Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What is a Godly Voter?

From the associated press:

Southern Baptists lead get-out-the-vote prayer

By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer 50 minutes ago

Southern Baptists are organizing a nationwide prayer campaign to accompany their values-voter registration drive, seeking spiritual renewal for families and churches, and God's favor for public officials who are guided by the Bible.

The 40/40 Prayer Vigil for Spiritual Revival and National Renewal will run from Sept. 24 through Nov. 2, two days before the general election.

The daily prayers include requests for God's guidance in voting, for the election of more "godly Christians," for God to "help churches find ways to help Christians get to the polls" and for public officials to be protected "from the attacks of Satan."

The effort is a companion program to the iVoteValues registration campaign, which began in 2004 and is jointly led this year by Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant group in the country, and the Family Research Council, a conservative Washington-based advocacy group.

Surveys have found that the majority of white evangelicals support the presumed Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, but with less enthusiasm than they had for previous GOP candidates for the White House. Sen. Barack Obama, who will accept the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday in Denver, has been aggressively reaching out to religious voters.

The Rev. Richard Land, head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the 16.3 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, said Tuesday that more than 1,300 churches have signed up for the prayer campaign so far.

The drive is being promoted by the Southern Baptists' North American Mission Board, through ilivevalues.com and conference calls with pastors. Land hopes that an upcoming promotional DVD can be shown at state Baptist meetings across the country this fall.

"Our vision statement is an American society that affirms and practices Judeo-Christian values rooted in biblical authority," Land said. "America will be better off if people who are voting are seeking God's guidance."

On the one hand, democracy works best with cacophony--with as many voices in disagreement participating as possible. Thus, I would applaud any attempt to mobilize voters...ALL VOTERS. Nonetheless, a good politician may or may not be a "godly Christian." In fact, religious allegiances should not matter when speaking of a good legislator. Perhaps we should be praying for protection against ourselves more than attacks from Satan. Against bad policies, exclusionary legislative maneuvers that may create "tyranny by the majority." The last paragraph is quite startling. What exactly are "Judeo-Christian values." Are they all actually rooted in "biblical authority" or in a rather recent interpretation? Are they values that all Christians and all Jews would agree on? Good luck on that one! Indeed, what is "Judeo-Christian"? According to Terry Todd, historian of American religious history, it is a 20th century invention that arose around WWII. Is biblical authority (something from thousands of years ago) really a good measure for the effective running of a modern society? What would be a governance rooted in biblical authority look like? Surely not anything resembling a democracy or any government system in which regular people have any voice. More like a monarchy or, worse, a theocracy, which would destroy one of our country's truly most cherished values among the religious and non-religious--freedom of religion, which is preserved by that separation of church and state.

Unless, of course, it is a religious / political example of Jesus, who rose up in opposition to the ruling power of the day, tried to interrupt the religio-political status quo, demonstrating against the collusion of religious, political, and economic forces that were having a severely deleterious effect among the poor, the impoverished. The one who tried to include the outcasts of society--the poor, those with less-than-admirable professions, prostitutes, etc. He hung out with drunkards (and was accused of being one himself). To me, this revolutionary and inclusive attitude more closely approximates the platform of the Democratic party than the exclusionary policies of the Republican party. Is this what "Judeo-Christian values rooted in biblical authority" means? Ultimately, in my opinion, it does not matter. If trying to answer What would Jesus do this November, I am not sure that either party would pass muster. He would probably demonstrate against the corruption of the entire political machinery that systemically creates conditions in which poverty arises. In the end, inclusion of as many points of view is best in democracy--not just that of the "Judeo-Christian values."

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