Category archives: Government

The Influence of Social Media on Politics

by Peyton Holliday

February 22, 2019

For most of us, social media has become a routine part of our day-to-day lives here in America. This reality is now taking hold in politics as well. Scrolling through social media pages such as Twitter and Instagram, I have seen videos of candidates and elected officials dancing in their offices, visiting the dentist, drinking beer, and all manner of day-to-day life being shared with the public. With videos posted by Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others, the political spectrum is changing.

I personally don’t want to see a video of a politician going to the dentist—I would rather see a video of them explaining their stance on abortion or border control. I want to know what the candidate stands for on policy instead of how cool of a dance move they can do. We are losing professionalism in the political world. It seems that we are now electing people because they have nice dance moves or seem relatable on an Instagram video. This makes me wonder—how will our future elections be shaped through social media?

In the 1960 election cycle, well before the era of social media, the debates between JFK and Richard Nixon were televised for the first time in American history. The looks, poise, and smooth actions of JFK helped him to win the votes of millions of Americans. The medium of television set a new precedent for an era in which politicians worried about their image as much as their messaging. These televised debates marked the beginning of a new type of political media that would shape the outcome of elections for years to come.

Now, we are in a new era where the political scene is changing again. Americans can now stay up to date on the day-to-day thoughts and actions of political figures through videos, pictures, and posts on social media. The political landscape is becoming more and more based on marketing and image rather than actual policy positions. If you can market yourself better than your opponent, you have a better chance at winning. If your social media page has millions of followers, you can get more attention than appearing on national television. Candidates don’t even have to set up an interview with a television station to get media coverage anymore—if a social media post goes “viral,” it will be all over both television and the internet.

Social media is clearly a useful way to make candidates more visible to the world. Social media is already shaping the outcome of elections. In future elections, social media will undoubtedly begin to play an even bigger role. Similar to what happened in the 1960 election, the actions, online presence, and relatable image of a candidate can hold more sway than their policy positions in the minds of many social media-addicted voters.

Future elections will be shaped by the online presence of the candidates. As for me, I would rather see candidates use social media to present thoughtful positions on policy issues rather than try to be hip.

Peyton Holliday is an intern at Family Research Council.

President Trump’s Pro-Life Proclamation

by David Closson

February 6, 2019

Last night, President Trump delivered his annual State of the Union address, highlighting his administration’s achievements on the economy, taxes, and foreign policy, and calling for bipartisan solutions on immigration, infrastructure, and health care.

However, for social conservatives, the highlight of the speech was undoubtedly the president’s forceful denouncement of late-term abortion. Referring to recent legislation passed in New York that stripped explicit protections for babies born alive following a failed abortion, the president said:

There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our Nation saw in recent days. Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world.

The president also referenced embattled Virginia Governor Ralph Northam who last week appeared to endorse letting born alive babies die. President Trump did not mince words as he explained, “the Governor of Virginia… basically stated he would execute a baby after birth.”

Continuing with the topic of late-term abortion, President Trump asked Congress to pass legislation to prohibit “the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”

He then offered stirring words that may be without precedent in modern American political history. Looking out at the gathered dignitaries, government officials, and lawmakers in the House chamber, President Trump said:

Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children – born and unborn – are made in the holy image of God.

From the perspective of the Christian worldview, one of the most fundamental doctrines affirmed in the Bible is the imago dei, the belief that all people are made in the image of God. By rooting his support for “all children, born and unborn” in the image of God, President Trump affirmed the biblical principle that all people possess dignity and value by virtue of being created by God. For Christians, human dignity and the sanctity of life are grounded in this doctrine, and it is quite remarkable for the President of the United States to affirm this belief in the State of the Union address.

Unfortunately, but predictably, the president’s political opponents did not respond favorably. As the cameras panned across the Democratic lawmakers, their response was painfully and visibly clear. To the President’s call to pass legislation that would prohibit abortion procedures when babies can feel pain, the Democrats sat stone faced, refusing to applaud. The lone exceptions appeared to be Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) who joined Republican lawmakers in giving the president a standing ovation for his support for unborn and newly born babies.

In response to the president’s public support for a ban on late-term abortion and infanticide, FRC President Tony Perkins said:

The president was right to call out the atrocious actions of lawmakers in New York and Virginia in pushing America toward infanticide. President Trump has not only been the most passionate president in talking about the humanity of the unborn, he has been the most persistent in protecting them.

Tony Perkin’s full statement on the State of the Union can be accessed here.

SOTU: How the President Led on Life, Family, and Fighting Sex Trafficking

by Patrina Mosley

February 6, 2019

The State of the Union has historically been the time when the president, our Commander in Chief and the leader of the free world, puts Congress and the world on notice of the legislative agenda and priorities for the nation. This is why it’s so significant to see President Trump take a firm stand on the sanctity of life, the acknowledgment of what real families need, and the injustice that is happening at our borders.  

Life:

There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our nation saw in recent days.  Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.  These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and their dreams with the world.  And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.

To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.

Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life.  And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.

