Monday, February 20, 2012

Why You Should Vote for Ron Paul (Episode 2): The Republican Exploitation of Evangelicals

If you are a Christian and you've followed Ron Paul for any length of time then you will have noticed that he does not wear his faith in the way that America has come to expect from Republican politicians. If you have heard him speak of his faith at all, it was likely in only the most succinct manner. Where we are accustomed to seeing republicans desperately pandering and performing for the approval of the evangelical right, it is strange to have a serious candidate for the Republican party not selling his faith out for the sake of political gain. Even Mitt Romney is heard talking faith more than Paul, and Romney would likely prefer that the evangelical base forget about his religious distinctions.

For some reason this seems to cause a problem for many politically interested evangelicals. They have become accustomed to needing to hear all the right things out of a candidate's mouth. A successful prospect must one-up the other candidates with their sharp abortion rhetoric and they have to make strong verbal affirmations of support for traditional marriage (their own personal infidelities aside). They must somehow convey their harmonic love for God and country, and the more blurry the lines between the two the better. It is broadly understood that without these prerequisites a prospective office-holder cannot solidify the support of the evangelical base. Without the evangelic base there is hardly any expectation that a candidate can win. Jerry Falwell must be smiling in his grave.

However, all the rhetoric has proven time and time again to be almost worthless. There is a rough formula that republican candidates must follow if they hope for success, and this formula is basically a guideline for exploiting the willingly naive evangelical base. That is usually the extent to which republican candidates have any use for evangelical talking points: political gain. An outside observer might conclude that the abortion issue (which is only one aspect of a truly "pro-life" world view) and eradicating gayness or gay people are the two foundational aspects of the evangelical faith. There is certainly very little about their public conversation or behavior that would tip anyone off to something called the gospel. Even despite the actual actions of men in power, as long as they say the right words when they speak then evangelicals are happy to hold their pocket and dutifully follow wherever they lead. Lately that has lead to the evangelical right being complicit in unjust war, exploitation here and abroad, and a dismantlement of liberty.

Ron Paul (and libertarianism) offers evangelicals a way out of this political-ideological quagmire. He doesn't adhere to the republican formula for success because he isn't interested in simply using people in order to attain office. Politically, Paul is oriented around libertarianism which has a set of foundational premises that are used to guide decision making. In contrast, most politicians are aligned to a party (probably whichever one they deem most likely to succeed). Because political parties are not ideologically grounded, a party's stances change with the ebb of culture. This is why the republican party as a whole is not so much conservative as it is merely (maybe) less progressive than the democratic party.

Spiritually, Paul is oriented around Christ. If pressed, he is not ashamed to speak of his faith. However, he is aware of the way religion is used by politicians and seems to avoid even appearing to take part in that sort of evil. So for Republican evangelicals the choice comes down to Paul, who is a lifelong committed Christian with the character and behavior to prove it, or the rest of the Republican field, who--as it seems that everyone but the evangelical right realizes--are likely employing their faith as just one more political tool to capture the allegiance of a special interest.
I'm quite confident of which way the evangelical base will go. They care too much about rhetoric and speeches. They enjoy having their ears tickled and shy away from deep thinking. This is evidenced in many churches on Sunday morning where a shallow, seeker driven homily is the centerpiece of the service. We really like good-looking and well-spoken men telling us what we want to hear. And so the conversation coming from the evangelical world this political season about who to rally behind has been quite amusing. With Paul not allowed to be a viable option for them, the evangelicals are left to choose between a Roman Catholic missionary who happens to be running for president, a serial adulterer who became evangelical in college and then converted to the Roman Catholicism of his latest mistress/wife, and a standout former Mormon bishop and stake president. Considering that the average evangelical tends to consider LDS a cult and does not look much more favorably toward Roman Catholicism, I am sure that there will remain quite a circus within the evangelical political world as they continue to cycle back and forth deciding who among the three will be recognized as the best representative of evangelical faith and values.

Avoid the circus. Vote Ron Paul.