By Dr. Joseph Mattera
With the increased tension and polarity in the body of Christ because of the coming election, I am attempting with this paper to help bring clarity as to why people vote the way they do. My intent in wading through these murky waters is to help to bring greater unity in the church so that we are not dogmatically judging one another. But, at the same time my hope is that believers will vote biblical values over groupthink partisan politics.
Many years ago, as a pastor and traveling teacher, I was shocked to find out that many of my dear pastor friends, as well as the majority of the ethnic congregations they oversee, voted for Democratic candidates, even if their platforms were contrary to standard biblical values in regards to issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. In private conversations with these pastors and their congregants we had almost total agreement on every major moral issue. But come Election Day, in my opinion, they voted against the values they preached on Sunday and practiced in private.
Regarding African-Americans (who make up a large percentage of my close personal friendships and of whom I consider the brightest, most capable leaders on the planet), many of them (even many conservative Bible-believing Christians) seem to often vote en masse for liberal candidates with few exceptions. For example, even many of the most conservative black Christians I know voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 election, which shocked me! One conservative black pastor gave himself a pass for voting for Obama when he told me, “Sometimes you have to kiss a witch on the lips so you can slap the devil in the face!”
Here are some reasons why the Democratic Party, which in 2012 is the most liberal in history (they originally took God out of their 2012 platform and didn’t take a stand with Israel’s right to statehood, all in addition to being pro-abortion and adopting same-sex marriage), is the party of choice for the majority of African-Americans:
- The Republican Party has written them off and hardly ever reaches out to them. As a result there is almost no dialogue. African-Americans have an incredible amount of mistrust towards the Republican Party and may tend to vote for a liberal Democrat because (in my words) it’s better to work with the enemy you know than the enemy you don’t know.
- The majority of their high-profile leaders are not people of color (Clarence Thomas, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Allen West and Star Parker aside).
- Republicans emphasize individual liberty and are opposed to big government while the Democrats support a large central government. What’s the big deal with this? Well, blacks make up about 20% of the workforce of federal, state and local government jobs which also connects them heavily to the unions, which vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Also, their salaries, pensions and financial wellbeing are connected to higher taxes. Enough said.
For example, “‘In 2009, the average net worth for white households was $113,149 and $5,700 for black households.’ 14.1% of black Americans are unemployed compared to 7.4 percent of whites.” (“5 Reasons There Are So Few Black Americans In The Republican Party” by John Hawkins)
Thus, blacks will depend more on the short-term immediate help that comes from entitlements that Democrats push. By and large, the Democrats see government as the solution and the conservative Republicans see big government as the problem!
- Another reason why African-Americans support a large central government is because it has historically been the federal government that has intervened on their behalf against racism. To quote Pat Buchanan:
That African-Americans favor a powerful federal government is understandable. After all, it was the federal government that crushed the Confederacy, freed the slaves, sent troops to integrate the South, enacted the civil rights laws, imposed affirmative action on companies and colleges, and created the Great Society that provided trillions in wealth transfers and welfare benefits and employs a share of the black population that is nearly twice its representation in the labor force.
That African-Americans would see states’ rights conservatives and small-government Republicans as hostile to the one powerful institution most friendly to them should come as a no surprise. (The View from Martha’s Vineyard, August 18, 2011)
- The Democratic party often uses victimology and racism as a mantra (for example, Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson) to explain the economic distress and high unemployment of African-Americans while Republicans, by and large, believe racism is no longer a real issue as proven (they say) by the fact Barack Obama was elected president. Thus, taking the Republican conservative point of view, some African-Americans can view the conservative political message as an insult because if the ground was really level (as the Republicans say it is now) then they have no excuse for their high unemployment and high poverty rates (John Hawkins notes this in his column cited above).
Although a higher percentage of them vote Republican than black Americans, many of the same points above can be made as reasons why they tend to vote Democratic more than Republican. However, the Democratic Hispanics are also more lenient in regards to immigration and protecting the borders. Thus Hispanics view Democratic politicians as leaders with more compassion because they don’t want to see their families and churches ripped apart because of deportation for illegal immigrants. Many Democrats of course have adopted what amounts to an open border policy because they know that the majority of these immigrants will initially have to depend on entitlements and welfare, thus increasing their potential demographic voter base.
(For my view on immigration refer to my position paper entitled “Does the Bible Condone Illegal Immigration?”)
Finally, many black Americans and Hispanics will take umbrage at the notion that they are voting against biblical values because they say—although they are opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion—that the Bible is not a two-issue book and also has much to say related to caring for the poor, the orphans and the needy; after all, pro-life must also include after birth, not just before birth! They see racism, immigration and caring for the poor as issues of justice that, in the long run, can in some cases trump some of the moral issues related to abortion and traditional marriage.
At this point it may also be said that a large number of left-leaning white evangelicals voted for Barack Obama, and also consistently vote Democratic. But I am not including them in this article because most of them have a more liberal view of Scripture regarding inspiration which opens the door for them to accommodate culture regarding same-sex marriage, homosexuality, and other issues. They view Scripture mostly as a cultural document that has some outdated material because the authors (such as the Apostle Paul) wrote from the lens of a sexist, patriarchal society, thus making much of their teachings regarding family and sexuality non-binding since they are not rooted in the nature of God but in culture (so they say).
