Politicians often use the Bible to prove a point. Here’s the problem with that…
Subscribe to the Real Truth for FREE news and analysis.Subscribe Now
Who does the Christian God side with in U.S. politics? Perhaps the makeup of Congress can help reveal the answer. In the House of Representatives, among the members who identify as Christian, 188 are Democrats and 197 are Republicans. In the Senate, 33 have a “D” next to their name, and 53 have an “R.”
Added up, the Democrat-Republican divide is 221 to 250, respectively. Pretty much split down the middle—and no help to answer the question at hand!
What about looking at the teachings of specific denominations in modern Christianity? When looking at each one’s view on specific political issues, does God land on the left or right?
We will find little help here either. Ever since Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation and groups broke off from the Catholic Church, Christianity has fractured into hundreds of separate groups, each with their own ideas.
Religion and the 2020 Election
President Donald Trump’s appeal to religious conservatives is a cornerstone of his political identity. But Joe Biden is a different kind of foe than Mr. Trump has faced before: one who makes faith a central part of his persona—often literally wearing it on his sleeve.
In fact, Mr. Biden’s practice of carrying a rosary that belonged to his late son Beau caught the attention of one of his Democratic presidential rivals when the two were awaiting a debate last year. Standing backstage next to Mr. Biden, Pete Buttigieg asked the lifelong Catholic about the prayer beads and fell into a conversation about loss, family and faith.
Mr. Biden “often talks about the comfort and meaning that he’s drawn from faith,” said Mr. Buttigieg, Mr. Biden’s primary rival-turned-endorser. “That’s something that will resonate with Americans a lot more than usual.”
Democrats are betting on Mr. Biden’s evident comfort with faith as a powerful point of contrast with Mr. Trump. The faith-focused work underway within Mr. Biden’s campaign suggests that, while he may not significantly undercut the president’s popularity among white evangelicals, he could chip away at Mr. Trump’s base by appealing to pockets of conservative faithful.
Mr. Biden’s identity as “a very devout Catholic and person of deep faith,” deputy political director John McCarthy said, is “baked into the core messaging and core functions of the campaign.”
Mr. Biden has framed his presidential bid as a fight for “the soul of the nation,” a subtle invocation of the Catholic beliefs that have guided his life. His campaign has released three digital ads focused on faith, including one crediting his religious practices with instilling a “sense of solace.”
It is a notable contrast with Hillary Clinton, who lost in 2016 after a campaign that largely sidelined her Methodist faith.
As Mr. Trump promises to be evangelicals’ “champion” on policy, Mr. Biden is making a less transactional play for religious support, betting that a beliefs-focused brand will be more persuasive than agreement on an agenda.
“For faith and values voters,” Mr. McCarthy said, Mr. Biden’s spiritual authenticity is “the quality they’re looking for.” They might disagree on a particular issue, he added, but can connect with Mr. Biden through a shared worldview.
That often may depend on the issue in question. The presumptive nominee’s shift leftward on federal funding for abortions is a potential liability with evangelicals as well as many Catholics, for example.
But Mr. Biden has used moral language and quoted Pope Francis when discussing other issues that many Catholics do support, such as immigration reform, expanding health care access and tackling climate change.
“My faith teaches me that we should be a nation that not only accepts the truth of the climate crisis, but leads the world in addressing it,” Mr. Biden wrote in a Religion News Service editorial.
As the coronavirus pandemic and unrest over racial injustice roil Mr. Trump’s presidency, Mr. Biden’s team sees an opening to claim the moral high ground. Joshua DuBois, who led religious outreach for former President Barack Obama, described the political climate as “the perfect storm” for the president.
Mr. Biden could make “small but meaningful gains” among white evangelicals, whose support for Mr. Trump has fluctuated by as many as 15 points in recent polls, by contrasting himself as “the type of person who’s going to speak to our better angels,” Mr. DuBois said.
The campaign has yet to match the denomination-level outreach that Mr. Obama’s 2008 team deployed, beyond releasing a specific agenda aimed at fellow Catholics, but insiders say that is by design. Mr. McCarthy said the campaign bakes religious elements into other programs, holding faith-focused calls with LGBTQ, Asian American, African American, Latino, Jewish and Muslim communities, among other constituencies.
As for evangelicals, Mr. McCarthy said the campaign is targeting three subgroups that may be more on the fence: Latinos, white suburban women and youth, whom surveys have shown to lean less conservative.
The campaign signaled its seriousness in July with the hiring of Josh Dickson to oversee faith engagement. Mr. Dickson, a former Republican who declared in 2012 that “I’m a Democrat because of my evangelical faith,” previously worked on religious outreach for the Democratic National Committee and President Obama’s 2012 campaign.
