There’s no such thing as a perfect Christian. There’s certainly no such thing as a perfect politician. But I’m becoming increasingly frustrated at politicians who can’t seem to take a position on certain societal issues without compromising their faith to score popularity points. Similarly, I tire of Christians who can’t adhere to their faith without allowing it to become a public side-show.
To illustrate, I’ll first offer a few items that have been in the news as of late.
Proposition 8, the California constitutional ban on gay marriage passed by a majority of the state’s voters in 2008, is now being challenged in the Supreme Court. The high court will ultimately decide whether the will of the voters should be overturned, or whether gay marriage will remain a states’ rights issue and avoid a broad federal decision.
In other news, the press has harangued New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for the last few days regarding the issue of “gay conversion therapy.” Democrats in the Garden State created this little controversy just to hang something around the neck of the overwhelmingly popular Governor Christie.
“Gay conversion therapy” is a technique tied to fringe religious institutions that’s aimed at changing a homosexual’s sexual orientation. New Jersey Democrats would have you believe this is rampant in their state and it must be outlawed under the auspices of “abuse”—particularly when it involves parents submitting their children to it.
Meanwhile, a libertarian strain of the Republican Party has been gaining increased traction, led by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Sen. Paul has made overtures recently to suggest the federal government should get out of the business of recognizing marriage and family on any level, no matter the sexuality of the couple involved.
Paul’s position isn’t wildly different than Dick Cheney’s. The former vice president broke with his boss President Bush a few years ago on the issue of amending the Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Cheney, whose daughter is gay, said he felt it was a states’ rights issue, not federal.
In other words, the federal government is best left out of gay marriage—any marriage—as it is with liquor sales, sales tax and automobile registration. (Like most things, if you ask me.)
I don’t know Rand Paul or Dick Cheney’s hearts. I understand them to be Bible-believing men of Christian faith. Do we know the depth of their faith as it applies to each social issue? Nope. And that’s the point. Why should we?
Their public positions have always been rooted in the simple belief that federalism works. More state power, less concentrated federal power. If Kentucky’s voters want to ban gay marriage, but Massachusetts’ voters want to pay for the reception with taxpayer dollars, God Bless America!
Only when the discussion turns to a politician’s personal faith is the politician trapped. And those discussions only happen with Republicans because Democrats long ago quit trying to embrace spirituality to justify or defend anything. They “booed” God at their convention last year, I’ll remind you.
Usually instigated by a media malcontent, faith-based trap questions for pols go as follows: “Do you believe homosexuality is sin? How old do you think the Earth is? How do you feel about abortion and contraception?“
Please don’t conclude I’m suggesting anyone should fear talking about his or her faith proudly and boldly. I’m just warning that if you do, and you’re running for or holding elected office, yours is an especially slippery slope.
Take for instance Governor Christie’s answer to CNN’s Piers Morgan when asked if he thought homosexuality was a sin. The governor said his faith (Catholicism) says it is, but he doesn’t share that view. Florida Senator Marco Rubio was asked the age of the Earth not long ago. He tipped his hat to both science (billions of years) and to certain faith-based denominations (thousands).
What did this do? In my judgment, it made Christie look like a guy willing to compromise or break with his church when it suits him. (Not helpful with your Christian base.) Rubio’s answer made him look insincere on both fronts, and “wacko” to people who believe the science is there.
Then, there are politicians I deeply admire, like Rick Santorum, who speak with great conviction and clarity about their personal faith. So much conviction, in fact, that it seemingly drowns out their political message and becomes a sermon. A huge contingent in this country still believe Santorum (and to a lesser extent, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin) was on some kind of spiritual conquest to lead the nation via the New Testament rather than the Constitution. (Though the country wouldn’t hurt from some New and Old Testament, if you ask me.)
One nation, under God is our pledge. We believe God endowed us with certain unalienable rights as Americans. Christians believe individuals are given free will to follow God’s law, or ignore it. As Americans, we believe in the individual, too.
Giving individuals and their communities and states the ability to govern themselves is a divine privilege that makes America unlike any other country in the world.
If a politician is on the side of allowing me, my church, my state, my community to preserve more of our individual liberty, property, and decision-making, God will judge that politician accordingly. Similarly, God will judge what we choose to do with those liberties and how we choose to live our lives.
This Easter, it is important to remember that to believe in the power and sanctity of individuals is both uniquely American and divine. No elaboration, apologies, or explanations required.