Fellow Patheos blogger Ellen Painter Dollar got some huge traffic last month when her post, “Why I Am a Christian Democrat” went viral. I appreciate Ellen’s apologia for being both a Christian and a registered Democrat. Like her, it’s neither scandalous nor revolutionary for a Christian from my background to vote for Democrats. Both the church of my youth and my current faith community are full of folks who vote both ways — though I suspect that my current co-parishioners generally lean left.
Nevertheless, I think that Ellen has made a mistake. In general, I don’t think that Christians should register with political parties.
As I’m sure even Ellen would agree, as would my Republican friends, a Christian’s allegiance to any human institution (including the church) must be subservient to our allegiance to Christ.
But beyond that obvious point, I think that it is imperative that Christians not be straight-party ticket voters. I think that’s a huge mistake. As I revealed in my votes last week, I’m voting for both Republicans and Democrats. I’m leaning Democratic in my votes this year as I did four years ago because I think that the Republican Party is, with notable exceptions, too extreme both socially and fiscally.
But both parties are entirely beholden to millionaires, billionaires, lobbyists, and corporations. For that reason alone, Christians should avoid registering as a “member” of a political party.
Unfortunately, if a Christian runs for political office, s/he has no choice but to take on full membership of a party. That’s part and parcel of our system at the present moment, what moral philosophers call the Theory of Dirty Hands. Here I disagree with retreatists, like Stanley Hauerwas, who urge Christians not to run for political office. I think Christians should run, and to run you have to claim party affiliation.
However, for those of us who aren’t running, I think that we should maintain our independence as voters as much as possible.
Happy voting tomorrow!