Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Republican - and Christian - Opportunity

There have been innumerable analyses of the American election result by many people far better qualified than I, but I can't resist chipping in.

The Republicans must feel devastated. They got a good proportion of the popular vote, but as one commentator said, if you can't beat a president when unemployment is high and the economy is in a bad way, you should really be looking for another job.

They say the electoral college system is unfair on the Republicans in which case things do not look good for the future. Will they change the system? The Democrats won't!

Perhaps the biggest issue is the question of who votes for whom. Very broadly, if you are white, male, old and Christian you will vote Republican; if you are black/ coloured, young, female and non-Christian you will vote Democrat. There are countless exceptions to such a broad generalisation but that is pretty well how it is. As the country grows increasingly 'secular', younger generations move away from church and the values behind opposition to abortion and gay marriage recede in influence and popularity, it is difficult to see the Republican vote growing.

One brief interview with an Hispanic man on TV spoke volumes. 'The Republicans could appeal to us' he said. 'We are conservative minded, and we are religious. But the trouble is, the Republicans don't want us here'. So Christian in morals but not in compassion - that is how Republicans are perceived.

The party will need to do some hard thinking. Perhaps this is time of opportunity.

Now is also the time for Christians to ask themselves, 'what is our responsibility in politics?' A separation between Christians and a single political party may be no bad thing. It is not necessarily healthy for Christians to think they can enforce morality through the ballot box. And in practice, what could Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have done about abortion anyway? And how long would the stance against gay marriage have been able to hold? Nor is it healthy for the evangelical church to be identified with one socio-political power bloc, even if it does hold the right moral views. The church should always be bigger than one or two moral issues.

Some time for Christians to think things through will be useful; they must adjust to new a ideological reality in America. 'One nation under God and 'In God we trust' have never been as absolutely true as some would have liked to think; they are getting less and less so. Maybe for Christians the realisation of that is no bad thing.

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