There have been a lot of different responses by conservatives to the results of the election nearly two weeks ago. Some have advocated for “doubling down,” arguing that Republican candidates weren’t conservative enough and didn’t talk about issues like abortion and gay marriage enough while others have argued that conservatives in general, and the Christian Right in particular, need to change their tactics and recognize that changes in voter demographics are likely to be permanent.
Conservative Calvinist evangelical and Christian Patriarchy leader Doug Wilson has posted some of this thoughts on the election on his blog. He argues that Obama’s election is God pouring out his judgement on mankind (but also that those who voted for Obama brought down judgment on the nation) and that Christians should respond by repenting not mobilizing or organizing (but also that Christians should be turning to new strategies in fighting the “culture wars”).
1. The first principle is not just that Jesus is Lord. That wonderful phrase is our foundational confession; it is not simply a sweet sentiment to tide us over until the sweet by and by. Rather we must say that Jesus is the Lord of history, and so He is the one who gave this electoral outcome to us. We don’t fully know why He did, but we know that He did.
This is some serious Calvinist thinking. Christians generally believe that God is all powerful, but they differ in just how much God has to do with what happens on earth. Some emphasize mankind’s free nature while others emphasize God’s control. While some Christians would say that God “let” the election turn out the way it did, not interfering and and allowing people to make their own choices, Wilson suggests that God “gave” this election to mankind.
2. Given the wickedness of key elements in Obama’s agenda (abortion, sodomy, thievery through taxation, etc.) we know that whatever the Lord is doing, it is for judgment and not for blessing. And in Scripture, whenever judgment is pending, or has begun, the appropriate response is repentance — not mobilization or organizing our remaining tatters.
The argument that God’s purpose in Obama’s election is to bring judgment on mankind is something I’ve heard before. At some point in the last decade, I forget exactly when, James Dobson stated that he had stopped praying for God to save America and had instead started praying for God to bring judgement on America. What Wilson is saying here is similar. The idea is that America has gone too far off a moral cliff and judgement, rather than salvation, is not inevitable and deserved.
As for Wilson’s call to repentance rather than mobilization, evangelicals and fundamentalists have long sought to work out just how much involvement in mainstream culture, and how much withdrawal from mainstream culture, is appropriate. While some withdraw from the world and waits for the end to come, focusing only on evangelism, others embrace a greater degree of engagement, an embrace most fully seen in the political activism of the Christian Right. Wilson seems to be suggesting that Christians should rethink that balance and perhaps shift slightly more toward withdrawal.
3. No principled vote cast yesterday, offered in faith before the Lord, was a wasted vote. Those who went to the polls with true faith in Christ and a sincere commitment to do what His Word required of them offered up a vote that was part of their living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2). And if He received it, so should we — even if the vote cast differed from our own.
4. Every unprincipled vote, offered to the bitch goddess of the state on the left, or the bitch goddess of pragmatism on the soft right, or the bitch goddess of ideology on the libertarian right, was simply thrown away. Professing Christians who voted for Obama were either confusedly or rebelliously heaping up judgment for all of us. Christians on the right who voted for Romney for no other reason than that he was “electable” found out that he was not as electable as all that. And Christians who voted for absolute ideological purity (which is, remember, a form of impurity) found out that that kind of purity wasn’t in the running.
Wilson’s word choice here is telling. I mean, “bitch goddess”? Really? Wilson argues that he holds women in highest esteem, but the reality is that complementarians and patriarchalists like him only honor and defend women who remain in their “proper” female roles. To women who step outside of those roles they offer only disdain. Hence the rhetorical force that words like “bitch goddess” take for them.
That said, Wilson starts talking in a circle here. First he says that God “gave” us this election and that “the Lord” is bringing judgment on us, but now he says that Christians who voted for Obama were “heaping up judgment for all of us.” I suppose he could mean that God used people who voted for Obama as tools in his plan to bring judgment on America, but that seems to violate the idea that those individuals have free will. On the other hand, if the people who voted for Obama did so of their own free will, then God did not “give” us this election as judgment, because his hands were tied and the election was decided not by him but by the people. This is the sort of problem you run into with Calvinism.
6. If you want this conservative to vote with you, stop trying to entice me with non-conservatives. Stop trying to feed bacon to your horse. One of the numbing numbers to come out of this fiasco is the fact that if Romney had simply gotten the same number of votes that McCain did, Romney would have won. This deflation happened without a robust third party candidate siphoning off a large number of votes. The results of this election should not cause us to think we need to “move to the center.” Two establishment Republican candidates in a row have gone down, and this second time the centrist lost to a failed presidency. I mean, think about it.
It’s truly amazing how many on the Right are arguing that the problem in this election was not running far enough to the right. I’ve even seen some suggest that Republican politicians didn’t talk about abortion and gay marriage enough. That’s really not at all what I took away from this election, but if they want to run further to the Right, that’s fine with me. It will only hurt them in the long run.
Over the next four years our energies should be focused on getting all Christian kids out of the government schools. If your kids are educated by people who are soft in the head, why would you expect them to grow up and not vote for people who are soft in the head? Students become like their teachers (Luke 6:40). Don’t lament the fact that Obama won if over 90% of your children’s teachers voted for him.
Why anyone is surprised by the connection between homeschooling and conservative strains of Christianity I don’t know. Homeschooling allows these parents to remove their children from outside influences in order to ensure that they will be properly indoctrinated. Sure, there are lots of homeschoolers who homeschool for other reasons. But for conservative strains of Christianity that want to keep their children from being exposed to mainstream culture, homeschooling serves an important function.
We also need Christians with a thorough-going biblical worldview writing good books, making good movies, and recording good music. As I have argued before, you can’t have a naval war without ships, you can’t have tank warfare without tanks, and you can’t fight a culture war without a culture. And by Christian culture, incidentally, I do not mean pious schlock and I do not mean hipster poses with extra mousse in your hair to make it stick up.
This idea of influencing culture, rather than just politics, is a key component of dominionism. “Seven mountains” dominionism, for instance, speaks openly of reclaiming Business, Government, Media, Arts and Entertainment, Education, Family, and Religion. Similarly, Patrick Henry College in Virginia was founded in 2000 to educate homeschool graduates not only to enter and influence government but also to enter and influence education and the entertainment industry. Vision Forum’s Doug Phillips is involved with a film training school working to do this same thing – to challenge Hollywood by creating good, quality Christ-filled entertainment. Wilson’s reminder is that government is not the only battlefield in the culture wars. Wilson’s suggestion that Christians should move from “organizing” to repentance, then, is quite short lived. It lasts a mere five or so paragraphs.
Conservatives are having both a demographic problem and a messaging problem. Whites, and white males even more so, are a decreasing percentage of American society. Minorities, women, and youth skew progressive. Furthermore, I don’t see messages like “it doesn’t matter if gay people love each other, if they can get married it will destroy America” suddenly becoming more palatable. The game’s up. It’s over. There’s more to be done, but things are changing, and Wilson’s ideal society will almost certainly never be anything more than a pipe dream.