In spite of the campaign rhetoric, this election is about everything but the economy. The economy has been little more than a smokescreen for a chance to press the same social agenda that Republicans have pressed for decades, an agenda that rewrites both Christianity and the Constitution.
A small sign of this, but telling nonetheless, was the uproar created when Kay Hill of Round Rock, Texas, was asked to cover up her shirt at her early voting polling station. The shirt said, “Vote the Bible.” While wearing such shirts isn't explicitly illegal in Texas, there are legal restrictions on campaigning in polling places.
She claimed her free speech rights were violated, as did the group Texas Values which now represents her. In her words, “Vote the Bible” doesn't endorse a political party or candidate, just her belief in the bible. Thirty years ago this might seem reasonable. In 2012, however, the position seems a little disingenuous.
The Republican Party has wrapped themselves not just in the flag, but between the pages of the Bible as well. For all her protestations to the contrary, no one doubts that “Vote the Bible” is an endorsement of Mitt Romney and his Party. In fact, the Christian Right has made it clear that the Democratic Party is not the party of the Bible.
In September, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki wrote in Catholic Times:
I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against, but I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.
This is the same disingenuous language, since Paprocki spells out why the Republicans espouse Christian values and Democrats don't.
What are these Christian values? They all involve compelling others to conform to our beliefs:
- We want the right to make others join us in public prayer to the Judeo-Christian god.
- We want pledges to support the nation to be tied to an invocation of our God, forcing those who don't accept his existence to validate our belief.
- We want to force women to practice our life values. It is not enough to to preserve life in our own bodies, we compel other women to do so as well even when they were raped or their health is in jeopardy.
- We don't even want women to have the option to prevent pregnancy.
- We want children to be indoctrinated into the tenets of our faith under the guise of science.
- We want to deny health care to the most needy.
In every case, Christians would scream bloody murder were the tables turned. If we were asked to join in public prayers to Allah, or to public chants to Buddha, we would consider ourselves martyrs (although I can't imagine many American Christians actually willing to die over it). If the pledge contained the phrase “a nation that needs no God for sanction,” we would call it persecution. If women were forced to practice birth control, we would call it injustice. If children were taught “evolution proves there is no God” in social studies textbooks we would scream political indoctrination. If circumcision were made mandatory, we would proclaim ourselves victims of a war on faith.
Jesus never asked us to be the moral arbiters of those who don't follow him. In fact, when I read the Bible, the only one who answers to God for my sins is me, and I do not answer for the sins of others. If we pursue the agenda of the Christian Right, we risk becoming part of the evil ourselves.
I see a darker possibility on the horizon. There may well be a culture war, but it is not a war on Christians so much as a declaration of war by a a few Christian sects on people outside the faith, and even Christians whose faith they feel diverges from theirs. There seems to be a desire to impose their orthodoxy on the rest of us, and, as recent events have proved, the Christian Right feels they are above the law in ways the rest of us aren't.
As to the economy, let's face it. The Republicans' true constituency will do well with a good or bad economy. But if we look at the record of the Republican Congress, it becomes clear they blocked every measure proposed by the administration to create more jobs and improve the economy because those measures wouldn't do it their way.
Jesus is about choice. Your choice. Your choice to follow him. We can only lead the way for others. Faith is not compulsory and to believe otherwise is to be both unChristian and unAmerican.
The supreme irony is that twenty years ago the Christian Right would not have accepted Mitt Romney as one of them. At least they have become more tolerant of someone.