18 September 2012

Why I am a Democrat.

This post will probably annoy all my Democratic friends, though.

As I’ve indicated previously, I used to be a gung-ho, die-hard Republican social conservative. I’m not now. I realized my own personal tendency was to make an idol of my politics, to the detriment of my relationship with Christ Jesus, to the elimination of any fruit I was supposed to produce for him, to the detriment of my witness to pagans, and to the trust I was putting in the kingdom of this world instead of the hope in the Kingdom of God.

I finally realized politics is not the route to achieve social change. The Kingdom is. The proper way is through surrendering the reins to God, not by trying to seize them ourselves every time the Democrats bungled the job. The reins don’t belong in either the Republicans’ or Democrats’ hands. They only belong in Jesus’s. And the Republicans are not Jesus’s surrogate. By convincing us that they are, they only make themselves into an antichrist.

Well, I’m not taking the antichrist’s side. Not anymore. So I joined the Democrats.

But the Democrats are hardly the opposite of Republicans. They believe precisely the same as the Republicans: They accept politics as the route to achieve social change. They are just as wrong, and just as evil. They just happen to be—for me, anyway—the lesser of two evils. (Or, as I tend to put it, “the lesser of two stupids.”)

My Republican friends disagree. They naively believe their party can be trusted to hand the reins over to God, once they seize those reins from the Democrats. Thing is, they don’t. The Republicans had the Presidency, their majority in the Congress and Supreme Court and state governments, and even so, Roe v. Wade remained the law of the land. The Republicans didn’t do a bloody thing for the social conservatives, despite the compassionate conservatism George W. Bush ran on. They cut taxes, and deregulated business based on the libertarian belief that people will always do right whenever you grant them more freedom. They promised one thing, did another, and asked for more power so that they might eventually do the one thing that they never truly intend to get around to. As antichrists will.

Say what you will about the Democrats: You know where they stand. They want social programs and safety nets. They think of government as a benevolent parent. They think the rich should fund their programs. And they think they have no business dictating morality to anyone; that really, the best morality is to stay out of people’s business, and let people do as they wish, so long that it hurts or offends no one else. You know, like libertarians—only when Democrats make exceptions, they favor liberals instead of conservatives.

But does this make the Democrats righteous? Absolutely not. It’s the difference between two date rapists. One says, “I’m gonna rape you,” and does. The other says, “I would never, ever rape you; you can totally trust me,” and yet every morning you wake up with a groggy GHB-induced headache and a sore heiney. (I know: Crude. But an apt comparison.) The solution? Stop dating them.

The Republicans are never gonna seize the reins on God’s behalf. That’s not how those who seek power work. Bowing before the devil so that it’ll hand you the kingdoms of this world, is not the way to conquer the world, as Jesus demonstrated. God is perfectly able to seize the reins for himself whenever he likes. He is almighty, after all.

God does actually seize them from time to time. But he tends not to seize them via the government. He seizes them through Great Awakenings and revivals and reform movements. He seizes them every time the church starts to follow our words with actions, every time we minister to our communities, every time we stop looking to Republicans to bail us out by passing new laws, or Democrats to bail us out by funding social programs. He seizes the reins whenever the Spirit seizes us.

From time to time someone will ask me, “If you think the Democrats are no better than the Republicans, why on earth be a member of that party? Do you not realize what they stand for?”

And then they recommend their favorite rapist. Most of the time it is, once again, the Republicans. Every so often it’s a third party, like the Green Party or the Peace and Freedom Party or the Libertarian Party or the Independent Party. Or they suggest I register as an actual independent. Or not vote at all; why encourage them?

I’ve already explained why I don’t care to join the Republicans. As for the third parties, or registering as an independent: I look at both these routes as different ways of opting out of the system altogether.

Or at least creating the appearance of opting out of the system. You’re never really out of it. That’s because nearly every elected official is either a Republican or Democrat. When you step into a room with them, you’re either interacting with a member of your party, or the opposition party. And if you’re a member of a third party or no party, you will always be interacting with a member of the opposition party. They will never be your allies.

In the bible, when we read of Jews interacting with Romans, they were either allies or they weren’t. When they weren’t, you stood a really good chance of getting crucified. When they were, as was the case whenever Paul interacted with his fellow Roman citizens, you stood a slightly better chance of getting justice. Slightly better; Paul was still unjustly in prison for a lot of years, subject to the whims of Roman procurators, kings, and the emperor. But Paul knew when to shrewdly use his citizenship to his, and the Kingdom’s, advantage.

When I want to proclaim Jesus to my fellow Democrats, I have a considerable advantage. Three-fifths of Californians are Democrats, so I’m able to connect with far more people, via the party, than my fellow Christians in the other party. Most of the elected officials I meet are political allies, and the occasional Republican—if they’re truly Christian—will allow our relationship through Jesus to override our political differences. I’m far less likely to alienate pagan Democrats with the usual anti-Democrat rhetoric. I can engage with them in political discussions… and gradually bring it around to a discussion of Jesus. And unlike most Republicans, who assume Jesus is on their side already, most Democrats don’t make that assumption.

Where I tend to disagree with my fellow Democrats is in the matter of morals. Fr’instance, I can’t approve of abortion; most Democrats can. But these differences are, to me, useful and regular reminders that Jesus and the Democratic Party are not on the same side. If I were still in the Republican Party, I’d wind up listening to a lot of Republicans agree with me on morals (well, until we talk economics) and be lulled into a false sense of security about where Jesus stands with the Party. The devil was much better able to tempt me when I was a Republican. Now that I’m not, I stay on my guard. As I should. As everyone should. But they don’t. We blindly assume we’re not playing with strange fire whenever we enter that temple.

Because I try to base my politics on my Christianity, I wind up in the moderate camp of both parties. And I have found it’s much easier to be a conservative Democrat than a liberal Republican. The Republicans were regularly accusing me of being a heretic. The Democrats, not so much; it’s still a big-tent party. The Republicans, far less so, especially after the Tea Party got its way in the 2010 election, and after Ron Paul became mainstream instead of a fringe candidate. My Tea Party-following friends find me more and more offensive over time, as their anti-government rhetoric runs more and more counter to Christ… and the Preamble to the Constitution, which they really ought to read sometime. They can’t understand how I can agree with them so strongly that government isn’t the solution, yet agree with the Democrats so strongly that if government is gonna do anything, it ought to favor the needy instead of the so-called “job creators” who don’t need any more government handouts. They can’t see how libertarian and liberal are so very often the same thing, and base their morals on secular humanism instead of total depravity… or even Christian humanism, which has its flaws as a worldview but does at least take human self-centeredness into account.

So yeah, this isn’t a strong defense of Democratic Party principles, which as I said will annoy my fellow Democrats. Being the lesser of two stupids, or a necessary evil, is not a compliment. They’re not gonna take, “At least you aren’t antichrists,” as solace. And to some degree, that’s not always true. Some Democrats are very much against Christ. They think they’re only being anti-Christian, or anti-Fundamentalist; they think Jesus endorses far more behavior than he actually does. They don’t know him any more than the Republicans do. But there are far fewer members of the Christian Left misrepresenting him among the Democrats, than there are members of the Christian Right misrepresenting him among the Republicans. I’m not sure whether that’s a mercy. On Judgment Day, neither group will fare too well.

But as you can see, my Party membership has nothing to do with my hopes. I put my hope in Jesus’s coming invasion and Kingdom. Anything else is treason.