Christianity and the Republican Party

After the 2008 presidential election results were in, I wrote on this site that there probably would be some who counseled that the Republican Party needed to move away from its conservative Christian constituency. I cited the results of the last several elections and concluded that it would be a tactical mistake for Republicans. Sure enough, there have been some things written in favor of Republicans moving to the political center. I expected that from liberal writers, but I was surprised this week to see an article in The Washington Post by moderate columnist Kathleen Parker advocating the move.

So let me try again.

I will concede that some see clear logic in Parker’s position. Church attendance in the United States has reached a plateau while the population has continued to grow, young adults (aged 18-30) have a surprisingly low percentage of church attendance, and hostility to Christianity is increasing (if reader responses to online articles are any indication). In such an environment, it makes sense to Parker and others to downplay Christianity. Her belief is that Christians should make their faith a private thing and not talk about it in relationship to politics.

But there are strong arguments that run counter to Parker’s way of thinking. Number one, just looking at the math of the situation is a strong reason for the Republicans to embrace evangelicals. None of the other demographic groups that are catered to—gays, farmers, environmentalists, African Americans, Latinos, business executives, etc.—have nearly as great a number as evangelicals. If a politician wants to be successful, he/she needs to go for the biggest constituencies available. Evangelicals liked Bush and he got elected twice. They were skittish about McCain, and he failed. These elections were more complicated than just that, but the reality of it can’t be ignored. Well, okay, it can be ignored, but it shouldn’t be.

Two, telling Christians to keep their beliefs private is not a practical suggestion because it is not good for the country, and it doesn’t make sense to the Christians (be they Republican or Democrat). Think of all the Christian groups that have gone down to the Gulf Coast for the last several years to help rebuild. Those who say, “The good deeds are okay, just keep your motivation to yourself,”—they’re missing the point. The good deeds are done to demonstrate the faith. If they had kept their faith to themselves they wouldn’t have made those trips, and countless families would not have benefited. What about all of those who help the needy in so many ways because Jesus said to do so? What about all of the hospitals Christians have started? We hear a lot about preachers who abuse power and fall into sin, but how about all of those Christians who don’t because their faith made them strong? How about all the homes that weren’t broken into and crimes that weren’t committed because Christians didn’t just have private beliefs; they lived them out? Finally, Jesus commanded his disciples to go across the world and spread the Good News and make disciples. If that is what Jesus wants, who are Christians going to listen to—Him or Kathleen Parker?