Politics Make Strange Bedfellows!
Hypocrisy in black and White
Evangelical Christianity Vs. Free Market Theology
The Republicans held a Family Forum on recent Saturday, in Iowa, the state where a current poll identified 37% as born-again Christians. Romney and Huntsman did not accept the invitation to discuss the social value concerns of conservatives in Iowa. The new frontrunner, Gingrich, participated, along with Bachmann, Cain, Santorum, Perry and Paul.
In a time when the official unemployment rate is 9 percent, homes are being foreclosed in the millions and the economy is growing at a snail’s pace, the pre-occupation of the electorate is not on social issues but on jobs. But there is the intersection of family, morality and economic policy. In the closing stages of the discourse, the moderator raised the question what is the moral justification for war. As the presidential candidates spoke, the moderator kept repeating the question as no one was willing to wrestle with the moral question of war.
The Republican Party prides itself with having an evangelical base. During the Bush/Rove years of conservative ascendancy at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the mobilization of the evangelical vote was critical to the electoral strategy. It is not surprising that Mitt Romney despite the unpreparedness and moral baggage of his opponents has not been able to increase his percentage of support in the Party above 25 percent. Romney’s baggage is his born-again transformation on abortion. And there is also the hanging question about evangelicals and whether they are willing to accept someone of the Mormon faith as a Christian.
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Ron Paul was a presidential candidate in the previous cycle and as is the case this time around. He has argued that the United States is a world trouble- maker and the troops should return home and the multitude of bases around the world closed. Such a position does not sit well with conservatives or neo-conservatives that support the notion that America must be the policeman of the world and must continue to spend handsomely on national security.
The retort given to the moral justification of war was the moral imperative to protect America’s national interest. Candidates like Santorum, Gingrich, Bachmann and Cain expressed a willingness to order a pre-emptive strike against Iran to halt that country’s development of nuclear weapons.
The Family Forum failed to deal adequately with family or with moral issues. There is a line of march which every Republican candidate is expected to drink from the communal cup. All the candidates are expected to be pro-life although the discussion did not get into the controversial ballot issue that went down in defeat in Mississippi that presumably conception began with the release of the egg.
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All candidates are vehemently opposed to same sex marriage and favor a constitutional amendment that specifies that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. Ron Paul accepted the creed but was opposed to “federalizing” the issue as he felt that is a matter for the church and the states. Family is an important issue in American presidential politics.
Traditionally, America would not elect or select a Party nominee who was divorced. Reagan shattered that tradition. Americans want some family togetherness in the White House. Herman Cain’s campaign has been damaged by the unproven charges of sexual harassment. Newt Gingrich’s divorces will make his candidacy less palatable to those in the evangelical movement.
The question of family goes beyond that of abortion, divorce or same sex marriage. A family is an economic entity and is assisted or affected by public policy. Most advanced European countries offer benefits to a mother after giving birth. The United States in terms of legislation, offers family leave but not a certain amount of financial support after the birth of the child as it is in the case in Canada.
There is a concern for the child until the child leaves the womb. Justification is made for the state to protect life in the womb but once that child has entered the world screaming, the conservative values suffer the same fate as the umbilical cord. In debate after debate, the line of march is that the market is the moral force. When asked about the foreclosure crisis, the candidates invariably bellowed that the market should be allowed to resolve the situation.
The social gospel of Christianity does not synchronize with economic gospel of the market economy. In many respects, this is a peculiarity of American politics. In Brazil and other Latin American countries, liberation theology emerged as a social movement that had its origins in the Catholic Church in the 1970s. The Vatican hierarchy moved decisively to stamp out the social gospel of liberation theology, which took the position that the equitable distribution of wealth and the predicament of the poor were matters that were germane to the mission of the church.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was comfortable connecting the social gospel with the need to fight against the “banality of evil”, using non-violence and mass mobilization throughout the South and elsewhere where Martin Luther King, Jr. fought racism and Jim Crow. The civil rights movement was integrally linked to the black church.
The Family Forum never raised the issue of poverty in America. The Census Bureau has redefined poverty in America and has discovered that over fifty million Americans are in the category of near poor. In a nation of over three hundred million, over a third of the populace are in the precarious position of being poor or near poor yet that is not a burning issue to evangelicals or those concerned with family values.
There is this great disjuncture between the values of Christianity and the market economy. In the 2008 presidential election, there had emerged cracks in the evangelical movement as the younger generation became concerned with issues of poverty and the environment. If the market economy is allowed to be the mechanism for solving all our social problems, there will be a tremendous upsurge of unrest all over the country. People will demand some kind of redress of grievances and demand that the market economy be modified to serve the needs of people who have long since left the womb.
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By: Dr. Basil Wilson
New York City