Are Christian W-w Voters Selfish?

A curious exchange today at American Conservative between Alan Jacobs and Noah Millman over voting for a party that both supports religious freedom and wars on behalf of liberty. Jacobs, the Christian, writes:

Now, some Christians might also argue that the Church exists for others, so that promoting religious freedom, even at the cost of lives lost overseas, is still the selfless thing to do. And that could be right, but I think we all ought to be very wary of arguments that provide such a neat dovetailing of our moral obligations and our self-interest.

I honestly don’t know what I think about this, and still less do I know how to apply the proper principles to our own more complex political scene. But I do think it’s right to conclude that there are at least some potential circumstances in which religious believers, in order to be faithful to their religious traditions, would need to refrain from direct political advocacy for those traditions.

In other words, voting simply on the basis of religious convictions may be an oversimplification of electoral politics and of public and foreign policy. Say hello to 2k.

But Millman responds that self-interest is the wrong way to frame the question:

I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with the underlying premise that voters should aspire to cast their ballots in a selfless manner. Indeed, I think “selfless” is a red-herring. The objective oughtn’t be to deny the needs or wants of the self, but to see beyond them, to feel other selves as equally worthy of care (and yourself as equally unworthy of supremacy), and thereby to achieve a feeling of solidarity with those other selves. (Then again, I’m not a Christian, so your mileage may vary.)

So is it the case that Christians, even when they recognize the limits of faith-based voting as Jacobs does, come across as inherently selfish when they vote according to their beliefs? Millman’s point is especially pertinent when he talks about seeing others “as equally worthy of care” and feeling solidarity with them. If people who have a heightened sense of the anti-thesis, Christians, that is, people who are also keenly aware of God’s law and those who break it, are also supposed as members of a civic community to feel solidarity with other citizens, is faith something that impedes or assists such fellow-feeling? Not to put too fine a point on it, but can Christians feel solidarity with gays or advocates of same-sex marriage?

Maybe Millman is wrong about a sense of belonging with other Americans, though any small dose of Aaron Sorkin’s television series West Wing or the Newsroom should confirm Millman’s point. But if Christians judge Millman wrong, then what hope have we for a free society if it consists of Christians and non-Christians?

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6 thoughts on “Are Christian W-w Voters Selfish?

  1. Do theonomists vote selfishly?

    The Libertarians would have been the major third party in 1980 had not the media decided to build John Anderson into a “major force.” The Libertarians are humanistic, but are surprisingly close to Biblical Law on many positions. The obvious exception is in the area of “victimless crimes,” which the Libertarians would legalize. I personally voted Libertarian in many cases in 1980, among them for President, concluding that the election of Mr. Reagan would put many then-battling conservative Christians to sleep. Politically, the Libertarians do not owe anything to the Eastern Liberal Establishment, which is to say, I would rather have a Libertarian as President than George Bush. Their basic assumption, that elimination of government would solve most problems, is a half-truth. It is a whole truth if Christian families will assume their duties.

    That’s from Kevin Craig in Failure of the American Baptist Culture, a collection of essays edited by Gary North and James Jordan. A quick wikipedia search though will reveal that Craig wasn’t old enough to vote in 1980 so maybe this footnote is from North or Jordan. While these three individuals are clearly thoroughly radical, their political ideals are largely libertarian. I have also heard Gary DeMar (on a podcast so no quote, sorry) say that the theonomic movement’s only political goals were to get the civil government small enough so that families and churches and selves can exercise their proper government.

    I basically became a libertarian watching Joel McDurmon’s Restoring America videos, so I probably naturally see a striking similarity between these two ideaologies. Also, in this book, they condemn Jerry Falwell and the “New Christian Right” as much as you do. Apologia Radio (the hip theonomists), as well, are very libertarian in their political views.

    So maybe the theonomists can feel solidarity with the same-sex marriage advocates, because they want to be left alone to stone homosexuals and the same-sex marriage advocates want to be left alone to marry them. Especially with the localism advocated by the Christian America perspective, it seems like California could do their thing, and suburban Atlanta could do theirs.

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  2. DGH, not very well.

    Actually, your characterization of the exchange between Millman (who I have come to respect very much) and Jacobs as “curious” is as good as anything I can come up with. I suppose it depends on which corner of the room you are standing in, but if you don’t think the threat to our constitutionally protected freedom of religion is any greater than the threat to any of our other constitutionally protected freedoms, Millman’s thinking seems more classically Christian than Jacobs. IMHO, of course.

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  3. Are Christian W-w Voters Selfish?

    No, the anti-political freeloaders are, those who owe their religious freedom to the others who fought and continue to fight for it. But I suppose when you believe God created billions upon billions of people just for the purpose of sending them to hell, and only precious few thousands for eternal life, freeloading seems reasonable.

    Walton
    Posted August 28, 2015 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    While these three individuals are clearly thoroughly radical, their political ideals are largely libertarian. I have also heard Gary DeMar (on a podcast so no quote, sorry) say that the theonomic movement’s only political goals were to get the civil government small enough so that families and churches and selves can exercise their proper government.

    Interesting. Yes, you could get there from there.

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  4. TVD: “No, the anti-political freeloaders are, those who owe their religious freedom to the others who fought and continue to fight for it. But I suppose when you believe God created billions upon billions of people just for the purpose of sending them to hell, and only precious few thousands for eternal life, freeloading seems reasonable.”

    That thought is re-markedly close to the opinions of those who were key people in the American Revolution, in particular one Nathan Strong. He, being a Chaplain, would have been at risk to take a bullet along side his soldiers, which gives extra weight to his words:

    Government officials to support Christianity:

    “Civil rulers are in a situation to do much for the kingdom of CHRIST, and they may also shut up the kingdom of heaven, and prevent their people from entering in. GOD saith, that in the days of the prosperity of his Church, kings shall be its nursing fathers, and queens its nursing mothers; therefore it must be the duty of civil rulers to protect, by all the authority that is in their hands the interests of the kingdom of CHRIST. ” Pg. 320.

    NATHAN STRONG, SERMONS, ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS, DOCTRINAL, EXPERIMENTAL and PRACTICAL. Vol. II. 1800.
    Pastor of the North Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Connecticut.

    Scan of Dr. Samuel Miller’s copy available here:
    http://www.archive.org/stream/sermonsonvarious02stro#page/n5/mode/2up

    About:
    Nathan Strong, D.D. (1748-1816) was educated at Yale, A.B.,1769. A.M. 1772. Tutor at Yale, 1772-3. Ordained to the pastorate in 1774, he became an ardent supporter of Independence, and served as an Army Chaplain to the 22nd Continental Infantry, 1776.

    Strong was a principal in the publication of the “Connecticut Evangelical Magazine,” and a founder of the “Connecticut Missionary Society”. Princeton College granted him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1801.

    Any thoughts?

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