I've been thinking: "What do salt-of-the-earth, devout, middle state, Republican Evangelicals need to hear to say 'Yes' to things like health reform? Immigration reform? Or (let's face it) any kind of reform?" I'm starting to believe that there's nothing one can say, because it's really not about the issues. It's about philosophy -- big government vs. small government, to be exact.
The "small government" philosophy actually stems from the states' rights debates of the mid-1800s. That philosophical tug-of-war over the boundaries of federal and state sovereignty ultimately split the Union, tossing our nation over the brink and into Civil War. In those blue and gray days, Southern states chanted their philosophy in a brazen attempt to maintain a way of life sustained on the backs of enslaved individuals and families.
The states' rights mantra received its final blow with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited states from impeding any citizens' ability to vote. "States' rights!" morphed into "Small government!" The words were different but the intent was the same. Now in the 21st century, on the eve of health reform, the states' rights mantra is coming out of hiding.
Ironically, our nation finds itself on the brink of judgment day once again. We stand on the brink, like Lincoln stood on the brink before he proclaimed Emancipation for my South Carolinian ancestors. We are on the brink like Congress before it passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, which declared that the freedom of all U.S. citizens is more important than "States' rights!"
We stand at a threshold, and before we step forward and votes are cast, we must look back and consider: how different would the world be if the congresses of 1865, 1868, and 1870 had lacked courage and a long view of history? How different would our nation be if our leaders had chosen political expediency over our nation's highest ideals when it counted? How different would our world be if Evangelicals then were in the same place many of us are in now? Then, we Evangelicals led the fight for abolition and paved the way for most of the major reforms our nation knew in the 1800s.
Today, unfortunately, many of my brother and sister Evangelicals have been sucked up or tempted to surf the tsunami of tea flowing from ungodly "parties." They, too, are caught up in a wave of populist philosophical revolt that rivals the days of secession. And it feels good, 'cause power always feels good. But this kind of use of power clashes -- not only with Democrats, but with Jesus himself and with basic Evangelical beliefs.
As Evangelicals, we believe our faith is more than a set of philosophies. It is a relationship with God through Jesus. It has transformative power and should affect every level of the believer's life -- including her public witness and vote. As Evangelicals, we believe the truth of scripture -- all of it -- including the thousands of passages that flip the script and demonstrate God's kind of economy: one that protects, defends, and restores the poorest among us to full well-being through personal and government intervention (see Genesis 41, Exodus, Leviticus 25, Isaiah 58 and 61, Amos, Micah 6, Luke 4 and 10, Matthew 5 and 25, Ephesians 1 and 2, and Revelation 7 and 22, among many others). Because scripture teaches it, we believe every human being is created in God's image and is therefore intrinsically worthy of every protection of basic human needs (food, health, work, shelter). As Evangelicals, we believe that Jesus' resurrection power is real and is applicable to our broken lives and our broken world (Ephesians 1 and 2). Finally, as Evangelicals, we believe in an ultimate Judgment Day, one where every individual will be called upon to give account for his actions, private and public.
That said, here's what I wanna know:
What will all the well-meaning church-going tea-surfers say to Jesus on that ultimate day -- the one we Evangelicals love to write movies about -- when Jesus says, "I was sick and you refused me access to health care because you loved your philosophy more than you loved me"? What will my Evangelical brothers and sisters say to Jesus to convince him a philosophy was worth his life?