All of this came just a day after the Born-Alive Abortion Survivor’s Protection Act was blocked by Democrats not willing to give unanimous consent to the fact that babies deserve a chance at life if they survive an abortion attempt. As I mentioned here, the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency was nothing short of unprecedented when it comes to defending life. The Republican party platform now more than ever stands in stark contrast to the Democrat’s extreme abortion agenda. His statement was not only a rebuke of the lack of humanity shown by the Democrats but a fixed point of reference that valuing life is never anything to be ashamed of and that this value is what will make America great.

Family:

To help support working parents, the time has come to pass School Choice for Americans’ children. I am also proud to be the first President to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave, so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child.

Lack of access to school choice has been one of the biggest factors separating the haves from the have-nots. Giving families the option to use their tax dollars to educate their children as they see fit is critical to setting them up for success later in life. Another part of the “success sequence” in marriage is taking the time to invest in your children from day one. Chasing the American dream should not be the goal in life—being faithful to your family and to God should take priority. Paid family leave will help relieve the stress of working parents and encourage these eternal values.

Sex Trafficking:

Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate, it is actually very cruel.

This is certainly true. Not only does illegal immigration defy what scriptures teach on respecting the authorities God has put in place, but it also hurts our national security as well as our communities who are already hurting for jobs, and it certainly hurts the illegal immigrant who is being taken advantage of (in some ways trafficked into labor) with unfair wages. To many in the elite class and to those with political power, the illegal immigrant is nothing more than someone who cleans their house or mows their lawn. For big business, they are cheap labor, so they can keep more profit for themselves. To the Democrats, illegal immigrants are future voters whom they can entice with amnesty so long as the immigrant faithfully votes to keep them in power. What most do not know is how illegal immigration has facilitated sex trafficking:

One in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north. Smugglers use migrant children as human pawns to exploit our laws and gain access to our country. Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide-open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.

Most people are unaware of how sophisticated their system is—how smugglers promise to get women and children over the border but then hold them hostage by demanding more money once they are over the border and then violently forcing them to pay off their “debt” with sex. Often these girls are supervised by the women involved with the smugglers.

ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults. 30,000 sex crimes, and 4000 killings or murders.

One real life example of this was shared by the president in his address:

We are joined tonight by one of those law enforcement heroes: ICE Special Agent Elvin Hernandez.  When Elvin — thank you.

When Elvin was a boy, he and his family legally immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic.  At the age of eight, Elvin told his dad he wanted to become a Special Agent.  Today, he leads investigations into the scourge of international sex trafficking.

Elvin says that, “If I can make sure these young girls get their justice, I’ve [really] done my job.”  Thanks to his work, and that of his incredible colleagues, more than 300 women and girls have been rescued from the horror of this terrible situation, and more than 1,500 sadistic traffickers have been put behind bars. Thank you, Elvin.

We will always support the brave men and women of law enforcement, and I pledge to you tonight that I will never abolish our heroes from ICE. Thank you.

I hope the president’s address opens many eyes to see the compounding effects of criminal behavior. If those who have been entrusted with the authority to protect and pursue justice do nothing, then many immigrant lives will be needlessly victimized.

President Trump’s address is a flag planted in the ground of who we are as a nation, what we should strive to be, and what we’re going to get done by the grace of God.

In the World But Not of the World: Christians and Politics

by Zachary Rogers

January 25, 2019

Christians are commanded to be in the world but not of the world (John 15:19). This applies not only to areas of our secular life such as work and school but also extends to politics. According to the Apostle Paul, the government should promote good and restrain evil (Romans 13:3-4). This goal is best served by electing the right men and women to office and promoting laws that accord with justice.

Christians are confronted with different choices in candidates, policies, and parties. Choosing wisely requires the discipline of prudence—weighing ends and means in light of the circumstances in order to achieve the best results possible.

We are all made in the image of God, and He gave us the gift of reason. It should be used. Christians are able to weigh the declared aims and policies of politicians to determine between better and best, good and bad.

The blunt fact of the matter is that, currently, our two main parties advocate for different conceptions of the human good and biblical ethics. On issues such as abortion, LGBT rights, and religious liberty, the stances of the two parties and the politicians in them are starkly opposed. The implications for Christians are important because America lets its citizens elect their government. The Founders understood that the purpose of government is justice and structured it accordingly.

The Constitution on one hand carefully orders our republic to protect liberty and natural rights, while on the other relying upon a virtuous and vigorous citizenry. The federal government was given enumerated powers in order to achieve specific ends: national defense, domestic tranquility, and the protection of property and liberties. For this reason, it is a carefully constructed structure with separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism to restrain those who are overly ambitious and greedy. Yet at the same time citizens have immense power through their ability to elect representatives to deliberate regarding the national good and pass legislation to achieve this end.

Christians are faced with the fact that the American system of ordered liberty requires and depends upon active citizen participation. If they do not remain actively involved in campaigns, elections, running for office, litigation, and agency regulations, then politicians unconcerned with biblical morality, natural law, or natural right will be elected, and laws will inevitably be passed without the input of the citizenry. Americans sometimes fail to remember that the law and the system of government shapes the citizenry—the goals they have and how they pursue them. To ignore the privilege the Constitution bestows upon citizens and the need for Christians to be the salt of the earth is gross negligence of duty.

