As the GOP continues its journey toward a presidential nominee, I've observed some new requirements for a candidate's acceptability and some enemies that we apparently need to fear.
Here are the new requirements:
A candidate must be able to
1. Prove to be the most conservative of all.
The Republican candidates have dueled over this requirement, as if the most desirable brand of conservatism is the one that is furthest away from the center. There are certainly important things to conserve, and I would think that an open table of debate would be one of them. I'm unclear about how fighting over who's the most conservative accomplishes that.
2. Endorse a faith system that is the most acceptable to the evangelical voting block.
Rick Santorum seems to be doing well in this one. It's interesting to me that when John F. Kennedy was running for office, people feared that a Roman Catholic would allow the US to be run by the Vatican. Now the fear seems to be transferred to the Temple in Salt Lake City. What would we have done if Joe Lieberman had become President? Would it have been Tel Aviv or Yahweh in charge? Would Joe's faith have been enough for evangelicals?
Here are the new enemies:
From what I've been hearing, the Liberals are not the only enemy to fear. Now the Moderates are under suspicion. Is it now undesirable to have someone in office who serves the entire country? Standing firmly in one extreme or the other is better, right? Bad, bad Moderates.
2. Candidates who can't make us evangelicals happy.
Disturbingly, we evangelicals (whoever we really are) come off as a grumpy bunch. The Bible says a lot about joy (the kind that is grounded in Jesus, not the kind that is the result of getting what we want), and it appears that our joy is complete when we get the right candidate in office. So we seem to demand a candidate that bellies up to the bar and meets our demands (and, as one Christian leader has suggested, to awaken "the sleeping giant" of Christianity).
I get worried about this sort of thing. I would hope that USAmerican Christians (and it's a pretty diverse bunch, hardly unified sufficiently to be a sleeping giant) would continue to press upon issues that need to be addressed in our country—like poverty, injustice, immigration—without characterizing ourselves as a powerful political force that can make or break elections.
Isn't our vocation as followers of Jesus different from that? Or is the term "evangelical" now indistinguishable from "conservative Republican?"
I'm not suggested that "liberal Democrat" or "moderate whatevers" would be better. I'm suggesting that we American Christians—particularly the most vocal evangelicals—slow down and revisit the true vocation of followers of Jesus. That's a label that should stand on its own.
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