I had an interesting conversation with a hard-core “conservative” Christian a few days ago on Facebook, and I thought I ought to share it with you. I’m not going to give any names other than my own, so I am going to call the participants A, B, C, and etc. Furthermore, I will group the conservative interlocutors as the same person, and I will just call them “Mr. Christian Conservative.” I’ll put the participants quotes in boxes, my responses will be in italics. The reason I want to share this is that the logic these conservatives use is so typical and the rebuts so simple, that you can easily use this as an example for dismantling the arguments of Christian conservatives all the time.
The conversation started when a good friend of mine, I’ll call her “S.”, expressed her discontent with her “options” on the November ballot. She was a Ron Paul supporter during the primary season. She begins:
You guys, I’m still not sure on the elections! I want peace about this, but it hasn’t come yet.
I’ve been praying hard, I can tell you…
I worked so hard this year in trying to get a candidate who did exactly what these young people were asking for. I went, was a delegate, to all three caucuses. The first was good, the second neutral , and the third? The State convention? Pure cheating. I went away realizing that the powers that be will do what they have to, to make what they want pass.
I haven’t been impressed with Romney, I don’t know Johnson, and of course I won’t vote for Obama.
Still praying, still pleading. Is it time to let it go?
My response: Meh, picking between tweedledee and tweedledum for president matters very little in the grand scheme of things. You can have a much greater effect by staying attuned to local issues and fighting for liberty for all at home. Change the culture around you, and you are ultimately changing politics in the long term. Statist ideas are dead ends.
[So what do I plan to do?] I will vote for Gary Johnson. He’s not Ron Paul, but he doesn’t support wholesale slaughter of other nations like Romney or Obama. Gary also supports the gold standard and opposes the welfare state.
At this point, Mr. Christian Conservative barges in:
To Norman: What would have happened had Christ held your view? And may I add, I think your tone is disrespectful. Could you withstand the process of election, let alone be up to holding elected office?
My old friend J. rises to my defense:
In my mind, it is easier (or at least as easy) to argue that Jesus DID hold that view as opposed to otherwise. I have a pretty hard time imagining the Jesus as described in the Bible putting much support behind somebody as vacillating and unprincipled (In Politics, not necessarily in his personal life) as Romney appears to be.
Jesus seemed to hold a distinctly and emphatically “Politics isn’t your salvation” approach to politics, and yet we Christian-Conservatives tend to have a pretty screwed up notion that voting for the really awful bad lesser of two evils is appropriate. There is, in my estimation, a notion that to achieve our end, we must have political victory, so we get really riled up by people, like Norman, who vote third party. We are furious that he is doing nothing but supporting Obama to usher in what many people fear to be utter disaster for the nation.
Far from fighting for political victory (who doubts that Jesus COULD have ridden on a fiery white horse with a glittering invincible sword at the head of a fanatical angelic and Jewish army to the utter destruction of the Roman empire?), Jesus died a criminals death at the hands of the hated Romans.
“Change the culture around you, and you are ultimately changing politics in the long term. Statist ideas are dead ends.” I don’t see much in the Bible that contradicts this.
Mr. Christian Conservative:
Let’s not forget who is really in control of everything, nothing is outside His control. He may allow for a good king or a bad one depending on will of the people. I only see a choice of two people and one of them seems a lot better to head our government then what we have now, may God help us to wakeup and see the destruction we are headed for if we don’t repent.
I then add:
Jesus was [in the grand scheme of the world] a monarchist where he was the king. He holds the other powers that be in contempt (c.f., Revelation). And, even if I were being disrespectful (that was pretty mild for me, you should read my other stuff), I’m not sure that being disrespectful to tyrants and dictators like Bush, Obama, Chavez, Blair, Churchill, or Mao is that big a deal.
If God is in control, then your only task is to hold to what is right without compromise. Surely you don’t believe that Romney is the good guy and Obama the bad. So, you don’t have to hold your nose and choose between the “lesser of two evils.” Tell the powers that be that their days are numbered and that they don’t deserve your vote, your consent, your respect, or your time. The State is just a gang of thieves writ large, so show them for what they are.
Mr. Christian Conservative rebuts:
Seems like you make this more difficult than it has to be. We all wake up everyday and make choices… some big, some not so much. Put your mind and heart together and move forward in faith. Do something or do nothing at all. Christ reigns supreme either way.
