Christian Democrat?

October 20, 2015

A few years ago one of my granddaughters was told by her Christian school teacher that Christians voted Republican. Walking out of the classroom, one of my granddaughter’s friends said to her, “I’m sure glad my parents and grandparents are Republicans.”

“But my grandpa is a Democrat,” she replied. “And he’s a Christian.”

Most Reformed Christians in this part of the country hold views similar to my granddaughter’s teacher. To be a Christian and a Democrat hardly seems possible to them. The primary reason for this is the abortion issue. After Roe v. Wade, Democrats supported abortion. Republicans made opposition to abortion a critical issue in their campaigns, and most conservative Christians joined them.

While many Christians started out as “one-issue” Republicans, over time they have adopted other Republican positions such as: 1) a belief that it was not the government’s job to create programs and provide funding to help the poor with housing or food or healthcare; 2) an almost religious faith in free markets; and 3) a distrust of scientific research on climate change.

Before I address these issues, I want to say a few words about how I, a Christian, can be part of a group, the Democratic Party, which supports abortion. I do not support abortion, but I don’t believe our system works when it is made up of one-issue voters. James Skillen, former executive director at The Center for Public Justice, says that “Basic justice in the land includes more than anti-abortion”1 and I agree with him. A genuine Pro-Life position should seek to affect all kinds of situations that diminish human life: poverty, hunger, racism, unjust labor practices, lack of health care, climate change, and the list could continue.

As I look back over the span of my lifetime, I see that it was the Democrats that gave us Social Security, The Civil Rights Act, The Voting Rights Act, Medicaid, affordable healthcare, and a number of poverty programs.

Consider the Republicans’ position on the responsibility of government to the poor. Republicans who are Christians often say that it is the church’s job to take care of the poor, and they are partially right. But it has never been just the church’s job. Scripture says that governments are appointed to do justice and that justice involves more than the punishment of lawbreakers. It also requires taking positive steps to help the downtrodden make a better life for themselves.

No one believed that more firmly than the great Reformation scholar and preacher, John Calvin: “Calvin advocated public loans for the poor and refugee, measures relating to public health… the fixing of the price of corn and wine and other commodities, the determination of the proper rate of interest, even the ownership by the State of a silk industry… In fact, so much social legislation was enacted by the Genevan government at the time and through the influence of Calvin that his government has been termed Christian socialism.”2 Calvin’s commentary on II Corinthians 8:15 is that “God wills there be equality and proportion among us, that is, each person is to provide for the needy according to his means so that no one has too much and no one too little.” Shocking! Sounds like “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

But my Republican friends will have none of this. To them, one of President Obama’s great sins is that he opposes gross income inequality. Shocking!

This leads me to the Republican Party’s seeming reverence for Free Market Capitalism. Abraham Kuyper, the great Dutch theologian and statesman (and patron saint of “neo-Calvinist” Reformed people) denounces laissez-faire capitalism as “inimical to human well-being, material or physical, out of tune with Scripture and contrary to the will of God,” believing that laissez-faire capitalism not only brought about injustice to the poor but was fundamentally unchristian in its promotion of greed.3 I agree.

Finally, Climate Change. About twenty-five years ago I ran into two books that changed my life: Wendell Berry’s What Are People For? and Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature. In the ensuing years I have become more and more convinced that nothing will do more to promote the well-being of the people of the world than the careful stewardship of earth, water and air. The CO2s and other pollutants we pump into the air not only warm it, causing climate change, but they go into the oceans causing acidification with its disastrous effects. Along with all kinds of environmental losses, human suffering and death will be the eventual result of unchecked global warming. Most Republican politicians won’t even acknowledge that Climate Change is occurring, and those that do hesitate to say much about it for fear of losing voters.

So, I am a Democrat because with a few notable exceptions (like abortion), Democrats promote policies I believe a Christian should support. And Republicans oppose them.

I am sympathetic to the social democracies in Europe who support a distributive concept that makes sure that wealth and assets are not controlled by the wealthy few. I support collective action for the collective good. But rather than calling myself a Social Democrat, I would choose Abraham Kuyper’s name for himself, Christian Democrat. It might even be time to organize a wing of the Democratic Party called the Christian Democrats.

Dig Deeper

Return to iAt throughout this week to read more on Christians’ engagement in politics. If you live near Sioux Center, Iowa, also consider attending the Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics on October 29-31, 2015.

