The percentage of Americans who are members of a church and attend regularly is steadily declining in our country. Even those churches who are increasing their numbers are doing so at the expense of other churches. The overall percentage is slowly declining, as is the membership of evangelical churches nationally. There are a great many reasons for this, but when leadership aligns themselves in a partisan manner and speaks of only the causes of one political party, it makes those of the other side question why they should stay in the church if their values don’t match up anymore. Many who lean to the Democrat or Independent side really do want to help the poor, see that everybody gets access to medical care and insurance, protect the rights of minorities and stop the loss of innocent lives in their own ways. Maybe they are misguided at times, even impractical, but they do have some redeeming qualities and this should be recognized by Christian leadership. Many evangelical church leaders have particularly missed opportunities to do this.
When I was growing up in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s bi-partisanship was considered to be a virtue. Of course there were no abortions and no assault weapons. Women’s rights were not as prominent and the NRA was not as rich. There was no cable news channels or the internet. A good journalist was taught to always present both sides of an issue. The media and politicians were more middle of the road and much more civil to each other. We have lost that ability and need to return more to this type of approach. We can’t go back, but we can try to understand the other side. Before we can understand the other side, we have to be able to first listen to them.
Another inconsistency I see is if you are pro-life there is a good chance that you will be pro guns also. If you want to develop a consistent argument on the taking of lives this needs to be looked at further.
The old adage we hear is “guns don’t kill people, people do.” Well I say some guns are designed to kill a lot more people and faster than other guns. I am talking about military style assault weapons like the AK-57 and the AR -15. No self-respecting hunter needs them and home owners have a vast array of weapons to use on invaders. The unfortunate thing is they are being used to kill innocent people, including our school children. Would banning their sale stop these shootings? No, but it might slow them down some if there were fewer of them available. We had a ban on the sale of them nationally from Sept. of 1994 till Sept. of 2004. There were still mass shootings during that time, but it is indisputable that mass shootings have gone way up since their ban has been lifted!
Early in my teaching career there was a special education teacher that the kids dearly loved, they spoke of her so sweetly. If any child needed an arm to be put around them it would be from her. She got out of teaching a long time ago but our friendship continued through the years. She changed like everybody else does, but the starkness is noticeable on this issue. She and her husband are more worried about a tyrannical government coming into their home and taking all their guns away from them than she is in removing the weapons that have been used in the killings of so many innocent children. This argument borders more on paranoia than it does on reason. The NRA has built a lot of fear into their membership. They also represent gun manufacturers.
We can take too hard of stands on things and lose sight of our true intentions and causes. If you are pro-life, anti-war, or pro assault weapons, the most important argument or result should be to reduce somehow the loss of innocent lives. Don’t you think God desired that too! Those who are against unjust wars and assault weapon sales and yet are pro- choice have rationalized their main objective away. They have accepted the false arguments that abortion isn’t taking a life and/or that a women’s reproductive rights, as they put it, is more important. I see their argument, but I think the taking of a life is the most compelling argument against it. Those who are pro-life and pro assault weapons have to see that both abortions and assault weapons are taking the lives of children away from us. We all need to be more consistent in our logic and goals. This would be an area for real leadership from men and women of God.
We have to get off of such hard positions within our own parties and compromise more. We need to be more bi-partisan and try to achieve some of each other’s aims at the same time. I could make a proposal now that will satisfy a little bit of both groups aim of reducing senseless killing and yet not come close to satisfying all their respective political constituent group’s aims. This proposal is naïve and would need to pass court review, but I believe that it could. I would like to propose that there be a federal ban on all 3rd tri-semester abortions and on all assault weapons sold in the United States!
This proposal would not satisfy all of the pro-lifers but it would prevent the most egregious abortions. Women would lose some rights but could still retain their rights to abort, they would just have to make up their minds sooner. Gun owners would still have their rights to all other weapons, and many victim’s parents could at least have a small sense of satisfaction of seeing a reasonable gun law passed.
What are the odds of this proposal ever passing? Very little because one group won’t get everything they want or will be feeling like they are losing too much. I can hope it could, but interest groups seem to be solely concerned with their rights and feel that if they give a little, they would lose everything. In this day and age compromise is not rewarded by our own political parties, who would probably challenge any legislator in a primary fight who did compromise.
The next generation of church leaders could help shape society away from such partisan thinking and see what the just causes of all of society are. Evangelical churches could be seen in a different light. As Amy Black of Wheaton College put it “We can start by ensuring that biblical principles, not party or ideology, shape our political vision…Biblical values transcend party lines, so we should seek opportunities to build authentic alliances in both parties and space to speak meaningfully into political conversations.” 5 She has also said that some evangelicals have begun to address issues such as poverty, immigration, hunger, criminal justice, the environment, and even LBGT rights. I would like to see us move into discussion of these issues as well, instead of being stuck on past issues for far too long. I will attempt to do discuss these issues from my own experience before moving on to the problems we are experiencing today from the mixing of our politics with church identity.
It is better that the church not get involved in politics, but it is also inevitable that social issues will need to be concerns of the church. Our approach to these need to be comprehensive and non-partisan. If the church is pro-life and pro-family it should also want to see those children and family members have full access to health care. This is an overall reasonable and balanced approach. The Catholic Church has been much better about this kind of approach than the evangelicals have the last several decades. Extending medical insurance coverage to more people who couldn’t afford it and securing it for those who lose their jobs is a noble idea! What greater purpose could we use our resources for than to provide medical care for everybody? Would that be making America great or not?
According to a study, by 3 Harvard scholars, the Tea Partiers vehemently opposed Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, which helped the young and the poor. The distinction they made was between government programs they perceived as going to hard working productive members of society, such as themselves, and “handouts” that went to underserving “freeloaders” a category that largely seemed to be made up of African Americans, Hispanic immigrants and the young.8 The other point that needs to be heard is that the cost turned out to be too high, especially to the middle class that saw their premiums soar. Just having Christian leadership to see both points could help sooth tensions, a gentle voice to turn away wrath. Unfortunately, neither the Catholic Church, nor the evangelical churches have pointed the way towards compromise on this issue.