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Selling Our Souls to the Right

By Loui Itoh

I thought Christianity taught us to love our neighbors and to feed the hungry. I thought we were supposed to care for the sick and give alms to the poor. Although the Bible says that it’s easier for a camel to fit through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to go to heaven, millions of evangelical Christians across the country voted for a president who gave tax cuts to the rich while other hardworking people lost their jobs and healthcare. As a Christian myself, I find it disappointing that many Christians do not see that the basic principles that guide the Democratic Party are consistent with their faith and could improve their lives, yet cast their votes based on their opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

Despite the fact that his policies hurt them, too many middle or lower income voters were wooed by Bush’s promise to pursue a social agenda that incorporates certain aspects of his faith. Four million evangelical Christians voted for the first time this election. This groundswell of evangelical voters—an interest group that includes fully 30 percent of all Americans—tipped the contest in battleground states like Ohio in Bush’s favor. Bush, who frequently professed his faith and regularly met with Christian leaders, worked hard to target this interest group. In an egregious case, the Republican National Committee released pamphlets in Arkansas and West Virginia saying that “a vote for Kerry is a vote against the Bible.” I think not.

In the first place, wielding religion as a political tool is unacceptable and downright wrong. The idea that each person should be entitled to his or her own judgment of who to vote for is demolished when religious leaders threaten the fires of Hell—how can anyone argue with that? You can always find conflicting political “advice” from non-religious sources, but by nature you can’t argue the facts against faith. Religion is simply less accountable to logic. The alliance, formalized or not, between God and a particular political party should not be tolerated in a nation that was founded on the separation of church and state.

Christians should not be persuaded to vote Republican based on one or two issues when the rest of the GOP agenda contradicts what we stand for. If Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said at the Republican National Convention that “you don’t have to agree with everything the Republican Party does to vote Republican” then you shouldn’t have to agree with everything the Democratic Party does to vote Democrat.

If people were free to evaluate the Bible on their own, they might conclude that the Democratic Party better fulfills Christ’s teachings. Bush claims to be compassionate, yet there is nothing compassionate about giving $89 billion in tax relief to the richest 1 percent of Americans, while 500,000 kids lose their afterschool programs. He cut benefits for veterans, many of whom lost arms and legs while fighting for their country, something Kerry vowed to reverse. Bush chose profits for drug companies as opposed to affordable prescription drugs for seniors, while Kerry promised to import lower-cost drugs and provide health care for all Americans. Kerry wanted to fight for the average American, the mother who’s struggling to find time with her kids while working two jobs to pay her rent while her husband’s in Iraq – yet he lost because he and his party supposedly lack “family values.”

Furthermore, if evangelicals protest abortion because it is murder, then it doesn’t make sense for evangelicals to support the war in Iraq, where thousands of innocent Iraqis and Americans have met their ends prematurely. If the ultimate goal was to prevent murder, then it doesn’t make sense to support a president who allowed the automatic weapons ban to expire—a law that, even if ineffective as some have claimed, at least showed that America was committed to removing tools of mass death from the hands of individuals. If Christians care so much about the life of the unborn, then they should also care about the lives of people who are among the living right now, but who could be killed any minute in Iraq by an insurgent, in their homes by gun violence, or simply by a mortal lack of sufficient health care. I believe abortion is wrong, too, but there are so many other issues which Bush supports that are wrong for the same reason.

Voting for Bush because of his conservative views on gay marriage doesn’t make sense either. Bush opposes gay marriage because the Bible defines marriage as between a man and a woman. So does Kerry. Unlike Bush, Kerry wants to give gay couples the same legal benefits as heterosexual couples because he recognizes that he cannot legislate the Bible’s definition of marriage in a country founded on the separation of church and state. Despite the provision that marriage, in the religious sense, will remain intact, by delaying any move towards legalizing civil unions Bush has shown just how little he cares about gay Americans. Evangelical Christians who voted for Bush out of fear of the words “gay marriage” are forgetting that the Bible also tells them to be compassionate, even towards so-called “sinners.”

Rather than siding with Bush for his position on these two issues, it would have made more sense for Christians to vote for Kerry because his entire platform fit the spirit, if not the word, of the Bible. Although he was smeared as a Massachusetts liberal who was out of touch with the average person, Kerry truly cared about fighting for everyone, not just the wealthy and the connected. Perhaps Americans doubted Kerry’s compassion because his policies only followed biblical principles, not biblical words. If so, where was their faith?

Loui Itoh ’07, a Crimson editorial editor, is a government concentrator in Quincy House.

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