todd purdum wrote an interesting piece in the nytimes this week on bush's reelection and moral values. he cited surveys of voters that found a majority did not think the economy is good, did not think tax cuts helped the economy, and did not think the war in Iraq has made us safer.
but 20% of voters (over 23 million) said that what they cared most about was "moral values" --as many as said they cared most about terrorism and the economy. and of this group, 80% (18.5 million) voted for bush. ralph reed, former christian coalition leader and southeast regional coordinator for the bush campaign this year said, 'there is a wide swath of voters, not just in the south, but in the heartland of the country, that no longer feels the democratic party speaks for them or their values, and that is a serious impediment to the democrats in a campaign like we have just been through.'
the article concludes with a quote by rep. rahm emanuel of illinois, a former clinton aide. he said, 'bill clinton and jimmy carter got elected because they were comfortable with their faith. we need a nominee and a party that is comfortable with faith and values. and if we have one, then all the hard work we've done on social security, or america's place in the world, or college education can be heard. but people aren't going to hear what we say till they know that we don't approach them as margaret mead would an anthropological experiment.'
listen. anyone who reads this blog knows that i care about religion and politics. i am not alone in being among those deeply committed christians who despite great misgivings, voted for john kerry. and i lean democratic for a variety of reasons i don't want to spell out fully here. this year, however, i was highly motivated to vote because of a conviction ( theological! a moral value!) about the reasons for going to war and the basic position of the 2002 national security strategy a.k.a. the bush doctrine that argues for preemptive strikes against threats. i and very many other christians find this unacceptable.
but i think that both ralph reed and rahm emanuel (less reed, more emmanuel) have their finger on something very important. i went to a democratic fundraiser in my neighborhood trying to understand how i could contribute to the effort to elect kerry. while there, at least three of the speakers, including a couple local politicians, made derogatory comments about 'those' christians who were voting for bush and what to do about them because clearly they are unreasonable and blind to the truth that enlightened people see. i think of myself as within what brian mclaren calls a generous orthodoxy, not fundamentalist, not dogmatic, and certainly not knee-jerk conservative on all issues. i think about the integration of my faith and my politics, and hold a pretty high standard for elected officials (not met by either candidate this year--see mark noll for another view on that point).
still, i felt disrespected by this group of people because they seemed to take on exactly that 'margaret mead' northeast enlightened liberal anthropologist view of confessional christians. we are not homogenous. we are not blind. some of us are pretty reactionary in a host of directions. but many of us believe in a basic christianity that calls us to love our neighbor, care for the poor, be good personally, and believe that god loves us and everybody else. i think in the face of this election, those who hold a christianity not very well represented by president bush ought to redouble their efforts to articulate that as a viable public option. and i, for one, pledge to do so.
anon, and +peace