About the Author

  1. Skillen, James. “Can Congress Save the Unborn?” Public Justice Report 4, No.10 (August/September) 1981, p.2 and 3. 

  2. Meeter, H. H. as cited in Lester De Koster “Calvinists and Democrats” in Bratt and Wells, The Best of the Reformed Journal, p. 49. Eerdmans, 2011. 

  3. Bratt, James. Abraham Kuyper, Christian Democrat (Eerdmans, 2013) p. 224. Eerdmans, 2013. 

What are your thoughts about this topic?
We welcome your ideas and questions about the topics considered here. If you would like to receive others' comments and respond by email, please check the box below the comment form when you submit your own comments.

Leave a Reply to Chad M. VinkCancel Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. The Democrats today are a center right party similar to the Republicans before the 1970s. They’re not social democrats of the European or Canadian type. Franklin Roosevelt took the US farthest in that direction in order to stop the surge of true Leftist movements from making the Democrats irrelevant. His form of social democracy was very conservative however, and it built a base out of mostly white Christian working class families that was finally dislodged by Nixon with his contention that the Democrats stood for acid (LSD), amnesty (for draft dodgers), and abortion. Much of the Catholic vote shifted to the Republican party in the 1970s-1980s as abortion became a defining issue. The Kennedys had always been anti-abortion while the Eisenhower Republicans were not. Ted Kennedy didn’t change on that issue until the early 1980s. Of course Reagan merely exploited it without doing much for the right to life movement. He was not really much of a pro-life president, and he certainly let down marriage and families with the rise of no-fault divorce laws and the last restrictions on the maximum interest lenders could charge.

  2. Dave, I am sorry to see you so judgmental on Christian Republicans. Most Christian Republicans also believe in the stewardship of God’s creation and government’s responsibility to promote justice and the welfare of society. But they may take a different approach than Christian Democrats. You have a right to what you believe, and so do Christian Republicans. Abortion is not the only issue. You failed to touch the gender identification issues, the biblical basis for marriage, and the injustice in education where the two parties seem to have major differences.
    Marion Van Soelen

    1. What are you referring to when you say “injustices in education”?

      The other two issues you mention have little to do with helping the poor, as was the focus of this article.

      1. If you really want to help the poor via education, you provide vouchers for them to select better schools for their children than leaving them locked into bad educational systems. Give the poor parents a choice. If you want total justice in education you provide the same financial aid to all parents and not just the “free” schooling for the rich who gravitate to wealthy suburban schools. Hope this helps you understand the injustices in education that I referred to.

        1. Before desegregation and the Civil Rights Act, Americans did not associate poverty with poor quality public schools. In fact today most poor Americans are still white and often rural, but their public schools are not associated with failure. What you seem to have in mind are urban public schools in cities where white flight to the suburbs — a predominantly middle class phenomenon — resulted in the gutting of city neighborhoods and the urban tax base since about 1970. The only injustices I see in this picture have to do with persistent fears and anger about race and class that have been ably exploited from the dawn of the conservative movement in the GOP under Goldwater, Nixon, and Reagan.

          Many close relatives of mine came of age in northern urban school districts and neighborhoods that declined once housing and schooling was no longer structured by de facto segregation and the white middle class fled. They never got over their sense of fear and loss from that. I remember quite vividly how minorities were blamed and Reagan’s mythical “welfare queen” of Chicago or his use of Willie Horton to defeat Dukakis stoked outsize racial fears in my family. It raised my awareness that an appropriate Christian response would be quite different.

        2. Most urban schools are not poorly run or full of ineffective teachers. Rather, they are filled with students coming from poverty. Many students in these schools are food-insecure and/or refugees learning English for the first time and/or dealing with disabilities. But it isn’t that they are not being offered a quality education. Indeed, most of these schools have Title I resources to ensure students get what they need. I have yet to see private schools, certainly not in this area, equipped to handle this population. Rather, it seems to me that failing schools are a symptom of the larger issue of poverty.

