Archive for December, 2012

An Evangelical Vote for Obama

December 11, 2012

An evangelical vote for Obama

I am a pale, male, evangelical, born again Christian. I voted for President Obama for the same reasons Billy and Franklin Graham endorsed Gov. Romney–for moral and ethical reasons. It’s important to understand that any Christian who believes that salvation is by grace through faith without the need for works or sacraments is an evangelical. That includes almost all Protestants, but not all evangelicals are fundamentalists. Generally, fundamentalists claim to believe that the Bible is “literally” true, as though that were the highest form of truth. Telephone directories are usually literally true; poetry is rarely literally true.

Genesis, Chapter One, is one of the world’s finest poems, and worthy of belief. Chapter Two is a story written by a different writer and, literally, not true. Gen. 2:4 says “in the day that the Lord God (literally God God), made the earth and the heavens.” (KJV) A one-day creation or a six day creation? Both can’t be literally true. Not even fundamentalists believe that God is literally a shepherd and that we are literally sheep that lie down in green pastures. If literal truth is the highest truth, then Nicodemus was right. You can’t literally be born again. Fundamentalists generally want the government to require Christian prayer in public schools, something that Jesus asked us not to do. (Matt. 6:5-7) They seek government funding for their charity, something else Jesus asked us not to do. (Matt. 6:1-5)

When the media needed an authoritative Catholic opinion they turned to the pope or to a spokesman who represented the pope. When they needed a Protestant (evangelical) opinion they  they turned to those with the biggest broadcast voice–Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. When those two were made to represent evangelicals, many Protestant Churches stopped calling themselves evangelical, allowing fundamentalists to assume the name. All fundamentalists are evangelical but not all evangelicals are fundamentalists.

I am not a fundamentalist. Time is a human creation. There is no “time” with God, no day or night. I don’t believe that we are in the seventh day of creation and that God is resting. I believe that God creates wonders every day, smaller than our microscopes can see, greater than our telescopes and computers can comprehend.

I consider myself to be a Christian first and an American second, but sometimes it is hard to keep church and state separate when it comes to morals and ethics. Although I had a double deferment as a student and a divinity student, I dropped out of college and enlisted in the Marines because my country was at war and I believed it was my patriotic duty to defend my country against its enemy. The enemy, Communism, was also declared to be an enemy of Christianity, and I believed I had a religious duty to defend Christianity against its enemy.

Although I began my political life as a Republican, I regard Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights acts, including voting rights, and the War on Poverty as the most moral, ethical and Christian decisions in my lifetime. The Civil Rights acts moved this nation closer to equality and the War on Poverty was the closest the US has come to winning a war since World War Two, cutting poverty almost in half. They were courageous acts because Johnson knew that they would turn the Solid South to Solid Red. The Reagan administration turned the government against We the people to profit They the corporation. Collectivization was good for corporations, bad for workers. While proclaiming “family values,” anti-family programs weakened unions that protected workers, kept wages low forcing both parents into the work force to feed their children, claimed that catsup counted as a vegetable in school lunches, and that people were hungry because they were on diets.

Those who most loudly claimed, erroneously, that America was founded as a Christian nation, most loudly denounced the War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Acts. Southern tradition and prejudice came first, Christianity a distant second, if at all. When political conservatives took a sharp turn to the right, the “Christian” Right followed the politicians.

The next Christian acts in my lifetime were Medicare and Obamacare. At the heart of the Bible, at the heart of the Gospel, is concern for the hungry, the sick, the homeless, the stranger, the prisoner, especially for the least. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus clearly stated that his followers were those who fed the hungry, cared for the sick, the homeless, those in jail, even the least, most worthless of them. Those who did not care for them were doomed to an alternate eternity. Yet, Obamacare was denounced by Bible wavers who regarded the cross as a hammer and the poor as criminals.

It’s possible to say that Jesus was wrong, but not if you believe Jesus is Lord. It’s possible to say the Scripture is wrongly translated, but not if you believe the Bible translations that we have are reliable and authoritative. Yet, it seems the ethical and moral positions of Catholic bishops and the Grahams was to deny health care to the poor, and to deny equal rights to women and GLBT Americans.

Women have a constitutional right to contraception, abortion, and family planning. To deny those rights one must deny women equality under the law, the right to their most private property, and to declare that a pregnant woman has since she was a fertilized egg lost the sanctity of her life. Although about half of zygotes never reach the uterus, each has more value than a pregnant woman. I can’t see that as moral, ethical, Christian or religious. And it is a new position for many evangelicals.