When military servicemen abandon their posts, the consequences are often severe—the destruction and defeat of their regiment, leaving open the city under their protection to invaders. Christians have the Holy Scriptures to guide them in a world of moral relativists. If Christians withdraw from the public square, what would fill the vacuum they leave behind? Because of the inevitable effect of laws upon culture (think of liberalized abortion and SOGI laws and their rapid acceptance afterwards by mainstream culture), Christians cannot safely withdraw from politics. Those who think they can safely withdraw to their local community and their local church are mistaken. Religious liberty and just laws are at stake. Therefore, men and women who will protect and promulgate these laws must be elected.

Are the politicians Christians elect perfect? No. On the question of whether flawed men can achieve sound ends, the answer is yes. Christians should strive to place the best candidates possible in government offices and recognize that while they are on Earth they will have to make use of their God given reason to make the best possible decision. This will inevitably include politicians who are not perfect and who will implement imperfect policies and pass less than flawless legislation.

Christians have been gifted with clear moral guidance from the Scriptures and the ability to carefully use reason to consider policies and laws, and have been blessed with a system of ordered liberty that depends upon their participation. To those Christians who are considering withdrawing from politics: you must stay. Your country needs you. While you might not be interested in politics, politics, politicians, and government bureaucracies are interested in you.

Zachary Rogers is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

Obamacare and Abortion: Tell Us Your Story

by Patrina Mosley

December 13, 2018

In FRC and Charlotte Lozier Institute‘s fifth annual investigation into Obamacare funding of abortion, we found that Americans now have fewer plans than ever before and more locales than ever providing abortion-only plans. At the same time, Obamacare is becoming less and less affordable and some Americans are saying, “I just can’t do this anymore.” Obamacare enrollment is already reported to be down 12 percent from last year.

Some have opted for Christian healthcare share ministries and others are taking advantage of the new short-term plans extended under the Trump administration, particularly now since there is no penalty for not having Obamacare.

Because of the individual mandate in Obamacare, Americans were required to purchase health coverage or pay a tax penalty. Due to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the individual mandate will no longer exist starting with the 2019 plan year. However, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have all the imposed their own state mandates effective 2019. Vermont’s mandate will be effective for 2020 enrollment. Other states are also considering implementing their own individual mandates. You can visit here for more information.

The short-term plans, however, are limited to a 36-month duration, provide fewer benefits, will not always cover pre-existing conditions, are generally less expensive, and cannot be purchased with Obamacare subsidies. Basically, these are for healthy people and those who are still deciding what major coverage to buy but don’t want to go without any coverage in case of an emergency. To see what your short-term options are, you can go here.

As our investigations continue to shine a light on the dark entanglement of the taxpayer funding of abortion, we also want to hear from you, the consumer, to see how Obamacare is affecting your decision to choose between your healthcare and your conscience.

Remember Connecticut’s Bracy family? In 2014, they had to sue their state and the federal government after being forced on to Connecticut’s Obamacare, which only offered plans that required them to pay for other people’s abortions. Due to pressure, the state of Connecticut now has at least one pro-life plan.

Tell us your story. We have provided our findings and encourage you to contact us with your experiences regarding abortion and Obamacare (either before or after enrollment in a plan) at info@obamacareabortion.com. Let us know what has and has not worked for you. One day we will win this battle, but in the meantime, we have to continue to fight and tell our stories!

How Shall We Engage Politically? A Response to Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung

by David Closson

October 26, 2018

A perennial question for the church is the issue of political engagement. From broader questions such as the Bible’s teaching on the role and purpose of government to specific issues such as abortion, marriage, and racial equality, theologians have grappled with these questions and offered various models for faithful witness in the public square.

Without doubt, we live in a time of acute political polarization. As evidenced recently in the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, civil discourse has reached a disheartening low. For Christians frustrated by the overall negative tone of politics and extreme partisanship, walking away from politics might be tempting.

However, for Christians called to be salt and light in the world, abdicating their political responsibilities is not an option consistent with Scripture. The gospel is a holistic message with implications for all areas of life, including how Christians should engage the political process and how we should think about our two-party system and voting.

So, what are the principles Christian ought to consider as they seek to live out their allegiance to Christ alongside their civic duties? 

Some Suggestions 

Recently, the question of how Bible-believing, gospel-loving Christians should exercise their political responsibilities has been raised by well-known pastors including Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung. In thought-provoking articles, both lay out their concerns with the current divisive and coarse nature of American politics and offer guidance for how believers ought to approach their engagement. Whereas Keller mainly considers how Christians fit into the two-party system, DeYoung offers practical suggestions for engaging in the political process.

Much of their advice is helpful. For example, in his article, Keller rightfully argues “to not be political is to be political.” By this he means that those who avoid political discussions tacitly endorse the status quo. Keller’s example of 19th century churches who were silent on slavery is a sobering illustration. By refraining from becoming “too political” these churches were in fact supporting a sinister institution. 

Likewise, DeYoung encourages pastors to engage in the political process by praying for leaders and preaching to controversial issues as they arise in the course of expositional preaching. DeYoung incisively echoes James Davidson Hunter by reminding Christians that faithful presence within the culture should be the overarching goal of cultural engagement and that electoral politics is just one of many ways to express neighborly love.

