peace_symbol_6My mother was a faithful Christian. She also was a devout Democrat.

I thought about her as I read an article by Jim Galloway in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about a new effort to recruit Christians for an effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Why shouldn’t Christians, of all people, be working to make the world a more peaceful place?

As the Two Futures Project, the group organizing this campaign, says on its Web site: “We believe that we face two futures and one choice: a world without nuclear weapons or a world ruined by them.”

That group, which is closely aligned with Ted Turner and Sam Nunn’s Nuclear Threat Initiative, is headed by a Baptist minister in Nashville, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson. It is not partisan in a political way. Both Democrats and Republicans are involved.

But the issue is one that we’ve become accustomed to seeing Christians shun as too liberal or left wing. With some exceptions, evangelical Christians in recent years have chosen to align themselves with the politics of the right.

That tendency is probably not going away any time soon, but the fact that we’re beginning to see some chinks in the iron-clad bond between evangelicals and the right wing is a good sign.

My mother would have thought so, anyway. Her faith and her politics were closely intertwined but the combination led her to some very different conclusions from those we hear about so often today.

jesusstickerShe believed deeply in the key New Testament commandments: Christians were supposed to love God, and they were supposed to love their neighbors as themselves. She embraced the turn-the-other-cheek philosophy of the Sermon on the Mount. And, while she would not have gone quite so far as putting Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the same plane as the Trinity, she would have come darned close. She was a Democrat, she told me over and over, because Democrats cared more about the poor and did more to help them.

Yes, I know some Republicans also care about poverty — and are, in fact, quite generous in giving to worthy charities that address those issues — but differ with Democratic views on the role of government. I respect the views of those people.

But the point is, for my mother, Democrats more often supported ideas that struck her as key to Christian principles than did Republicans: issues of hunger and poverty, racial inequality and war and peace.

She, like many people, Christian or not, might have felt conflicted about some of the social and moral issues that come up in political life. But her faith was never an excuse for intolerance. Instead, it required her to be tolerant and to embrace and attempt to understand and empathize with diverse views.

None of this is meant to say that my mother was perfect. But she was compassionate, a compassion that was at the heart of her religion — and that informed her politics.

Far from all evangelical Christians would be swayed by mom’s views. And I am definitely not suggesting that all of them should be Democrats; the Republican Party certainly needs some compassionate voices, too. But it does seem that self-professed Christians should be looking for ways to pave paths to understanding with any and all people of good will and good intentions.

They should also be looking for ways to be forces for good. Why shouldn’t Christians, whose religion was founded by someone who healed the sick, be in the forefront of the healthcare debate? For that matter, why shouldn’t they be speaking out on global warming or seeking solutions to the growing inequality between rich and poor?

The nuclear disarmament campaign is a hopeful sign. Let’s hope more signs emerge.

Links:

Jim Galloway’s AJC story: http://www.ajc.com/services/content/printedition/2009/05/11/polinsider051109.html

The Two Futures Project: http://twofuturesproject.org

Nuclear Threat Initiative: http://www.nti.org/index.php

The importance of the Sermon on the Mount in shaping Barack Obama: http://www.reporternews.com/news/2009/apr/23/obama-finds-sermon-on-the-mount-elevates/

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Keith Graham

Keith Graham

Keith Graham was among the recipients of the prestigious Stella Artois prize at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival. Named for a blind piano player, he is also well known for always giving money to street accordion players. A quotation that he considers meaningful comes from the Irish writer Roddy Doyle: "The family trees of the poor don't grow to any height." In addition to contributing to Like the Dew, Keith frequently posts quotations and links and occasionally longer articles at http://tartantambourine.com/

5 Comments
  1. Well, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! This is so well done, and oh gosh – mothers, religion and politics. Thank you. You struck enough notes for a melody and it’ll be in my head all day. Odd how religion divides along political fault lines, even with fairly well documented, common-ground principles like making peace, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc. But (don ‘t) get me started, please! I’m keeping my powder dry until I get some lyrics down for this tune.

  2. Terri Evans

    Such a beautiful and compelling argument. Your piece (peace?) is reasonable and seems to me to be fair as it allows room for some that do not see it your way. I, on the other hand, do see it your way and was especially moved by the reference to “healing the sick” and healthcare. The Jesus that I admire would most certainly be for healthcare for all. This would be true for fish, bread and wine as well. Not a bad diet, especially for the starving masses. I like your mothers’ brand of evangelicalism. And yours of thought, writing and sharing.

  3. Cliff Green

    This breakdown between evangelical Christians and the GOP bodes ill for the party’s future. Already there are studies out–one in today’s AJC op-ed page–indicating the Republican Party is on the wrong side of the coming generational divide. When the Christians leave, they’re doomed.

  4. Lee Leslie

    I beg to differ. This is about simple greed and power. The TV evangelists and early mega-church leaders (many of the later mega-church leaders are much more often deeply interested in solving social issues) found they couldn’t support their lifestyle by preaching good works and showing photos of starving brown children so they resorted to fear and race-baiting that naturally aligned them with the former Southern Dems/Dixiecrats, now known as the far right wing. No God-fearing man or woman wants war and the hell that goes with it. The false issues that drive the right have been framed by TV news in a despicable chase for controversy-fed ratings leaving the ordinary, down-to-earth, Bible-believer scratching their heads, praying for guidance, but still loyal to the pulpit. The Bush torture years shattered much of that. Their faith betrayed, they are opening their Bibles and reading for themselves again.

  5. You can have the mega-churchers. Take Huckabee while you’re at it. That way the Republicans can get back to being the party of tough love: national sovereignty, personal responsibiltiy and fiscal discipline. These mushy-in-the middle yahoos are ruining our reputation.

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