A Note for Conservative American Christians Before an Election

I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of 11 while attending a Baptist church in rural New Jersey. A few years later, I began attending Fellowship Baptist Church (now Fellowship Community Church) outside of Philadelphia.

This is where I read through Voter Guides that detailed the pro-life positions of candidates, preached my first sermon, lead worship on Sunday morning, and decided to pursue ministry. I worked with one of the up and coming young pastors at our church each summer, and we spent most of our days tuned in to a Christian radio station that mashed together a politically conservative Christian perspective on news with straight up conservative radio shows.

I knew all about the latest court cases involving Jay Sekulow’s Christian group, The Center for Law and Justice, which often engaged in lawsuits over what kinds of religious t-shirts kids could wear to school. We listened to a lot of Rush Limbaugh throughout the impeachment of Bill Clinton. I never even seriously considered voting for a Democrat until 2008.

While attending seminary at a conservative evangelical school outside of Philadelphia from 2001-2005, I began to ask questions about my politics even though I remained a supporter of George W. Bush. Once I began to ask those questions, I eventually realized that I could no longer align myself with the Republican party in good conscience.

I have no qualms with individuals who support the conservative ideals of limited government, which used to be a Republican ideal as well. However, the Republican party has raised one red flag after another, and I encourage all people of conscience to closely examine the language and the policies of Republican politicians in the upcoming election.

My belief is that the majority of Republican politicians at this point are largely manipulating and exploiting my Christian brothers and sisters by tossing them the occasional policy win while running roughshod over the well-being of minorities, giving massive tax handouts to the most wealthy, passing disastrous tariffs that are hurting hard-working farmers, undermining the healthcare that thousands, if not millions, depend on, ignoring the ways that healthcare can dramatically reduce abortion, and failing to take the very real threat of climate change seriously.

If I can briefly trace what I have seen, we need to begin with the tactics of conservative radio that have also come into full bloom in news outlets like FOX News.

First, these shows create the perception of a problem or a threat that doesn’t actually exist. They amplify and distort a news story in order to create a narrative and the perception of a terrifying trend. When viewers/listeners are stirred up with enough fear, outrage, or both, they can then direct their viewers/listeners to support conservative candidates who will address their fear and outrage—which the Democrats aren’t addressing after all because they are based on a false premise to begin with.

For instance, an American student who is told to change a t-shirt with a religious message is hailed as an example of modern day persecution. A city’s challenge to a church’s significantly discounted public school facility rental is presented as an attack on freedom of worship. The extreme agenda of the Freedom from Religion Foundation is broadcast widely as the vanguard of a wider liberal scheme to destroy religion (it’s not).

Conservative news outlets broadcast dire predictions and warnings, and so Republican politicians swoop in as the heroes who will defend Christians in America from the liberal assault on their freedom. The trouble is that our elected officials are overwhelmingly Christian, and those that are not Christian have expressed no interest in waging a war against freedom of worship. Even when President Obama assured us of his Christian faith, conservative news outlets stirred fears that he’s secretly a Muslim working against Christians.

The brilliance of this strategy is that Republicans can use this false persecution narrative in order to secure votes from people who are otherwise not benefitting from their policies. The tax laws are benefitting the wealthy, Republicans have ballooned the deficit in order to justify cutting medicare and social security, the ACA is under constant threat, and our political leaders are failing to take the very grave danger of climate change seriously. They have successfully created a culture war narrative that requires them to provide next to nothing for their constituents because they are solving problems that don’t exist. They can tout their triumphs of defending religion while attacking the policies and institutions that could actually benefit their constituents.

Even more damning, I have seen wide scale attacks on the right to vote in many states where elections are often close. In Ohio, there was obvious partisan gerrymandering, and while we lived there we often signed petitions to appoint a by-partisan group to draw the district lines. We saw polling locations closed and voting hours limited only in areas with larger minority populations. The wealthy white communities that were more likely to vote Republican had no limitations placed on their voting hours or locations, ensuring ample time and short lines.

This same tactic has been used throughout other states, including North Carolina where gerrymandering has been an ongoing threat for minority communities. In Alabama, there are voter ID laws that make it all but required to have a driver’s license, but Republican leaders at the state level have closed down many DMV locations in minority areas, making it that much harder to get a license in order to vote.

And so we see a tactic among Republicans to use distractions for their middle class or upper middle class voters, while using obstruction for the lower income and minority voters. These are all well-documented. You can look all of them up and find multiple sources. I witnessed some of these things in real time.

I don’t believe that every Republican is evil or is in 100% support of such tactics. However, the trends are plain to see and they’re undeniable.

Access to voting shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but Republicans have made it one.

The persecution of Christians in America is not happening, but Republicans want their supporters to believe that it is.

Abortion was dramatically reduced because of the Affordable Care Act’s healthcare benefits, but Republicans want to repeal it.

Thousands, if not millions of Americans face death or extreme suffering if the ACA is repealed, but Republicans have made it a cornerstone of their policy.

The Trump administration has used racially charged language, attacked Latino, Arab, and black communities specifically, and emboldened white supremacist groups, but Republicans have not countered this dangerous rhetoric.

Climate change could cause a dramatic increase in severe weather events all over the world and devastate many coastal communities, including some of the poorest people in the world who live by the coast, but Republicans have not addressed the severity of this problem and instead turned it into a partisan culture war with flag waving coal miners vs. out of touch liberals who want unsightly solar panels and wind turbines.

Kentucky even has a “Friends of Coal” license plate!!! It’s more like “friends of climate change.”

I’m not saying that Democrats are perfect. Some have poor policies and troubling pasts for sure. However, when it comes to some basic issues that could literally save lives and protect the basic human dignity of millions or more people, Republicans have largely relied on obstruction, distraction, and deception.

I hate writing about politics. The last thing I want to do is to spend time following politics. But if I am going to truly love my neighbors and affirm the dignity of God in all people as well as the worth of God’s beloved creation, I cannot sit idly by while Republicans deceive and exploit my people to the detriment of many.

I will be voting for Democrats during this election. I look forward to a time when I can seriously consider the candidates of both parties. That is my preference by far. That, however, is not our reality. We have the Democratic party that is at least attempting to serve the interests of the majority of people and the Republican party using obstruction and distraction to pass policies that are already doing great harm to their own constituents.

I don’t see myself as someone who abandoned my ideals or the things I learned growing up in a strong Republican family in Philadelphia. We were the people who supported smart policies, freedom, and individual liberty. I spent so many years thinking that Republicans were the good guys.

Today, I can primarily only see crass exploitation and opportunism that, in part, relies on deceiving my Christian family in order to prompt them to vote against their own interests and the interests of their neighbors.

It feels terrible to find out that you’ve been deceived. Believe me, I’ve been there. But we have to stop electing the people who will give us a few policies we want while sacrificing our ideals and the well-being of our neighbors. Christians are numerous enough in America to demand bi-partisan Congressional districting, the end of voter suppression, healthcare for all, AND pro-life policies.

I won’t stay silent while alleged Christians pollute the news with shameless propaganda and half-truths. We can be better than this. The problem, in part, is that we’ve settled for so much less than we should be demanding.

My prayer today for you is that you will vote with the well-being of our neighbors in mind, with the well-being of our children in mind, and with the well-being of the most vulnerable people in our communities in mind.

Demand higher morals from our elected leaders and use your influence to ensure that everyone is treated with equality and justice under the law. The place that starts is in the voting booth, and in the majority of races, equality and justice are not coming from the Republican party.