In his recent Washington Post op-ed article entitled “The Values Debate We’re Not Having,” Richard Cizik highlights the disconnect between an individualist market-first ideology and the Christian calling to love our neighbors. Cizik represented the National Association of Evangelicals in the corridors of power in Washington DC for 10 years. I think he’s raising some crucial questions for all people of faith, across the political spectrum.
Do our political parties really reflect our deepest values? And how do we respond when political movements (inevitably) fail to embody the principles of our faith? Finally, what would a genuine “values debate” look like?
Whether the Christian duty to love our neighbors is compatible with a political movement that embraces radical individualism and rejects the ethic of collective responsibility is a central question as the GOP attempts to cement the Tea Party and the religious right into a cohesive base. Tea Party activists and Republican leaders have consistently targeted for cutbacks vital government programs that protect the poor, the elderly, children and other vulnerable Americans. Yet calls for shared sacrifice and proposals to modestly raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans in order to fund investments and protections that promote the common good are derided as “class warfare.” This is what passes for family values?
This might be good politics, but it’s bad theology. Most “values voters” with even a minimal degree of biblical literacy recognize that the Hebrew prophets and Jesus warned the powerful not to afflict the poor and comfort the rich. These bedrock Judeo-Christian principles are flouted by conservatives who demand cuts to nutrition programs that help low-income women feed their children even as they defend tax loopholes for some of the world’s wealthiest people.
With one year before our next presidential election, it’s time for people of faith and voters to elevate the conversation beyond bumper-sticker slogans. What do you think? Comment below…
Chris Liu-Beers, Program Associate