Values?

October 14, 2013

In the age of Obama, it seems white conservative evangelicals are unable to think well in terms of spirituality or politics. The annual "Values Voters Summit" held by the Family Research Council over the weekend demonstrates this problem. The event has always been too partisan for my comfort - as if Christian values inherently line up with the Republican Party on all issues (the photo is one I took of Michele Bachmann at the event in 2010). Although the Republican Party is better than the Democratic Party on some important value issues, the event often has more references to party platforms than scripture and often includes speakers supporting Republican ideals that contradict key biblical teachings. Both sides have these types of events, but the "Values Voter Summit" is a big media event that creates a problematic message that the GOP is "God's Only Party" and whatever they do is inherently moral. However, the hatred for President Barack Obama seems to have sent the annual event off into a more virulent tone, especially now that he won reelection and thus cannot be repudiated in the ballot box. What is interesting about the "Values Voter Summit" is that the leaders and speakers seem tone deaf, not realizing they are actually hurting the Republican Party by adopting every extreme, crazy conservative theory and speaker. For instance, neurosurgeon Ben Carson (a recent conservative hero since he is an African-America highly critical of Obama) called Obamacare "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery." Perhaps Carson should stick to neurosurgery and leave history and politics to those who actually know it. One would not need more than five seconds to think of something worse than giving poor people life-saving access to insurance. Japanese internment! Tuskegee syphilis experiments! As if that was not bad enough, Carson then decided to go further by adding, "in a way, it is slavery." Such reprehensible rhetoric violates many Christian values like truth-telling, charity, and grace. Yet, the crowd at the so-called "Values Voter Summit" applauded and cheered. Is the hatred of Obama so great that we will forfeit our souls in a failed attempt to gain the world?

The event included lots of other attacks on Obamacare and strong support for shutting down the government over that issue. U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas known for outlandish remarks, even argued that Republican John McCain supported al Qaeda. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas who has led the government shutdown effort, not only received much applause from the crowd but also overwhelmingly won the presidential straw poll (with Carson in second). FRC President Tony Perkins even praised Cruz as "a de facto leader of the Republican Party" and "what people are looking for." Meanwhile, outside the hotel ballroom of the "Values Voter Summit," the Republican Party has reached a record low approval rating as it follows Cruz's strategy. There can be great danger in only listening to voices that agree with you - especially when most other voices disagree. Although I wrote in my last book  about how evangelicals have dominated U.S. politics for the past three decades, I wonder if the mix of the Tea Party and evangelicals (what one proponent of the mix calls Teavangelicals) might help end the evangelical era of politics. The question is whether Republican leaders or conservative evangelical leaders will notice their self-inflicted wounds in time to salvage their political power.

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