    2. Marion,
      I am sorry if I sounded judgmental of Christian Republicans; that was not my intent. I wanted to explain–to Christian Republicans–why I am a Democrat, and that inevitably brings about criticism of Republicans. For example, no Republican presidential candidate expresses any concern about climate change and most of them say that there’s no conclusive evidence that it is occurring. It has been my observation that Republicans are quick to oppose regulating corporations who pollute waterways and soil.
      I did not touch gender identification issues because I had a word limit and so chose to talk about those issues that most concern me. I am not sure what the party differences are in education today, but I did allude to the fact that it was largely the work of Democrats that led to the Brown vs. Board of Education decision which brought about the end of the South’s segregated school system–the greatest injustice in education in America.
      I believe it is possible to be a Christian and a Democrat, but it has been my experience that many Christians find that incomprehensible; hence, perhaps, my strong statements of my opinions.

  3. Thanks for this article. It is time to promote real Christian values in American government instead of whatever this thing is that some politicians are calling Christian values.

  4. I appreciated this article. However, I am interested in how this Christian worldview, one that makes eliminating poverty a priority, would view public education. Surely one of the greatest means of social justice is a free, quality education. Thus, it seems to me a Christian with a reformational perspective should also be very concerned with public education. Indeed, we should be supportive of our public schools and focused on training quality teachers to teach at-risk students well. However, in practice, I see Christians with this worldview very concerned about Christian education. I struggle to make sense of this seeming duality in thinking.

    1. Levi,
      You are right to assume that I am a strong proponent of Christian education. But that does not make me an opponent of public education. For many years I taught prospective English teachers at Dordt, and in my classes often encouraged my students to consider that they might be called to serve God in our Public Schools.

      1. Dave,

        My comment was more about the culture of Christians with this worldview in general. Thus, you do not have to answer for it. But I hope we someday get to the point where we are imploring Christians to teach in public schools rather than giving them permission.

  5. Dave, giving credit solely to the Democratic Party for historic laws is totally unfair. For example, The Social Security Act of 1935 was passed in the House with 284 Democrats voting Yes and 81 Republicans voting Yes. Each Party had 15 No votes. I see this as a victory for bipartisanship. When the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, 21 of the 67 Democrats voted against the bill. Twenty-seven Republicans, led by Everett Dirksen, joined 44 Democrats to end a filibuster . The bill passed and bipartisanship prevailed, again not just the Democrats! The Democratic Party does not have the corner on social justice, and it does not help the conversation when Democrats do not acknowledge the part that Republicans play in legislation that became law of the land .

    1. Len, Thanks for these statistics. I should have written The Democratic Party was “primarily” responsible for these laws. (But I don’t think that makes my statement “totally” unfair :)) All of these bills were initiated by Democrats; for example, if Lyndon Johnson had not fought tirelessly for the Civil Rights Act, it never would have happened. You mention “the conversation” and I am glad you did, for it seems to me almost impossible for Democrats to have conversations with Republicans on political issues in our part of the world because most people assume we all agree. No one can quite imagine being FOR the Affordable Care Act.

      1. Dave, your initial article has produced a lot of great comments. Thanks! I am glad that you brought up the Civil Rights Act because the preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King, (one of my all-time heroes) had more to do with his non-violent, relentless work for this freedom than President Johnson or any other politician, don’t you think?

        1. Marion,
          Yes, I agree. Martin Luther King’s role in bringing civil rights to African Americans is too great to be measured. Yet it also took politicians–even one as crafty and egotistical as LBJ–to bring about the changes in the law. Thanks for your participation in this discussion.

  6. Len, I took Dave’s point to be, not that the Republican Party can’t act in Christian ways so much as that it is not appropriate to think of them as the ONLY Christian option, which is often the case. Many Christians seem to feel like someone who votes Democrat must not be a serious Christian, as the two are entirely incompatible. I think this piece is pointing out that this is not the case. Both parties do things that are in alignment with Christian values and each Christian needs to consider carefully which platform s/he feels best represents the concerns that Christians ought to hold. Neither party does this perfectly, of course, but teaching that one party is the “Christian” party in a Christian school, or assuming this position in public discourse, is dishonoring the many sincere and thoughtful Christians who vote Democrat for very biblically sound reasons.

    1. Thank you for saying what I was thinking so well! I was told something similar to professor Schelhaas’s granddaughter when I was in college. I don’t think that my roommate who made the comment could see anything other than the abortion issue. I am not in love with the two party system, but on the whole, Democrats seem to do more to address issues of justice and the environment that call to my heart than the Republicans do.