However, despite Keller and DeYoung’s contributions to the question of Christian civic responsibility, the utility and real-world application of their advice is limited due to an underlying political theology that hasn’t fully accounted for the realities of the political system within which we have to work. Although their warning to not equate the church’s mission with the platform of a political party represents faithful Christian convictions, they don’t follow through with a remedy for our current situation. Christians are left asking: Well, then, how should I engage politically?

Following Through

Answering this question requires an understanding of government’s God-ordained authority, the structure of a representative democracy, and a theologically informed view of voting.

In his article, DeYoung expresses discomfort with hosting voter drives and providing voter guides because it communicates that participation in the political process is “what Christians should do.” Although DeYoung agrees that “voting is a good thing” he does not think it is the church’s role to go beyond praying for candidates or preaching on issues. This is rooted in an admirable desire to preserve the church’s mission. However, despite these noble intentions, does this approach fall short in what full-orbed Christian discipleship requires?

In representative democracies like the United States, the locus of power is the citizenry; government derives its authority from the people. As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist Paper 22, the consent of the people is the “pure original fountain of all legitimate authority.” This principle is foundational and provides American citizens with an incredible privilege and responsibility. Unlike billions of people around the world, Americans control their political future.

For Christian citizens, the implications of America’s form of government are even more significant when considered alongside Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 about the purpose of government. According to Paul, government is ordained by God to promote good and restrain evil. To this effect, government wields the sword to punish wrongdoers. Thus, the administration of justice is the state’s responsibility; the government, not individual citizens, is tasked with the actual exercise of the sword.

From these considerations a truth with massive implications for Christian political engagement emerges: suffrage as an exercise in delegating God-ordained authority. Because power resides with the people in a representative democracy, when Christians vote, they are handing their sword to someone else to wield. That’s what voting essentially is; the delegation of authority. Seen from this perspective, voting assumes enormous responsibility and implies that failure to vote is failure to exercise God-given authority.

Voting Is Part of It

Thus, returning to DeYoung’s article, it is simply not enough for pastors to hope their congregations are informed about candidates and issues. If the act of voting is the act of delegating the exercise of the sword, pastors should communicate to their members “This is what Christians should do.” Given the unavoidable role of politics and the real-world impact that the state’s decisions have on people’s lives, downplaying the role of voting amounts to a failure in Christian discipleship and a neglect to offer neighborly love.

On this issue of neighbor love, DeYoung writes, “Political engagement is only one way of loving our neighbor and trying to be a faithful presence in the culture.” Although true, DeYoung minimizes the significance of government and politics. Obviously, neighborly love must be embodied in all aspects of life. However, can Christians really care for their neighbors without substantively engaging the arena that most profoundly shapes basic rights and freedoms? Further, given the United States’ outsized influence in the world, how can American Christians love the people of the nations without having a vested interest in how their own government approaches the issue of religious liberty and human rights? Through the power of the vote, American Christians can determine who will represent their country abroad and what values will be exported around the world: whether abortion education programs funded by American taxpayers or values congruent with the Bible’s teaching on the dignity of human life. Will America’s ambassadors be stalwart defenders of those engaged in religious expression (such as overseas missionaries) and vigorously advocate for their rights, or will they abandon them? Again, American Christians through the exercise of the franchise have a direct say in all of these issues. 

Because of these considerations, pastors would do well to educate and equip their members to think biblically about political issues, candidates, and party platforms. It is not enough to espouse concern for human dignity but not support policies and candidates who will fight to overturn profound moral wrongs. In a Genesis 3 world plagued by sin, Christians are called to drive back the corroding effects of the fall wherever they exist. This must include the realms of law and politics.

Back to the Bible

Thus, in the quest for Christian faithfulness in political engagement, a robust understanding of the nature of government and the act of voting must be applied to the current reality of the two-party system. Addressing this issue is the primary goal of Keller’s New York Times article where he contends that Christians must participate in the political process without identifying the church with a specific political party. Because political parties insist that you cannot work on one issue with them without embracing all of their approved positions, Keller says Christians are pushed toward two equally unacceptable positions: withdrawal from the political process or full assimilation with a party.

When it comes to specific issues, Keller writes, “Christians should be committed to racial justice and the poor, but also to the understanding that sex is only for marriage and for nurturing family.” He concludes, “the historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.” Keller implies that because both major parties hold some views that are faithful with Scripture alongside others that are not, Christians have liberty when it comes to choosing a political party.

This idea that historic Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments grounds the outworking of Keller’s political theology. Although not explicitly stated, he suggests that while Republicans may hold a more biblical view on issues related to abortion and marriage, Democrats are more faithful in their approach to racial justice and the poor. Implied in this analysis is that these issues carry similar moral freight and that consequently Christians should be leery of adopting either party’s “whole package.”

