“I once heard it said that when Satan tries to influence us, he often presents us with pairs of opposite evils, so we despise one so badly that we cling to the other (I think C.S. Lewis said this, but I can’t find proof of that). I can’t think of a better quote to describe the current state of the politically-minded conservative Christian. Evangelical Christians, in particular, see legalized abortion as the ultimate political sin and therefore judge the Democrats to be evil for supporting it. They then conclude that these bad people must support Satan’s position on all issues. So Christians, wary of the Democrats, let their guard down and absorb all teachings of the Republicans without questioning them, because they assume that the enemies of the evil Democrats can only speak the truth. This is a fatal flaw. The Bible teaches us that there is good and evil in every person (“There is no one who is righteous; not even one” – Romans 3:10) and, therefore, in everyone organization consisting of people. Outside of Jesus, no human being has ever had all good ideas or all bad ideas. We long for purity, but it’s nowhere to be found in this world. When we judge a person or organization to be evil, we violate the Bible’s numerous verses prohibiting judgmentalism. When we judge a person or organization to be pure, we elevate it to a godlike status, and we break the 1st Commandment of having no other god’s before God himself. We are then easily misled to believe in ungodly things.
Believe it or not, before the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, which made it unconstitutional for any state to ban abortion, and before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, most Bible-believing Christians were Democrats. The southern states that make up most of the Bible Belt had been Democratic since the mid-1800s. Back then, the Democrats were the party of the South and supported the interests of the titans of agriculture. This, of course, meant they supported the right to own slaves. Once the Civil War began, the Democrats lost power, placing only one of their own, Grover Cleveland, in the White House between 1860 and 1912, and he was a Bourbon Democrat who supported the rich but favored the interests of agriculture over those of manufacturing. The Republicans, on the other hand, were the party of the North and supported the interests of the titans of manufacturing. Neither party supported the interests of the poor and working classes.
In the 1890s, that changed. The Democrats launched a comeback under the leadership of three-time presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan. He was a Christian preacher and possibly the most charismatic public speaker of his time. Many Christians today know him for representing the cause of creationism in the Scopes Trial of 1925 at the very end of his life (for more on this, read my book, Where the Bible Contradicts Creationists – How a literal reading of every creation verse refutes young earth geology, redefines the Adam & Eve story, and supports the science of evolution and an old universe). But Bryan spent most of his adult life spear-heading the Democratic Party’s conversion from bourbonism to populism, a movement through which it would come to represent the powerless majority rather than the powerful, wealthy minority.
Bryan’s faith in Christ and adherence to the Bible inspired his concern for the oppressed. This emboldened him to oppose Social Darwinism, a theory embraced by the wealthy and powerful. Merriam-Webster defines Social Darwinism as “a sociological theory that socio-cultural advance is the product of intergroup conflict and competition, and the socially elite classes (as those possessing wealth and power) possess biological superiority in the struggle for existence.” In other words, according to Social Darwinism, the wealthy are biologically superior to the poor, so letting the powerful dominate the powerless, even to the extent that the poor and their children die, will propel the evolutionary advancement of the human race. Bryan’s opposition to this ideology became known as the Social Gospel. This movement primarily focused on abolishing child labor, reducing work hours, ensuring a livable wage, and protecting workers through government regulation of factories. As we’ll see in later chapters, these goals are consistent with the will of God as expressed throughout the Bible.
Bryan was never elected president, but the Democrats didn’t abandon his cause. They hung in there and finally won the presidency and Congress in the election of 1912. Bills to protect workers became laws but were shot down by a conservative Supreme Court. Finally, in 1932, during the Great Depression, the Democrats took control of Congress and the presidency again. This time, by the late 1930s, the Supreme Court came around to their way of thinking, enabling the principles of the Social Gospel (now known as the New Deal) to become law and giving the working class and their children dignified lives fitting for beings created in the image of God. The New Deal was popular in both the North and the South, so much so that, by the 1950s, most Republicans had to embrace it if they wanted to get elected. From the 50s through the 70s, Republicans and Democrats frequently crossed party lines when voting on bills, because the differences between them had been diminished by the nation’s overwhelming support for the New Deal.
Unfortunately, just as the parties united over the rights of workers, they divided over the rights of African-Americans. While it was the Republicans who freed African-Americans from slavery in the mid-1800s, it was the Democrats who campaigned for their civil rights in the mid-1900s. African-Americans largely abandoned the Republican Party out of disdain for Republican President Herbert Hoover in the election of 1932. President Hoover had presided over aid for, and the clean-up of, the Mississippi Flood of 1927 (before he was president), and African-Americans were abused in the process, often forced into labor, even at gun-point, and deprived of their share of the aid. Hoover then promised greater influence for African-Americans in his first term as president but failed to deliver. Naturally, as African-Americans supported the Democrats, the Democrats supported them. In the 1950s and 60s, the Democrats succeeded in outlawing racial discrimination against African-American employees, customers, students, and tenants. Even more controversial was their passage of affirmative action programs that implemented racial quotas in the workplace and in colleges. The public also began to view welfare programs, such as food stamps, as taking from whites to give to blacks who choose not to work (I’ll address this further in the Personal Responsibility chapter). Many southern Christians turned Republican out of opposition to the civil rights movement. This was the first major step in the conversion of Christians to the Republican Party.
The second and most significant conversion step has been the issue of abortion. For Christians who’ve grown up in the post-civil rights era, racial issues have since had a diminishing influence on their choice of political party as the decades pass. But the Supreme Court’s Row v. Wade decision of 1973, which denied all states the right to outlaw abortion, reigns supreme to this day as the most important issue for politically active Christians.”
This is where we’ll leave off for now. Next week, I’ll address the abortion issue and demonstrate why it just might make sense for even those who are anti-abortion Christians to vote against the Republican Party.
If you can’t wait till next week, you can Buy “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason” at Amazon.com