Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Doubly Disgusted

I was recently profiled for an upcoming book entitled, We the Purple: Faith, Politics, and the Independent Voter by Marcia Ford (Tyndale House, 2008). I want to share it with you for a couple of reasons. First, it offers a look into my personal political mindset, which may surprise some of you. Second, I think it offers a great opportunity for conversation. Take a look at the excerpt, and then check out the questions below.

"Jonathan Merritt is a self-described conservative independent who is disgusted with both parties and has an inexplicable affinity for Libertarians. To understand how radical that political perspective is for him, you’d have to know a bit about his background—starting with his heritage. His father is Dr. James Merritt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Jerry Falwell was a family friend. “You never had to ask how we voted. Our family voted a straight Republican ticket,” says Merritt, who is completing his master of divinity degree at Southeastern Seminary in North Carolina. His father’s political views were no secret to anyone. “We were invited to political dinners, and some of the most active members of our large church were congressmen and politicians,” he says.

When he reached voting age, Jonathan Merritt followed suit, voting a straight Republican ticket—and believing that a person couldn’t be a Christian and a Democrat; the two were mutually exclusive. In his last year of college—not surprisingly, at Falwell’s Liberty University—he was elected GOP precinct chairman for the 1st precinct in the state of Georgia. “I resigned shortly after,” he says. “I had ventured into the belly of the partisan beast, and I almost didn't return intact. It is an ugly place to exist.”

Even though all office-holders face pressure from contributors, independents, he believes, have the advantage of “pressureless voting” from a partisan standpoint. They’re free to vote their conscience, which Merritt believes is more trustworthy than a “party's ever-changing disposition.”

A writer and the senior editor of PastorsEdge.com, Merritt remembers attending church during his college years and often asking a friend, "What exactly was the sermon about today anyway?" Much of the service had been devoted to endorsing candidates and other political talk, with little or no room for the Word of God. Democrats were mocked from the pulpit. “When a church publicly draws a political line, it can begin to overshadow the real reason the church exists,” he says. “My experience was not uncommon. It was actually normative. Over the years, scores of progressive college grads left Liberty University and found themselves disillusioned with the politico-religious culture found in so many places.”

Merritt’s major political concerns today are the war in Iraq, particularly achieving victory so the government can focus on other foreign policy issues, and consistent environmental regulations. Global warming, he says, is stealing the stage right now, but other environmental concerns need to be discussed as well.

Though his conservative Protestant faith greatly influences his political perspective, he is open to voting for a Catholic or Mormon candidate. He considers a candidate’s voting record to be more helpful than a claim of faith that may not be authentic. His ’08 presidential pick as of the summer of 2007 was Fred Thompson—though he secretly wishes Stephen Colbert would run."
Here are a couple of questions I want to throw out there. Please share your opinion:

1. Is it just me or are you nauseated by both parties right now?

2. Would you consider voting for someone of another faith?

3. Who is your presidential pick as of right now?


Robert Angison said...

1. Is it just me or are you nauseated by both parties right now?

Yes. The Republicans are completely invalidating the evangelical vote they got and the Democrats are too busy watching their news reel footage to care. Nothing is getting done...we need another revolution, but not necessarily a political one.

2. Would you consider voting for someone of another faith?

Certainly. Faith is not my litmus test for a vote. A person's personal integrity, their positions, and past voting records all weigh in.

The easiest lie a politician will ever tell is that they are a stalwart Christian. If we make religion a litmus test we are just begging Republicans and Democrats to lie to us...and we get what we deserve.

3. Who is your presidential pick as of right now?

I refuse to pick a candidate b/c the first primaries aren't for another 8 months and the actual conventions another 13 months away.

I am completely fatigued and not really enamored with any of the major candidates.

The ironic thing is that it is very likely that evangelical voters will be faced with pro-choice Republican and Democratic nominees and will have to make a hard decision...well maybe an easy one if you actually believe in a third party system (like I do.)

For all the political posturing of the failed Moral Majority the country has neither advanced nor overcome the major issues. Maybe the solution isn't in legislation but more in the lines of actual involvement and life change.