Although Keller is right in cautioning against blind allegiance to a political party, his analysis of the issues and where the respective parties stand is inaccurate. Without doubt, the issues of abortion, marriage, racial equality, and poverty are crucial, and the Bible has implications for how Christians should evaluate them. Regarding abortion, the Bible is straightforward—life begins at conception and abortion is murder (Ps. 139:13-16, 22:10, Jer. 1:5, Gal. 1:15, Ex. 21:22). Likewise, on marriage; the Bible is clear and presents marriage as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24, Mat. 19:5, Mark 10:6-9, Eph. 5:22-23). Moreover, Scripture is unambiguous regarding the moral status of homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Rom. 1:26-28, 1 Tim. 1:10-11, Lev. 18:22, 20:13, Gen. 19:1-5). On these issues the Bible is unmistakable; there is a clear “Thus saith the Lord.”

As Keller acknowledges, in terms of biblical clarity and priority Christians have rightly seen abortion and marriage as first tier moral concerns; when it comes to voting, a candidate’s stance on them matters greatly. But what does the Bible teach about the other issues Keller identifies?

Concerning racial equality, the Bible is clear that all are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Additionally, the good news of the gospel is for everyone; Christ died for all people, and in him believers from every tongue, nation, and tribe are reconciled to God and each other in “one new man” (Eph. 2:14-16). In terms of access to God, the Bible is unmistakable: distinctions based on gender and race are abolished in the new covenant (Gal. 3:28-29, Col. 3:11). Consequently, racism is sinful and must be repudiated by the church.

Finally, God’s concern for the poor is a pervasive theme throughout the Bible. Exhortations to care for the poor abound (Prov. 3:27-28, 22:22-23, 31:8-9, Isa. 1:17, 10:1-3, Zech. 7:8-10) and Jesus himself displayed remarkable concern and compassion for the poor in his healing and teaching ministry (Mat. 11:4-6, 25:45, Luke 6:20-21, 14:14). Famously, Jesus’ half-brother, James, wrote that “pure and undefiled religion” includes care for orphans and widows (James 1:27).

Consequently, the Bible speaks to the issues identified by Keller; committed Christians, therefore, must care about all of them. Faithfulness to God’s Word requires nothing less. However, the tension arises when it comes to application—when biblical imperative intersects with the realities of today’s politics. Therefore, the first step in Christian political engagement—identifying the issues that the Bible explicitly or implicitly speaks to—is the easy part. The challenging part of application requires discernment, prayer, and wisdom. 

No One Ever Said It Wasn’t Messy

At this point it should be stated clearly: neither political party is a Christian party in the sense that everything they advocate for lines up perfectly with the Bible. Evangelical Christians do not think everything the Republican party does is Christian—at least they shouldn’t. In fact, there are numerous policy issues the Bible does not clearly speak on. On tertiary issues like these Christians should debate charitably and extend liberty toward one another on points where they disagree.

However, it is also true in recent years the two major U.S. political parties have clearly adopted positions on first tier moral issues on which the Bible does speak. “First tier” moral issues include questions where the Bible’s teaching is clear and where specific, positive action is prescribed. Concerning marriage, the Bible commends the union of man and woman as representative of the relationship between Christ and the church and prohibits encroachment by any means. Regarding life, every human being is an image bearer of God and possesses inherent dignity. Thus, the responsibility to preserve life is supreme. Therefore, life and human sexuality are first tier issues because of their biblical clarity and priority. Concerning these first tier moral issues of life and human sexuality, one of the major parties has embraced positions manifestly at odds with biblical morality. The result has been increased moral confusion in the culture and the undermining of human dignity.

Thus, although neither political party perfectly represents evangelical Christians, party platforms do allow us to make considered judgments for who to support at election time. Political scientists have shown that politicians increasingly vote in line with their party’s platform—80 percent of the time over the last thirty years. Consequently, a party’s platform is a good indicator for how politicians from that party will vote. Thus, for Christians, in so far as a platform recommends policies informed by biblical morality it is easier to support that party.

So, while it is clear Republicans have adopted positions more aligned with Scripture’s teaching on abortion and marriage, is it obvious (as Keller implies) that Democrats have the moral high ground on the other issues he raises? In short, no. In fact, neither party expressly takes an anti-biblical position on issues related to race and the poor—it is the remedies for these issues that are debated.

Though it is popular to conceive of the Republican party as “anti-poor” and opposed to minorities, these conceptions are not as neatly supported as many in the media would have us believe. Earlier this year Republican lawmakers voted almost unanimously to advance legislation designed to reduce recidivism through vocational training and education courses. House Republicans (262 of them) joined 134 Democrats in advancing this legislation. According to the NAACP, African-Americans and Hispanics make up 32 percent of the general population but 56 percent of those incarcerated. Thus, efforts to reform the criminal justice system represent positive steps forward in addressing problems that disproportionately affect minority communities. Further, not only is the current unemployment rate of 3.7 percent the lowest since 1969, the African American unemployment rate hit an all-time low of 5.9 percent in May 2018; in September, black teen unemployment fell to 19.3 percent, another all-time low. While the factors contributing to this picture are many, the fact remains that under Republican national leadership, more minorities are getting jobs.

