In two types of situations over the last three months, I have had conversations with four different evangelicals, each with a strong Judeo-Christian moral compass. If their thoughts are close to being representative of how a majority of evangelicals think about politics and elections, then evangelicals will be largely to blame for the death of religious liberty and Judeo-Christian values in our state.
All of the individuals with whom I spoke are strong supporters of our organization and its mission, which is to promote and defend within Tennessee religious liberty and God’s design for human sexuality, which is expressed in marriage between a man and a woman and the family that that relationship produces. They all lament the moral direction in which things are headed and the growing threats to the Christian’s freedom to live out their beliefs in the marketplace.
Situation No. 1—Conversations With Two Citizens
It’s not unusual when I run into folks who know me that they tell me what they think about various political things. So, it wasn’t surprising that two friends brought up the governor’s race and told me of their preferences.
Both were supporting different candidates, but what was interesting is that neither of those candidates is particularly friendly to our organization’s issues as best I can tell. In fact, based on what I do know at this point, I suspect neither candidate would be particularly supportive of the kind of legislation we initiate.
For the one citizen, it was the candidate’s views on economic development that was decisive, as if the disintegration of families and moral values has no effect on the economy. For the other citizen, the person forthrightly acknowledged that his preferred candidate’s positions on social issues were weak to non-existent, but he said that was “understandable” since those issues are controversial. I guess that person thought someone other than a governor should lead or take a stand on the controversial stuff.
Situation No. 2—Conversations With Two Politicians
The other scenario involved two different politicians. Each was approached concerning various legislative ideas.
One politician’s response to the proposed legislation focused on how it would be portrayed by the liberal local media and whether, going into an election cycle, that negative publicity could be offset sufficiently by constituents who might approve of the legislation. The other politician made it clear that voters were tired of politicians who were against things and didn’t want to talk about legislation that prevented what she conceded was bad.
In both situations, doing the right thing was secondary to doing the politically expedient or acceptable thing. The problem in the latter situation was compounded by the false belief that one could be for something and want to see it flourish without being against that which undermines its flourishing.
The ‘Dual’ of Death
The problem in each of these two situations is what philosophers would call “dualism.” In general, dualism is the belief that, for some particular domain, there are two fundamental kinds or categories of things or principles. In this particular instance, it is usually either a belief that moral values are fundamentally personal and politics is fundamentally not or a belief that Christianity, with its attendant values, is spiritual and politics is secular.
Dualism allows a Christian to say that I am personally for certain values, but I can vote for people who do not support those values because Christianity and the beliefs that guide my personal life are fundamentally different from the beliefs that guide my secular and political life.
When one walks out of the evangelical pew on Sunday and takes that dualistic view of reality into the voting booth or into elected office, then the moral values and the religious liberty he or she professes to value will be undermined at every turn by our public policies. Voters elect those who undermine those values by acts of commission or omission and politicians who will stand by and let them be undermined.
Both will lead to those things they say they value dying out in our public consciousness, even as is now happening.
To paraphrase Nietzsche’s famous “God is dead” quote, if this dualistic thinking is typical of evangelicals, then they will be able to say, “Judeo-Christian moral values and religious liberty are dead, and we have killed them.”
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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