When my wife and I married, our Southern Baptist pastor warned us that if our union resulted in pregnancy we should not go to a Catholic doctor or hospital because they would allow my wife to die to save a fetus. Prominent Southern Baptist fundamentalist, W. A. Criswell, declared, “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had life separate from the mother that it became an individual person, and it always has, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”  W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press wrote, “Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.”

In 1968, Christianity Today and the Christian Medical Society invited fundamentalist leaders who “shared a common acceptance of the Bible as the final authority on moral issues” to a symposium to establish “the conservative or evangelical position within Protestantism.”  The joint statement by the conference, “A Protestant Affirmation on the Control of Human Reproduction,” read: “Whether the performance of an induced abortion is sinful we are not agreed, but about the necessity of it and permissibility for it under certain circumstances we are in accord.” Justification for abortion included “family welfare, and social responsibility.” “When principles conflict, the preservation of fetal life…may have to be abandoned to maintain full and secure family life.”

In the 1970s the threat to marriage was the accelerating rate of divorce among fundamentalists. “Christianity Today” ran eight articles or editorials regarding it. Nevertheless, fundamentalist leaders did not press for laws outlawing divorce and abortion was not an issue.

In 1971, the Southern Baptist Convention agreed, in a joint resolution: “We call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” Al Mohler, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and outspoken fundamentalist leader said, “evangelicals did hold to embarrassingly liberal positions on the abortion issue including, I must admit, the Southern Baptist Convention.” In the 1980s, the Bible that was the “final authority on moral issues” began to say something new and different.

In biblical times, both Israelites and Christians were confronted by fertility religions that included sexual relations in religious rites. Much of what is read as condemnation of homosexuality is actually condemnation of idolatry as both Jews and Christians were tempted by the fertility religions. The Jewish Bible (Old Testament) condemned Jewish men and women who served as prostitutes in the temples of fertility gods. That was idolatry and the money they earned as prostitutes could not be used to pay a religious vow. (Deut. 23:18) King Ahab established fertility gods Ba-al and Ashtoreth as the official religion of Israel.

Some early Christian converts likely came from fertility religions, other Christians may have been tempted by the fertility rites, hence, the number of times the Apostle Paul addressed sex. Was it evil idolatry or was it a human good? Writing to different cities, Paul seems to give conflicting advice in some letters intended for specific audiences. The story of Sodom in Genesis 19, and of Gibeah in Judges 19 are clearly not about homosexuality but about inhospitable treatment of others. There are many references in the Jewish Bible declaring the sin of Sodom, but none of them declare the sin as homosexuality. In the Christian Bible there are two stories about Jesus condemning other cities for the same sin as Sodom and it is in regard to inhospitality and unwillingness to listen to his teaching.  

Clearly, there is far more to human sexuality than I understand, but I do know that I never had a choice to be homosexual. I never made a choice to be heterosexual, I just am and have been since I became interested in sex.

The Grahams, Catholic bishops and others, seem to regard homosexuals as lepers, with less than equal rights under the law, and as greater sinners than, say, people who divorced and remarried, although Jesus said nothing about homosexuality but did condemn divorce and remarriage. I don’t see how a democracy can deny equal rights to the protections and benefits of marriage to GBLT citizens. As a Christian it violates Jesus rule regarding loving others as we love ourselves and treating others the way we wish to be treated.

The state cannot consecrate marriage, it can only legalize it. However, many Christians regard legal marriages as consecrated. The Catholic Church does not. The church cannot legalize marriage, it can only consecrate it. However, in America the state regards church weddings as legal, with or without a marriage license. But only for a man and a woman. That is denial of equal protection under the law. Eventually all states will be required to obey the Constitution. That should have no effect on churches and other religious organizations that can consecrate or sanctify marriage. Churches in America have always been able to deny consecrated marriage to whomever they wish.

To me, fair and equal protection under the law is ethical, moral and Christian. That includes women, pregnant women and GBLT citizens. I don’t understand how men in a foreign country can tell some American citizens, especially women, that they don’t have the same rights as other American women because they are employees. Religious freedom was given to We the people, not to they the church.

Churches and other religious, moral and ethical organizations should be in the forefront of the battle for justice and equality for all, even the least, rather than in the rearguard defending injustice and inequality.