On the issue of poverty, no doubt many individual Republicans and Democrats care for the poor (though many others might use the issue to their own political gain). It is simply misleading to conflate the parties’ different economic philosophies with moral indifference—a conflation which widely contributes to popular conceptions of all Republicans as “against the poor.” The fact that conservatives believe in the efficacy of limited government and free markets in addressing poverty does not indicate apathy toward marginalized communities. On the contrary, conservatives believe that the best conditions for economic flourishing are created when the government’s authority is decentralized. The Bible does not endorse a specific economic system—though it does favor some while disfavoring others; the commandment against stealing shows respect for private property as does the Old Testament’s regard for inheritances. At any rate, there is room for disagreement on how to address such issues biblically.

Thus, by unfairly characterizing Republican views on racial justice and poverty, Keller creates a false dichotomy between the two parties. Whereas the Republican party platform is clearly on the side of biblical morality on abortion and marriage (in contrast to the Democrat platform), it is not at all clear that Democrat policy positions on racial justice or poverty are “more biblical” than those held by conservatives. At a minimum, they can be debated.

Tying Up Loose Ends 

Further, while all of these issues are important, Christians should employ a form of moral triage as they consider their political engagement. As Andrew Walker points out, with abortion there is a “greater moral urgency to repeal morally unjust and codified laws than there is the priority to ameliorate social evils that exist because of social wickedness and criminal behavior.” In other words, the existence of a positive right to terminate the life of unborn children calls for immediate action. Christians concerned about the unborn—the most vulnerable class of people in our country—must leverage their influence, resources, and time to correct this wrong as soon as possible. As part of a holistic effort to create a culture of life, Christians must engage the political process to pass laws that protect life. Mapped out onto the political realities of a two-party system, the outworking of this moral calculus is clear.

In short, if theologically conservative Christians appear aligned with the Republican Party, it is only because Democrats have forced them there by taking positions on moral issues that oppose the Bible’s explicit teaching. Thus, while Keller is right that Christians should not feel perfectly at home in either political party, is it fair to suggest that they should feel equally comfortable in both?

In 2018 the answer would seem to be “no.”

It should also be noted that the challenges facing American Christians regarding politics is not unique; brothers and sisters in other nations face the same tensions. This is because there is no “Christian” political party; no party aligns perfectly with the Bible. This is true even in countries where dozens of political parties participate in any one election. This means that there is never a perfect choice when it comes to political engagement; on this side of the Parousia, faithful Christians will always be choosing from less than ideal options. This is why wisdom, prayer, and counsel are indispensable when it comes to Christian political engagement.

Conclusion

For the sake of Christian faithfulness, we need an informed Christian citizenry. It is not enough for pastors to acknowledge that various policy positions are profoundly evil yet withhold the requisite tools that empower concrete action. It is not enough to pray for candidates and speak on a handful of issues without equipping believers with everything they need to honor God in the voting booth.

Over the last few years, many Christian leaders have lamented the current state of American politics. They have reiterated that Christians have no home in either major political party (a state of affairs to which we might ask whether Christian indifference and distaste for politics has contributed to in the first place) and that in secondary and tertiary issues Christian liberty should abound. While these calls are helpful, people in the pews are yearning for more direction. Of course, it would be pastoral malpractice to pronounce a “Thus saith the Lord” when there is no biblical warrant. However, in areas where pastors and Christian leaders can say more, they should. These areas include grappling with the reality of our two-party system and following our political theology to its logical end by voting.

If political engagement is an aspect of Christian faithfulness, it is also a matter of discipleship. Thus, church members must be equipped to honor God in the political arena in a way that goes beyond merely describing current challenges. Applying a faithful political theology in our context requires a thorough understanding of biblical morality and an awareness of the positions of the political parties and candidates. As this dual knowledge is acquired, Christians will better understand the times and increasingly know what they ought to do in politics.

David Closson serves as the Research Fellow for Religious Freedom and Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council. He is also a Ph.D. student in Christian Ethics (Public Policy) at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Christianity’s Blessings to Society

by Travis Weber

October 24, 2018

The new life of a believer in Christ motivates him or her to be a good citizen—to seek the well-being of the city or place in which they live. The latest example of this principle comes not from the United States, but from Nigeria.

A recent profile in The Economist, of all places, discusses the development of the “church-city” and the benefits it has brought with it.

Begun as a church, the plot of land north of Lagos, Nigeria now houses 12,000 people and covers more than 6,000 acres. That population will likely double by 2036.

As The Economist notes, “[m]ost African cities are messy, especially around the edges. Suburban roads are invariably crooked, unpaved and unsigned. Houses are plonked down wherever people can acquire land. Many homes are half-built . . .”

Yet in Redemption City, “[e]verything tends to work. Whereas Lagos hums with diesel generators, Redemption City has a steady electricity supply from a small gas-fired power station. It also has its own water supply. ‘We make life easy,’ says Pastor Fola Sanusi, the man in charge of Redemption City’s growth. The city also makes rules, of the kind that could never be enforced in the hurly-burly of Lagos. ‘No parking, no waiting, no trading, no hawking,’ reads one sign.”

‘If you wait for the government, it won’t get done,’” says Olaitan Olubiyi, one of the pastors. “So [Redemption City] relies on the government for very little – it builds its own roads, collects its own rubbish, and organises its own sewerage systems.” The Guardian reports that the government sometimes sends its own municipal experts to learn from Redemption City’s.

