I Totally Vote According To My Christian Beliefs

I sometimes hear liberals saying that people shouldn’t mix their religion up with their politics, and I don’t see how a religious person can avoid doing this. When you grow up in a religion, it shapes your values, and almost everyone votes according to her values. Growing up Christian made me a lifelong liberal.

Street signs showing the intersection of religion and politics

Now, I don’t think the Bible is an infallible guide to ethics. It’s impossible for me to think that, because the Bible condones a lot of terrible shit. Even the New Testament says stupid things, like women shouldn’t speak in church. What can we expect? It was written by guys 2,000 years ago, then edited by other guys who decided to leave out things like the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Nobody’s been allowed to add to or re-edit it since, as though no one can be divinely inspired anymore.

People sometimes tell me I can’t pick and choose what to follow in the Bible, which is hilarious, because everyone does. For instance, I don’t know one Christian personally who has sold all of her belongings and given the money to the poor. I’m mostly just interested in the things Jesus did and said, as far as we know. Here’s how I feel about some of the biggest issues, based on my religious beliefs.

ABORTION ““ Abortion was legal under Roman law and a common practice in Jesus’s time. He didn’t say anything about it, and the Bible doesn’t say anything about it anywhere (except maybe in Numbers, where I think it may recommend it in a certain instance, but I’m not positive I’m reading that passage right”¦ see what you make of it).

Does this in itself prove to me that abortion is fine? Not really, because the Bible seems to think slavery was fine. Honestly, I have no idea when a fetus becomes a human being.

Since God gave me a brain and fingers with which to Google, though, I know that outlawing abortion won’t stop it. Denmark has a lower rate of abortion than the United States, even though abortions in the first twelve weeks are free. In Colombia, you can go to prison for three years for having an abortion, and their abortion rate is about twice that of the United States. The only thing a law can do is outlaw abortions that are safe for women.

With all this in mind, I vote to let women make their own decisions about abortion, and I support initiatives that strike at what I think are the root causes of many abortions: poverty; the lack of a safety net to ensure all our babies and little kids have food, safety, and shelter; lack of access to contraceptives; rape and sexual coercion; and shame. Anyone who votes to make sure these remain problems is not actually anti-abortion.

HOMOSEXUALITY ““ Jesus said nothing about it, and his main commandment, “Love one another,” hardly prohibits it. Moreover, he always, always stood up for marginalized and bullied people. Most of the verses in the Bible supposedly decrying homosexuality are actually talking about child rape and child prostitution in the original Greek.

There’s no good reason for this to be an issue for so many Christians. There are way more Bible verses about how you shouldn’t get drunk. Why aren’t conservative Christians trying to reinstate Prohibition instead?

I have never in my whole life believed it was wrong to be gay, probably because as a child, I was so enchanted by the love story of David and Jonathan.

TAXES ““ Oh yes! Jesus talked about this! Someone tried to get him to say they shouldn’t have to pay taxes to the Romans, and he said, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” This ought to be enough to keep any Christian from whining too much about taxes.

Would Jesus approve of lower tax burdens for the rich than for the middle class? Not a chance. Jesus said a lot of bad things about wealthy people who didn’t help the less fortunate–enough to make this middle-class lady pretty uncomfortable. Helping the poor was one of his favorite topics, along with “don’t be judgmental.”

UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE – Jesus healed sick people. As an example of how people ought to behave, he told a story about a guy finding a beaten-up foreigner in a ditch and paying for him to be nursed back to health. He told this story in response to someone asking, “Who is my neighbor?” or basically, “Who do I have to care about?” Yeah, this issue is a no-brainer.

WAR ““ Turn the other cheek. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Jesus was a complete pacifist. I am not, but I know it’s not Christian of me. I am apt to question military action, at least.

THE ENVIRONMENT ““ Here I disagree with many Christians on the interpretation of Genesis, which is not a story I take at all literally. God gives humans dominion over the earth. Some people think this means we can do whatever we want to it. I think it’s more like your mom handing you the keys to her Porsche: she wants you to have a blast, but she’s putting a lot of trust in you, and she doesn’t want you to go wreck it, okay? Especially with all the future generations riding in the back seat!

