Thursday, November 29, 2012

"How Christians Should Vote"

So the article from my previous post was the impetus I needed to finally download Tony Evans' How Christians Should Vote. I'm really torn as to whether the book is great, or more political propaganda in palatable packaging.

This book highlights a recent revelation I've been having around the importance of subtext. In this case, I really can't say there's anything I disagree with in his advice on how Christians should approach the voting process. He considers voting and civil involvement a Biblically mandated social responsibility (I've had a couple of friends insist that Christians should remove themselves from the process altogether to remain uncorrupted in God's sight). He insists that character matters and that conduct outside of the political office cannot be 100% separated from conduct within. He advocates allegiance to God over party (my non-party affiliated self swelled with pride at that point) and many times explains that we are to carefully and prayerfully weigh issues and candidates individually. So yeah...all stuff I agree with.

...still...there were two points that stuck in my craw. First, he makes a point...points rather, of clearly laying out the demons of socialism...the sloth and reliance it can create...the worship of government over God that it may grow to foster. Yet, there is no mention of the potential dangers of capitalism (the word "capitalism" appears 0 times and when something isn't named, it's much less likely to be critiqued in the reader's mind) in potential for self-worship and its fertilization of greed. This leaves the faint and lasting impression that systems of socialism, fascism and communism are "not of God" and the alternative is. Considering that all man-made systems of government and economics are subject to the same failings we posses, I found this a bit (or possibly highly) telling. I was glad though, to not see him fall back on the cop-out of touting theocracy as the preferred system of government. We know that would be preferable, but God has left us to rule ourselves and we must make decisions, difficult though they may be.

The second...I got the feeling that Dr. Evans is reaching when he claims that "A constitutional republic is the biblical form of government God gave to Moses." He goes on to explain that the founding fathers emulated this system when setting up the American government because they wanted a government founded on the will of the people, but subject to a constitution which in turn was interpreted by leaders guided by God. He then explains that in Exodus 18:17-27, Moses set up a "bottom-up system" of rule where the people had representatives who were lead by God. This all follows his stating that "democracy" isn't mentioned in our founding documents (neither are "Jesus" or "capitalism" by the way) and how democracy can easily result in 51% "mobocracy" in a section labeled "The Tyranny of the 51%".

The concept had me curious though, so I had to check out Exodus. It's quite apparent that Moses selected the representatives, leaving this system, from what I can tell, anything but bottom-up. It was inherently top-down...from God, to Moses, to the representatives, to the people. Which left me wondering how this system could be described by anyone as a government "of the people". This is where I think, Dr. Evans ran into the conundrum that faces so many American Christian conservatives. Much of the Bible points to top-down systems of governing...from the spheres of the personal, to the home to the church to society as a whole. The logical progression here, is to monarchs and popes--people supposedly appointed and lead by God...the very things America's founders fled. But, no one west of the Atlantic wants to say that the Catholics and the English got it right, or worse, that American and Protestant ideals of government are no more effective or Godly in the long run.

I am no huge fan of democracy...I see too much stupidity in individual decision making, too much prejudice, too little thought and too much laziness of character to be one...BUT, I do still believe that, if we are to govern ourselves, that all of us should have a say. I believe democracy should play a part in our governmental processes. What put me off most in his critique of democracy though, is that it implies that God's power is somehow limited if we choose if a choice in government is our way of giving God permission to influence our political lives.

As I was writing this, I ran across a statement that I missed. Dr. Evans says, "...the church could influence through uniting and offering up its own party candidate". I find the idea of the church uniting almost humorous in a country that houses more that 40,000 Christian denominations. I also find it a bit puzzling as to how a candidate would be selected considering that relatively few issues of government are actually moral ones--but that's a topic for another day.

My stuck craw boils down to this--while Evans outright says that God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, his writing is bent quite squarely against the central tenants of the Democratic party--and so I have a hard time calling this an even-handed book on anything but a superficial level (perhaps that wasn't his goal). It's definitely a good read though, especially for Christians that tend to be 1-issue voters or plagued by conscience when they don't give in to moral bullying around one or two fad-issues. 

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