Thursday, July 12, 2007

17 Rules for Christian Engagement in Politics

I came across this opinion piece from the Associated Baptist Press by David Gushee, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University. In it, he describes the principles of governance for Christian leaders in his “17 Rules for Christian Engagement in Politics” (official sounding, but lacking the pop appeal of the Vatican’s “Drivers’ Ten Commandments)

Gushee reminds his fellow Baptist readers that “we have an audience of one and that we are accountable to Christ alone.” One wonders where constituents fit in...He then goes on to outline his rules:

1. Christian leaders must not officially or unofficially endorse political candidates or a political party.

2. Christian leaders must not distribute essentially partisan or single-issue voter guides that purport to be apolitical or nonpartisan.

3. Christian leaders must not publicly handicap or comment upon the political horse race.

4. Christian leaders must not provide private or public advice to particular politicians, parties, or campaigns concerning how they can strategize in order to win evangelical or Christian votes.

5. Christian leaders must not calibrate their public teachings or writings in order to affect the outcome of political elections or to gain and hold the support of politicians.

6. Christian leaders must not attend political rallies or campaign events of one candidate or party unless they are prepared to attend rallies and events of all candidates and parties.

7. Christian leaders must not invite political candidates to speak in church pulpits or on church grounds unless they are prepared to invite all political candidates of all parties to do so.

8. Christian leaders must not identify the potential or actual victory of any politician as a victory for God or God’s kingdom.

9. Christian leaders must limit their direct contact with politicians or staff in order to avoid even the appearance of undue loyalty or involvement.

10. Christian leaders must not engage in voter registration campaigns or get out the vote efforts aimed at mobilizing the voters of one political party rather than another.

11. Christian leaders must not direct the funds of their organizations toward direct or indirect support for a particular political candidate or party.

12. Christian leaders may not sidestep these rules by drawing a distinction between their activities as a “private individual” over against their service in their public role.

13. Christian leaders must offer Christian proclamation related to the large number of public issues clearly addressed by biblical principles or direct biblical teaching.

14. Christian leaders must encourage Christian people toward active citizenship, including studying the issues and the candidates and testing policy stances and candidates according to biblical criteria.

15. Christian leaders must model and encourage respectful and civil discourse related to significant public issues as well as political candidates.

16. Christian leaders must model and encourage prayer for God-ordained government, its leaders and their policies.

17. Christian leaders must teach and model respect for the constitutional relationship between religion and the state as spelled out in the First Amendment.

It represents a mark distinction from the rhetoric of the big-wigs of the religious right like Dobson, Kennedy, Falwell, Robertson et. al, in its subtlety and in that it seems to take some of the actual teachings of Christ into account rather than falling into the rubric of yet another political -ism.

It is still disturbing, nonetheless, for those of us who believe in the model and the virtue of the separation of church and state (regardless of whether or not that was the original intent of the Founders, as many Christianists now dispute).

In other more volatile regions of the world which lack democratic institutions, religious fundamentalists take control of the governments through violence. In America, it is by working through the democratic system that Christian fundamentalists are steadily and stealthily gaining influence in our government. Either way, government overcome by fundamentalism, be it religious or ideological, poses a hazard to individual liberty as history tragically shows us time and time again.

For good reads on the subject see:

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America by Chris Hedges

Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right by Mel White

The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back by Andrew Sullivan

The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America by Kimberly Blaker (Editor), which I haven’t finished yet, but Dawkins gave it a good review, so what more do you need to know?

Certainly more to come from me on this topic.

1 comment:

Jamelle Bouie said...

What's really interesting about those "17 rules" is that they reflect the "traditional" stance of fundamentalist Christians in the United States. Prior to the Roe v. Wade (or the Civil Rights Movement, depending on who you ask), fundamentalists were essentially disengaged from American politics. This is partly a function of Jesus' admonition to be separate from the world, and it's partly a function of the fundamentalist eschatological viewpoint, regardless, it's certainly nothing new and I think it is another example of a growing fissure in the Christian Right, which is nowhere near as monolithic as it is made out to be.