Thursday, January 24, 2019

Can Christians Be Democrats?

From time to time, the Resurgent writers have some spirited discussions in the back room. That was the case this week after Steve Berman posted his compelling idea for a Christian political party. Eventually, the conversation wound its way around to whether Christians could be Democrats (or vice versa).

The question of Christians and Democrats is not a new one in conservative Christian circles and there is a legitimate question of how Christians can align with a party that supports abortion on demand, rejects Biblical teaching on sexuality and gender, and even goes so far as to support the persecution of their fellow Christians. Often, the assumption from the Christian right is that when it comes to the Democratic Party all Christians have left the building.

As the saying goes, however, when we assume it makes Christ’s mode of transportation into Jerusalem out of you and me. It turns out that there are a lot of self-identified Christians who still consider themselves to be Democrats. A Pew poll of voters in the 2018 midterm elections found that the partisan split among Christians is much more even than you might think. The poll, which breaks down Christians into “Protestant/other” and “Catholic” found that Protestants favor Republicans by a 56-42 margin while Catholics are almost evenly split between the two parties. Party preference of Christians has not changed appreciably in the midterms dating back to 2006.

These numbers might shock many political observers, especially considering the Republican Party’s party’s self-proclaimed status as the Christian Party, but they shouldn’t. As a matter of simple math, black voters lean Democrat by about 90 percent and about 80 percent of blacks identify as Christian.  

Even beyond black Christian voters, who are concentrated heavily in traditional black Protestant denominations, another Pew poll found that most branches of Christianity are more Democrat than Republican. Only Evangelical Protestants are significantly more Republican than Democrat (56 percent), but even then a large minority of evangelicals (28 percent) are Democrat. (Mormons also favor Republicans by 70-19 percent, but I consider them distinct from traditional Christians.) Catholics, historically Black Protestant denominations (such as African Methodist Episcopal and Christian Methodist Episcopal), and Orthodox Christians all lean Democrat. Mainline Protestants are almost evenly split at 44-40 percent with a slight Republican edge. The bottom line is that Republican Christianity is very white and evangelical.

So, a lot of Democrats claim to be Christian. Are they really? After all, how could any Christian support something as heinous as New York’s new abortion law that permits killing full-term unborn babies?

I agree that is a valid question. I’ve known some pro-choice Christians including an ultrasound technician who worked for the OB/GYN who delivered my son. Her rationale was that she didn’t think that parents should have children if they didn’t want them and that abortion was needed to prevent child abuse.

Let me stop right there and say that her argument was not logical and does not withstand factual scrutiny. First, it is abhorrent to think that killing a baby is preferable to birthing an unwanted child. If only planned children were born, the world’s population would probably die out fairly quickly. America’s position as a world leader is already in danger from our declining birth rate. Her assumption also presupposes that parents will never grow to love and appreciate an unwanted child. In the second place, even not considering that abortion is child abuse in and of itself, child abuse rates have risen by more than 500 percent since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Finally, adoption is available as a nonlethal alternative to parents who don’t want to be responsible for their children.

The truth, however, is that a lot of Christians support abortion. Turning to yet another Pew poll (Pew is great for in-depth looks at religion), we see that majorities of most Christian demographics are in favor of legal abortion. Despite the prominence of the Catholic Church in the pro-life movement, Catholics are evenly split on the issue. Even 33 percent of evangelicals are in favor of abortion. At 60 percent, mainline Protestants are the most pro-choice.

The question remains whether support for abortion and the other anti-Christian planks of the Democratic platform are enough to deny salvation to those who believe in Christ. Is being wrong on a political issue and voting for the wrong candidate enough to jeopardize your soul?

The Bible teaches that the way to salvation is to acknowledge that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and under a sentence of death for our transgressions (Romans 6:23). The Biblical formula for salvation is to publicly accept Jesus Christ as your savior and believe that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). Everyone who accepts Christ’s offer of salvation gets it (Romans 10:13). That’s it. Bottom line. Case closed.

But wait, you say, what about Matthew 7:16 where Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits?” Doesn’t that mean that Christians who produce rotten fruit aren’t Christian at all? In the preceding verse, Jesus says to “beware of false prophets” so it isn’t clear from the context that this verse was intended to be directed at lay believers, particularly those whose sin is something so tenuous and indirect as voting for the wrong candidate.

There are numerous Bible verses that make it clear that salvation is based on nothing more than our faith and God’s grace. Other than accepting or rejecting Jesus Christ, there is nothing that we can do or not do that would affect our salvation.

