I've often wondered what form a consistently "Christian" political platform might take.
I'm not sure there could ever be such a thing, frankly. Jesus and the apostles appear to have been intentionally non-political. "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus declared.
But the Christian faith and Christian labels constantly are bandied about in nearly every American election, large or small.
In Kentucky's gubernatorial race, Republican nominee David Williams slammed incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear for participating in an un-Christian (specifically, a Hindu) ceremony for a company from India that's bringing 250 jobs to Elizabethtown. (Beshear won by a landslide in Tuesday's election.)
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And The New York Times recently cited a Pew research poll that found "being a Christian" was the second most attractive trait a U.S. presidential candidate could have; only having served in the military was more appealing to voters.
The Times also asked pundits of various religious and political persuasions, "What exactly would a Christian platform look like?"
That got my own wheels turning. I thought I'd finally try my hand at answering that question, even though the august Times didn't see fit to ask me.
So let me walk you through a few examples of what I think a consistently Christian political platform might be, assuming it's possible to create one:
Immigration. The Scriptures are clear: Those who welcome foreigners from other lands are acting righteously. Those who don't welcome strangers and aliens might very well end up in hell (see Jesus' warning in Matthew 25:43-46, for example).
The entire Old Testament book of Ruth recounts the moving story of immigrants from Moab who were welcomed into Judah, protected and fed by a godly man named Boaz.
None of this tells us exactly how to determine immigration quotas or screen out known felons and terrorists. People of good will can differ on such details. It does imply that policies toward immigrants ought to be generous, welcoming and compassionate.
The death penalty: For its first 300 years, before the ancient church became an instrument of the state and thus corrupted by it, Christianity was adamantly opposed to capital punishment.
Christians were barred by church leaders from participating as soldiers, witnesses or court officers in any case that might result in a death penalty. Capital punishment was considered antithetical to Christ's message of forgiveness and redemption. I see no reason to disagree.
Abortion: Opposition to the death penalty and opposition to abortion (and to euthanasia of the sick, aged or mentally impaired) are basically of one fabric: a Christian reverence for all human life.
No, we don't know at what point life begins in the womb. That's why we should be exceedingly careful about ending it.
At the same time, there are murky areas. I'm not an absolutist, which is to say I understand there could be exceptions for various dire situations. Still, a Christian position wouldn't, in my opinion, accept abortion on demand as any adult's inherent right.
Wealth/poverty: Concern for the poor and a willingness to help them are non-negotiable Christian tenets commanded by Jesus, the apostles and the church fathers who followed them — all of whom explicitly favored the poor over the rich and warned that, in most cases, the rich were, literally, damned.
Today, we seem to have turned their gospel on its head. Many of our political policies are clearly designed to penalize the poor while unfairly rewarding the rich. You can call that anything you want to; Christian it is not.
National defense and the military: Despite its concerns for human life and its demands for non-violence (to the extent non-violence is achievable in an inherently violent world), Christianity long has held that a society has a right to protect itself and innocent non-combatants in other lands from violent aggressors (see "Hitler, Adolf" or "Pot, Pol").
This is the Christian doctrine often referred to as "just war," meaning there are specific justifications for national defense and even for offensive military actions.
These rules, however, are strict: You fight as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted; you don't wage war for economic gain; you fight only to protect yourself or others; you don't torture prisoners or harm civilians; no revenge is permitted. Ideological crusades and imperialistic expansions do not qualify as "just" wars.
If space permitted, there's no end of issues we could look at: environmentalism, gay rights, taxation, health care. Nearly every political issue is also a moral issue, and thus one to which Christianity speaks. What our faith says is quite often surprising.
I want to make it clear that I never vote for candidates because they claim to be Christians. Mainly I look at candidates' professional qualifications. I'll support a competent agnostic anytime over an incompetent Christian.
And I definitely don't want a theocracy. I believe in the independence of the church from the state, and the state from the church.
Still, as a voter, I do take into account whether a candidate's policies align with what I consider basic Christian principles, such as concern for the poor, respect for life, humility toward opponents and charity toward strangers.