Political Evolution

Four short years ago there was another presidential election happening. I was a committed conservative back then, as I had been since the latter part of the 90’s when I started going to a Baptist Church. Everyone, or everyone who had anything to say about politics, at that church was a Republican. So, that’s what I became. Without really thinking about it, and based solely on the platform of being pro-life, I jumped ship and became a Republican. It seemed like that was the thing to do.

What a difference four years can make. After moving to Minnesota we joined a church that was more conservative (religiously, not necessarily politically) and further right than our other church had ever been and I began really thinking about this movement I was a part of, this wing of Christianity. I began to see a lack of love for people who were outside the “fold” and it started to really bother my conscience. My issues with that branch of Christianity make for another blog post entirely, but let’s just say that in right-wing Christianity, religion and politics are very closely tied and if you begin to wonder about one, you begin to wonder about the other. So once I started to question my religious views, I also started to question my politics. What I soon realized is that much of Evangelical Christianity has become very inward and very much a navel-gazing point of view, where the focus is you and your sin problems and your family and protecting us and ours from the evils of the world. This view can’t help but feed directly into a certain set of political views and policy choices which aim at protecting a set of morals deemed important by the powers that be, namely anti-abortion principles and marriage laws, while completely ignoring other moral issues such as income inequality, poverty, health care, etc.

Shortly after the 2008 election, there came into my life a set of more liberal voices, a few from Minnesota and two from back home, who started to bring up issues about the plight of people here in America and the consequences of our last 30 years of politics that I could no longer ignore. I started working at the University of Minnesota and reading a ton about life in inner-city Chicago, about the opportunities, or lack there of, for people born into poverty. Gradually I realized that I was a promoter of the mantra of the American Dream, of the whole pick-your-self-up-by-your-bootstraps type of thinking despite the fact that research and data show that many people simply don’t have the opportunity to do so. I started to become aware of what is essentially an American caste system where upward mobility is not actually an option for many because of our economic policies. Then one day, it happened. I was sitting in my car listening to a scathing broadcast on welfare by a well-known conservative radio host and I realized, “Holy crap. These people hate poor people. I, by ascribing to these views, hate poor people. ”  And although I had been in this process of political evolution, that was my lightbulb moment, a moment of political conversion of sorts.

I started examining every view I held, and why I held it. What I realized is that I had never REALLY thought about these things. I just got on the bandwagon because that is what right-wing Christianity implied that I should do. I was “pro-life” but anti-people. Anti-gay, anti-poor, anti-woman, anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-social justice. And somewhere along the way the Christians here in America have gotten themselves convinced that these views which promote hatred for people are right in line with the teachings of Jesus.  Somehow loving Jesus has become hating the world and everyone in it.

I know the response, “We don’t hate people. We would never say we hate people. We love people.” But, what I have come to realize is that if we are not doing things to actively love people, we are passively hating them. If we refuse to stand on a platform of taking care of people, if we are anti-assistance, anti-healthcare, anti-immigrant, then regardless of what our words say, there is no love in our actions. We will save babies, but leave them to starve? We will save babies, but demand their parents be deported? We will save babies but not provide them and their families with healthcare?

A very wise liberal friend told me, at the beginning of my journey, that there is no amoral public policy. There is no political decision that does not carry moral implications. The problem is that right-wing Christians seem to have determined that one set of morals is more important than the other. I disagree. I disagree. I disagree. I can’t subscribe to this point of view. Another friend here in Minnesota told me once that he is pro-people. I like that term. That is what I choose to be, pro-people. I won’t put myself in a political bucket. I refuse to ride on ANY bandwagon anymore. But what I do choose is to support candidates and policies that seek to bring good to people. If that makes me a lefty, then so be it.

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3 thoughts on “Political Evolution”

  1. My wake up call about political identity came when I realized how very anti-death penalty I am. I think your political identity does depend so much on where you are in this country. I would have considered myself conservative in any environment – until I found myself debating against forced sterilization in TN! I’ve come to realize I probably identify as conservative because we live in NJ and I’m comfortable with many of the balances that have been struck over health care, public assistance, civil unions and now gay marriage, etc in this state, and see most of our problems arising from our all-powerful teacher’s union and race problems that go way deeper than any political rhetoric might suggest.

    I guess my conclusion is that the wildly divergent views created by the two-party system are the result of a huge grey area at the center of the extremes, and the nature of political elections is to seize on those extremes and offer all or nothing choices so people have to pick a party. I almost suspect that the parties got together at some point and picked issues out of a hat, because to me at least there are definite inconsistencies. 🙂 Maybe this creates more participation in terms of voting, but it certainly doesn’t create candidates who reflect the realistic expectations of the people. Unless we scrap the whole system and start over, the best way to achieve something reasonable inside that grey middle ground is to allow for those politicians to incite ridiculous fears and mislead the masses at the extremes, and then let the compromising begin. It’s a process described in the federalist papers and it’s worked terribly so far (but just a bit better than any other political system, in my opinion). In practice, I think candidates need to push the envelope when they campaign. I voted for McCain in the last election because it seemed he had the more moderate track record (and a longer one), and I think he essentially lost because he didn’t mobilize the craziest portion of Republicans.

    As a side note, I’m also unsure how we should feel about the more structured religious denominations. On one hand, there is less of an ability to adapt to the culture to reach people, on the other hand, there is so much more power behind an organized church. As crazy as Catholicism can be, look at how powerfully the church has impacted the world. Entire continents know about Jesus and have received aid through this organization while we protestants sit around debating theology and why exactly our church is different from that church down the street, and forget all about acting on behalf of Christ in the world.

    Bottom line: why aren’t you in NJ? 🙂

    1. I love your take on the situation and your insights! Thank you! You make some excellent points. And, well, I’m not in New Jersey for several reasons. The one being I actually kind of like it here…now. And it’s so darn expensive there. And, quite frankly, I’m too lazy to move AGAIN 🙂

      _____________________________________________________

      I just read your response to Chris, Grace. You are so right about the inconsistencies in viewpoints. Being pro-life does not jive with being pro-death penalty for sure.

      We also loved your point about protestant churches sitting around conversing about theology and why we are different from one another while other groups reach the world. This is precisely one of our main objections. Thanks again for your response.

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