You are the Church!
Robert Angison

Josh said...

pretty nicely said in your interview.

1. both parties have their strengths and weaknesses. i'm less nauseated by the parties and more by the system that creates top-heavy power. as long as our government stays big, we're going to have two pretty immobile parties that care more about lobbyists than average joes. i'm also a bit nauseated by the fact that most americans are so apathetic that they'd rather sit in front of their tv watching american idol or regurgitating the entertainment updates from anna nicole-like stories that both fox and cnn spend the majority of their time on.

2. absolutely. i agree with robert. i think republicans use it as a fail-safe. and the democrats ignored it for the past 20 years and are faking it this election cycle. i think candidates insult my intelligence to think that i'll only vote for someone who has the same faith as me. politics should be about making the world a better place beginning with our own country. there are people of faith and people without faith who are suited to this task.

3. right now i'll vote for dennis kuccinich in the primaries. he'll obviously never win. at which point i'll vote for obama. you couldn't pay me enough to vote for clinton.

and without sounding like a complete ass . . . how exactly do you balance this out in your family and at cross pointe in general. perhaps things have changed, i just know that there was a much different climate when i worked there that didn't leave much room for anything outside of What Would W Do.

also . . . you may want to check your comments options. it only lets people leave comments who have google accounts. i'm a wordpress guy so i can't leave comments without signing in under my blank google account. weren't sure if you knew about this or not.

Jonathan Merritt said...


I do not share your wholehearted cynicism regarding politicians. While they have their fair share (or a heaping portion) of depravity, I do not think agree that if a politician claims to be a "stalwart Christian" that he must be lying. That is an unfair generalization about faith and politics. I can name on good authority a number of deeply religious politicians on both sides of the aisle. (e.g.- John Linder and Joe Lieberman)

I agree with you that none of the front runners are really that enchanting.

You do make a very interesting statement regarding the possibility of 2 pro-choice candidates. I have heard many evangelical leaders say "I can't vote for anyone who is pro-choice." This will be an opportunity to put up or shut up.
Any predictions or do I even have to ask?

You are quite correct, Robert, the real solution is changing lives not creating legislation. Once we own that thought, the political bee loses a little bit of its sting.


Jonathan Merritt said...


Thanks for letting me know about the comment settings. I have rectified it and you can cut the proverbial tape. This blog is now officially open to all for dialogue.

1. I don't know which is more sickening - the party or the system. You think it is the system. In my opinion, the system is nothing but the product of partisan legislators and the two cannot be separated. In the end, our government is only as top-heavy as the decision-makers allow it to be, so I am saying it is the parties.

2. I agree with you for the most part. While I do believe faith should be revealing, you would need to be addicted to idealism to think that it actually is. I prefer a condidate with what I call, "a quiet faith." I can respect that. Agreed?

3. I strongly disagree with you regarding Dennis Kuccinich, and not just because he is a total geek. Barak Obama is also not a choice for me, but he seems genuine and probably one of the better of the worse. Out of curiosity, what don't you like about Hillary?

As far as the church and my family are concerned, I will rarely if ever speak of either one of them on this blog. If I do so, I will initiate it. I think it is neither wise nor appropriate to critically discuss one's church or one's family on a public forum like this.

What I will tell you is this:

-My family is far more rational and open-minded than some critics perceive. I am happy to have a wonderful relationship with all my family members and though we don't always see eye to eye, we don't get mad at each other or fight about our differences. If a family is glued together by a common divine adhesive, it is undoubtedly stonger than earthly opinions.

Regarding Cross Pointe, I am not sure I understand what you mean. This weekend, for example, we had community events at local apartment complexes. One of our most active members, who happened to be my team leader, had an "Obama 2008" sticker on the back of her SUV. As far as I know, I am the only one who noticed it. I have enjoyed the priveledge of working at Cross Pointe this summer. In my time there, I have neither had nor heard a political conversation. I am proud to be a member of a church that loves God and loves people. We may not have it all together, but we are willing to learn and excited to experiment.

I think that is a good place to finish that particular thought.

Overall, good response.



Jared Miller said...

