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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Did you vote values?

I did. And I'll bet you did too. Actually, I'll bet everyone else who voted did as well.

Before the election, I received a mailing from Focus on the Family on “voting values”. There may have been a pin or window sticker included that read, “I vote values.” I admit I didn’t look at the materials very closely.

I also received a mailing from the Presidential Prayer Team encouraging me to “Pray the Vote” I didn’t look this over either, partially because I was already determining my vote prayerfully, but also because I could imagine what a “Pray the Vote” button might look like to someone who wasn’t a conservative Christian.

I do appreciate the campaign that Christian organizations undertook to encourage Christians to vote and to base their vote on values learned from God. Voting is our privilege and duty as citizens of this country. But I'm wondering whether both the “values voter” and “pray the vote” teams would have been better advised to choose slogans that didn't imply “God is on my side” to those of opposing views.

To those of a different political stripe, the implication of the “I vote values” campaign is that those who vote differently than conservative Christians do not base their vote on values, or do not actually have values, or else have values of no value. :-) But this of course is not true. Even if a value held by a liberal individual is at odds with a conservative Christian’s values, it is a value nonetheless. A conservative Christian may actually share some of the same core values as a staunch liberal while disagreeing strongly with that liberal's opinions on living out or “voting” those values. A conservative Christian may also disagree strongly with some of the liberal's core values. But a value is different from an opinion.

“Pray the vote” implies that if certain people pray hard enough, their candidate will win. I suppose that’s Biblically supportable, but it comes across in an adversarial way to those who don’t pray, or who pray to someone or something other than God, or who pray but have a different political view.

I’m also leery of stickers, buttons, etc., because I'm not convinced that there's value in advertising one’s opinion on certain things in a general public setting. To do so is to go into “popularity contest” mode, something that is unnecessary and perhaps even destructive. I realize that many wear a button merely to show support. I'm concerned, though, that in doing so, one may set those of the opposing view’s guard up. I can't imagine that seeing a button would actually change someone's mind. Except maybe in the very occasional or highly unusual circumstance.

Ellen Goodman made a similar point about values in her Sunday newspaper column, though not quite in the same way.

She calls upon Democrats to define themselves. Though I don’t agree with Goodman on much (that I’ve read of her, anyway), I do agree that this would be a good thing. I’m not convinced that the Democrats were as “verbally unarmed” in the recent political campaigns as she claims, but think it could be quite interesting if, in the next few years, more of the real substance of the liberal/conservative disagreement would be addressed by all involved. Maybe we’d hear the truth of individual hearts and minds rather than political-speak.

Goodman suggests that "progressives...need to understand the worldviews of right and left, the connecting threads of family and morality, and to reframe the debate on shared terms." I'm all for this, on all fronts. This way we would all see where our true similarities and differences lie.

Goodman would like to see Democrats define their terms for the purpose of winning over the "not-so-red" voters who are tired of "fundamentalist religious wars," though. She blames the country’s troubles on these “wars," which implies, of course, that they’re all the fault of the "religious fundamentalists." She forgets that it takes two to tango. But she's right that a shared language would be helpful. And she and other Democrats are justified, I believe, when they bristle at the implications of some of the words and slogans used by religious conservatives.

This is to be distinguished from the scornful attitude assumed by some toward anything religious conservatives say, causing misinterpretation or deliberate misrepresentation.

Christians who speak out about things political, or who speak out at all, must be careful to speak the truth in love, or else we are not blameless in the sight of outsiders (Titus 2:7-8) Yes, I’m preaching to myself :-) We must be careful in our choice of words and slogans so as to insure that they represent the truth to those who agree and to those who disagree.

Christians must insure that there is no incrimination in their tone or words, or those who oppose their views will be very quick to pick up on it and react. We must give no cause for this. An impossible task? Perhaps. :-) Sometimes others' interpretations can't be helped. But if those who disagree do so on the basis of views, that’s one thing (puts the onus on both them and God); if Christians divert attention from God the Author of truth to themselves because their views are not presented in love (I Corinthians 13), then we are guilty of pride and do not advance the cause of Christ.

Anyone have suggestions for improving the “pray the vote” or “I vote values” slogans? (“vote prayerfully," perhaps?)

5 Comments:

  • An interesting post. Such badges seem slightly odd to me (not just as an atheist this time!), as I'm not sure who they're aimed at. Clearly they're not going to work on me, so the wording is irrelevant. But they shouldn't work on genuine christians either - for them the message would seem to be "Don't forget you worship the Lord God through his son Jesus Christ, and his spirit guides everything you do" (I'm not too good at the terminology, but you get the idea!) Now I'm no expert, but that hardly seems the kind of message that would elicit a "doh, I knew I'd forgotten to do something this morning - be christian!"

    So not non-believers, and not true-believers, which leaves us with what? People who want to appear to be good christians? I guess that's a valid target, but I'm not sure a badge is going to do the trick.

    By Blogger Paul, at 4:29 PM  

  • "Don't forget you worship the Lord God through his son Jesus Christ, and his spirit guides everything you do"That's not too bad, Paul! ;-)

    Thanks for your comments.

    I think the main purpose of the campaigns I mentioned was to get Christians thinking about reasons to vote in the first place. Many Christians believe that Christians should not be involved politically, but should merely pray and speak only of the gospel. Many Christians will not vote in an election because they believe that they are governed by God no matter what.

    I believe this too, actually, but also believe that we are called to more action and greater involvement with "the world" than prayer and John 3:16 alone. I believe there are many ways to represent the gospel and to further the kingdom of God.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 10:54 PM  

  • Bonnie,

    I have the Dawn Treader up and running at www.mrdawntreader.com.

    Take care!

    By Blogger The Dawn Treader, at 10:54 PM  

  • The sloganism and popularity contest mentality isn't just a Christian right thing. The "Bush Must Go" signs all over my neighborhood do nothing but anger the Bush supporters.

    By Blogger Jeremy Pierce, at 11:04 PM  

  • Absolutely, Jeremy. I didn't mean to imply that it was just a Christian right thing. And that's all the more reason for Christians to avoid the appearance of or actual participation in the same sort of thing.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 1:11 AM  

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