By Laura Rector
Somewhere in a closet at my parents’ house in Kentucky hangs a George H.W. Bush shirt from my high school days. On one occasion in my early 20s, I skipped church to pass out flyers with Right to Life’s candidate information. On another occasion, I pondered starting a Concerned Women for America prayer group. Now, I often find myself writing in support of Democratic policies as much as Republican ones, simply because we evangelicals tend not to give them a fair shake. In fact, I’m a registered Independent and think both parties have some good qualities, as well as bad ones.
Why the change? In my adult years I realized I didn’t have to bow to the pressure of my conservative Christian friends and solely support the Republican Party. I saw that submitting to a Christian culture that put all loyalty in any one political party or cause without any room for criticism or calls for reform wasn’t following God but serving idolatry.
I am not saying that you can’t be Republican and be Christian or vice versa, only that if you’re Christian, you shouldn’t be afraid to rebuke some things Republican. You also shouldn’t be so sold on one party that you can’t admit there might be anything good about the other party if you also claim your first allegiance is to Jesus who died for the entire world.
As a Christian watching the rhetoric in the Republican primary races, I think Jesus would want me to be concerned about the racist rhetoric used to win votes.
Ron Paul paraded his campaign in front of a Confederate flag — a direct assault against the African-American citizens of this country feebly masked with a “states rights” campaign.
There can be no doubt that Newt Gingrich was making implications about President Obama’s skin tone as much as any public policy when he called Obama “The Food Stamp President,” particularly since he also said he wanted to get blacks jobs, not food stamps.
And Rick Santorum? Where do I even begin with the candidate who said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money?”
The message is clear: Whites own this country and “those other people” are taking it away.
Such tactics should bring tears to Christians’ eyes and a strong rebuke from the community. Unfortunately, instead, they mostly illustrate how little progress we’ve made in white awareness in this country.
I’m not simply angry with these candidates’ actions. I’m also angry that so many of my white evangelical friends readily defend them.
I’m saddened that they would rather blame the President’s skin tone for poverty than look realistically at the facts. If they did, they might realize the main reason so many people in this country are on public assistance has nothing to do with race and everything to do with there not being enough jobs.
I’m sad that they would reinforce the idea that blacks somehow threaten whites in this country. Oh, and for the record, there are more whites on food stamps.
White evangelicals need to be sending a message to such candidates that they are tired of their African-American friends being caricatured as lazy welfare recipients who won’t work and live off handouts. They need to be sending a message that they won’t advocate 2012 being another year of nasty politics but little concrete change.
Instead, so many of my evangelical friends seem more likely to put their hands over their ears and say, “You’re just playing a race card” or label those who speak out as “liberal,” when in fact rebuking one party for racism isn’t an automatic endorsement of the other party.
Party allegiance must not be equated with allegiance to God to such a degree that we don’t recognize racism when it’s hitting us in the face. When it is, we have not just a political problem but a discipleship problem.
When political candidates or groups launch racial attacks, we should rebuke them — even more so if it is our own political party — rather than develop deaf ears, or worse, what Scripture calls a “hard heart.”