Thoughts : Progressive Christianity (Politics) : Bush and Evangelicalism

Chua Mui Hoong is rightly cautious about mixing religion and politics (ST, 5th November). I’m an evangelical Christian though definitely not a supporter of Mr. George W. Bush. I feel it’s important for other evangelicals like me to speak up because while evangelicals played a great part in getting Mr. Bush elected, the world needs to know that not all evangelical Christians support him or his policies.

I feel sad and worried when Christianity and evangelicalism are so strongly linked to the policies of Mr. Bush in the media, as though God would definitely have wanted all Christians to vote for Mr. Bush or that all Bush advocates is biblical or Christian. Perhaps that’s what Mr. Bush sincerely thinks in his heart but that’s certainly not true for many Christian evangelicals around the world. While his stance on abortion and gay marriage may be said to be more in line with Christian and biblical thinking, many of Bush’s other policies are not. Leaving aside the issue of whether Bush has been lying about the war, there is much in Christian tradition and current biblical scholarship that would not support Bush’s tax cuts on the rich (the Bible tells us to share our wealth with the poor, not favor the rich), his enthusiasm for war (many Christians don’t believe war for any reason can be right, and for those who do believe some circumstances warrant wars, it is to be done as a last resort, which clearly wasn’t so in the case of Iraq) and his indifference towards the environment (almost all Christians believe the environment is precious because it is God’s creation).

In the words of an advertisement written and sponsored by evangelicals (and not liberal Christians) in America, “God is not a Republican. Or a Democrat.” I believe, like many other Christians, that there would be good reasons for an evangelical Christian to vote for either candidate. While evangelical Christians are inclined nowadays to vote for the pro-life candidate because God cares about life, many Christians believe pro-life ought to be viewed more holistically. Thus the pro-life-ness of a candidate whose policies support unnecessary war and neglects helping the poor – both of which lead to loss of lives – ought to be questioned. These are as much issues of faith, morality and life as any other.

I write all this as a Christian who feels it’s very important that the world has a right view of what Christianity and evangelicalism is – especially so in the state of the world we’re in. Already, many people have equated Bush, war, indifference to poverty and the environment, narrow-mindedness and arrogance with Christianity. Extreme proponents of Islam have gone further, seeing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as a religious war of Christians against Muslims. I want to say to them, “Christianity is more diverse and more loving than that and many of us are ashamed of what’s being said and done by fellow Christians in the name of our faith.” Just as there is an extreme group in the Muslim world, there is the Religious Right in the Christian world, which has unfortunately influenced many evangelicals into thinking their way is God’s way.

I would not want to claim that my view of Christianity is the only and right one although I know that many Christians would agree with what I have written. I have read of Americans expressing apologies to the world that their country re-elected Mr. Bush. If a major reason for Bush’s re-election was the evangelical vote, may I be so presumptious to represent a portion of evangelicalism who feels ashamed that their kind has been largely responsible for the re-election of someone who does not represent their values and say to all world citizens, “We’re sorry.”

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