At this point, I was not absolutely certain whom C. was addressing, but I took the opportunity to answer anyway because I have received “rebukes” like this before: My guess is that you’re referring to my previous post… and to that I have to respond with… Really? I’m making things difficult? I figured I was making it simpler — you don’t have to play power politics anymore with the philosophy I’m proposing. Instead, speak truth to power, call out the thieves for what they are, and don’t look to politics as the vehicle of progress. I’d argue that standard politically-conservative Christians make politics much more complicated than it needs to be, because they seek to control for themselves an institution based in rebellion against God.
Then Mr. Christian Conservative adds:
If you lived in Washington or Texas I’d say your undecided vote for President would have little impact regardless of your choice or “non-choice”. BUT, you are NOT living in either of those states. You are living in a swing state where EVERY vote matters. When you vote for a third party you are voting twice – your first vote goes to the third party candidate while your unintended second vote defaults to the eventual winner of the election by having deprived his or her opponent of your vote. Therefore, a protest (negative) vote FOR a third party is indeed a (positive) vote for the party you would normally be opposing.
Those who believe that there is no difference between the two current parties need to wake up. There is a stark contrast. One is bankrupting the country without remorse or intention to change. The other is willing to make unpopular choices to bring fiscal sanity back. Given your background, you have a social reason to vote for those who have the greatest chance to ensure that abortions and gay marriage are not made or continue to be common place. Being an intelligent woman, you will want to ensure the election of the party that will or is most likely to clean up the fiscal mess we are in and which has grown worse (by the trillions!) over the past 4 years. Speaking for myself and my background as a Canadian, I am in favor of FIRST bringing the country back to fiscal solvency to benefit the rich and poor, the homo and heterosexual, the black and white, – to benefit everyone – and then second, working to bring those social changes one supports which the fiscal conservatives might not currently champion…
Lets face it, we only have two parties in this race and vote outside of them will only re-elect what we have now, can we take 4 more years of it. Our nation is in a serious trouble.
Another liberty-loving person joins the discussion:
Republicans have done NOTHING to stop the illicit spending of money we don’t have… they’ve continually voted to INCREASE spending. (Remember, the Federal BAIL OUTS were first enacted by BUSH. That is not economic conservatism in any sense of the term.) They’ve done nothing to stop the “Federal” Reserve that has, unchecked and unfettered, DESTROYED our economy, “creating” money that doesn’t exist.
Mr. Christian Conservative doesn’t like this, even though the statement was dead on target:
Both parties were participants in the wasting of our economy. And yes, even though Bush was bad for overspending and starting the bail-out nonsense (no argument from me) Obama not only continued the bail outs, he still wants more of them. Secondly, why are you talking about Bush and his sorry policies when you have two entirely different Republicans seeking office and determined to turn things around, and for which the Dems vilify them at every turn! Obama and the senators who’ve refused to present and pass a budget for 4 years are the ones we should be concerned about and kicking them out of office.
Mr. Christian Conservative continues:
I am voting for romney. Not voting for him is, in a way, voting for Obama. I do not agree with Romney on everything, and I have a difficult time with his Mormonism, but what choice do I have? I will vote FOR the issues that are important to me and not against them. (and set aside the man and his false god) Then I will pray for whoever is elected, because that is what I am called to do…
I’m also called to stand for the vulnerable and for purity/marriage. Romney represents a party, and he himself, that stands for these things. I vote for the issues and pray for the man.
If we do not vote republican, if Christians hide behind, well, whatever they’re hiding behind, we are allowing Obama, and his party’s policies, win another four years.
You can see how the argument has progressed so far. First, question the libertarian’s motivations and claim Jesus is on the side of the system. Then, make sure to say how different the two candidates are. Ignore any economic arguments or reasons why you can’t trust the GOP. After they are shown to be the same, keep appealing back to social issues (you will see this later as well).
So I continue to press the issues:
Bush and Romney are not “two entirely different Republicans,” in fact Bush arguably had better policy ideas going into the 2001 race and he had a better record as governor of Texas.
With Romney, you have a clearly (formerly) pro-choice, pro-interventionism, and pro-government health care candidate via his record. Bush even said he wanted a “humble foreign policy”! Of course, look what that got us — the greatest increase in the national debt over eight years than we had EVER seen, even adjusted for inflation, two interventionist conflicts lasting longer than World War 2, the loss of civil liberties akin to the Alien and Sedition Acts, and the greatest increase of government power in health care since the FDA came into being.
