Monday, November 24, 2008

A Christian Democrat? Hell yes!

Here's part of a column I wrote back in 2004 to explain better-

Plenty of people can’t understand how I can call myself a Christian and remain a registered Democrat. That blows my mind. I mean, I can understand why some Christians would choose to be Republican, why can’t they accept that some Christians may disagree with them on a myriad of issues and that God’s okay with that?

What tactful language should we use to talk about our distinctions? Republicans and Democrats? NeoCons or “Righties” and Progressives? Conservatives and Liberals? None of those labels really work because none of them is clear enough, black and white enough.

Case in point, I strongly believe that massive deficits are grossly irresponsible. That’s a fiscally conservative point of view.

Meanwhile I also think it’s irresponsible to not have any regulations whatsoever on automatic weapons. I happen to think that’s socially conservative- but right-wing Republicans would accuse me of being a liberal for wanting to protect my family from gun violence.

Now, I get that many people identify themselves with the Republican party because it appeals to their religious convictions, their “family values.”

The values of “the right” include personal responsibility, personal morality, living a pious and righteous lifestyle. Traditional families, opportunity, justice, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, free-market competition, defending our way of life, not forfeiting our sovereignty to outside forces, and support for Israel based on what some consider false interpretation of Bible prophecy.

I totally admire and respect most of those values, heck, I share some of them. But please, my dear Republican friends and family members, please allow me to suggest that Democrats actually have values too, and some of them are acceptable:

The values of “the left” include social-responsibility, social-morality, social-justice, fairness, progress, moral leadership in the world, self-government, and community.

The right has literally turned liberal, compromise and tolerance into dirty words. I appreciate that no one should have to compromise their principles, but democracy is about balancing diverse interests, and sometimes pragmatism, practicality and reality require compromise.

I appreciate that we shouldn’t tolerate sin, terrorism, or perversion. But God wants us to tolerate people who are different from us, and people who we disagree with. Jesus ate with the prostitutes, lepers and tax collectors. Jews of His day didn’t even associate with Romans or Samaritans.

I hear you asking, “what about homosexual marriage, what about abortion?” You know what, I’m a Democrat, but I’m not an advocate of gay marriage, but I don’t think we should discriminate against gays or demonize them or allow violence against them.

I’m a Democrat, but I consider myself pro-life. I’m much more comfortable than many liberals with bans on partial birth abortion and the Lacy Peterson law. Safe, legal, but rare.

But I know Democrats who say that they’re pro-choice, not because of feminism or privacy, but because of poverty. They say that they support Roe v. Wade because they hope to reduce unintended pregnancies. That may be misguided, if like me, you consider the baby a life, but as misguided as it is, I can respect it. When you’re a public school teacher you see hundreds of kids who are neglected and abused, their so-called families are plagued with divorce, adultery, drug and alcohol abuse. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe than any child is an accident, God loves each and every one, but Republicans would have to agree that not everyone should be a parent.

I may disagree with my pro-choice friends, but I can try to understand that their opinions are just as based on compassion as mine are. Years ago the GOP tried to distance themselves from the religious right by referring to themselves as a “big tent” with room for everybody, but my experience has been that the Democrats are the real party is a party of inclusion. They respect my individual conscience on difficult issues like abortion.

Former Republican Senator Bob Dole wanted to put inclusion into the 1996 GOP party platform:

“While the party remains steadfast in its commitment to advancing its historic principles and ideals, we also recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing views on issues of personal conscience like abortion and capital punishment. We view this diversity of views as a source of strength, not as a sign of weakness, and we welcome into our ranks all Americans who may hold differing positions on these and other issues. Recognizing that tolerance is a virtue, we are committed to resolving our differences in a spirit of civility, hope and mutual respect.”

Unfortunately the Grand Old Party declined Dole’s proposal, it was adopted in 2000 as part of the Democratic Party Platform.

So, how can I be a Democrat and call myself a Christian? Because the historic principles and ideals the Democrats advance are the same as these in Psalm 146, “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”

No, I will never say that you can’t be a Christian and be a Republican, but I wish that people will stop writing me off as stupid and illegitimate or less of a Christian because I’m a Democrat. We both love our country and what what’s best for it, we just have different notions of what that means. Last time I asked Him, Jesus was still an independent.

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