Toward Clarifying the Blurry Lines Between Faith and Politics

Geography is a fascinating subject.  But one thing you will find is that no matter how much you might like it to be so, not every place is higher ground.  Yes, that is a thinly veiled attempt to cast a metaphor on the political landscape.  But I have been thinking that somewhere in the back of my head for a while now.  The left thinks its concept of liberty and justice is the high ground, while the right thinks its conservatism has captured it. 

But it is very likely that both have lost the advantage of that high ground.  While the right defends the position of the sanctity of unborn life, it neglects the necessities of those that have been born.  The drive from the right to lower taxes and cut services to the poor and needy shows a lack of interest in those in need and a misplaced emphasis on the real value of money.  While the left has pushed for governmentally approved rights for marriage equality for same-sex couples, it has re-written scriptures held sacred by people of faith, re-defining one of the most universal, ancient and revered of social contracts and conventions.

When I see comments like the one I saw only today, that one cannot be pro-choice and a Christian is inflammatory to the point of stifling constructive debate and civil dialog.  By the same token, when I see flagrant disregard for the tenets of faith, even to the point of derision from the left, it speaks to a lack of respect for any other than those in perfectly locked step, mind-controlled unity.  Liberal dogmatism is as damaging as conservative dogmatism.

Before someone reaches the incorrect conclusion that I am in favor of any or every application of abortion, let me be clear:  I distinctly oppose the use of abortion as elective birth control.  I consider it to be a medical procedure of last resort for a defined slate of specific medical conditions.  The recent revelations of the sale of tissues from aborted fetuses, sanitized by officially sanctioned euphemism though it may be, demonstrate the callousness of some so-called health-care providers in this grim business.  Women’s health, even women’s reproductive health goes far beyond the abortion clinic.

At the same time, I cannot support the blanket prohibition of all applications of such a procedure.  To deny such to a woman under some (admittedly rare) medical circumstances may virtually assure her death.  There are no similar medical procedures the legal prohibition or withholding of which would result in near certain death for a man.  Thus, men and women would not be equal, and a woman may suffer for an accident of conception, both her own as a woman and that at the center of the immediate issue. 

Under that rare circumstance, the issue becomes not a matter of convenience but a matter of triage: it is a situation where there are different lives to consider, where doctors and nurses are charged with making a judgment as to which is more likely to survive, granting different care to those that may live yet respecting those that likely will not.

As inflammatory as it may seem, I will use the same language to extend the argument.  I will assert that you cannot call yourself a Christian and support every political policy that would reduce and remove programs that help the poor, the elderly, the disabled, whether young or old.  Most of these measures are ultimately driven by people of wealth who are not satisfied with the wealth they possess but always want more.  They convince people that their views are “conservative” and promote “family values,” but they only conserve their own wealth and sustain their own families.  You cannot promote family values and take food from a hungry child or medicine from the elderly or housing from the disabled. 

The argument will come that such things are biblically assigned to individual acts of charity.  If individual acts of charity could take care of the massive and growing population of the poor and elderly, then surely this would have happened years ago when the dollar bought more and there were fewer in the ranks of the poor and needy.  It never occurred nor will it now, despite the vows and intentions of religious people.  The call from the moneyed class is not, “God has given me resources, let me help!”  It is almost to the point of Marie Antoinette’s vacuous declaration of, “Let them eat cake!”  Their concern is not for the temporal, physical welfare of fellow human beings.  It is for the accumulation of more wealth and power.

I will also make another inflammatory assertion: You cannot call yourself a Christian and support every initiative to remove environmental protection measures and allow for the corruption and polluting of God’s very good creation.  Nearly every one of these initiatives is driven by a corporate entity that has financial interests in the issue.  Make no mistake: environmental stewardship is not cheap.  But the cost of environmental exploitation to the point of ecological collapse is far greater.  You cannot line the pockets of the rich and spoil your environment and expect God to take no notice of what you have done whether directly or by complicity.

I will make yet another inflammatory assertion:  You cannot call yourself a Christian and unquestioningly support any and every military action the government takes.  Again, I accept that there are times when military action is necessary: when there is a clear and present danger to helpless people, action must be taken to protect them.  But when a military endeavor is a thinly veiled adventure to fill the coffers of the corporate members of the military-industrial complex—a phrase popularized by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower—it is neither expedient nor acceptable to risk human life.  When corporate fortunes are made from war profiteering and when those fortunes feed into the wealth of members of the government at the highest levels, and when those conflicts drag on to extend and expand those profits, it is not the righteous application of force as the instrument of divine judgment.  It is merely the oppression of people by those with wealth and power.  When the military force expended is excessive and innocent civilian lives are sacrificed to make a political statement by flexing military muscle, we have overstepped the limit of decency and humanity.

Returning to the earlier discussion regarding pro-life issues, if you say you are pro-life, you must go beyond the delivery room, because life is far more than birth.  If you are pro-life, are you ready individually or corporately as a nation to support that child until she is able to contribute to society?  If you would cut funding to feed her or the thousands born into poverty like her, you are not really pro-life.  Are you willing to provide a good education for a child so that he will be able to get a decent job at a living wage and so add to society rather than only take from it?  If you support cutting funds to schools, keeping teachers over-worked, under-paid and under-appreciated, you are not really pro-life.  Are you willing to make sure that every person has decent shelter, adequate healthcare, enough police and fire fighters to protect them from harm?  If you support the rampant initiatives to cut expenditures to public services, you are not really pro-life.  If you are pro-life, are you willing to take measure to make sure that the environment is clean and safe from toxic wastes and physical hazards for a child so she can grow up without fear of harm, but with appreciation for the world around her?  If you value corporate profits and cheap products more than environmental health and safety, you are not really pro-life.

To be pro-life is to be pro-humanity.  It is to celebrate the unique personhood of every individual at every life stage, for every person is made in the image of God.  It is to respect the dignity of the intellectually disabled and to value the aged and to give comfort to the infirm.  It is to build up the fallen and to have compassion and mercy on those without strength or voice.  To be pro-life, you must be pro-ALL-of-life. 

No political party (and indeed no party platform) has been approved by God.  All such constructs are of human origin, and must be viewed not as divine but for what they are.  Never be blinded by the flash and glitter of one single issue to the exclusion of all others.  A cunning predator lures its prey with a false promise of safety and reward.  Oppressors are the same, whether from the right or the left.  We must see beyond the politics to the reality of real lives.  We must value life above money and people above corporate profits. 

In the end, God will not reward us for how large our bank accounts were in this fallen and imperfect world, but how we invested what was entrusted to us, not only our money but our abilities and time and gifts and talents to the greater good.  In that day, the greatest will not be the ones who have spent their time building fortunes or empires, but the selfless ones who have given of themselves to help others.  That’s not my idea.  Jesus described it very well in Matthew 25.  That’s where you will find the ultimate expression of what it means to be pro-life.      

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