Does Biblical love make the “War on Terror” wrong? Part 1 - Hypocrisy in Religion

If a person says he believes one way, but acts another, we normally call that person a hypocrite. We do this because we understand that a man cannot act contrary to his cherished beliefs.

If his actions depart from earlier statements, he does not hold to his faith as strongly as he claims (full-on hypocrisy) or he engaged in a short time of myopia for whatever reason and should admit fault (a momentary lapse of temporary hypocrisy). A man cannot truly believe a right turn will lead to a collapsed bridge and then drive his family in that direction for the sake of appeasement.

This is not different in politics. If a candidate for an office spoke to a women’s group about his beliefs in the “woman’s right to choose,” and then, once in office, voted to limit abortive procedures, we would wonder about that individual’s character.

This issue becomes poignant when a politician claims to be religious. He knows he needs as many votes as possible, and may begin to downplay certain aspects of his supposed beliefs in order to draw a wider office. He may speak of platitudes such as wishing to represent all the people who voted for him, but we begin to wonder if early reports of his religious convictions were exaggerated.

Using abortion as our example, but viewed from the other side of aisle, one wonders how a politician could claim to believe abortion is wrong but also promise to do anything about it. (John Kerry provided us with this example during the 2004 election season as he spoke of the tension between his Catholic beliefs and his view of presidential morality.) Either the politician is lying about his intentions once he is in office, or he is hypocritically claiming religious beliefs.

Some would claim a higher guiding principle than religion, but that does not negate hypocrisy. That person’s convictions are devoted to something other than religion, and is inconsistent in his claims of cherished beliefs.

One who believes the act of tying a litter of puppies in a garbage bag and tossing them into the river is a villainous act and then support the dog owner’s right to do so.

One of the key accusations against Christianity and the Republican party is a wedding of the two in the brand of Christianity called “Evangelicalism.” That is, the stereotypical Evangelical (which is slightly a caricature) believes Jesus supports small government, capitalism, and the War on Terror. Those making this charge are not limited to non-Christians – Christians who would be more moderate or leftward leaning politically likewise charge rightwing Christians with polluting religion and politics by combining the two.

However, in keeping with our assertion that a man cannot behave apart from his beliefs, we must examine those Christians making this accusation. For instance, Tony Campolo expresses concern over the fact that “83 percent of evangelicals voted Republican.” He writes that he does not desire to see “a religious left movement to challenge the religious right,” but a “religious movement that will transcend partisan politics.” He is among those known as “Red-Letter Christians,” and writes,

Believing that Jesus is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, we want to unite Christians who are concerned about what is happening in America. We are evangelicals who are troubled by what is happening to poor people in America; who are disturbed over environmental policies that are contributing to global warming; who are dismayed over the increasing arrogance of power shown in our country’s militarism; who are outraged because government funding is being reduced for schools where students, often from impoverished and dysfunctional homes, are testing poorly; who are upset with the fact that of the 22 industrialized nations America is next to last in the proportion of its national budget (less than two-tenths of 1 percent) that is designated to help the poor of third-world countries; and who are broken-hearted over discrimination against women, people of color, and those who suffer because of their sexual orientation.

-- Tony Campolo, “What is a ‘Red-Letter Christian’?” BeliefNet.com, http://www.beliefnet.com/story/185/story_18562_1.html

While some of these issues are concerns of every Christian (e. g., care for the poor), Campolo fails in his goal to avoid creating a “left movement.” Here are his points when overlaid by the agenda of the Democratic party (information taken from democrats.org):

> Campolo: “We are evangelicals who are troubled by what is happening to poor people in America”
DNC: “[President Bush’s] failed leadership has led to the worst job recovery on record, stagnating household incomes, a rise in poverty and record deficits” – DNC Press Secretary in Jan 2007, http://www.democrats.org/a/2007/01/bush_economy_pe.php

> Campolo: “who are disturbed over environmental policies that are contributing to global warming”
DNC: “The Bush Administration has continued to play politics with our environmental policy by working to discredit accepted science on global warming, and the Republican field of candidates has joined him.… Their environmental policies are irresponsible” – http://www.democrats.org/gopissues_environment.html

> Campolo: “who are dismayed over the increasing arrogance of power shown in our country’s militarism”
DNC: “But for far too long, those responsible for the greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy have ignored useful debate” – Barack Obama, http://www.democrats.org/a/2007/03/senate_no_more.php

> Campolo: “who are outraged because government funding is being reduced for schools where students, often from impoverished and dysfunctional homes, are testing poorly”
DNC: “During his term President Bush has consistently cut funding for programs benefiting low income students including Head Start and after school programs, while the gap between poor and affluent students has increased.” – http://www.democrats.org/a/2005/10/opportunity_and.php

> Campolo: “and who are broken-hearted over discrimination against women, people of color, and those who suffer because of their sexual orientation”
DNC: “[We leaders of the Democratic Party] join together in celebrating the contributions that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans and their families make to our society and reaffirm our Party's commitment to promoting full equality under the law for every American… and commit ourselves to working together to build an America that is truly inclusive.” – from the 2008 PRIDE Proclamation, http://www.democrats.org/a/2008/06/democrats_issue.php

The only item Demacrats.org had no related search results of (ignoring comment threads) was the amount of foreign aid the United States is giving to third-world nations. Perhaps this single point is what warrants Campolo’s “bipartisan” nomenclature, although I’m sure the Democratic party is more than willing to increase funding to the impoverished of the world (which is not a bad idea necessarily). It is clear that he wants an alternative to conservative politics in Christianity, and has established a liberal wing of the faith.

Campolo is not to be blamed for inconsistency, however. He believes these values match Jesus’ words recorded in Scripture (words appearing in a red font in many Bible versions):

In those red letters, He [Jesus] calls us away from the consumerist values that dominate contemporary American consciousness. He calls us to be merciful, which has strong implications for how we think about capital punishment. When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, he probably means we shouldn’t kill them. Most important, if we take Jesus seriously, we will realize that meeting the needs of the poor is a primary responsibility for His followers.

-- ibid., http://www.beliefnet.com/story/185/story_18562_2.html

Campolo is making his politics match his religion. Is there anything wrong with that? No. A person’s beliefs naturally dictate how he interacts with the world. However, let us end the talk of divorcing one’s beliefs from one’s voting practices. If a person’s religion produces progressive or liberal ideals, then let that person vote for the candidate who most matches the bullet-points above: usually a Democrat. If a person’s religious beliefs produces more conservative ideals, then let that person select his candidate: usually a Republican.

Let’s put an end to all hypocrisy.

So, can a person who says he follows the same Jesus who said “turn the other cheek” and desires for the salvation of lost souls support a war and not be a hypocrite? We'll look to that in Part 2.

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