(The liberal view of Scripture is quite different from the conservative view of Scripture most blacks and Hispanics have; it is this conservative view of Scripture that, combined with liberal voting patterns, leads to the conundrum discussed in this article.)
I would strongly disagree with the liberal view of Scripture and say the opposite: that morality as seen in the Ten Commandments and as extrapolated from the 613 civil laws of the Old Testament are rooted in creation, or natural law, which is based on God’s divine nature and always universally applicable, transcultural and multi-generational! (Although the societal penalties for sexual and other sins have been modified significantly in the New Testament.)
Here is the counter argument a Republican conservative may have to the above:
- They are the party of Lincoln that fought slavery, Jim Crow laws, and the KKK. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by a majority of Republicans in Congress, not Democrats. Thus the big government that fought racism had its roots in the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party!
- They agree with Dr. Martin Luther King and his “I Have a Dream” when he looked to a day when people “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” This is something, they say, blacks have gone against when they voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in spite of his opposition to basic biblical values.
- Although they cede the fact that they have few people of color in their leadership, they say it is not because of racism but because of groupthink: blacks aren’t even open to their party! Because of this, many Republicans say they do not have enough time or money to spend trying to woo the black vote when they know they will vote Democrat anyway, thus continuing the cycle of no dialogue and ignoring black citizens when on the campaign trail.
- Republicans will also say that if they were racist they would have never supported Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court as well as other prominent black leaders like the former RNC leader Michael Steele, and other black conservatives like Star Parker, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder, and Allen West.
- Republicans will also say that people of color are no better off today (in fact they are worse off regarding intact families, poverty, crime and incarceration) than they were in the 1960’s when the Great Society welfare programs began, and that the only answer for long-term economic development for all Americans is to stop depending on entitlements and to develop entrepreneurial endeavors (small businesses). Some books that reveal statistics showing how giving away money and entitlements actually hurts people more than helps them include Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) by Robert Lupton and When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourselfby Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.
(I would also say the Republicans have to go further than the Jack Kemp/Paul Ryan trickle-down economic philosophy because the poor will still only be stuck with menial jobs even if more jobs are created through lower taxation. As Christians we have to employ kingdom economics which not only employs people but empowers the poor to have their own businesses. This can only come from a bottom-up approach of micro-financing and not just a top-down approach that empowers the wealthy to enlarge their businesses!)
- Finally, in regards to separating justice and moral issues from one another: conservative Republicans can also say that there is no greater justice issue in the world than abortion! For example, during World War II was the (Holocaust) extermination of six million Jews a moral issue or a justice issue? The fact that more blacks are currently being aborted than being born because of being targeted by white supremacist Margaret Sanger and the organization she founded, Planned Parenthood, resulting in a slow but consistent genocide, is that only a moral issue or a justice issue? If racism is a justice issue then how is abortion not a justice issue? In abortion the unborn are discriminated against and never given a chance to improve their lives. At least, even in racist societies, as we have seen during slavery and post-slavery in our own country, it was still possible for blacks to excel, and make a positive impact on society (George Washington Carver, Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela of South Africa during apartheid, to name a few).
Regarding same-sex marriage:
I would also contend this is a justice issue if, as a conservative, you believe that using legislation to force normalization of alternate family structures such as same-sex marriage upon the American people is being done without taking into consideration the possible negative effects on children raised without either a mother or a father. (See Mark Regnerus’ eye opening study “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study”.)
Finally, Conservative Christians who vote Republican may also say that abortion and same-sex marriage violate some of the major tenets of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20): “You shall not kill” (sixth commandment) and “You shall not commit adultery” (seventh commandment) because adultery is a category that is expanded upon in Leviticus 18 which includes not only heterosexual adultery but homosexuality. If we put first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) and His top-ten list, then God promises He will provide for us anyway (Jeremiah 17:7-8; Psalm 1). Thus, when we put race, color, ethnicity, or economic benefits before God’s commandments, we are violating the first commandment of having no other gods before Him! God has to be first, not our color, ethnicity, or groupthink.
Also, a small case can be made to vote for liberal candidates if the Democratic Great Society programs of big government worked in ameliorating the poverty of poor ethnic people over the past 45 years, but it clearly has not worked! As a matter of fact, under this present administration unemployment among black youths is over 20%! Black unemployment is over 16%, while white unemployment is less than 8%! The entitlements and economic aid may help the poor very little in the short term. But in the long term all people will only prosper if they properly steward the great gifts they have been given by God, which is one of the greatest acts of worship due to our Creator. This is something we owe to God that no man, elected official, or political party can lay claim to. May God deliver both Democrats and Republicans from groupthink, and may we vote for the most qualified candidates that best express our biblical values!
Regarding the issue of whether a Christian can vote for a Mormon:
I refer to my article “This November, Should We Choose a Liberal or a Mormon?” But let me say this: it is a matter of stewardship to vote for a candidate whose public policy is closest to biblical values. We are not voting for a pastor but a president; Mormon doctrine will have to filter through the political processes resulting in a position regarding the sanctity of life and marriage closer to Christianity than the liberal humanistic positions taken by Barack Obama.
May God help us have better choices for the presidency in the future!
Dr. Joseph Mattera has been in full-time ministry since 1980 and is currently the Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York, a multiethnic congregation of 40 nationalities that has successfully developed numerous leaders and holistic ministry in the New York region and beyond. Visit his website at: http://josephmattera.org.
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