“Faith-motivated voters—including those traditionally more moderate and conservative—are especially eager to see a President who both shares and leads with the values important to them,” Mr. Dickson said in a statement. “Vice President Biden has stood and fought for these values—loving our neighbor, caring for the poor and vulnerable, fighting against injustice and oppression—his entire career.”
It is a strategy that aims for marginal gains with evangelicals.
“We are going to go after every vote, but I do not think we will suddenly win the evangelical vote with 80 percent,” Mr. McCarthy acknowledged.
Indeed, in a recent survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, 7 in 10 evangelicals approved of Mr. Trump’s handling of the presidency.
Meanwhile the GOP is stepping up efforts to court evangelicals of color. Thousands of Hispanic faith leaders and congregants have participated in Trump Victory Committee events, with specific programming focused on evangelicals, Republican National Committee spokeswoman Mandi Merritt said.
Tony Perkins, a prominent conservative evangelical Trump backer, said evangelicals backed the GOP overwhelmingly in 2016 not “because they embraced everything about the president [but] because they embraced what he was going to do.”
“Evangelicals are focusing on the policy,” added Mr. Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
Mr. Biden’s team has also worked with African American pastors in multiple states, building on a connection that helped vault him to the nomination. It hired a Muslim outreach director in March and a Jewish outreach director in July.
Even within specific branches of Christianity, there is a diversity of political leanings. Just look at Lutherans in the United States. The three main synods are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. ELCA takes a liberal view that women can be ordained, does not condemn homosexuality, and believes the Bible should not always be taken literally. LCMS is somewhere in the middle. It condemns same-sex relations and believes God’s Word is literal. WELS is the most conservative and does not even recognize the other two synods as Lutherans.
It gets even more complex from here on out. The biggest wrinkle comes when attempting to define what liberal and conservative even mean.
Both political ideologies came into their own around the time of the American Revolution, with their main goals to remove tyrant rulers. Historically, conservatives stick to long-held traditions and distrust sudden change to society. This viewpoint tends to steer clear of what are seen as abstract, “high-minded” ideas, and favors limited government. Liberals also originally believed in small government, while emphasizing the rights of the individual. Liberalism is more receptive to societal change due to technological advances and shifts in morals.
Simplified, conservatives continue with what has worked in the past, slowly offering new changes. Liberals tap into intellectual arguments and theories to bring about swifter change and “justice for all.”
Many of America’s Founding Fathers borrowed from both camps. On some issues, they leaned conservative. On others, they shifted liberal. Much of early United States history was formed along this line of thinking.
The rift between these viewpoints suddenly widened in the early 20th century. Many liberals felt limited government intervention allowed the wealthy to grow too rich, perpetuating a societal imbalance and exploiting the poor.
To correct this, a new form of liberalism was born: the social liberal. This meant government intervention was necessary to take from the rich (usually through higher taxes) and redistribute the funds to the poor. This thinking was behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program, which gave rise to Medicare and Medicaid.
With each passing year, ideals of both conservatives and liberals evolve into increasingly varied and complex forms. Rather than reaching a consensus, individual ideas continuously result in the birth of disagreeing factions. Now there are neo-conservatives, classical liberals, libertarians, green liberals, traditionalist conservatives, and so on.
There are even liberal conservatives and conservative liberals!
When examining the modern religious and political landscapes, the answer to the titular question becomes painfully obvious: neither. The God of the Bible transcends political squabbles and interdenominational wrangling.
Yet just because God does not skew right or left, it does not mean you cannot know who and what He is—and His view on the many problems facing mankind.
As recorded in the Old Testament, God revealed His Law to ancient Israel. Comprised of commandments, statutes, judgments and precepts, God’s Law evidences His viewpoints on a wide range of civic, social, environmental and other issues.
In revealing the Ten Commandments to the Israelites (Ex. 20:1-17), God established that there is right and wrong behavior. He also explained there are penalties—swift punishment!—when one breaks His laws (Lev. 26:14-39). All this would seem to align God’s views with traditional conservative ideas.
On the other hand, God also explains that He is merciful and gracious (Psa. 116:5). He promises to bless and care for those who heed Him (Deut. 28:1-14). He also says that He watches over the poor, widows, orphans and foreigners among His people. This would seem to place Him strongly in the camp for the “social justice” Christians.
In addition, God proclaims His love for all human beings and countries (John 3:16), going so far as to promise that, one day, all nations will be blessed (Gen. 26:4). His love and compassion extend so far that He promises to do away with all pain, sorrow and death (Rev. 21:4).
