball. John McCain, rather than exemplifying the spirit of the “Straight-Talk Express,” seems to be rather wishy-washy these days when it comes to his own party and issues tied in with evangelicals, some days disagreeing and the next giving commencement speeches at Liberty University (which, by the way, kept calling me every week for 3 months trying to get me enrolled there).
Anyway, while Dobson and others still hold sway there’s more of a shift to individual churches, and when the leaders pass away there will likely be a need breed of evangelical spokesman about. Such a change will likely be an improvement, but not likely the reformation America’s churches desperately need. I just find it interesting that while churches are tax-exempt and should not endorse candidates, our two party system and the churches do work in tandem, as if you are an evangelical whose main concerns are abortion and gay marriage (the church fueling the controversy without explicitly saying who you should vote for), I can’t see such people voting for anything other than a conservative republican who is going to “pay them back” once they’re in office. Indeed, while “freedom from religion” remains important in America, the evangelicals don’t often respect that boundary, claiming that God appoints every administration and so Christians have a duty to fulfill God’s wishes. How they can precisely determine what God wants, I have no idea and it is merely a case of “magical thinking,” but I would much rather have a compassionate agnostic or atheist for president than an evangelical Christian who believes that God has told him to go to war with other countries and uses terms like “crusade” (how Bush got elected twice is still a mystery to me).
I’m not going to take the view that all religion is inherently bad or without virtue, as even though I may disagree about many points with conservative Christians, churches can be useful if mobilized to care for the poor, help single mothers, etc. What I most detest is the mental enslavement and cookie-cutter morality that cannot be questioned else you literally destroy God’s word, and such is the environment of many churches. As I’ve said many times before, I feel that Christians today have more in common with Pharisees than the man they claim to follow, and I suppose it’s not hard to understand why. Even the apostles, the men closest to Jesus during his ministry, didn’t understand much of what Jesus taught, so how can we expect the people of the world, living centuries later, to be any closer to the Christian ideal? Wisdom, compassion, careful consideration, and even healthy skepticism have been abandoned for a construct of God that I feel does not hold up under even the slightest inquiry, the tautology of “It’s true because the Bible says that it’s true” ruling over all. The Bible says many things, and the greatest acts of love to the most wanton acts of violence can be advocated based upon picking and choosing verses, but what is most certainly lacking is critical thinking and intelligent inquiry on the religion’s adherents. We all want answers and to feel comfortable, but without intelligent thought and a healthy does of skepticism, what is religion but a grander form of the parental favorite “Because I said so?”