By Bryn Donovan

Romance writer, poet, quilter, and dog cuddler.

22 replies on “I Totally Vote According To My Christian Beliefs”

Jewish, but raised in a number of christian traditions.

My understanding of genesis was that the Dominion thing was a responsibility, not a gift. Yes, we are able to control things, but we are to do so responsibly. Jewish tradition even requires that the method of killing an animal for meat involve what would be considered humane at the time. Mismanagement of the fruits of the earth is met with condemnation- though admittedly the mismanagement is minor compared to the potentials we have today for mismanaging.

Additionally, biblical rules about harvesting and so forth? Including those featured prominently in the story of Ruth? Were both for the good of the land and the people. It’s the biblical equivalent of food stamps as well- a portion of all the harvest was to be left to the poor to gather. Because we live in a society that is not primarily agricultural, this gets adopted to the food production and distribution system we *do* have.

Also for further reference on the Bible and homosexuality, it’s kinda silly to think that the Bible would condemn it, when the Biblical writers had no concept of it comparable to the modern one. The idea of a sexual orientation was not something that existed in their world. They had some ideas that some dudes lusted after other dudes (seriously good luck on finding ancient sources on women’s anythings, so dudes) but the idea of someone wanting a committed relationship on equal footing with someone of the same gender was not in their wheelhouse of possible things. So if Paul was writing about anything it was the open expressions of homosexual sex that were seen as normal in the culture he lived in. The Roman culture on dudesex was kinda awful (Its cool, as long as the other dude is a slave and you are on top!).

Also it’s a little tricky to understand what he was saying in a few instances where it’s brought up because he uses a word that shows up pretty much nowhere else ever among contemporaries (arsenokoitais). It could be an oddball attempt to translate Leviticus into Greek, but he is the same dude that said that we didn’t really need to follow Jewish purity code, so take that as you will. He uses another word that gets translated as gay put was pretty much only used for prostitutes of the penis having variety. But really, he also wrote Galatians 3:28 which states completly unambiguously that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

TL;DR Bible be complicated.

One of my professors, way, way back, explained that “have dominion” actually means to be caretakers, or stewards. God never gave us permission to ravage the land. We were given explicit instructions, from the very beginning, to be very good gardeners.

And Bryn, this is a wonderful article. Thank you for writing it.

I concur with many, many things in this piece. Many old acquaintances and relatives cannot fathom how I can be both a liberal and profess Christian beliefs. I cannot understand how they can call themselves Christians and spew such hate and vitriol for anything deemed “The Other.”

I also like the fact that you mention what is considered canon and what is not. When you look at the history of how the Bible came to be and how it was put together it kinda makes you go, “hmmmmmm.”

Also, in reference to many others who have commented, one of the first things I learned when I was emerging out of my little Christian bubble was that Christianity or even religion did not have a monopoly on ethics and morality.

Interesting piece.

I agree about the whole picking and choosing thing. I always laugh when I hear people say that. The Bible contradicts itself, so picking and choosing is going to happen.

Anyway, there are several passages on land stewardship in the Bible that are pretty interesting. I, of course, can’t remember them off the top of my head, but I’m going to search through my old notes for them. They line up with what your are basically saying though — take care of the earth. :-)

This made me sit back and think for a bit. You mention that people can’t help but vote according to their religious beliefs. I’ve wondered about similar. Sure, I don’t go around telling everyone that they’re stupid for thinking god(s) exist (I don’t even think someone’s stupid for thinking that!), but I can’t help but vote in ways that are informed by what I believe.

