Christian values. How many times do you think that term, or some variation of it, will be trotted out in campaign ads between now and the June 5 primaries? If you’re like us, you suspect it will be too many – way too many. If you’re like us, you’d prefer that politicians practice these values, rather than boast about them.
But let’s be honest here, this appeal to voters’ religious sympathies is not really about having a common faith. It’s about politics, pure and simple. What else can we conclude from the seemingly endless parade of politicians in Alabama who have told us what strong Christian values they have, only to demonstrate otherwise? Several of them have ended up resigning in shame, or worse, going to prison. Yet, we keep electing our leaders based, apparently, on how much they out-church the other candidates.
Instead, we should be electing them based on what policies they propose that are rooted in Christian principles. One does not have to be religious to recognize that those principles align with honest, compassionate government – and honest, compassionate leaders. Of course, those principles should not be compromised for political gain -- God’s kingdom is not of this world, after all -- yet we see religious leaders, never mind politicians, excuse bad behavior for that very reason. Meanwhile, Alabama remains ranked at or near rock-bottom on every important measure of how it treats the poor and vulnerable, and none of these politicians proudly proclaiming their Christian values on television are doing much about any of it.
But this theme is not playing out just in Alabama.
To cite one egregious example, the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, has spoken out repeatedly in defense of Donald Trump’s “Christian values,” even after it was apparent Trump had paid hush money to a pornographic film actress to conceal their tryst. Back in January, Graham said he didn’t believe Trump had an affair with the porn star. Then, as more details came out, he told us that it was nobody’s business. Enough already.
Those who would scream about white evangelical political hypocrisy, however, should make sure their own houses are in order. Those who would judge others based on their professed Christian values should first abide by them.
We’d like to chalk up the shortcomings of those who would lead us, to human frailty – and maybe that plays a part -- but that’s not at the heart of what’s going on here. We’ve seen this cynical approach too many times. It has nothing to do with Christian values and everything to do with using that term to mislead voters, a strategy rooted in the lust for political power. The Bible has a lot to say about that.
Ordinarily, we shouldn’t judge, but we’re talking about candidates for political office. We’re supposed to judge them. They’re daring us to judge them. But it’s certainly not our intent to demean Christian values – they are well worth aspiring to. It’s the hypocrisy we’re weary of. And those ads. We’re really tired of those ads.