Peter Leithart has a must-read over at the First Things blog. In short, he argues that President Obama is convinced that liberals have won the culture war. As a result, the President is trying to force a split in the Republican Party in order to smoke out the “bad” Republicans—those who hold to traditional marriage and who are prolife. Leithart writes:
My advice to Bad Republicans is: Let it come. If the price of regaining power is to abandon any semblance of Christian sexual morality, the price is too high. If the Republican party can’t bring itself to endorse a traditional understanding of marriage, let it split. If the Republican party can’t be bothered about the slaughter of the unborn, let it shatter into a million little pieces. Good Republicans will blame Bad Republicans for tearing the GOP to pieces. So be it…
There is a time for peace, but in my judgment we’re not in such times. For the next four years, perhaps longer, social-issue Christians must recognize that smoothing differences is a temptation, and must learn to resist the temptation. Christians have to be willing to follow the example of Jesus, who came not to unify but to divide father from son, mother from daughter, brother from brother. Division was essential to the social renewal he came to accomplish, because those who followed him, torn from comfortable networks of kin and religion, formed the nucleus of a new kind of community. For Jesus, division was the means for achieving a new unity. Christians have to be willing to imitate the Prince of Peace who declared, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
This analysis is spot-on. You can read the rest of it here.
One argument against this is that Christian social conservatives might be able to command outsized influence by occupying “biggest single constituency” status in the GOP. As “free agents” coalesced around a third party that’s much less likely to happen. Though, it might get rid of some of the gridlock in Congress.
Per Gallup, 53% of Republicans reject premarital sex as “morally acceptable”, 53% reject embryonic stem cell research as “morally acceptable” and 65% reject gay and lesbian relations as “morally acceptable” There’s undoubtedly a great deal of overlap between these three groups, but they won’t overlap perfectly. There will be some folks who reject one but not the other. So if you were to calculate the percentage of Republicans who reject all three as morally acceptable I’m guessing it would be somewhere around 40% tops.
Once again, Buddy, you miss the point of the article entirely.
Don’t think I did. It just seemed worth pointing out a possible counter argument. If one cares about ending abortion (just to pick one issue) and if a Republican schism is likely to reduce the odds of that ever happening (big if) then that might argue for sticking with the party and trying to effect change from within. Lives are, after all, on the line.
My main comment on this is that social conservatives ceded the Democratic party to the social liberals in the wake of several Supreme Court decisions now decades old.
Groups like the Moral Majority did a disservice to our political process, in my opinion, by aligning the priorities of economic conservatism with social conservatism. This led to a schism which left many social conservative minorities stuck in an increasingly socially liberal party but also unwelcome in a seemingly hostile and increasingly economically conservative party. In a more parliamentary democracy a bloc of social conservatives of all stripes would have far more influence on both main parties.
At the state and local level Republican politicians, in recent years at least, can be counted on to support socially conservative legislation. However, at the federal level they have shown themselves far more interested in enriching themselves and primarily focusing on legislation that benefits wealthy campaign contributors and corporate industry as well as waging costly wars of choice that harm our national interests.
It is so refreshing to see an article like this, and a brother like you, Denny, posting it.
Time to dump every lukewarm partner and every alliance not forged by God’s Spirit and just be the church. Everything else is already burning. We need to be the witnesses God called us to be. As long as we lean on the arm of the flesh, the power extended to us will be limited.
Things are going to have to get a lot worse before they get better. Republicans are good at making it look like there are moral values, when in fact there are none. I say, let’s let liberals have their way completely. Let the Republicans dissolve. They’ll be abortion clinics in high school and have mandatory sensitivity training for homosexual behavior. Then people will see public schools for what they are. Otherwise, we have this sort of liberal-lite behavior that so many in the middle will tolerate.
While I disagree with your aim, you and this article are spot on – long term.
If you want to investigate what can happen when a political party disolves, see what happened to the Whig party and the Free Soilers in the USA just before the Republican Party formed. When the Republicans nominated Lincoln, the Democratic Party split along regional lines, giving Lincoln the Presidency which then resulted in the Civil War.
I feel like he dances on the line of equating the GOP with the church, or at least an arm of the church. When he invokes the “not peace but a sword” language, I can’t help but think that Jesus was speaking about the coming division that would flow out of the Gospel, not political battles about marriage. Not to mention the division that came was a natural result of their belief, not something they sought after.
I’m not saying Christians should abandon all political fronts, especially abortion. But I think going at it with the mindset of “With my dividing sword in hand, I’m gonna be like Jesus” is a misuse of biblical mandate and imagery as well as a confusion about the effect the Gospel and Christians can and should have on culture. We are to be known for our love (Matt 22:36-40), compassion (James 1:27), and mercy (Luke 6:35-36). Not our political muscle, and especially not divisiveness. Hebrews 12:14 calls us to strive for peace with everyone, but I guess only until the political battle calls for the unsheathing of our swords. The author even says he doesn’t think now is the time for peace.
Again, I’m not saying Christians and Republicans should abandon their principals and beliefs, giving over to the condescending and high handed pressure of Obama and his supporters. One obvious and natural out working of our faith is that we stand for and against certain things. But don’t invoke Christ’s imagery of division resulting from his death, resurrection, and subsequent spreading of the Gospel as your political call to arms. Too often Christians blur the line between political identity and our identity in Christ, and this feels like one of those times.
Thanx, Lukas, for some solid clarification of some of these issues.