I have struggled for the past several years with understanding how so many Christians can support politicians and preachers with glaring, public moral failings. I’ve been discipled in Christian values my entire life, and what I observe with many Christians is foreign to anything I ever was taught about Christian values.
It was pounded into my brain that all Christians cling to a similar set of values, even though we might have differences in theology, religious practices and lifestyles. I might be a Baptist, and you a Catholic, but our values are the same, even if you don’t eat meat on Fridays. We always shared the same values with unknown-tongue talking Pentecostals, Saturday church-going Seventh Day Adventists, and “Whiskey-palians” (as my father used to call them).
All of us valued love for other people. We might not always act like it, but we all knew that every person had value. This idea of loving all people was so ingrained into us Baptists that we took it upon ourselves to do everything we could to make sure the whole world is saved. We were taught that loving others is important enough that many volunteered to give up their lives to preach the gospel to the four corners of the world, which included even the communists, Chinese, and the “savages.” Every life had value.
Another value we shared is that certain behaviors are to be avoided. The extent of this depended on your Christian tradition, but I’m thinking of virtues like sobriety (both alcohol and drugs), speech (for most of us, this included George Carlin’s seven dirty words), honesty (not only in what we say but also how we act), and kindness (don’t be a bully, use your manners). We were taught there are certain things Christians do and don’t do because of our values.
“Somewhere along the way … Christians became no longer identified by values. We substituted policies for values.”
Somewhere along the way, culminating in the election of Donald Trump in 2016, Christians became no longer identified by values. We substituted policies for values. In other words, Christians no longer were identified by values like loving others or avoiding certain behaviors. Christians are now known by their political policies. These policies include opposition to abortion, restricting immigration, obtrusive law and order, military dominance, and an overarching economic policy of money is good.
Values no longer matter. Policy is now king. It’s permissible to elect a vulgar, dishonest, hateful, greedy candidate as long as he advocates the correct policies. In fact, I’m amazed at how often I hear people say something like, “I know Trump is a bad (vulgar, despicable, obscene, hateful) man, but I support him because I agree with his policies.”
How many “Christians” have you heard make this statement?
I’m aware that some of you Trumpers are going to call me out because, after all, you do oppose abortion — the ultimate value. Opposing abortion is not a value; it’s a policy. The value is to protect life, and being against abortion is one policy that sometimes values life. But not always.
Opposing all abortions is not life-affirming; it can be quite destructive. What about the young couple who are excited about having a child and take all the medical precautions to have a healthy baby, only to learn after five or six months they will have to decide between the mother or the baby because they won’t both survive?
“Opposing all abortions is not life-affirming; it can be quite destructive.”
Or what about the 15-year-old who is raped and gets pregnant? Her family is unwilling or unable to help her. She can take a year out of her life, drop out of school, have a baby she can’t possibly raise, and destine herself and her baby to a life of poverty. Don’t tell me that people will help her. Sure. They will drag her into a pregnancy help center, show her some videos and give her a handful of baby clothes to take home, but who’s going to pay the medical bills, provide child care while she finishes school, supplement her minimum wage job and be there for emotional support?
Don’t forget the woman who has been told by her doctor that her baby won’t survive more than a few hours after birth and that the infant will have severe painful deformities. Sure, she could have the baby, but who will pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs required to try and save the life? How do we affirm the mother’s life after we’ve condemned her to a life of poverty?
These are all hard questions, and fortunately, they are not faced by most of us. But the point is valid: Refusing abortions without exception is not always based on valuing life. Anti-abortion is a tool that usually puts value on life, but it’s not the only policy that’s necessary. Refusing to eliminate all abortions does not mean a person doesn’t value life.
The abortion rate has been on a steady decline for decades, even during Democratic administrations. This reduction is occurring while Republicans are waiting for the magic number of Supreme Court Justices to overturn a law. In the meantime, “pro-life” policies are making an impact. Things like education, birth control provided by insurance, increased support for the poor are all policies that contribute to reducing abortions. Advancements are happening while Republicans are fighting these policies. They don’t want teens to be educated about birth control; they fight against affordable health insurance; they oppose assisting the poor while standing in picket lines in front of abortion clinics wrapped in the righteous robes called “Right to Life.”
“They oppose assisting the poor while standing in picket lines in front of abortion clinics wrapped in the righteous robes called ‘Right to Life.’”
People who refuse to say, “Black Lives Matter,” when it comes to racial issues, ironically refuse to say, “All Lives Matter,” when it comes to issues like abortion, gun control, climate change, immigration and military superiority. For them, the life of a fetus matters, but the life of the mother doesn’t. The rights of a gun owner matter, but the life of a shooting victim doesn’t. The life that wants to drive a gas-guzzler matters, but the life of the rest of us on the planet doesn’t. The life of a citizen matters, but the life of an immigrant doesn’t. The life of a soldier matters, but the life of someone caught in the crossfire doesn’t.
If you want to support a candidate like Trump, that’s fine; it’s your right as an American citizen. But don’t tell me you are doing it because of your Christian values. You’re doing it because of your policies that are not based on Christian values.
I’m tired of being insulted because I don’t share your values when the truth is, I don’t share your policies. My values are the same ones we grew up with; you’re the one who changed values.
Terry Austin says from his first day of life he was taught to love the church. He has lived out that passion in various ways as a pastor, church consultant, author and critic. He is currently a full-time writer and book publisher and actively engaged with house churches.
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