Who’s Leaving Who Over Gaza?

Writing for The Hill, Niall Stanage wondered earlier this week whether the Obama administration’s impotent criticism of Israeli actions in Gaza could finally cause the oft-predicted,  never realized shift of American Jewish voters toward the GOP. The answer, I suspect, is no. But while he and others are worrying about shifting opinions and demographic trends among potential voters, perhaps they should take a look at what is already resulting from Israel’s actions.

Evangelical Christians, especially in America, have arguably been the Republican Party’s most dependable group of supporters. There are lots of reasons for this, but the two most important are the GOP’s perceived opposition to abortion and unflinching support for the Zionist element of Israeli politics. These two factors – being pro-life and pro-Zionist – are increasingly at odds. The prevalence of a novel and unbiblical view of Bible prophecy has so far led to the Israeli government getting a pass from American evangelicals, but among younger evangelicals that is no longer a safe assumption. While Jewish voters in the next decade or so aren’t likely to leave the Democratic Party over a bit of meaningless criticism of Israel, the loss of evangelical Christians as an assumed base of support is much more likely to result from Republican support for Israel’s wholesale slaughter of Gazan civilians.


The Lesser Of Evils?

Randy Alcorn has an excellent series of blog posts on the choices faced by Christians in this election. I don’t endorse all of his conclusions, but he has thoughtfully addressed some very divisive issues with a spirit of charity that is too often missing in political writing, mine included.

Reading through the series, I’ve found myself emphatically agreeing with some points, like the religious freedom/abortifacient issue and our individual responsibility to help the poor – and as emphatically disagreeing with others, like the justification of legal plunder for charitable purposes. The debater in me wants to post a fifty point response that no one but my sweetheart will take the time to read. The cynic in me wants to shrug and go do something else because most voters, Christians included, have a bit of a herd mentality and their minds are already made up. But another side of me hopes against hope that as the Republican Party (my party, by the way) abandons the last of its moral principles, the opportunity for evangelical Christians to rethink their perspective on morality and government will not be wasted. That side of me hopefully can respond to Alcorn’s most recent post with the same charity it reflects.

Alcorn asks the question, “Is it wrong to vote for the lesser of evils?” Although I’ve made that argument in the past, I agree with his conclusion. He correctly notes that “to vote for the lesser of two evils is to vote for less evil.” That’s certainly true, and it may even be the duty of a Christian in some cases. His basic objections to third party candidates are also legitimate. What is missing for me, and some other Christians I know, is the conviction that Romney is indeed the lesser evil.

To be sure, on the issues Alcorn has identified as critical there is little or no room for argument. The candidates’ rhetoric on abortion, religious freedom, and (to a lesser extent) welfare issues is widely different. Even if their past records show less of a distinction, Alcorn rightly notes that, given the choices, there is at least good reason to hope that electoral pressures and maturity would make Romney, on these issues, a better President.

So what’s wrong with the conclusion? It seems to take for granted that the issues Christians on the right and left argue about the most are the only issues that matter. But not all of us think so. As I’ve written elsewhere, there are many places where innocent human life is threatened besides in the womb. Alcorn makes the argument that “pro-life” refers specifically to the protection of unborn children. That’s fine, but it doesn’t change the reality that civilians, women and children in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran are equally innocent human lives and, when they are being recklessly killed at our expense by our public servants, have an equal claim on our responsibility.

I don’t like the fact that my tax dollars go to organizations that kill unborn children either. But reinstating the Mexico City policy won’t really help me to sleep better at night, because my tax dollars will still be paying for things like this, and this, and this. And while Obama has been appallingly indifferent to the lives lost in the pursuit of money and power, Romney has promised to double down, accusing Obama of being weak and timid when it comes to killing those who get in our way.

In that light, the choice between Romney and Obama becomes muddled to the point of insignificance. I’ve said for some time that if I vote for Romney (and I still may) it will be a consequence of Obama’s attack on religious freedom, because honestly, I don’t see a meaningful difference when it comes to life. And as a Christian, I’m not willing to limit my concern for innocent human life to the unborn.

By the way, Alcorn partially addressed this particular criticism in an earlier post, where he objected that “… every time I say something about the unborn, those people ask me why I’m not addressing war.” He is absolutely right that many on the “left” raise the issue of war to avoid talking about infanticide. I’m not objecting, however, to advocating for the unborn without simultaneously advocating for others. Obviously different Christians are called to different areas of ministry or feel especially burdened by different aspects of this broken world, and their focus will (and should) reflect that. But I am objecting to the argument that a candidate’s position on abortion should matter more than his position on just war.