Wow, you are really smart. This is the best blog ever. Thank you for joining the blog-o-sphere!

josh said...

fair enough on the family stuff. but i had quite a different experience regarding my time there. but i guess that's neither here nor there at this point. i was just curious since a couple of your topics are a bit of the personal struggles that i had while i was there. i did have the conversations and they didn't go over well at all. but again . . . i'll respect your silence and won't bring it up again.

i do think kucinich is a geek. as far as hillary, i find her to be to much of a flip-flopper over the history of her political life. she reminds me way too much of john kerry in that regard. she also seems to be a bit of an opportunist. and i'm not sure how well she would be at international diplomacy either. which for my vote, is a very important thing that i'm looking for. at a time when - i personally feel - the next president will need to do a lot of image repairing in the global diplomatic scene.

i think that's why i find candidates like obama and giuliani to be intriguing.

Brad Renfro said...

You know, I don't know who that Jared Miller fellow is, and I don't know if he's being facetious, but if he is not, he has a point. Your political insights are stunning. Thank you for sharing them with us.

-Another satisfied reader

Jonathan Merritt said...

Brad and Jared-

I am not sure that I know either of you, but if you are serious, thanks. If not, that is ok also.


After those two back-to-back basically anonymous comments, maybe I should go back to closed comments...

I agree with you about needing an extreme makeover in the foreign policy category. If that is paramount for you, then I would suggest a preemptively jumping ship on ole' Dennis and throwing it all behind Obama. Though I am not an Barak Obama fan, he is probably the best face from a foreign policy standpoint.



Tyler said...

I love it Jonathan :)

I am absolutely disgusted by both parties. I would absolutely consider voting for someone of another faith, gender, or race. Right now, I dont like any of the presidential candidates. I feel like they are all out to make money and make themselves famous.

When did we as a country move from going from a government OF the people and BY the people to a government concerned only with big business and wealth?

I come from almost the same background - where voting for a democrat would be considered something contrary to my "religion," however, recently I have also been leaning towards libertarian ideals. Im just tired of these empty promises.

Josh said...

do what you got to do. you should switch to wordpress. there you can spam the IP addresses of anonymous comments. and if you're going to be serious about blogging, you should buy your own domain.

for those saying they want an independent, what would you do if bloomberg after the conventions joined the race?

Tyler said...

To Josh & Jonathan,

Wordpress might have been good a year ago - thats not where the blogging industry is headed. If you are serious about blogging, then you need to go with drupal.org. Yes, its a more difficult interface (GUI) but in the long run, a better way to go.

But - whats wrong with anonymous comments?

Jonathan Merritt said...


Nothing is wrong with anonymous comments as long as they are genuine.


Josh Merritt said...

1. Yeah, I'm really disappointed in both parties as a whole right now. I feel like every election that rolls around we have no choice of a good candidate, but rather are constantly choosing the "lesser of two evils".

2. I would vote for someone of a different faith. Heck, these days I don't think faith and politics have much in common. Every candidate certainly wants you to believe he or she has some sort of religious background, but these days what doest that really mean anyway? I simply would choose to back the candidate whose thinking is the most in line with my own.

3. My presidential pick right now is probably going to be Rudy Giuliani. (www.joinrudy2008.com) Unfortunately, I think we are going to be in a Democrat battle between Obama and Hillary. In this case again I believe the lesser of the two evils would be Obama mainly because I think Hillary is a lunatic.

As far as the article is concerned... I thought it was really good. My only disagreement was with the fact that you can't be democrat and a Christian. Not sure I agree with that. I don't believe you can be for a lot of the things that democrats are for if you are a Christian, but that is a pretty bold statement if you ask me.

Jonathan Merritt said...


Good comments. I would NOT agree with the statement, "You cannot be Christian and a Democrat." However, if one was raised in the fundamentalist Bible belt, they may have previously thought that way.

Organizations like the Moral Majority had people believing that Christians simply voted Republican. That is not true.


Nate Myers said...

josh merritt,

You said, "I don't believe you can be for a lot of the things that democrats are for if you are a Christian."

I say fair enough, but I also would suggest that that statement is true for every political party. These are also true.

