So Obama has won, more convincingly than many expected. Many christians will be worried by this, yet there seems to be a number of christians taking a different line.
The US christian right
It is a truism that, in general, the US evangelical church supports the Republican party. The main foundation of their support seems to be opposition to abortion and gay marriage, plus patriotism, national security, and suspicion about giving any government any more power than is minimally necessary. This seems to lead to opposition to new taxes, gun control and government funded medical care, and, apparently, a greater willingness for America to go to war.
So Barack Obama pressed a few of their buttons, with his support for abortion and gay marriage, his universal healthcare scheme and the crazy rumours he was a Muslim not even eligible to be President. Accordingly, the evangelical church was strong it its support for Mitt Romney – for example, both Billy Graham and son Franklin went public urging christians to vote for candidates who supported Biblical morality, which meant Romney over Obama.
This support was widespread – see Why Evangelicals Are Supporting Romney (on the basis that “abortion is the supreme moral issue of our time”), Evangelical support grows for Romney and Evangelicals for Mitt.
But I have found several christian blogs that are not following this line:
Micael Greenholm quotes author Ken Boyd arguing that the US has never been a christian nation, despite the high number of christians, because “it’s impossible for any version of the kingdom of the world to be Christlike for the simple reason that they participate in a system of dominion that necessarily places its trust in the power of the sword.”
Micael suggests that Americans are “bireligious”: “Conservative patriotism is exercised as a religion parallel with their Christian beliefs.”
Brooke Collier is concerned that too many christians isolate abortion as the main moral issue and don’t seem concerned about “economic justice, earth care, human rights, etc”.
She very tentatively suggests that the best way to reduce the number of abortions may be to create the social conditions and care for families so abortion doesn’t so often become the “solution” to their problems. She challenges christians to “take on personal responsibility and commitment to the welfare of their neighbors”.
“Sacred Struggler” grew up in a Republican-favouring christian environment, but turned away from the Republican party after President Bush led the US into two wars. She was “pro-life”, but decided that must mean she was pro-life after birth as well as before it, and hence not pro-war.
She came to see that “pro-life” includes providing for people who are struggling. Healthcare should not depend on being able to afford it, and unemployed people need to be given help in life also (her parents benefited from Obama’s social security).
Bible scholar Ben Witherington suggested that “pro-life” should include being pro “the things that make for a good and healthy and moral life, not just any sort of life”, and hence opposed to unhealthy pollution.
Is this a trend?
Confining christian morality to issues like abortion and gay marriage doesn’t do justice to the New Testament. Jesus said more about money than anything else, he taught non-violence, and the Bible says a lot about caring for the poor. It is ironical that the christian right seems to take different views to Jesus on these matters.
The younger generation is more likely to be opposed to war, committed to environmental action and care for the under-privileged, and not so concerned about gay marriage. This includes many younger christians.
I think change is coming. I would like to think that the christian right reconsiders some of its priorities and broadens its understanding of morality.
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons