Saturday, November 03, 2012

How should a Christian vote?

Steven Wedgeworth and Peter Escalante have an interesting post:

Since they normally spend their time dissecting the Escondido theology in reference to historical theology, it’s useful to see them descend from lofty historical abstractions to illustrate how their alternative plays out at the grubby concrete level.

They have a useful section on voting for the lesser of two evils. However, they also make some dubious statements along the way:

America has always had a bit of a problem with its own self-image. Frankly, it’s a bit self-centered. Sometimes Americans even think of themselves as a new Israel, an elect people who are politically the “apple of God’s eye.” Recent commentators have called this the problem of “Americanism.” This makes questions that ought to be earthly and prudential turn into religious and ultimate ones.

Chauvinism isn’t uniquely American. Most nationalities, especially for nations in the ascendant, are self-centered and regard their own country as the greatest. And American has been pretty restrained, considering the might at our disposal.

The Manichæan tone of American politics echoes in the parties’ ballot rallying: the citizen is never encouraged to carefully consider the general facts, let alone the details, but rather to “rock the vote” for the good cause and against the bad. Consider Obama’s messianism four years ago, even among certain Christians, and the anti-Obama apocalypticism of the so-called Christian Right. This kind of apocalypticism is nothing new.

I don’t know what they have in mind by their dismissive and derogatory reference to the “anti-Obama apocalypticism of the so-called Christian Right.” The trajectory which the Obama administration has put us on is catastrophic if we continue in that direction. Moreover, some permanent damage has already been done.

Of course, “apocalyptic” has become a conventional, hyperbolic characterization.

Voting has thus become a ritualized form of civil war, which will replay over and over every time the season arrives. In this, it is akin to the ever-repeated ritual altar call of American revivalism which promises much and effects very little, or to the sports cycles of American television. And just as the victory of one team over another is of little moment, so too is the victory of one party over another. But this is a terrible way for rational people to make careful decisions, and so we must bring voting back down to earth.

To the contrary, every election becomes an increasingly high-stakes gambit because one half of the country (the left) is hell-bent on dragging the other half of the country (the right) in a direction diametrically opposed to what the other half supports. Liberals want to use the force of gov’t to unilaterally rewrite the social contract without the consent of other major parties to the contract. They wish to secularize and socially reengineer the nation, using gov’t as the bludgeon to impose compliance.

Put another way, liberals wish to create a two-class society in which a permanent ruling class plays the role of official grown-ups who treat the political underclass as minors.  A totalitarian state.

In considering imperfect options, we must weigh many things very carefully. Is, for instance, Obama’s abortion policy so great an evil that it outweighs any other goods? Is Romney’s foreign policy so great an evil that it outweighs the possibility of his curtailing abortion?

I doubt Romney even has a consistent foreign policy. I don’t think he’ll be obsequious and groveling like Obama, but I expect his policy to be ad hoc.

But the Republicans support war doctrines contrary to Christian principle…

i) What are the authors alluding to? The Iraq War? The Afghanistan War? The Gulf War?

I don’t think our “war doctrines” have been contrary to Christian principle. Rather, I think one could better argue that our recent military engagements have been imprudent–overly-ambitious and overly-optimistic.

The Afghanistan war was just reprisal, but that turned into a nation-building boondoggle.

The Iraq war was, in theory, a preemptive war as well as a war of liberation. The preemptive aspect is, in principle, a logical extension of self-defense. It does, however, require an accurate risk-assessment, as well as realistic strategic objectives.

How much of a threat the Saddam regime actually posed will forever be the subject of interminable debate. What is less debatable is the prosecution of the war, which became another nation-building boondoggle.

In both wars, success became unobtainable even in principle because we were attempting to win “hearts and minds” rather than to defeat the enemy. But when you define success in those terms, you forfeit control. You cede control of the outcome to the cooperation of the natives. That was a fundamental misjudgment.

ii) In addition, Republicans don’t have a uniform doctrine of war. Different Republican politicians and pundits have different views of foreign policy.

I do think that after the Iraq/Afghanistan debacle, the GOP needs to fundamentally rethink foreign policy.

…and a form of crony corporatism that necessarily weakens the family and the common good…

I don’t know how the authors define “crony corporatism,” or what examples they have in mind.

…and much of their morally conservative discourse is demonstrably insincere or founded on principles unacceptable to orthodox Christians.

That’s largely true, but as a practical matter it would be exceedingly difficult, in the current political climate, given the nature of the “news” media, for a Christian candidate to even present a comprehensive position on domestic and foreign policy that’s founded on Christian principles.

The President is not a king or absolute dictator. His word is not, in fact, law. He is, instead the head of the executive branch of government. He directly controls the military and foreign policy – which also means human rights standards – and any future Supreme Court nominations. The President can also veto bills, choose not to enforce certain laws and policies, and provide a general cultural leadership. These are his negative or indirect qualities.

That’s true on paper. But, of course, Obama rules through executive orders, extralegal czars, executive agencies that unilaterally rewrite Congressional legislation, brazen disregard for the rule of law, &c.

The President may not be a de jure dictator, but he’s becoming a de facto dictator. 

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