  7. “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”
    ― Milton Friedman
    This article makes assumptions that certain socialistic policies and programs result in less poverty. The problem is that price fixing, lack of free use of one’s property, and direct or indirect transfer of wealth often leads to a breakdown of economic systems and greater inequalities. Ultimately economics are based on a models of how we think the world “works”. I contend that the democrats’ model is broken in many ways.
    For example democrats often take issue with the following precepts:
    1) Free markets literally “create wealth”. (I’m glad Dordt’s business department teaches this truth.)
    2) Good business operators provide goods and real service to the community around them. Business is ultimately a form of service, not a version of exploitation of the poor, as too many democrats assume. We are more like Christ when we serve, and businesses are serving people daily. The better they serve a need, the greater they prosper.
    3) Good business is often synonymous with generosity. Greedy businesses generally do not prosper. If you think in terms of Northwest Iowa instead of nationally, it is easier to imagine this concept. Think of the many non-profits that are generously supported in our local markets through generous prosperous business owners, employees, etc.
    4) Redistribution is a net zero or negative to economic growth. Too much redistribution destroys economic growth. Think of the more recent models like Venezuela.
    It’s hard to know where to start. I’ll just summarize by saying I think the Christian worldview does not necessitate one particular political or economic worldview.

    1. Did you know that Milton Friedman advocated for the government to pay everyone a basic guaranteed income to live on?

      Which of the the major policy achievements mentioned in this article do you see as “socialistic” and doing more harm than good? Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and Medicaid were mentioned.

      I didn’t notice any argument being made for a specific economic model, and I don’t think the Democratic Party has a consensus on one. Certain conservatives, especially those aligned with “Austrian” economics, like to bash liberals as Keynesians, and if they do not understand Keynesians they may try to associate them with socialism. That’s just not the case. Any true socialism is based on a Marxist economic model. Keynesians may be social democrats, but so too may be Austrians. And at the end of the day even when conservatives are in power they talk and act like Keynesians who see the government as an economic stimulant and jobs creator seeking 0% unemployment.

      Your list of points doesn’t correspond to anything I read in this article or hear coming from Democrats. It seems like fairly universally accepted ideas, although it becomes much more complex when you have to define “free” and “wealth.” What markets are truly free? Is all wealth simply and equally “good?” Wealth created by a productive industrial asset is different from the wealth of paper equity in a house during a housing bubble — or the paper wealth of a derivative tied to that house’s adjustable rate mortgage — or the chain of financial commodities that are merely bets for and against the mortgage holder defaulting. What kind of wealth is created by pouring trillions into military spending? Is it the trickle-down effect we see in the kinds of businesses that crop up around military bases and in “inner cities” — the payday loans, pawn shops, in-and-out-marriage shops, taverns, strip clubs, and casinos? Is this the fruit of a good tree? Am I a “good business operator” if I am generous with the wealth I generate after buying the mineral rights under the cattle ranch you own? If I pollute the soil, air, and water while extracting gas and oil, can this ever be a net positive? How much does your economic model consider the external costs like this that we pass to the planet, the future, and our kids?

  8. Dave, very nicely said. Clear and to the point, and your own story of the evolution of priorities and convictions which is hard to argue with. I will keep this bookmarked to share in related conversations. Thanks!

  9. There were several things I do not agree with in this post, some of which have already been spoken to in previous replies. The main point I would like to point to is the beliefs that John Calvin possessed about helping the poor were firmly based in God’s word! Today’s democrat however has unfortunately, successfully removed God from all government entities and all public schools! This would mean that today’s’ democrat is redistributing wealth as a means of POWER, not for the service to an all powerful gracious God, as He intended!

    1. How exactly does public education function as a wealth redistribution system engineered by a single political party? How does this acquire them a nefarious power? On social welfare policy, I feel that helping the poor is just helping the poor, and it’s a good thing to do. The Bible recognizes this, but it was true before then, and it is validated by any charitable act even if the people doing it do not know or care about the Bible. Similarly, God cannot be “removed” from any institution, place, or sector of reality. It is all his, and he is present, whether he is named or not. If you believe public schools are truly “godless” because proselytization and sectarian prayers are not allowed, then it seems your god is somewhat less than fully sovereign and all-powerful. Many Christians work in public schools, and most Americans who are Christians attend or send children to public schools. They may take issues with certain things, but they do not feel God is absent.

