Unmixed Religion and Politics

I was talking to an evangelical Christian woman yesterday and mentioned that I had watched the Vice Presidential debate in the wee hours of Friday morning. She asked who I was supporting in the election. I told her I wanted to vote for Palin and would take McCain since he was part of the ticket.

I could tell from the look on her face that she wasn’t impressed. She asked if I didn’t like Obama. I said that his only policy view of any substance was his support for killing as many babies as possible by removing any federal restrictions on abortion funding. She didn’t say anything, but I could tell she wasn’t impressed.

What a different culture this is. If she had been an American with the same evangelical theology, I would have been shocked that not only was she not supporting the Republican ticket, but that she wasn’t pro-life. It reminded me of the first time I visited the UK and met an evangelical who was a socialist. I had never imagined the possiblity that a person could be both.

Just like Brits are surprised that Americans can mix religion and politics, as an American I still find it surprising that so many Brits can’t. This is a very compartmentalised society. That being said, the compartment containing religion is usually very small, if not being loaned out to some other interest. There seems to be very little awareness that beliefs underpin worldviews which inform actions.

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6 Responses to “Unmixed Religion and Politics”

  1. André Eler Says:

    very interesting blog. Maybe the british culture of not paying attention to religion in politics comes from its own religion (since William of Orange the Church of England has been established). The religion establishment in US isn’t so strong – but it is in an individual level.
    Friends and I make an analysis of religion press coverture in Brazil – and of course we talk about american elections too. Portuguese readers, visit: http://unidospelafe.wordpress.com/

  2. Steve Says:

    I have some Brit friends who went to America for a couple of years ot work for an evangelistic organisation in Colorado Springs, and were surprised (and quite horrified) at the assuptions of many American evangelicals that being Christian meant they should support right-wing political causes. They were also quite horrified at the Amercan health-care system, and at the belief of Americans that it was superior to the British “socialist” one.

    Their conclusion was that many Americans compartmentalised their thinking, and failed to see the political and social implications of their Christian faith, but shut their minds to that, and had two separate sets of values — a Christian one for church, and a political and social one for the rest of life, but the political and social one tended to invade the church, so instead of the church being a leaven in society, it was being conformed to this world.

    You can read some of their thoughts on American right-wing evangelicals here God-Word-Think: Israel expert unchallenged
    This can be seen in many adverisements of “Christian” cards and church bulletin covers, many of which show nothing but the US flag — it’s nationalism covered with a very thin Christian veneer.

  3. sol Says:

    Steve,

    Starting with the last bit first, the blog post to which you linked seems to be mostly about the views of Prof Paul Eidelberg, who is a Jew. The only thing which could be said to reflect Christian views would seem to be the failure of ASSIST New Service to challenge Eidelberg’s views. I don’t know the situation in which Prof Eidelberg was interviewed and thus whether it would have been appropriate to have challenged him rather than just take in his views. That such a challenge in an interview was appropriate seems a significant assumption on the part of Richard at God-Word-Think.

    ASSIST doesn’t seem to be the product of typical right-wing American evangelicals, given that it is the run by a British evangelical.

    I was already aware that Brits are as horrified by the idea of modified capitalist medicine as Americans are horrified by the prospect of socialised medicine. I say modified, since Congress spends a greater percentage of the federal budget on health care (21% just on Medicare and Medicaid in FY 2007) than Parliament does of the UK budget (18% in 2007-08).

    But here is where I think you are wrong. American evangelicals do see the political and social implication of their Christian faith. They realise that the Bible never suggests that the State should redistribute wealth. They realise that if you give power to an institution when there is no theological foundation that such institution should have said power, that institution can do little other than abuse that power. They see the evidence of this in the LBJ’s War on Poverty and its progeny, with generationally institutionalised poverty based upon an system of entitlements, when Scripture never suggested an entitlement anything other than work. Even in the gleaning laws of the OT, it was up to those who needed to grain to work to get it.

    It was the view of many of the Founding Fathers of the American Republic that the church should not just be the leaven of society, but of the government. As such it should remind the government to keep to its place society and not extend itself to the responsibilities of the church.

  4. Steve Says:

    I didn’t refer you to Richard’s post for the views of Eidelberg, but rather for Richard’s response to them as a British evangelical.

    There are definite differences in culture between Evangelicals (and other Christian groups) in different countries, but these change over time. For example 40 years ago South African Evangelicals were largely of the view that “religion and politics don’t mix”, and therefore rarely criticised apartheid. A few of them (perhaps under the influence of the nascent American “religious right”) were quite vociferous in their support of it.

  5. sol Says:

    Richard’s response is indicative of the fact that British evangelical tend to be less Zionist than their American counterparts, which I think has more to do with the way in which dispensational theology reached it’s zenith in America in the 1970s, rather than anything to do with the rise of the religious right and the heavier mixture of religion and politics beginning in the 1980s.

    I don’t think the religious right in American was particularly supportive of apartheid. I know that many conservatives in America, regardless of their religious persuasion, were much more worried because the end of apartheid would mean that the Communist-supported ANC would come into power, and as is the nature of American politics they favoured segregated capitalism over integrated communism. This was compounded by news coverage of the Maoist PAC and “One Settler, One Bullet”. As it turned out, apartheid ended about the same time that communism became completely discredited, and these fears were never realised.

  6. Moral equivalence: war and abortion « Khanya Says:

    […] as “fetus fetishists”, nor those who seek to convince us it is the supreme, if not the only issue to be taken into account when voting in elections. But it certainly makes sense to me. Here are a couple of snippets, but go and read it and see. […]


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