Sunday, November 21, 2004

Religion and politics

The Herald has an article today, entitled Religion and the vote. The article compares the US and NZ political climates, discussing the "moral vote" that had an influence in the presidential elections and summising who evangelical Christians are likely to vote for next year.

Some Christians see it in terms of a battleground- conservatism versus liberalism, or Christianity versus atheism. Well, of course they would, on the whole the people interviewed were conservatives. Liberals see the diferences are between tolerance and freedom against dogmatism and intolerance.

But what the article incorrectly does is paint all evangelical Christians as conservative and part of the religious right, and would not be likely to support legislation on moral issues such as civil unions or prostitution.

Here's why: The article notes that 167,367 people are evangelical Christians, based on conservative denomination types as per the 2001 census. That assumes that all evangelicals are conservative, it assumes that Christians who don’t go to church are not evangelicals - nor are Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterian or Methodists. It also assumes that evangelical churches such as Brethren, Baptist and Assembly of God are stacked with bible -thumping fundamentalist conservatives, with not a liberal in sight. But there`s liberals among 'em alright. For example, I know someone who works at the Prostitutes Collective who goes to a Baptist Church every Sunday. She is an evangelical and obviously supports prostitution reform. I know many others who support similar legislation that go to these churches every week. Obviously the Herald journalists think that is anathema. The fact is that there are many more evangelicals than the census makes out, just as there may be many more gay people than any census would reveal.

It is fact that some evangelical Christians are liberal, and will not vote United Future or the Christian Heritage Party, but will support prostitution reform and civil unions. They will vote Labour or the Greens. Such as the people in Christians for Civil Unions, for example. Some would see themselves as evangelical liberals, while others would not see themselves as evangelical at all. Still others may not see themselves as liberal, but socialist or neo-conservatives and advocates for justice and mercy.

The Herald Article notes that many evangelicals would be likely to vote either United Future, Christian Heritage or Destiny. Yet leader Peter Dunne, a Catholic, is not a fundamentalist in the narrow sense, nor would he describe himself as evangelical - and he is not about to get into bed with the Christian right in any great hurry. Not that groups such as the Christian Heritage Party would sleep with him anyway.

Brash is no Bush. In terms of the religious vote, Brash will struggle unless he changes tack. He won't appeal to the religious right (perhaps to the economic right, though) due to his views on the Christian faith. He won't appeal to the religious left as he is not sympathetic to human rights or social justice. Helen Clark will appeal more to the religious left than Brash would, but the religious right have had enough of her for a long time now.

In fact many conservative evangelical Christians can't stand wasted vote party Christian Heritage either. A lot of them voted NZ First at the last election, particularly the older ones, whereas others voted United Future thinking their votes would have nore influence.

And they did.


peasant said...

Well said Dave. I used to have a fundamentalist attitude; the sense of us-against-the-world. But now I think transformationalism is much more healty Christian approach to social justice. The media obsession with Destiny serves to alienate NZers from the simple good news of the Gospel:
    "Glory to God in the highest,
    And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

I would like to hear more from erudite Catholic or Baptist priests: it is possible to hold fast to Biblical authority without appearing dogmatic and obnoxious. But this would not provide dramatic copy, and dispel the media-manufactured controversy. Thankfully fundamentalist Christians aren't the only ones whose morality is informed by timeless biblical principles. For the moral truths of the bible apply to all people everywhere, though they may not acknowledge it.

I don't like it when various morally questionable laws are passed, but the sky will not fall. Kiwis remain generally kind and well intentioned. Offensive dogmatism and demonizing other groups does not endear people to the Church and its message.

Anonymous said...

What actually is the churches mission anyway?


peasant said...

I think the church gets its best mission statements from Isaiah 61,
    The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
    because the LORD has anointed me
    to preach good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
    to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
    to comfort all who mourn,
John 17,
    I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
    that all of them may be one, [...]
    May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know
    that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
    Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am [...]
and the Great Commission of Matthew 28:
    "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
    baptizing them in the name of the Father
    and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
    and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
    And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."