"I don't believe you can be for a lot of the things that Republicans are for if you are a Christian."
"I don't believe you can be for a lot of the things that Libertarians are for if you are a Christian."
"I don't believe you can be for a lot of the things that Greens are for if you are a Christian."

I like Jonathan's point...which I think seeks rightly to bring complexity to what was falsely simple before. Christian doesn't mean Republican. And hopefully, it includes a healthy dose of understanding that our nation is and always has been secular; and to serve in the highest echelons of our government requires that one who seeks to be systematically faithful and radical in commitment to Christ cannot and should not serve in such a role. The President is the first of such examples to me; being the commander in chief of a nation-state's army brings an immediate conflict of interest with their being a possible disciple of the Jesus who died for his enemies and friends and calls us to do the same.

Nate Myers said...

Or maybe more specifically, none of the political parties on offer in America today is completely consistent with a faithful lifestyle of following Jesus, so our voting is always going to be for "the lesser of two evils" on some level...therefore I think it's more helpful to judge candidates on their approaches as leaders across the spectrum rather than on one or two hot-button issues.

Jonathan Merritt said...


Thanks for the wise words. I only have a few comments to add.

I don't necessarily think that our voting will ALWAYS be for the lesser of 2 evils.

I also could not disagree with you more on your statement that America is and has always been a secular nation. You cannot read the writings of our founding fathers and come away with that conclusion. Now, I agree that we are not and never have been overtly Christian (see Myth of a Christian Nation), but there was a spiritual component to our foundations since the beginning. I would suggest reading the Federalist Papers for a better look at this. You can get the entire collection at Barnes and Noble on sale now.

Great thoughts, though. I am with you 90%, Nate.



Jonathan Merritt said...


Out of curiosity, who is your pick for Prez?


Nate Myers said...


I flip-flop a lot, but right now out of the "big two" parties, I lean towards Sam Brownback and Barack Obama. I really like Obama's vision as laid out in his book "The Audacity of Hope." I more consistently agree with Dennis Kucinich, plus I like how ballsy he is in debates to nail the flipfloppers to the wall, but I know he's not going to grab the nomination.

In regards to voting not always being the lesser of two evils, I agree with you when we're talking about low-level state and federal governmental positions, but on the larger scale, I do believe it will always be the lesser of two evils. I find it really hard to separate myself from my commitments to "think secularly," so to speak and try to look at candidates by their merits as a leader across the board; even if one or two or five of their positions are distasteful to me.

And when it comes to the secular/spiritual conversation with the beginnings of America, things get dicey right quick. I guess I would concede there was some spirituality at work (or, at the very least, spiritual terminology being thrown around), but most of the founding fathers were deeply influenced by the Enlightenment and deists (or at least the key players). And I don't think it's hard to make a case that the spiritual terminology they threw around created some sick ideas (like Manifest Destiny, etc) that were terribly twisted. But that's another conversation for another topic, I guess. I see your point though.

Christin said...

I met Fred Thompson when I was in Memphis for a week doing extra credit for gov't class. haha.

James said...

1. I am not only nauseated by both parties right now, but I am nauseated by the two-party system that ensures that our current two-party system will remain the our country's "apple of discord." Power corrupts absolutely, and for this reason, it is almost impossible to make it to the top in this country's system without compromising your moral code at some point. For this reason, the best candidates will usually stand little chance against the financial juggernauts.

2. Of course I would vote for someone of a different faith, or no faith at all. No one, including Christians, should limit their voting to people who proliferate their denominational label. Example: I honestly believe that George W. Bush is a Christian, and is a generally good man with a healthy dose of integrity and character. I also believe that George W. Bush is one of the worst presidents that this nation has ever seen in almost every quantifiable category.

3. My Presidential pick as of right now is a write-in vote for either Stephen Colbert or Jonathan Merritt. The Republicans and Democrats aren't very different right now and for some reason the Republicans can't seem to grasp why America is getting sick of their policies (i.e., uncontrollable spending, boggling the War in Iraq, immigration gaffes, wasteful increases in Medicaire and various entitlement programs, corruption, and a "less-than-efficient" handling of Katrina, to name a few).