Like, as an atheist, since I believe that teaching creationism as science is a load of bullharkey, I will vote against measures to put “alternatives” to evolution in schools. Since I think that signs of faith should be able to be expressed equally, I will either be against putting ANY religious symbols in public places, or I will allow ALL of them to be there. (Ex. a lot of times big crosses in public places are allowed, but giant Stars of David are not) Since I believe that through evolution, some people and animals just want to have sex with their species of the same gender, I think it is meaningless and cruel to put bans on same-sex marriage or same-sex adoption, etc.

But all these pieces are affected by my beliefs in some way or another. If I had a different religious/spiritual background, I might think differently. Or, I might have the same opinions, but I could have different justifications.

At the same time, I still support the idea of separation between church and state. I know this mostly refers to the idea that the state should not dictate what you believe, but since I also think this means we should try to keep religious beliefs out of legislation, are my notions on this consistent? If our beliefs are shaped by our religious/spiritual upbringing, what is the line that I’m trying to draw?

I think I’m trying to resist a religious-specific code of conduct that is put into law. But if this is your culture, how easily can you separate the bits that were the result of religious culture and the bits that weren’t?

That’s a fairly good question. I tend to frame it under the qualifier of “If I found out tomorrow that my religion was demonstrability bullshit, would I still think this was a good idea?” For basic moral principals that are endorsed by my religion, the answer is yes. For rites and rituals, not as much. I also keep in mind, “Would this prevent anyone from seeking their own path to truth?” or “Would this give legislative preference to my own faith?” because I am firmly against both. It can get kind of complex to tease out sometimes, but I son’t view faith as the source of my morals, rather as a component part of them, so maybe that is a factor. I also think that separation of church and state is the only way to guarantee religious freedom. So I guess I fall in the same opinions, different justifications category.

I like this answer.

I think you also have a good point about mentioning that you don’t think your faith is the source of your morals. I know some people believe that it is (and this is part of the reason why I can be viewed as the evil godless heathen for daring to admit I’m an atheist). But if I had to guess, a lot of the people who give religious reasons for saying same-sex marriage is wrong, or abortion is wrong, etc. would still think these things were wrong if their religion was shown to be demonstrably false. They’d come up with different reasons.

Maybe that’s another big thing I’m trying to resist: ignorance and persecution framed in religious terms. It’s a lot harder to argue against someone when they think that God says they’re right.

Then again, there’s plenty of people who, say, argue for why abortion should be banned using terms often found in religious discussions of it, but they could be separated away. I’ve heard arguments from ethicists arguing for “life begins at conception” in ways that don’t use things like “soul” or “God.” I usually find those fishy, too, because it’s not very clear to me where the religious belief ends and their argument begins.

I don’t know. I seem to be talking a lot without getting to any main idea since I’m still trying to figure out what I think about it.

When It get’s down to that level of stupid in the abortion debate I find it’s basically time to point out that no one is legally required to preform any other life saving medical procedure for anyone else ever. You cannot be legally compelled to donate organs. You cannot legally be compelled to donate bone marrow. You cannot legally be compelled to donate blood. Those save lives, but you are never legally obligated to do them. Why is pregnancy different? Why should we be legally obligated to donate our uterus?

“But if I had to guess, a lot of the people who give religious reasons for saying same-sex marriage is wrong, or abortion is wrong, etc. would still think these things were wrong if their religion was shown to be demonstrably false. They’d come up with different reasons.”

Thank you so much for this. We fear what we don’t understand. Regardless of religion or culture, if we don’t like something, we’ll come up with some reason to justify it instead of just admitting we’re afraid.

The Numbers passage doesn’t strike me as discussing abortion at all. There is no mention of conception, just the idea that the wife might have been unfaithful. Sex doesn’t equal babies. (The title of this section says it’s an adultery test.) How come you didn’t include more references than the Numbers passage? I’m curious because it seems odd to talk about a text that proves your points without showing that it does. I’m interested in reading more of the research that went into this article.

Oh no, you’re fine. I didn’t include specific references because I thought of this piece as an op-ed than a more academic article. I did include the Numbers one because I find it very curious. I have Googled around since writing this piece and this passage has puzzled a lot of people in just the same way it’s puzzled me.

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