A friend of mine, while talking with her ten-year old son, was asked, “Aren’t all Republicans Christians?” Of course, the answer is, “No!” Nor is it true that all Christians are Republicans, although there are a lot of people who think that they should be.
Since abortion has become an overriding concern for many Evangelicals, and since the Republican Party platform is specifically pro-life, there are those who make an easy equation that evangelical Christianity is nothing more than the Republican Party at prayer (although evangelicals should remember that this Supreme Court, which has refused to overturn Roe vs. Wade, was largely created by Republican presidents.)
Those who would make evangelical Christianity and the Republican Party synonymous are usually concerned with more than abortion. Often, their more covert agenda is to make the political-economic philosophy of the Republican Party part of the evangelical creed, while equating liberal politics with liberal theology.
For the purpose of definition, liberals are people who believe that big government should be pro-active in solving societal problems. Unlike conservatives, who believe that the government that governs best is the government that governs least, liberals believe that the government should step in and try to engineer a more just and equitable society. Thus, liberals in the past have sought to use government to insure all people, regardless of race, their civil rights. They have sought to guarantee the equality of women through law and to insure the well-being of the poor. In the halls of Congress, conservatives have often resisted using the power of government for such purposes. With many conservatives there is a nostalgia for the good old days, while forgetting that the good old days were marked by racial segregation, the denial of voting rights for women, and exploitative labor practices that included the oppression of children.
More recently, conservatives have fought hard to keep government out of the medical field, and have successfully defeated a comprehensive and universal health plan. So, instead of government controls, we find that the medical profession, without restraint, now determines the cost of health care and pharmaceutical companies determine what we pay for medicines. Costs for simple tests in hospitals have become exorbitant, and a hospital stay can leave a middle class family bankrupt. Even worse, there are tens of millions of Americans who have been left without any medical insurance at all. Today, insurance companies with their HMO plans, instead of government, tell us what kind of care we can get, how long we can stay in the hospital, and what kind of prescriptions we can buy. We even find that the insurance companies have been telling our doctors what kind of treatments we can receive. In some cases we are not even told about treatments that can help us, because the insurance companies deem them expensive. On the other hand, liberals have created a host of problems for us. The welfare plan devised by liberals may have done more harm than good for the poor. It has created dependency, diminished people’s dignity, and encouraged sloth. Also, liberalism has driven religion from the center of American life and has moved us towards being an increasingly secularized society.
We can go back and forth with the pros and cons of liberal verses conservative politics, but I believe that it is safe to say that God ordains neither of our political parties. Regardless of whether we are liberals or conservatives, all of us ought to be aware that government itself is ordained by God as an instrument to carry out His will (Romans 13:1-7; Col. 1:15-16.) As conservatives, call upon the government to stop abortions and to insure religious freedom; and as liberals, us it to insure civil rights and to care for the poor. We should all see that government can be a good thing that blesses America. Certainly, there should be room in the evangelical community for both Republicans and Democrats; and we, as a people united in faith, ought to discern God’s will for our nation and insure the public good by law.
Author and speaker Tony Campolo is a professor of sociology at Eastern College in St. David, PA.