I appreciate Randy Alcorn’s willingness to go on the record and his thoughtful approach to this question. But if we judge our standards of evil by all of God’s Word, the answer is not so clear-cut in my mind as it seems to be in his.

Why Do They Hate Us?

I wonder if any question has ever been asked more often with less sincerity. The complete absence of curiosity on this point, especially among my fellow Christian conservatives, is appalling. My head is spinning with the comments I’ve heard just in the last few days from professing believers, some even members of my own denomination, my own church.

“Arabs really are just not nice people,” one friend observed. (Really? Is that as far as your mind is permitted to wander?) “People are people,” I told her. “They need the gospel-” “They’ve rejected the gospel,” she replied decisively.

Who are “they,” I wondered. When did they reject the gospel? What gospel did they reject? Have they ever really heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are the ideas and concepts they associate with Christianity likely to aid in winning them over? Are American Christians doing anything about that? Do American Christians even care?

Put yourself in the shoes of a middle eastern Muslim for a moment. (No, it isn’t an act of treason, and no, you won’t go to hell if you die while doing this exercise.)

Imagine that you were born and raised to believe in one god who expects you to earn your salvation by good deeds and strict adherence to his law. Imagine that every authority you know, from vigilante mobs to religious leaders to the tyrannical government you live under, sees violence as an appropriate response to offensive speech.

Imagine that in your world America is synonymous with Christianity. But you don’t know the America that for so long was a beacon of hope to oppressed people; the America that opened its doors to offer freedom and opportunity to the world’s tired, poor and huddled masses. You know America only as the world’s most powerful and wealthy nation; a “Christian” nation that exports obscenity and imports drugs. You know America as the money behind brutal dictators and the police states they control; as the source of drone attacks that strike without warning and kill indiscriminately; as the proponent of brutal economic sanctions that condemn the poor to a slow death long before the elites in your government feel the pinch. You know America as the land of politicians who think its okay to kill hundreds of thousands of Muslim children to further their own economic interests; as the place where soldiers who kill unarmed civilians in cold blood are protected but soldiers who expose them are mercilessly prosecuted.

Pretend you are an Afghan who survived a drone attack on a wedding that killed your wife and left your child with permanent brain injury. (The US government has since christened your loved ones “militants.”) Or maybe you would rather be a Yemeni whose brother got on the wrong side of local authorities and ended up in Guantanamo. (After four years imprisonment he was cleared but he’s still there ten years out because the US hasn’t found a safe place to release him.) Imagine you are an Iraqi who hailed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein only to watch as professional fear-mongers dismantled your country’s civil institutions and pocketed millions while your society descended into chaos and violence.

Picture yourself as an Iranian father whose daughter is dying because the medication she needs is no longer available. (You’ve demanded an explanation and been told that the US is deliberately using economic sanctions to prevent its importation so that Iranians will die.) Or put yourself in the shoes of a Pakistani whose young son was vaccinated with something by a doctor you later learned was working for the CIA, and he died two months later. (The hospital says it was pneumonia but the talk on the street is that it was the secret substance in the “vaccine.”) “What nonsense!” you say. “Totally irrational!” Of course it is irrational to you and me, but not to someone in that world. They don’t trust their governments any more than you or I would, and they certainly don’t trust our government. Can you blame them?

Imagine … what’s that? You can’t take it anymore? Neither can they. It is true that a crummy you-tube drama doesn’t explain all the recent rage among Muslims. Neither does self-righteous nonsense about Muslims hating us because we’re free. Religion and culture don’t explain it either; while Islamic culture is violent to a great extent, that has been the case for the last 1500 years since the religion was founded. But this visceral anger targeted directly at the west and America in particular is a recent phenomenon – certainly within the last fifty years.

Self-righteous punditry aside, it isn’t the violence that strikes me as senseless. Trying to understand the current outburst of Muslim rage without taking American policies and intervention into account is senseless. Writing off all Muslims for “rejecting” a Gospel they’ve never heard is senseless. Imposing democracy by force on a society that has understandably grown to hate us is senseless. Killing innocent women and children to help dissuade the survivors from becoming terrorists is senseless. Sending American soldiers to die in tribal wars in Afghanistan is senseless. And calling support for such reckless insanity “conservative” is perhaps the most senseless thing of all.