So, I don’t really have a compelling reason to believe anything Romney says to any substantial extent. Moreover, even his standard rhetoric shows him not to be a free market loving conservative but a centrally planned collectivist.
S. now comes back to the conversation:
Here’s a question… Do we really think Romney would do anything to STOP abortions? Did Bush?
This question may muddy the issue a bit, but I can respond nonetheless:
You should consider that Republicans have ZERO incentive to make any substantial progress toward stopping abortion, because if they did they would lose their single issue voter bloc that means so much to the continuing of their positions of power. Look at how many people (my guess, even in this thread) are going to vote for Romney rather than Obama solely on the basis of the abortion issue. Do you really think they want to give that up?
Case in point: The Bush Years from 2001-2007. For six years, Republicans had total control of the House, Senate, Presidency, and even the appointing of SC justices. And what did you get for it? A partial birth abortion ban (that’s nice) and some reduced funding to abortion providers. And yet you are continually promised repeal of Roe v. Wade and etc. Don’t kid yourself, they don’t care about doing anything other than the bare minimum to keep you happy that “at least the Dems aren’t in control!”
The GOP is not a party of principle, but rather a party of socialists, jingoists, economic illiterates, warmongers, and power mongers.
Mr. Christian Conservative REALLY doesn’t like my response, though.
But the democrats PUSH abortion rights, PUSH gay rights etc. etc…I’m sorry, I’d rather have a party that pulls on the reigns, even if only a little, than a party that pushes ahead even more. Since Obama’s election we are funding abortions in other countries, and we are calling it progress!!! C’mon people! Now we, as a ‘Christian’ country not only fill the earth with filth from Hollywood and the porn industry, but now we are filling it with funded abortions?!?!?!
Now I clearly own this conversation. Mr. Christian Conservative has now admitted what her real problem is – she cannot admit that the GOP does not have the same social goals that she has and that she has bought into the “GOP is my Christian social issue salvation” narrative.
I call her on her own admission, and even try to provide a little encouragement:
So, you are admitting that my basic assessment is correct, but then assert the strategy for dealing with it is just doing the same thing over and over again?
And by the way, YOU are not pushing porn or abortions on anyone. You aren’t guilty here, so you don’t need to feel guilty. I get your motives, I just question your means. You’ll do much better for yourself and the world if you let go of political shams and instead focus your efforts on affecting the culture through educating and persuading the people around you.
Next step in Mr. Christian Conservative’s rhetoric: When you can’t win the argument, appeal to Romans 13, GOP Christianity, and last but not least ISRAEL!
There are no leaders that are not put in place by God. (new testament) I understand that the republican party is full of corrupted people and ideas, but I also understand that democrats are much worse. I have to do what my conscience tells me, and you have to follow yours.
Voting republican gives us a good chance of having Christians in leadership roles,not voting gives democrats a greater chance. So, I vote.
Also….we need pro-Israel people in [office]… I know republicans want to have some measure of control over Israel etc… but at least they would stand with her if she was attacked. So, again, I vote [for Republicans].
They are making it too easy for me…
“There are no leaders that are not put in place by God.” I’m sure that’s exactly what Russian and Chinese Christians said when Stalin and Mao were annihilating them.
It’s a bad interpretation to go from the “powers that be” being within God’s plan (which is all that Romans 13 means) to “I ought to support one set of powers that be over another.” It’s like Paul asking, “Which do I prefer, Nero or Claudius?” God responds with, “Read the book of Revelation, silly goose.” Because that’s what Revelation is about: Rome and God’s judgment over it.
Mr. Christian Conservative knows he cannot provide any reason for his position, so he now defaults to “don’t judge me!!!” It’s actually kind of sad.
We are not going to convince other people on Facebook as to whether or not they should vote. If you feel that God has asked you not to vote, then don’t do it. Do what you think is right, but do not judge another brother or sister for doing what they think is right.
I conclude with a small encouraging word toward those motivations:
I’m not judging you for doing what you think is right. I’m trying to convince you that your rationale for the means you think will attain what is right is illogical.
I doubt I convinced Mr. Christian Conservative, but convincing him right now is not really my goal. If anything, arguments like this help to tear down the idols of government your arguer and observers have had rooted in their minds for years, if not decades. I am hopeful that those who were listening into this Facebook wall conversation will take even a little of this discussion and mull over it for some time, and ultimately come to that critical understanding that the State is not Kingdom of God.