Though the properties are supposed to be kept within the community of Christians inhabiting the city, they seem to be making their way into the broader real estate market, being listed on some agencies’ websites.

Other churches in the surrounding area are currently building communities of their own. The Economist concludes: “Pentecostal Christianity has already remade many Africans’ spiritual lives. Now it is remaking their cities.”

While the concept is a bit unusual, this story reminds us that what one believes has direct consequences for society and the conditions in which we live. Our faith leads us to care for our surroundings, and religious organizations often have a widescale impact on the common good. While we are all imperfect, the Christian is (and should be) driven by principles which flow from a faith that seeks the good of our neighbor—and our cities.

Americans Can “Afford to Not Care” About Voting. Yet We Should Still Care.

by Travis Weber

October 3, 2018

Some of us may think of ourselves as non-political. We perhaps appreciate when leaders stand for things we believe in, but think “that’s just not for me.” We may vote if someone pesters us about it, but aren’t too excited about the opportunity.

Speaking at the 2018 Values Voter Summit, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin had some words for those who think this way (start watching at the 12:00 minute mark):

It’s interesting, I was asked some time ago by an interviewer on a radio program what I thought the greatest threat to America was. I don’t know what they thought I was going to say, but I will share with you what I did say and what I truly believe. The greatest threat, I believe, to America is apathy, because I’ll tell you we are blessed to such a degree – and think about the irony of this. We are blessed to such a degree that we can afford to not care and our lives will continue to be better than 99 percent of those who have ever lived would experience. How blessed we are that we can literally afford to not care.

This is a great reminder for all of us who enjoy more freedom than most of the world has known or ever will know. We have the freedom to vote for leaders who represent our values—to vote freely; not coerced, not pressured, and not in physical danger because we vote a certain way. Let us exercise this freedom next month.

U.S. Courts of Appeals: No Vacancy

by Alexandra McPhee

September 24, 2018

You’ve probably seen a lot of press lately surrounding the United States Supreme Court, our nation’s court of last resort. This past weekend at the Values Voter Summit, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell highlighted another issue that he considers a top priority: the confirmation and appointment of circuit court judges, the judges that sit on the United States Courts of Appeals.

President Trump and the Republican-led Senate have coordinated a system of confirmation and appointment of high-caliber judicial conservatives to our circuit courts with unparalleled efficiency. Since President Trump has been in office, 26 new judges have ascended the bench of circuit courts across the nation. Under the Obama administration, the Senate did not confirm a 24th judge until the fourth year of Obama’s presidency.

The Supreme Court issues many consequential decisions that have had an impact on pro-life policies, traditional marriage, and the free expression of religion. But the Majority Leader explained before the VVS audience that “a very, very small number of cases make it to the Supreme Court. The circuit courts are where most complex litigation ends.” As one article notes, judicial decisions from the circuit court “span a wide range of issues, from hot-button topics such as abortion, gay rights and the death penalty to voting rights, regulatory and business disputes, employment law and the environment.”

It is important that circuit court judges apply the law rather than seek to make the law based on their personal preferences. “These are lifetime appointments,” Senator McConnell emphasized. They will have a “longtime impact on what kind of country we’re going to have for the next generation.” In other words, five, ten, or twenty years from now, presently undecided areas of the law affecting our faith, family, and freedom will be decided by the circuit court judges appointed and confirmed today.

As Senator McConnell explained, “Republicans have only had the Senate, the House, and the White House for 20 of [the past] 100 years.” If we lose the Senate Republican majority, the influx of judges who will defend our constitutional rights will screech to a halt.

The Values Voter Summit is a yearly gathering of the most civically engaged and pro-family voters in our nation. All of us who have just gathered are participants, not spectators. The time is now to mobilize our friends and family to vote to keep a unified executive and legislative branch and fill our circuit courts with people “who believe that the job of a judge is to follow the law.”

Alexandra McPhee is the Director of Religious Freedom Advocacy at FRC.

Franken’s Senate Replacement is a Former Planned Parenthood VP

by Kelly Marcum

December 14, 2017

NOMINEE: Tina Smith

BIRTH DATE: March 4, 1958

EDUCATION: B.S. in Political Science, Stanford University, 1980. M.B.A. from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, 1984.

FAMILY: Lives in Minneapolis with her husband of thirty years, Archie Smith. They have two grown sons, Sam and Mason, who also reside in Minnesota.

EXPERIENCE: Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota (2015-present); Chief of Staff to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (2011-2015); Chief of Staff to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (2006-2011); Vice President of External Affairs, Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota (2003-2006); Involved with Minnesota’s Democratic-Famer-Laborer (DFL) party since 1998; Founded a political and campaign consulting firm, Macwilliams, Cosrove, Smith, Robinson, (1992); General Mills’ marketing department (1984-1992)

 

Abortion

Planned Parenthood connection:

Smith’s abortion advocacy runs in the family. Her father, Harlan Flint, was a board member for Planned Parenthood Ohio. In 2003, Smith became the Vice President for External Affairs, at Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, functioning as their lead registered lobbyist. 

