There is this whiff of a suggestion circling throughout the blogosphere that evangelicals should stay home this November, refusing to vote for the candidates for President on the basis that none are truly "pro-life" and all lack an acceptable amount of faith in God, in the evangelical mind anyway. I think what I have come across is an aftershock from James Dobson's February declaration that he would not vote in November if McCain was the Republican nominee.
What I find most shocking about the growing popularity of this idea is the direct opposition it presents to the patriotism that evangelicals usually embrace. Countless times I have read articles, books, and editorials from right-wing, evangelical conservatives about the Founding Fathers, the Biblical principles that are at the core of the Constitution and our legal system, and our duty to participate in government. Now that the winds seem to be less favorable to the ideology of evangelicals, they want to take their toys and go home.
We have been told in the past, that we must vote our consciences and that each vote must honor God in its entirety. The equation of our religion with our vote has brought this identity crisis to full bloom. The illusion that candidates exist within the narrow parameters of evangelical opinion has contributed to the dilemma before religious conservatives. We have let candidates speak in our churches. We have passed out voter guides by the Christian Coalition. We have created litmus test after litmus test for candidates. Bit by bit, politics has rooted itself into the evangelical ethos and we have welcomed it, believing that we had some sort of right to a candidate who fit our mold.
The problem is evangelicals have gotten their way and have grown accustomed to it. The thought of dirtying our hands and choosing between candidates without the full approval of evangelical leaders has become too much for our gentle souls to bear. To do so would be to lower ourselves and compromise.
I find this interesting in several respects.
One, isn't not voting and assuring the victory of a more liberal candidate, over and above a less liberal candidate, pretty much the same thing?
Two, doesn't not voting smack of a Pilate-ish response? "Oh it's not me Jesus...you see..it's those people out there who want you dead....I'm just a neutral, passive agent." Trying to wash our hands of the whole thing is immature and illogical.
Three, do evangelicals really not understand that a large portion of Americans do not share the same ideological views as they do? The outrage I have come across shows no sense of reality about the vast gulf between what many average Americans believe about politics. There is always a sense of "those liberal conspirators" hanging about, implying that most people don't really back liberal politics but are simply manipulated by the media and Democratic leaders. That happens on both sides, to be sure, but detracts from the millions of people who really believe in certain political issues and vote accordingly. It is no coincidence that our last two elections have been so close.
Four, isn't choosing not to vote because you don't morally approve of the candidates awfully similar to not funding the Iraq war because you don't morally approve of it; something over which evangelicals have cried "Foul!" ?
Five, has evangelical leadership really wanted "godly" candidates(as defined by them), or do they want candidates who also fit their view of non-religious conservative values? I noticed Dobson didn't bother to endorse Huckabee until after Romney dropped out of the race. Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani. John Hagee endorsed McCain. Huckabee....an obvious "evangelical" candidate, snubbed by evangelical leaders. I guess religious values weren't as important as they seemed. Personally, I don't have a problem with that, but don't cry me a river complaining that evangelicals don't have a candidate they approve of in November.
Citizens who participate in voting only when the wind is blowing in their favor, are not good citizens. True patriotism lies not in using the governmet to achieve our own ends, but revering the laws and processes which make our country what it is even when we are temporarily dissatisfied with its current leadership.