Monday, June 29, 2009

Political Scandals Breed Cynicism Among Evangelicals

America can't stop talking about South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, the cheating state executive who disappeared for several days to make a love connection with his Argentinian mistress. In fact, Sanford is probably the only person in the United States who was giddy to learn that Michael Jackson had died because it would eat up some of his air time on the evening news.

It was this scandal that inspired the L.A. Times to run a fascinating story entitled, "Will scandals inspire evangelicals to stray from the Republican party?," which bolsters a trend that I have seen for some time. Christ-followers are becoming fed up with their traditional party of choice, but aren't finding the alternative Democratic Party a much better option. Instead, they are becoming increasingly convinced about "the unholiness of the political realm."

"The...rumors and sexual details make me want to avoid the voting booth altogether," Margaret Feinberg told the L.A. Times. "My head says that every vote counts, but my heart aches at the impropriety. How can I trust someone to uphold the laws of the land when they can't uphold their marriage vows?"

While Sanford's particular story is unusually shocking, political scandals in general have sadly become commonplace to many Americans. If you are like me, a Fox News Alert about a Governor who has embezzled money to bankroll his secret addiction or a Congressman whose been getting some nookie from his housekeeper doesn't make me bowl over anymore. As I speak with others like me, I am realizing that this creeping cynicism toward all things political may be pushing evangelicals into a less political phase of cultural engagement.

Have Western Christians placed too much trust in one particular political party? How can we be appropriately involved in the political arena as good citizens while maintaining our convictions as good Christians?


Agreenwald said...

Great question.... but it's one with an ever changing answer. Depending on the candidates at hand, the answer will change. As Christians, I believe that we should look at each candidate and consider their morals more than their prior accomplishments. Then, placing your faith in whom you believe is the best fit, even if there are some doubts.

Jacob said...

Your first question is a softball one, so I'll skip it if that's alright with you. :-)

The second: register as Independent.

If we really want to look at the character of a candidate, I don't think we could justify voting for anyone really. At least the way it works right now.

The political process in general makes it nearly impossible for a candidate to remain truthful. It is all run by public opinion. Candidates are well aware of what they can and cannot say. And in order to avoid losing votes, they rephrase things in a more palatable way. Even this leans toward dishonesty.

Not to mention ad campaigns that point out the flaws in the opponent. Yeah, not sure where that is acceptable Christian behavior. Nor am I sure where it is ok for Christians to condone that kind of behavior for our candidates of choice.

If I ever see an ad campaign that says something good about the opposing candidate and is not looking to get credit for it, it would be a huge draw for my vote for the person who put out that ad.

I would rather vote for an honest atheist than a dishonest Christian.

I just don't think we consider much beyond the person's stance on abortion and gay marriage. How someone acts in an election is more important to me than how they say they believe on issues, because candidates know what their stance needs to be in order to win, and the party knows which member has the best shot according to what the voters are looking for.

So to wrap this up, the only way to impact a society is through evangelism and the church doing good works. If that means being involved in politics, I don't think being tied to any party is the right way to go. We are citizens of another kingdom, the eternal kingdom of heaven. And to tie ourselves to something of this earth is, I believe, dangerous.

Garet Robinson said...

Two words:

Third Party

The reality is that evangelicals have a wide enough base to start their own party, run with a moral code, and create a situation where we begin to balance the power in our country. Until then to suggest voting third party is throwing my vote away is simply not in line with the founders' vision for our federal constitutional republic.

robert fortner said...

Evangelical Americans are nothing if not reactionary, and the reaction to the Sanford affair, here in South Carolina, has been (to say the very least) intense. However, I think that most South Carolinians having been born and bred as "Church People" and therefore Republicans (the 2 are synonymous here), are reacting less negatively toward the party and more negatively toward the man.

This is unfortunate, because I am one of those naive individuals who still holds out hope that one day "Church People" will stop focusing on religion (and by extension, politics), and start focusing on following the teachings of Christ. To whit: 1) Love the sinner, and forgive the sin. 2) Stop being sheep for politicians and political parties, and start following The Shepherd.

However, it seems that this is once again not the case in "the buckle of the Bible Belt".

peter lumpkins said...


Your double-dynamite questions explode on the face of evangelicalism's nefarious affair with all things Republican: "Have Western Christians placed too much trust in one particular political party? How can we be appropriately involved in the political arena as good citizens while maintaining our convictions as good Christians?"

While my weak inwards cannot stomach an official liaison with the morally bankrupt Democratic party, whose crass addiction to the culture of death possesses no semblance of moral conscience, the U.S.A. may very well be more ripe than ever to seriously nurture a third major party.

But then again, I've been known to peddle wishful thinking.

Grace, Jonathan. My megaphone has been quick to voice my differences with your vocal positions. Just thought I'd offer my support for a well-written piece.

With that, I am...

Tim G said...

As Peter put it in the previous comment, I too think this is a well written piece.

My take is simple - foget party and focus on changing people while not neglecting the right and importance of voting and at least attempting to lead in sound public policy.

apnerd said...

I think that the simple answer to your first question is: Not only have Evangelical placed to much trust into one political party, but I think we all have placed to much importance in the political system as a whole.

While many in churches around the country occasionally take time to bemoan things like the problem of poverty, all too few take the time to actually put their words into action.

I recently witnessed hundreds of people here in Atlanta protesting the cap and trade tax, and I bet that almost all of the protester would claim affiliation with some church. I wonder how many of those people could get so riled up about the homeless?

Because the government is not the answer to all of society's problems, what are we doing individually to help out?

Anonymous said...

I live in a mayonnaise jar under a rock - so, I have no idea who Sanford or what he did....

I am registered with a party - but only so I am able to vote in primaries here in PA. My registration has nothing to do with what party I align with (becuase there is no party that I align with)...and I certainly don't want to see a Christian party - because then you would have all the same nastiness but it would all be dubbed "Christian"....and that would just give Christ a bad (worse) name than he already has in the US and in the "church"