  10. Sadly, it is laughable to think that the government, or more specifically the programs created by Democrats, are in any way a stewardly model to help the poor. Because of the natural corruption of man, all of these programs have become and will become a bloated racket to perpetuate the power of a few. It is just that, in government, those few are different that the few that have power in small government capitalism. While I am sympathetic to the ideals with which Mr. Schelhaas grew up, we now have decades of observation that the widow and fatherless, even outside of the church, are much better served by charity and community in the abundance of small government capitalism. The government’s role is to protect our God-given rights by restraining evil, not by trying to stimulate good. You need to change hearts and minds to do that.

    1. Levi,
      Ron Sider in his book Just Generosity, notes that 2.5% of what church members give to their churches goes to meet the needs of the poor, and further, that if the church were to attempt to replace government programs for the poor, every single church and synagogue in this country would have to give about $612,000.

    2. Why do you think corruption in social welfare programs is such an evil to be avoided? Are you concerned about corruption in the much larger corporate welfare and military budgets where there is enormous graft and profiteering? We have not had “small government capitalism” for a long time, and under Republican control spending and the deficit increased. The size and scope of the federal government increased.

      In any event I fail to see how anyone seriously thinks local charity could ever take over for food stamps, WIC, subsidized housing, state health insurance, etc. People who need food and shelter today simply cannot be served by private and religious organizations; there is no intention or capacity of service of that kind. I also wonder why it’s assumed the “natural corruption of man” is not as operative within private businesses and non-profits, churches, etc.

  11. Thank you for the article, and I also have enjoyed reading the comments on both “sides of the aisle.” I would like to reference what my wise pastor always says from the pulpit – don’t vote party lines! Vote for the best candidate who has a character, moral compass and voting record that is in line with the Bible, and for somebody whose beliefs are most closely rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    A candidate who seeks to honor and glorify God with every decision he or she makes and who spends time in prayer asking God to help guide his or her words and actions will be much more powerful and do more to further God’s kingdom than a candidate who doesn’t believe in God or worse yet, believes in God but doesn’t allow God to play a role in directing his or her words and actions.

    How do you know the character of a candidate and whether or not they support the Biblical principles of God? I highly encourage everyone reading this to look at Just a quick glance through the Iowa Family Research Council Voter Guide (and there are many others too) will give you an immediate view of how each person has voted for numerous issues impacting all of us as American citizens. Honestly, I shudder to think that some Christians somehow have decided to support candidates who have no regard to Christian principles, whether they be Democrat or Republican. I will say that the majority of candidates who do appear to be voting on issues in line with what God teaches us in the Bible tend to be Republicans. Are they perfect? No! But I don’t want to have to answer to God some day on why I voted in a President who stands in stark contrast to God, and whose policies make us less and less of a Christian nation.

    1. Oh, and one more thing. Let’s not forget that there is a “bigger picture” here, and that is that every person in this country (and the world) has an eternal destination in either heaven or hell, and God calls us to reach the lost with the good news of the Gospel, that they may be saved by grace through the shedding of the blood of Jesus. Is taking care of the environment important? Yes. Is it MORE important than having a country where Christians are free to worship God and do God’s work of sharing the Gospel? Absolutely not! When you think past today and tomorrow on this earth and you think of eternal consequences, it becomes pretty clear that Christians need to vote for candidates who will allow America to continue to have religious freedom! Please consider this point when you go to the polls to cast your vote!

      1. Why and how do you think religious freedom is being threatened now?

        It does not make sense to me to measure the value of clean air, soil, and waterways against the value of religious freedom, but if you are going to do that please notice the environment can be ruined beyond any hope of restoration but lost freedoms can always be regained.

        Personally I see it as a bit naive to vote solely based on a party’s and politician’s supposed alignment with one’s values and priorities. There is also a question of whether they can win, lead, and get things done. Voting for fringe candidates that have no chance of winning, whether they are on the left or the right, is something people seem to do to announce their ideological purity. Unless you are willing to get seriously involved organizing and campaigning for a dark horse just to influence the larger political discourse (if nothing else) it seems like a form of narcissism. When it comes down to voting most of us make a pragmatic decision based on who we think will be the least worst, or do the most that we can support or accept.

        1. Lou – as I stated above, the way you determine whether or not a candidate abides by God’s principals (not ones own principals as you suggested) is by studying their voting records. In other words, you should look at what they have accomplished, what they were able to do while in office – their “resume” so to speak. This goes for all elected officials, not just the President of the U.S.A. – congress, senate, town mayors, everyone. I’m not advocating electing someone without a proven track record as you suggest. Based on that track record, you may vote Democrat or you may vote Republican (there are good and bad candidates on both sides), but the point is that you should be casting your vote for someone God would approve of.