Smith has said that Planned Parenthood provides “critical care” and that she is “proud of that work.” During her tenure at the organization, it had an increase in abortions by 22 percent, performing 9,717 abortions in Minnesota. 1,892 of these abortions were performed on low-income women, allowing the organization to be reimbursed $458,574.74 by Minnesota taxpayers. In 2004, Planned Parenthood became the state’s largest abortion provider, a title it maintains to this day. Between 2003 and 2005, Planned Parenthood Minnesota received $12.65 million in government grants.

As a Planned Parenthood Vice President, Smith lobbied against pro-life legislation, including informed consent laws for mothers and one-day waiting periods for abortions. Specifically, she led the organization’s fight against the Woman’s Right to Know Act in Minnesota, which became law in 2003. The Act requires women to be informed of the gestational age of their child as well as of the associated risks with any procedures, and it requires the physician to provide information to the mother on resources for available prenatal, childbirth, and neonatal care, as well as resources for financial support. The Woman’s Right to Know Act also requires a 24-hour waiting period after the woman has been properly informed before she can give consent to undergo the abortion.

Smith also lobbied against the Positive Alternatives Act of 2005, which provided state grants to nonprofits that supported women who chose not to abort by providing services such as housing assistance, adoption services, child care, parental education, and employment assistance. The purpose of an eligible grant applicant had to be to “maximize the potential” of the mother and support her after childbirth. Despite Smith’s efforts to convince legislators that pregnancy care centers that don’t refer women for abortions should not be eligible for state grants, the law passed in 2005.

Smith continues to have the political support of her former employer. In 2012 the Planned Parenthood Action Fund honored Smith “for her passion and commitment to Planned Parenthood.” Sarah Stoesz, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota stated: “[Tina Smith] really built our education and outreach efforts. She’s got a pretty strong legacy around here.”

When asked about Congress’ attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, Smith replied: “I think it’s almost totally political…It’s just a bad idea.”

Following Governor Mark Dayton’s announcement of Smith as his appointee to replace Senator Al Franken upon Franken’s resignation, Stoesz publicly endorsed the move, saying Smith “will be a powerful, moving force for justice” due to her “business acumen and passion for women’s health and rights.” Stoesz added: “As the Chief of Staff to Governor Dayton and as Lieutenant Governor there simply hasn’t been a stronger voice for women‘s health and rights…Tina Smith [understands] that women can’t earn a living or support their children if they don’t have access to the reproductive health care they need.”

Pro-Choice Politics

Since 2011, Smith has served in the administration of Governor Mark Dayton, after having served as one of his campaign advisors leading up to his 2010 election. Dayton enjoys a 100 percent rating by NARAL. During Dayton’s first term, in which he vetoed seven different pro-life measures, Smith served as his Chief of Staff. Among the legislation Dayton vetoed was the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortions occurring after 20 weeks, when unborn children can feel pain.

When Dayton successfully ran for reelection in 2014, Smith was his running mate. During Smith’s time as Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, the Dayton administration continues to be unequivocally pro-abortion. In March 2017, the governor vetoed two bills, which would have denied taxpayer dollars from funding abortion, as well as required licenses for abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota applauded the veto, saying in a statement that “Minnesota women are deeply grateful that Gov. Dayton is once again using his veto pen to protect a woman’s constitutionally protected right to abortion.”

Although Planned Parenthood is thrilled that their former lobbyist is heading to Washington, pro-life Minnesotans continue to be displeased at their lack of pro-life representation in the Beltway.  “Tina Smith is, without a doubt, the Abortion Senator,” said Leo LaLonde, President of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.

Religious Liberty and Reproductive Rights

Tina Smith has explicitly maintained that women’s so-called “reproductive rights” should trump religious liberty protections. Following the release of the new Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations which rolled back the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, providing conscience protections for institutions with stances opposing birth control, Smith called the action an “outrageous assault on the health and well-being of women and families.” She also stated that “birth control is essential health care for women” and vowed to “keep fighting to protect the rights of every person to make decisions about their own health care.”

 

LGBT Agenda

Tina Smith is viewed incredibly favorably by the Left for her stances on LGBT issues. Governor Dayton’s administration is very friendly to the LGBT community, and September 24, 2016 was declared Human Rights Campaign Day, in honor of the LGBT advocacy carried out by the Human Rights Campaign.

Same-Sex Marriage

Smith’s activism and career primarily point to her pro-abortion views. However, she is also pro-same-sex marriage, and released the following statement following the Supreme Court decision of Obergevell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states: “Today, the Court upheld that basic promise in all 50 states, and confirmed what Minnesotans have known for years - that love is love. While this is a major victory, there is more work to be done. We need to continue fighting until all Americans have equal rights and protections guaranteed by our Constitution.”

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Positions

Tina Smith stands vehemently opposed to President Trump’s decision to roll back President Obama’s transgender bathroom policy. She has called the Obama-era policies “reasonable protections” designed to “assure the basic dignity of all transgender students.” In her statement decrying the Trump administration’s decision to reverse the bathroom policy, she assured Minnesotans that she and Governor Dayton “will continue to do all we can to defend the rights and dignity of every young Minnesotan, including transgender students.”

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