As we watch the GOP drive our economy over the cliff rather than possibly cause the elites any discomfort, I have been thinking about how the evangelicals I know can support these policies. Part of it is in these "dog whistle" moments such as when Tim Pawlenty names Jesus as one of his favorite political heroes, but then will govern as a purely conservative politician--with no real mention of Jesus when he cuts programs for the poor or defends torture.
For my evangelical friends, I think they have been co-opted in a way that they don't even understand. The GOP knows they are very uncomfortable with abortion and gay rights, and largely uninformed about broader political issues. So, they will vote for the GOP out of an assumption of moral superiority, and never really check back. They vote for Republicans on the basis of being "pro-life" and then never notice that the GOP defends and openly encourages torture and more war. They vote for fiscal responsibility and look the other way while the party defends only the rich. Our friend Kevin Powell caught this nice bit from Huffington Post on why evangelicalism is losing the younger generation, and a big part of that is their sexism and complete sell out to conservative politics.
I am starting to think that Google+'s new approach to social networking is a good way to see the evangelical's political world. One circle is the personal relationship where God is about them, and their personal "walk with Christ." That is where the lion's share of evangelicals books and discussions trend--how can you walk closely with God and how can he make you happier.
Then there is that circle named politics. It is one filled with myths about "pulling your self up by your bootstraps," and "individualism" and "the market economy" solving everything. It is a cold and ruthless place where people who don't work hard enough get left behind, and those who don't have enough to pay for healthcare are on their own. It is the world of Thomas Hobbes rather than that of the Gospel. And that is important, because in that circle, the only Bible verses are about God smiting people who are gay and the assumption that abortion is evil.
When we want to be spiritual, we enter the spiritual circle and talk about relationships over religion. When we want to be political, we switch circles and talk about tough choices and how wasteful government is. There is only one place for Christianity in politics. It is to get an entrance ticket, and then never be asked about it again--and then only for conservatives.
Sad. As SOF reminded me this afternoon, the OT has a lot of challenges to that kind of politics, but all we hear about are the passages from Leviticus about homosexuality. Nothing about abandoning the poor. Nothing about the evils of the rich exploiting the poor. Nothing about the need for people of faith to defend the oppressed rather than the comfortable.