Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Re: Church Voting Guides

I believe that churches and religious organizations have a right to distribute voting guides and maintain their tax-exempt status, so long as they focus on issues and avoid endorsing candidates. But I would prefer that these guides stick to issues pertinent to the faith tradition that is distributing. I bring this up because this voting guide being distributed in the Sunshine State by the Christian Coalition and the Florida Family Policy Council is making the rounds on the Internet. Among the issues it lifts up are the candidates' stances on a flat tax structure, English as an official language, and a Constitutional amendment banning flag desecration.

I'm having trouble making connections between these issues and Christian Scripture and theology. One might be able to use Scripture (particularly the law, the prophets, and some of Jesus' parables) to make a convincing, albeit anachronistic, case for a progressive tax structure; but I'm not sure how one makes a distinctly Christian case for a flat tax. I think that Christians should be concerned about tax policy and that a Christian voting guide should take a serious look at what each candidate proposes, but implying that a flat tax is somehow more Christian than other forms of taxation is troublesome. Likewise, I can't see how one would make a biblical argument for English as an official language. One might use the Pentecost story to make a case for a multilingual, multicultural society; but overall the Bible doesn't really say anything about official national languages. Flag burning as a Christian issue is also a stretch. God might be bothered that we would treat a national symbol with such reverence that we'd amend our Constitution to protect it, but I don't think people on either side of this issue would have much success using Scripture or Christian theology to bolster their cause.

Of course, this voting guide has all the usual stuff about abortion and homosexuality, which are more relevant than the issues mentioned above, even though we have no record of Jesus ever mentioning either. Absent from this guide are poverty and sickness, both of which were central to Jesus' earthly ministry. While Christians can and do disagree on the best ways to address these issues, one cannot say that they should not be important to Christian voters. Also missing is stewardship of God's creation, which, in addition to preserving the environment, involves making sure that all of God's children have food, clean water, and other essential resources. This is a key theme in the Pentateuch and Torah that comes up in different ways throughout Scripture.

Again, I have no problem with churches distributing voting guides; I'm just not sure what makes this particular church voting guide relevant for Christian voters. And while I probably shouldn't focus so much on this one guide, I think that it is indicative of a bigger problem when it comes to Christians and politics. We have a tendency to mix our faith and politics without thinking critically about what Scripture and Christian theology have to say (or don't have to say) about the issues. Anyway, I've spent way too much time on this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

we were just talking about how to make the UMC's voting guide available in our church. interesting post...made me look at everything one more time.

12:02 PM  

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