Granted, James does argue that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), but this is an argument that faith should spur good works, not that salvation is dependent on works. In verse 22, James makes this clear when he says, “faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect.”

Some Christians argue that Christians who vote Democrat are either not Christians at all or are backslidden Christians who are ignoring God’s will. This is an example of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy in which a blanket statement is rendered unfalsifiable because a true example can’t be found, similar to the argument that communism works but that “true communism” has never been tried.

I’m not prepared to consign anyone who votes Democrat to hell and others should be cautious in doing so as well. Matthew 7:1-3 warns, “With what judgment you judge, you will be judged.” Are Republican Christians really eager to have God judge them based on their voting habits?

I have a good friend who is an atheist. In 2016, we discussed the nomination of Donald Trump at length and my friend was dumbfounded that conservative Christians in the Republican Party would rally around a man who was unfaithful to his wives (Matthew 5:32, 1 Timothy 3:2), was the owner of casinos (Proverbs 28:19), was sexually immoral (Romans 13:13), who cheated in business dealings (Proverbs 20:23), who was a bigot (Galatians 3:28),who was coarse and vulgar (Ephesians 5:4), who was insulting (Proverbs 15:1), who was unforgiving (Luke 6:32-42), and who was a habitual liar (Proverbs 26:28). When Christians responded to Trump’s faults in 2016 by saying that they weren’t voting for a national pastor, one wag responded that it was a good thing because they couldn’t get much further from pastor material than Donald Trump.

Jesus didn’t command Christians to vote for a fifth conservative justice on the Supreme Court or to block Hillary. He did command us to make disciples and teach the nations “to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:16-20). Have Republican Christians fulfilled this commandment in their embrace of Donald Trump? It’s more likely that as conservative Christians have become more political they have alienated more lost people and contributed to America’s moral decline. The Christian right certainly didn’t help me win my friend to Christ.

Many Christians supported the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy of separating children of illegal immigrants from their families as a tactic to discourage illegal immigration. Even some legal asylum-seekers were separated from their children. How can this intentional abuse of post-born children with Jesus’ admonitions to love and protect children (Matthew 18:2-10) as well as Old Testament instructions to treat foreigners fairly (Deuteronomy 10:19)? Enforcing the law is one thing, but intentionally treating migrants harshly is something quite different. This is especially true when some of the families may never be reunited.

Some Republicans have gone even further and replaced Jesus with Donald Trump. Some Republicans have made comparisons not only between Donald Trump and the Biblical Kings David and Cyrus but between Trump and Jesus Christ himself. In 2017, conservative artist Jon McNaughton painted a picture of Donald Trump that depicted the president standing on a dead snake’s head, a clear reference to messianic prophecy (Genesis 3:15). Just before the 2018 elections, a group posted a billboard near St. Louis that depicted President Trump and said, “The Word became flesh… - John 1:14” with the slogan, “Make the Gospel great again.” In that verse, “the Word” is Jesus. The Washington Times even ran a Thanksgiving piece titled, “Time to give thanks for all God, Trump have provided.” Social media is replete with memes and videos comparing Donald Trump to Jesus, some are satirical and some are serious and it can be hard to tell which is which, but equating Donald Trump, a mortal man, with the son of God is heretical as well as being a violation of the First Commandment (Exodus 20:3).

It boils down the fact that conservative Christians who judge Democratic Christians are making the same error as liberals who claim that conservatives don’t care about [insert interest group here] because they don’t sign on to liberal policy prescriptions. No one knows what is in someone else’s heart. Their salvation is between them and God.

It seems that neither party can really be termed a Christian party even though Christians support both parties. I tend to think of the Democrats as heathens and Republicans as Pharisees. Democrats don’t seem to know or care what the Bible says while some Republicans have replaced Christian love with legalism and others have moved all the way to idol worship. Together, the two branches of political Christianity sound like the lukewarm church of Revelation 3.

Thank God that our salvation does not depend upon ourselves! We would all be in deep trouble if it were up to us to earn or keep salvation through our own good works in a fallen world that is filled with temptation.

So how would Jesus vote? It seems that both parties have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I’m not sure that Jesus would vote at all. He was focused on the kingdom of heaven rather than the kingdoms of men. I’m certain that Jesus would mourn for the hundreds of thousands of murdered American babies, but I’m also certain that he would weep for the young children ripped from the arms of their parents.

I think the key is in Abraham Lincoln’s answer to the question of whether he thought God was on the side of the Union. Lincoln replied, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” Christians should put aside their partisan filters and make sure they are on God’s side.

Originally published on The Resurgent

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