Christians are so tangled up with politics these days that our political loyalties threaten to engulf our Christian commitments. We want the politicians to listen to us and the politicians want us to listen to them. It is nice to be wanted but not nice to be used. It is nice to have an impact but not nice to lose our soul in the process.
The two major political parties are like two suns in the same cosmic neighborhood that fight to pull the in-between planets into orbit around them. The power of Party identity is so profound that otherwise thoughtful people lose the capacity for independent reflection. Christians then move on to confuse that Party loyalty with our loyalty to Christ and biblical moral values. (“Party” is here capitalized intentionally, symbolizing the way a political party becomes an unholy idol.)
We need a transcendent moral vision that can function as its own kind of “sun,” powerful enough to function as the center of our own moral solar system and to help us resist the pull of competitors.
That is precisely what Christian faith is supposed to provide. The Bible is full of such claims as these: “There is one God.” “You shall have no other gods before me.” “Our God is a jealous God.” “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” “Jesus Christ alone is Lord.” “We must obey God rather than men.” Such exclusivist religious affirmations strike many as dangerous. But they are far less dangerous than the alternative—religious-type loyalty to a secular political Party and its ideology.
I believe in this biblical God. I believe that the Bible reveals his holy will. As a Christian, I believe that no force is to be allowed to compete with God's Word for the government of my life in any aspect. This includes Party loyalty.
This God revealed in the Bible is the Creator of the cosmos and this gorgeous, precious planet. He demands careful stewardship of it and all of its living creatures. Biblically, we are not free to continue pummeling the Creation and testing its resilience to the breaking point. Therefore I am a Christian “environmentalist.”
This God made every human being in his image. He declared, and in Christ incarnated, the immeasurable and matchless value of every single human life. Therefore I believe in the sanctity of life. This includes every life, from its conception through its death (even after death, if one thinks about the dignified treatment of the dead) and into eternity.
Every life means every life, without exception. That includes two-month-along developing human beings in the womb, poor babies in Bangladesh, impoverished children in ghettos, abused wives and children, civilians in war zones, wounded soldiers at Walter Reed, imprisoned detainees in the war on terror, aging people living in nursing homes, mentally handicapped people, people convicted of heinous crimes. Everyone.
Therefore, I oppose abortion, euthanasia, war, murder, poverty, abuse, lack of adequate health care, torture, cruelty, degradation and the death penalty. As John Paul II said, our God is a God of life, a God for life. Because I am a Christian, I look for every opportunity to avoid adding more suffering and death to our vicious world. If there is any way to solve a human problem that does not involve creating even one more dead body, I'm for it.
God loves people. He made us with the capacity to flourish. He calls us to love our neighbors. One aspect of that love is helping our neighbors to become all that God made them to be.
Therefore I am pro-human wholeness. I support loving and nurturing family life, racial reconciliation, restorative justice, gender equity and quality education for everyone. I support the life of culture and the mind, beauty and the arts, science and technological advancement in the service of human well-being. I oppose structures and behaviors that discriminate improperly between groups of people, block their access to these essentials of human flourishing, and therefore limit the fulfillment of their God-given potential.
Because I am a Christian, I am pro-life, pro-family, pro-creation care, pro-poor, pro-justice, pro-wholeness and pro-peace. There are a variety of names for this ethic. I discovered a great one in the early 1990s—the consistent pro-life ethic. The term emerged from the Catholic tradition and has been embraced well beyond that communion. No political party on the landscape today articulates this ethic in its fullness. But I believe that this is the moral vision that ought to govern the thinking, living and voting of Christian people.
David Gushee is university fellow and Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.