03 November 2016

The 2016 Voters Guide for Good Christians

A friend of mine sent along an email with a list of recommendations for Tuesday's election based on advice from a Craig Huey at Foothills Christian Church. It's like a voter's guide for good Christians. As a fellow Christian, he wanted my opinion about the list. Here is my response.

First of all, I guess some people might prefer to hire a Christian plumber rather than a Jew or agnostic. They might believe that the Christian is less likely to rape your wife when he's come to work on your shower or less likely to spend the money you pay him on pornography or crack cocaine. Let's put aside for a moment whether any of that makes sense or can be backed up by data. Apparently that's what they're doing here: judging the local plumbers - or in this case politicians - as to who is more Christian.

I have lots of problems with this but most can be summarized in this. Would you rather hire an agnostic who is a fantastic plumber who charges reasonable rates or a Christian who does such a bad job that he has to keep coming back out to your house to repair the repairs he did before? And charges you every time he comes back? I don't pretend to know who God loves more but I can judge whether someone is more able at their job than another person. I don't think that politics is any different than plumbing; some people are good at the work and understand people and policies and actually help to lessen traffic congestion or keep us out of wars or do a better job of funding the education and research that lowers the rate of death from cancer, say. And some people - bless their hearts - may be God's absolute favorite on earth but are simply awful at actually implementing any useful policy and get us into foreign entanglements, recessions, fund and approve the design of roads that actually result in more fatalities, fund and approve education that result in lower literacy rates, etc.

I don't put any more stock in a "Christian" evaluation of politicians than I would a "Christian" evaluation of restaurants. So I'll ignore most of this list of recommendations because I don't know what Christianity has to do with any of it anymore than I would pretend to know which hamburger or rocking chair was more Christian.

But let's say that you are worried about religion in America. Let's say that you really do care about you and your friend's ability to worship freely and worry about the government encroaching on that. Fair enough. So let's look for candidates or propositions that threaten that. Which brings us to the very first recommendation on the list: Donald Trump.

Trump talks a lot about the second amendment. The second amendment addresses the right to bear arms. Second, though, suggests that the political geniuses who started our country thought one amendment was even more important and made that first. What is the first amendment? The right to freedom of speech and religion. It reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Trump proposes rejecting this first amendment. He has called for a ban on Muslims coming to this country. This country founded on freedom of religion. This is the very definition of unconstitutional. He is calling for a religious test. We have history on this. We know what happens when a government decides that it wants one religion but not another and it is why our founding fathers wanted religious freedom. People are left - at best - arguing about things they cannot prove ("Allah is more important than Jehovah!" "NO! Christ is more important than Moses!" "Women should have their heads covered!") and at worst fighting for what they cannot prove. (And resorting to violence almost seems inevitable when you're arguing topics that don't yield to any provable evidence. In the century before our country was founded, Europe was devastated by religious wars, attempts to settle this issue of the right religion. The result was that between 5% to 50% of able-bodied men in various regions of Europe were killed, a fatality rate that was multiples of WWI or WWII. A reaction to this tragedy and carnage might easily be the biggest reason our founding fathers were intent on religious freedom, of avoiding Europe's awful mistake of legislating religion.) Our founding fathers not only let people freely choose religions without pretending to know which one was best but even offered freedom FROM religion by rejecting the idea of religious tests as requirements for holding public office. Once you start down the path of deciding which religions are right and which ones are wrong, you open the door to arbitrarily banning any number of religions. Maybe I'm even more sensitive to this than the average person because - like you - I'm a member of a faith that doesn't even make up one-tenth of one percent of the population but I do not want the government - particularly in the form of Trump who cannot quote a single verse from what is supposedly his favorite book - to define what religion is and is not allowed.

So, I reject the notion that being Christian gives someone better insight into who is better able to get legislation and funding to, say, relieve traffic congestion. And to the extent that religion does matter to me, what matters is my freedom to believe without approval from a government. Any "Christian" advice on politics that ignores this attack on the first amendment by starting with a recommendation for Trump is either provided by someone who is clueless about Trump and the first amendment or hopes that you - the reader - are.

Just based on that alone, I'd throw out this guide and simply use your own judgement or that of folks you rely on without regard for whether they are - or consider themselves to be - the right kind of Christian. Once you accept that politicians are no more able to bring down God's blessing or curses on your country than a plumber is able to bring it down on your toilet or sink, it's a little easier to objectively judge who to vote for and how.

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