Each week in Watching Politics From the Pew, Benjamin Bartlett offers a thoughtful Christian perspective on the latest political happenings in the news.
Each government class in my high school put forward a candidate for president. Thanks to my political geekiness and willingness to argue anything, my class gave the top spot to me.
There was a lot to do, but my big moment came during the debate. I held forth on monetary policy, defense, immigration, abortion, and homosexual marriage. During that last one, things got weird.
Of six candidates, I was the only one against homosexual marriage. Most students went the other way on this issue, but some agreed. One guy was especially adamant. As various students booed or cheered my conservative stance, he held up a large sign that said simply, “Kill Gay.”
I wish I could say I found some way to immediately put him in his place. I wish I made an ugly face or communicated vehement disagreement. But I didn’t. I was 16 and I wanted his vote and I had no idea what to say. So I pretended not to see him.
Thankfully our teacher snatched the sign away and snapped something to the effect of, “I will NOT have that in here.” Eventually I won the election (we had the biggest class and my VP was popular), and that was fun. But I’ve never forgotten that debate, because I still feel the shame that comes from being too awkward and weak to take a stand at the right moment.
My experience has been replicated during the GOP debates. The crowds have cheered executions and the hypothetical death of the sick and uninsured. They have booed a gay man; a gay man serving our country overseas, no less. They have simultaneously defied the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush and the Christlikeness to which conservative Christians say they are committed. And the candidates have said nothing.
I don’t know the stories of those who displayed this behavior, nor do I know how wide or deep it runs. I don’t know you, and I don’t know your politics. But allow me a moment to do what I should have done at age 16.
Republicans, you should be ashamed. You have lost sight of the brotherhood which ought to define our country, and you have spit on the virtues which make our civic life possible. You perpetuate the problem that cripples Washington D.C., and you cast a vision for an angry reactionary state rather than a peaceful and tolerant one. And your leaders are not correcting you.
If there are Christians taking part in this sort of vitriol, may I just communicate my special disappointment in you. Though you were sinners, Christ died for you. And yet you live without grace in your hearts. Your hypocrisy is an embarrassment to the faith.
The political realm should be one where we cast loving and hopeful visions for the future, and where the goodness and wisdom of our philosophies are most on display. But then maybe this is all we have to offer.