Candidates: I Don't Want to Hear about Your Faith

I Am Not Going To Vote for You 
because You're an Evangelical

And then there were five. 

I know I am cynical, but I am confident it would be near impossible to run for the Republican nomination for President unless you talk about your faith. Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, made a big deal of his being born again. Gerald Ford had to respond that he, too, had been born again, though, as an Episcopalian, he may have meant, "I've been baptized." Ronald Reagan, who was not much of a church goer, made much of his faith and appealed to the Religious Right. You can't imagine a serious Republican candidate today getting away with, "I was baptized a Lutheran, but turned away from religion in college. I am not a practicing Christian." Grassroots Republicans want their candidates to be religious, though they are not all that concerned with how that works out.

Donald Trump is a Presbyterian of the mainline variety. Ted Cruz is a Southern Baptist. Marco Rubio is a Roman Catholic (who often attends a SBC church). John Kasich belongs to the Anglican Church in North America. Ben Carson is Seventh Day Adventist. All have spoken on numerous occasions about their faith. 

Trump is the sort of Presbyterian who found Norman Vincent Peale's positive thinking appealing. Presbyterians of the sort among whom I grew would say, "He doesn't really know the Lord." Cruz has the strongest claim to be an evangelical and is a part of the evangelical sub-culture. Rubio, though remaining a practicing Roman Catholic, often talks like an evangelical. Kasich is a conservative Episcopalian, the sort that evangelicals find strange because Episcopalians don't talk about being born again or getting saved but do talk about sacraments. Then there is Carson, who is evangelical or not depending of what you think of Adventism.

Right now many are baffled as to why Trump is doing so well with evangelical voters, and why Cruz, who should have them locked up, is not doing better. One explanation is that Cruz is getting the evangelicals who take their faith neat while Trump is winning evangelicals who take their faith with a splash on the rocks. In other words, the minority, the good evangelical Christians, are going for Cruz, while the majority, the not so good evangelical Christians, are going for Trump.

There is another, not contradictory, explanation. The evangelicals who favor Trump don't care so much about Trump's personal faith. What they care about and are responding to are his issues and his promises to make America great again, to end illegal immigration, to stop the inflow of Muslim refugees, to do something about Obamacare, to make the world economic system more responsive to America's interests, etc. They are not too concerned about his three marriages, how recently he changed his mind on abortion, his church attendance, his calling Paul's second letter to the Corinthians Two Corinthians, his lack of awareness of sin or need for forgiveness, or his dropping a "damn" or "hell" into his speeches. 

The large number of evangelicals who are voting for Trump think the country is in decline, that the "people in Washington" either don't know what to do or are unwilling to do it, and that to turn things around it will take a strong man, like a successful businessman, who knows how to cajole, bully, twist arms, and make deals to make things happen to make America great again in the world - and it's going to be so great you wouldn't believe it!  They are not going to their Bibles, looking for Biblical policies, solutions, and plans and then judging candidates by their adherence to what the Bible says. They may talk about Christian values, say America is a Christian country, and extol virtues such hard work and thrift. They are also angry. But their political views do not exist at the level of Biblical or theological reflection but at the level of intuition and instinct. They might say to Trump, "You may be going to heaven or hell, but fix the county before you do." 

I don't like Trump, hope he won't get the nomination, and would hate to see him become President. It is not because I don't think he is a Christian or because his positions are not Biblically derived. It is because, (1) I think he is a jerk, a narcissist, a bully, and a boor; (2) I don't think he is grounded in any political philosophy or principles; (3) I don't trust him to make good decisions with the help of wise and experienced counselors, and (4) I don't think he has any plans or program beyond, "It's gonna be great; believe me!" 

But then I do not want Cruz, the candidate with the evangelical bona fides. I don't want him to get the nomination, and, though I think his chances of being President are less than Trump's, I don't want him to become President either. Why? The reasons I don't want him to be President are the reasons some evangelicals find him most attractive. He is (1) rigid, (2) absolutist, and (3) uncompromising. Moreover, (4) his Republican Senate colleagues neither like nor trust him. He seems to be to be quite unlike Reagan - who was sunny, likeable, pragmatic, and knew the government had to be made to work. I can't imagine waking up to morning in America on a Cruz inauguration day.

This makes me think about the issues that are most important to me. Here is a list that is neither exhaustive nor in any particular order: 
1) respect for the Constitution while not treating it as divinely inspired, inerrant, and infallible.
2) appointment of judges who can say with Scalia, "I'm a textualist; I'm an originalist; but I'm not a nut;" judges who will do the "legal" not the "right" thing,
 3) repeal and replacement of the ACA but not in a way that says the only way to deal with the distribution of healthcare is to let the market decide who gets what, with the results mitigated only by private charity,
4) reform of immigration in a realistic, rational, and compassionate way that does not attempt the impossible, the deportation of 11 million+ people, but does slow to a trickle the influx of illegals, 
5) ending partial birth abortion and reducing all abortions through through persuasion and legislation,
6) reduction of the size and intrusiveness of the federal government, pushing more decisions and control down to the states and individuals,
7) increase of American military strength and flexibility with the ability of the US to project power internationally when necessary.
8) dealing with the deficit and balancing the budget, which will require difficult and painful decisions and actions, in a rational, practical, gradual manner, 
9) preservation and reform of Medicare and Social Security by putting them on a sound fiscal footing so that they are viable for the future,
10) reduction of restrictions on individuals and businesses that keep them from thriving, but not on the assumption that free market results are a revelation of the divine will,
11) protection of the freedoms of the churches to preach, teach, and practice Christian truth and morality without review or interference by government, while protecting the rights of all persons to act in accord with their consciences so long as their actions do not actively interfere with the rights of other citizens under the law,
12) assurance of the civil rights of all persons and protection of their freedom to achieve all that they can within the limits of their ability, allowing neither discrimination nor preferential treatment to prevent or guarantee outcomes. 
 When I look at my list I find it is based on my political philosophy and principles, on prudence and common sense, and on preferences. I do not believe they are derived from the Bible or are an expression of my Christian faith. If I put flesh to them and tried to turn them into a political program, I would not look to the Bible for guidance or to my church for direction. 

If you and I go to the same church and our political views are near polar opposites, we ought to be able to accept one another as brothers who believe in the same Christ, the same Gospel, and the same Bible. We hear the same Word, say the same prayers, commune at the same table. Neither of us seeks to get the church to use its powers of declaration or discipline to tell the other what he must believe or do politically.

This seems to be to be in every way preferable to Rick Phillips of the Presbyterian Church in America condemning socialism as unbiblical and David Robertson of the Free Church of Scotland defending socialism as Biblical. If I should attend their churches, I do not want to hear Rick tell me that socialism is sin and David tell me that it is godly. If I were visiting in Greenville, I might be able to attend services at Rick's church for a couple of Sundays. If I were visiting in Dundee I just don't know. It's that daddgum band.