There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
I was an active member of the Republican Party for many years. I consistently labeled myself a “christian conservative.” I looked at the constitution as a divinely inspired sacred document. In fact, the second most important document in the history of mankind. I worked for a number of elected officials and actively worked to shape the direction of the local party platform. If you veered from any “conservative” principle, I did not consider you a “christian conservative” or even a Republican. i.e. RINO (Republican in Name Only) This might sound familiar to many of you. The point of this post is not to ridicule you for your beliefs, because I assume you are of good intent. What I would like you to reflect on is, has this loyalty compromised your faith in any way? Look deep.
Now aside from my personal experience, Republican and Conservative are terms that have become synonymous. The core of the Republican Party Platform (at least it used to be, and the neo-conservative ideology is centered in capitalism and free-market forces. In fact, any veering from this is immediately labeled “Socialism.” While I believe the ideal role for Government is generally limited, this kind of fundamentalism (strict adherence to a belief system) essentially operates as a religious ideology in that you are sworn to it. As Christians, we cannot serve two masters, and we have to be very careful as to much we strictly adhere to. I would go so far as to warn against loyalty to even party platforms.
Conversely, while I do not have any experience in progressive politics, I mostly find compassionate and/or passionate individuals deeply concerned with human rights. (I know, but abortion right? Too much to get to in this post, but this is the most misunderstood issue in American politics. Very very simply, I see abortion as the symptom of problems not the problem)
Yes, I do see myself lining up with this side of the aisle more often, but there seems to be a disconnect with those who have not yet seen the value of social welfare programs. That disconnect is an expectation problem. As Christians we know that we can’t make things perfect, there is no utopia yet, but we can make things better. The current Democratic Party seems to convey the possibility of a just and equal society. Many would call this hope, but I think it’s false hope. Progress is real, but we have to be realistic about our condition. Progress for different people groups means different things. The party seems to lack forgiveness. To be clear this is not a criticism of the current movement for racial justice. These kinds of movements, while messy, are vital because they sway public opinion. It’s simply better, however, to move the needle on policy instead of striving for ideological purity.
Both of our current political parties have drifted into a firm loyalty requirement on party platforms. This is to be expected because their are only two options. In politics, it’s understood that when someone votes for a candidate they are then invested in that candidate. If that candidate loses, in a way the voter loses. The same is true for political parties. With two options, the other option quickly becomes the enemy. In a politicized world, that problem is magnified. Literally, the system itself is dividing Americans. It’s not the only thing, but it’s significant.
Christians often have difficulty knowing what to do with the rule of law. Add a party platform on top of that and Christians make themselves incredibly vulnerable to dividing their loyalties. Anything can be an idol. When a system makes it impossible for someone to be elected outside of a political party, in effect, you have another government authority. Something those living under single party rule are well aware of. The same is true with a two party system, but it rips the country apart.
The Christian Peacemaker
Reasonable minds can disagree of course, but I don’t think the Christian peacemaker should involve themselves in this kind of system. Instead, the Christian peacemaker should stay active in the fight to advance human rights and equality. This is loving your neighbor. This might mean you align yourself with a particular party in a given election, but not to swear loyalty to a party platform.