However, this same God who explains that He is love (I John 4:8) also announces that He will bring His furious wrath upon those who disobey Him (Nah. 1:2). He will “by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:7) and will bring destruction on the wicked (Psa. 37:20).
God’s unique and perfectly balanced combination of compassion and swift justice is unseen in the political philosophies of men.
To those reared in traditional Christianity, many of these verses might seem to contradict the concept of God they have been taught all their lives—a deity who has never matured beyond the point of a moody teenager. The world’s ministers, pastors and religionists teach either an out-of-control, fire-and-brimstone “God” who devours those who upset Him—or a pacifist, weak, “come as you are,” permissive “God” who allows everyone to do whatever they please, as long as they “just have love.”
Both extremes completely contradict the true God of the Bible, who exercises perfect moderation, judgment and discernment in all His decisions. In every aspect of life—whether personal, social or educational—God demonstrates both liberal and conservative thinking. If this sounds strange, recognize this: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
God does not limit His ability to make correct and just decisions by locking Himself into any of man’s political ideologies.
Fiscal Responsibility and Service
Citing III John 1:2, many churches correctly teach that God wants Christians to be blessed and prosperous. Yet these same religious organizations often neglect to teach that He requires people to do their part—to work hard, save their income and be wise stewards (or managers) of their personal finances.
Few today understand God has a detailed financial system that, when obeyed, yields blessings. The core component of this system is tithing. God wants men to demonstrate their ability to save money and “stretch a dollar” by giving Him the first 10 percent of their income. In return, He promises those who trust Him wonderful blessings and a significant gain on investment (Mal. 3:8-10).
God’s financial system also includes mercy upon the poor and those who struggle with economic difficulties. He commands men to not oppress the impoverished by exacting interest from them (Ex. 22:25), and to mete out debt relief by a fair and forgiving standard (Deut. 15:1-2). In addition, all citizens are to do their part in taking care of the poor by making sure their needs are met (vs. 7-11).
For instance, God required farmers to leave enough crops during the harvest season “for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow” for their food (Deut. 24:19-22). However, these same disadvantaged people had to labor—they had to work in the fields and glean the crops for themselves.
Clearly, both sides of the political and social spectrum—conservative investment and fiscal responsibility on the one hand, relieving the poor on the other—are simultaneously reflected within God’s view on money.
Modern criminal justice systems struggle with how to effectively uphold the laws of the land. Some governments follow a permissive course, such as tolerating illegal drug use and other social ills. Other governments exact terrible punishment for the simplest infractions—and even punish victims of the crimes along with the criminals who committed them.
Many legal systems find themselves powerless in punishing criminals, with the most horrific offenders sometimes released without punishment.
Even those who are imprisoned live comfortable lives often better than those in ghettos and other dying communities that inspired them to a life of crime in the first place.
As well, the slow process of court systems, legal battles and appeals often takes years—allowing criminals to gloss over the whole purpose of reform. As a result, Ecclesiastes 8:11 becomes reality: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
In contrast to these extremes, God designed a balanced system of justice and equity. He explains that the penalty for any crime should be as serious as the original infraction (Ex. 21:23-25), and that some crimes require the perpetrator to restore more than the initial damages (22:1).
The world’s religions and philosophies often profess extreme and opposing opinions regarding the environment and wildlife. Some believe the entire Earth is sacred and therefore man should not harm it—even going so far as to not eat animals or tap natural resources. At the other extreme are those who believe animals can be slaughtered without cause, and that all the Earth’s resources are man’s to squander without repercussion.
In the first chapter of Genesis, God says that He gave man dominion over the Earth and over all the animals (1:26-30). This includes the Earth’s natural resources. God also gave certain animals for man’s diet, and explicitly outlined which animals can and should not be eaten (Lev. 11).
Concerning natural resources, God also set a clear example for using these resources by commanding that Noah’s ark, as well as articles in the Holy Tabernacle, be constructed of fine wood, precious metals and the best materials available (Gen. 6:14; Ex. 25-27).
Along with using natural resources, mankind is charged with taking care of the Earth (Gen. 2:15). Part of this responsibility includes giving the land a rest from farming every seventh year (Lev. 25:1-4).
Clearly, God’s view is to conserve the land. He created the Earth to be properly used, not abused.
Religionists of traditional and modern Christianity selectively choose which of God’s views and laws to preach, and which ones to ignore. So do those of the conservative right and liberal left who turn to churches and religious leaders for political support.
Thankfully, the God who hates evil (Prov. 8:13) and yet is reasonable—who says to all who are willing, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18)—will soon establish His government upon the Earth. It will administer true justice and equity for all nations.
And there will never again be any doubt as to whether God is liberal or conservative in His ways.