          Evidently, you believe my viewpoint to be naive and narcissist (ouch!) but I humbly would ask you to look around at the moral decay of society over the past 50 years. In the NW Iowa CRC bubble, things may be different. But where I live on the East Coast I feel very much like Christianity is under attack, and I do fear that there will come a day when Christians are persecuted here in this country. It might be a few generations away, but I am going to try my best to vote strong Christian leaders into office, as the Bible commands me to do.

          1. I think we can only vote and think through issues with our own values and perspective as informed by a religious tradition and other things, but we cannot assume this represents the thoughts and will of God in any precise sense. If we follow a Christian voter guide then we are aligning with someone else’s interpretation of the issues and Christian teachings. Obviously there is a great deal of diversity among Christians, Jews, and other people of faith as to what the Bible says and what is faithful to God.

            I was only suggesting it is naive and self-centered to vote for fringe candidates who have no chance of winning simply because they align most with your views/the views you think God has. I just do not agree it is appropriate to imagine God as a person with views who has preferred political candidates he approves and wants us to vote for.

            Personally I see Christianity under attack in places like NW Iowa when Christian conservatives favor candidates and parties whose attitude is to throw more stones at the Samaritan and make sure he is deported. I have lived all over the US and do not see any reason to fear persecution unless you are Muslim or another religious or ethnic minority.

            1. Hi Lou – as you can imagine, I disagree with nearly everything you said. But I very much appreciate that all humans (and all Christians) have different perspectives, and I enjoy the fact that we can debate such topics.
              I absolutely do believe that the Bible shows us the character of God, the character of Jesus Christ, and thus, the character that we should strive to be more and more like each day. In every decision I make (including who I vote for) I do it through that lens. If you don’t believe the Bible has anything to do with a Christian’s actions and decision-making, then why read the Bible at all? (And if you retort that it should direct how we live our lives but not who we vote for, then I would question why the distinction).

              True, the Bible doesn’t tell us if the “correct” model is democracy, republic or socialist. I believe there could be a strong Christian leader in any of these models, and I would vote for any of them. It’s just that I am hard pressed to find a Democratic candidate who is a professing Christian who also acts like a Christian.

              Let’s talk immigration since you brought it up. I am beyond frustrated that the mainstream media touts that Republicans are these horrible people who want to tear apart families of hard-working people just because they are illegal immigrants. I and I believe most Republicans would argue that immigration is a fantastic thing! It is how America is so great – a melting pot of all ethnicities from all corners of the world. What is NOT great is people who decide to bypass the Immigration process and break the law and enter the country illegally. Because it is illegal, guess what naturally happens? They get deported. Under Obama’s administration, 370,000 illegal immigrants were deported in 2008, 390,000 in 2009, 393,000 in 2010, 397,000 in 2011 according to Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). (If you read the PEW research article from Oct. 2014 you can read about how less than half of these were criminals.) In fact, the Obama administration deported more illegal immigrants in 5 years than Bush did in eight! So please don’t buy into the media hype that Democrats are warm and fuzzy to all people and Republicans are cold-hearted prudes when it comes to immigration.

              The fact is, we need to stop the inflow of illegal immigrants because it is just that….illegal! It is staggering to think how much of our tax dollars went towards deporting all of those people including the legal fees (and then ripping families apart), when that money would have been much better spent not allowing them to come in illegally in the first place! All are welcome to come into our country by way of the legal immigration process.

              Now how we handle the illegal immigrants who have not yet been deported or given amnesty …I think we would all agree as Christians that we are to help them, be kind to them, understanding the reasons behind them coming here illegally in the first place was to provide a better life for their families. Our Christian duty is to treat all people kindly and with love. Our Government’s duty is to uphold the law, and if the law isn’t working, change it into something that is just and fair for all.

              1. The quiz based voter guide site you linked to is about aligning your views with politicians’ voting records. I don’t think you can assume their voting records reflect their personal views across the board but rather their constituents, party blocs, and pragmatic compromises. You have to look deeper at the history of a politician and the votes they’ve been involved with to get a sense of what their views are and how they negotiate a political process where you can’t be effective and operate on pure personal principles all the time.

