Our Political Battles Choose Us — We Don’t Get to Choose Them
Posted on September 8, 2012
I promised Uri Brito, a friend, pastor and zealot for Jesus Christ that I’d respond to his irenic post on political strategy. I told Uri’s fine congregation last May that if I lived in Pensacola, I’d attend his church just to hear (and watch) him sing. What a rare and gifted man of God.
Uri and I agree on most issues: (1) that conservative Christians shouldn’t be wedded inextricably to the Republican Party; (2) that conservative Christians aren’t required to abandon the Republican Party; (3) that bomb-lobbers on all sides of political disputes should cool their jets; (4) that cultural dominion by cataclysm is a dead end — and un-Biblical to boot; (5) that Abraham Kuyper is a suitably paradigmatic figure in the formation of a Christian social theory; (6) that God is on our side and that Jesus’ kingdom will triumph before the Second Advent (postmillennialism); and (7) that “[w]e need more virtuous Christian dialogue.” Uri himself models that dialogue.
I believe there are only a couple of areas in which we’d disagree:
(1). That “the economic and moral journey of the Republican Party in the last 30 years [is judged] to be abysmal.” Economically, Republicans have spent at times nearly as eagerly as Democrats (George W. Bush was especially reckless in this regard), but in my view the Republicans have become vastly more Biblical in their moral positions (and I must mention that economics, too, is a moral issue) than 40 years ago. It’s imperative to recall that the Republican Party in the late 60’s and early 70’s was dominated by The Eastern Establishment (Nelson Rockefeller), mild Midwesterners (Gerald Ford and Eisenhower types) and anti-Communist foreign policy realists (Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger). Barry Goldwater had been crushed by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. He was basically a libertarian — including on social issues, supporting abortion, in fact (later in life he lamented that the Party has fallen in to the hands of “religious kooks” and defended gay marriage). The point is that no serious Republican presidential contender from 1950 to 1980 (Reagan in 1976 excepted) could be a contender in the Republican Party today. Since Reagan, the party has become vastly more Biblical and outspoken on most social issues, largely the result of the burgeoning Southern influence on the Party. Reagan himself evolved into a more Biblically shaped conservative during his presidency. So, I find it hard to see how “the . . . moral journey of the Republican Party in the last 30 years [has been] abysmal.” If anything, they are headed in the “right” direction, though I do hope that Paul Ryan’s principles of severely limited spending will prevail.
I should mention too that almost all of these Republicans have been hawks. Pre-World War II Republicans were often doves (“non-interventionists”), but the threat of European fascism and global communism pressed the party into a more aggressive foreign policy, just as the Vietnam War moved a previously hawkish Democratic Party into dovish dithers. Reagan’s aggressively hawkish policy toward communism helped spell its demise, so at least that policy seems to have been pragmatically justified on the greatest existential threat to the United States (and the world) in the 20th century. It is also, in my view, Biblically justified, holding as I do the validity of the crusade and preventive war (see Harold O. J. Brown’s contribution), not to traditional Just War Theory, which tends to be shaped by natural law, not the Bible. That thorny discussion I must leave for another time!
(2) I don’t believe we have the luxury of sitting out a vote just because we’re annoyed by the deep failings of the candidate most manifesting Christian-influenced policies. God calls us to be faithful in the situation in which he places us. And that means working within the system in which he places us — as long as we don’t sin in doing it. This is why it was impermissible for Moses’ parents to collude in infanticide but permissible for the son for whom they risked their lives to be reared as a pagan emperor’s son. This is why it was impermissible for the three Hebrew boys to worship an idol but permissible for them to serve a pagan king. This is why it was impermissible for Daniel to avoid public prayer but permissible of him to rule a pagan kingdom. It seems this is one of the main points Jim Jordan was trying to make recently.
My view on what godly voting looks like in a traditional two-party constitutional democracy explains more specifically why I don’t believe we can just sit out significant elections, but I respect devout Christians like Uri who might disagree.