                I never said the Bible should have nothing to do with a Christian’s actions and decision-making or that it shouldn’t only in the political arena. I said people necessarily think and act (politically and otherwise) under the influence of their cultures, communities and traditions — including their religious traditions. The more conscious and critical they are about it, the better, in my view.

                Theologically I would say Jesus reveals “the religion of God,” but I am not comfortable making anthropological claims about the nature or character of the first person of the trinity as if he is a human person with specific views on immigration in the 21st century US. There are very old doctrines warning against the idea that we can comprehend God in any complete sense; we understand mysteries incompletely and by analogy, through pictures and stories which we can easily turn into idols of dogma that suit us. Being open to the Spirit means being open to change and the possibility of being wrong. I do think you are on better ground to think about biblical values and principles, or aspects of the life of Christ that suggest (sometimes very clearly) a moral posture toward the stranger, the foreigner, the poor, the neighbor, and others in general.

                The negative Republican image on immigration surely does not fit all Republicans, but it does fit a great many of them — including their presidential frontrunner and others seeking party nomination, as well as sitting politicians like the US Representative for northwest Iowa. Do you think this negative image would exist if Christian conservatives were known for applying the principles of Christ (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount) to public policy?

                I don’t see that the level of enforcement of immigration laws under any president reflects their own or their party’s preferences. The Bushes have always supported a soft approach to enforcement, and that was politically viable in the past. Under Obama there has been a surge of nativism and focused attention on this issue. Enforcement probably follows a mandate from the bottom up rather than the top down in this case, and it is always a decision that ultimately lies in the hands of lower levels of law enforcement, not the presidency.

                I don’t see that you have a complete grasp of what law is and how it works. Laws that are impossible to enforce, or impossible to enforce without breaking other laws tend to end up not being enforced and eventually abolished or reformed. The de jure situation is at odds with the de facto situation — what the law says is one thing, what is done with the law is another. The simple fact is we cannot deport millions of people without breaking up families, violating people’s rights, causing greater disorder and death. Controlling inflow is liable to never be 100% effective either, and when you have candidates calling for walls to be built and drones used to attack migrants from the air clearly these are not rational or viable solutions. Making it easier for people to immigrate legally and to deal positively with those who are already here is the just and fair course, but it has been consistently blocked by extreme nativist sentiment on the right where people call for impossible levels of deportation and border enforcement.

  12. I found a great website called It quizzes you on how you feel about a plethora of topics, from abortion to gun control to job creation to the environment, and you also can rate each topic if it is extremely important to you or not very important. It is very thorough (I think it took me a good 20 min.) but the end result is fascinating. It shows every single Presidential candidate and how closely you align with each of them. I found out the candidate I had been supporting actually had very different views than I had on a number of things that were important to me. It’s a great website and completely non-partisan…just based on factual voting records of the candidates. Thought I would share since it seems relevant to this discussion, and goes back to being informed voters and not just going with a gut feel.

  13. Mr. Schelhaas,
    I am an old fashioned “one issue” voter, but I don’t see it along the lines of Democrat or Republican. You see, the only way I am allowed to voice my opinion on abortion is by voting. You suggest ” A genuine Pro-Life position should seek to affect all kinds of situations that diminish human life: poverty, hunger, racism, unjust labor practices, lack of health care, climate change….” and I agree. If you look closely, the government allows me to personally help with each of these social ills. I can give to and feed the poor, I can help and hire minorities, I can pay fair wages, I can offer heath care to my team, I can drive a Prius…and on and on. But the government does not allow me, under any circumstance, stop someone who wants to have an abortion. The only way to do that is by voting in people who can change laws.
    I am thankful that I still have the ability to vote for candidates who are pro-life. I pray that I will continue to have that opportunity in the future, and I could care less whether it is a Democrat or Republican.

  14. Thanks for that brave letter. I and may family including my parents are long time Democrats which was a hard road to travel in CRC communities in Ripon, Sioux Center and even Seattle. I believe that the core of Democratic beliefs are very much in line with the teachings of the New Testament and even the Old testament. I also believe that Roe v Wade championed choice and that there are times when choice is right and justified. Our task to teach when and if that is true and under any circumstance to shun judgement and to practice grace and forgiveness. My biggest hope is that these diverse parties work together to achieve justice. As we grow in age, may we grow in grace. Rich Verver Send my greeting to Jeri. We were pals back then.