The Values Voter Summit Doesn’t Own God

I cringe as I listen to speeches invoking God’s name on behalf of political agendas.

This weekend the Family Research Council hosts the Values Voter Summit, a conference in the heart of Washington, DC that brings together many of the nation’s top religious and political leaders. Here, the religious right finds easy company with the Republican Party. Members of Congress such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz find warm welcome among those whose faith in God leads them to embrace traditional family and social values. It is a place where rhetoric about God easily turns into rhetoric about nation and where belief easily translates into conservative politics.

As a theologian with political views far different from those given at the Values Voter Summit, I cringe as I listen to speeches invoking God’s name on behalf of political agendas. Friday morning, for example, Marco Rubio gave a stirring account of his faith in Jesus Christ, who “suffered a brutal death and he resurrected from the dead, to erase the sins that separate us from him.” Though Rubio’s words were a matter of faith, they came in the midst of a diatribe bemoaning what he sees is the government’s campaign against traditional values. He fears his understanding of America, “this country that God has blessed us with,” is being lost under the current administration. Indeed, Rubio says, “Despite everything that is going wrong in our country today, I believe with all my heart that God is not done with America yet.” The implications of the senator’s rhetoric are clear: God, and good Christians, are on his political side.

The Christian Gospel, however, offers a vision of God’s kingdom that critiques all forms of government. Faith’s perspective gives hope that humanity can always do better, no matter who is in power. When religion is used to endorse a specific political party, this vision gets compromised. Politics is a messy business, and when it co-opts belief for its own purposes, religion gets dirty and loses its prophetic power. This explains why the third commandment proscribes taking God’s name in vain, and also why many in my generation are turned off by organized religion. Too often religious belief ordains specific programs of political action, as if God were the one who advocates cutting benefits to the poor and restricting equal access to social institutions such as marriage.

As I watch the Values Voter Summit, I become increasingly frustrated with what I see happening there. It is not long before I call upon hellfire and brimstone, considering the judgment that awaits those false prophets who presume to speak on the Almighty’s behalf. I revel in the thought that someday these ones will encounter God and will be set straight in their wrong thinking. Someday, they will give a full account for all their misdeeds and the damage they have done in the name of religion. Someday, they will see the truth about the harm their rhetoric causes to both faith and society.

As my mind turns to judgment, though, my heart reminds me that I believe in a God who forgives sinners. I trust that God offers salvation to a world that often completely misses the mark. There are second chances in God’s kingdom with endless opportunities for grace. Though I desire to condemn, God desires to save. Though I revel in the thoughts of judgment, God invites humanity to restored relationships and communion. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Someday, I smile, people like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — people like me — will know exactly where God stands on political issues. Someday, when God sets us straight, we will all see the truth.

Image via Gage Skidmore.

Jason Steidl
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  • dougindeap

    “Dogma voters” is the more fitting label. “Values voters” is a label invented by people who like to think of themselves as championing good human values. What many of them are pushing actually is dogma. “Values” are “the principles that help you to decide what is right and wrong, and how to act in various situations.” Cambridge Dictionary of American English. “Dogma” is “a fixed, esp. religious, belief or set of beliefs that people are expected to accept without any doubts.” Id. The two, we can only hope, overlap to some extent, but they are hardly the same. Some of what religious fundamentalists hold up as values others find plainly wrongheaded and even immoral. Labels count. Those pushing the “values voters” label hope it will help them pass off their dogma as values. If they want to push their dogma, that’s their right. But “dogma voters” they are, and that’s what I’ll call them.

  • NancyDL1

    Great article!

  • jdpetric

    “The Christian Gospel, however, offers a vision of God’s kingdom that critiques all forms of government. Faith’s perspective gives hope that humanity can always do better, no matter who is in power. When religion is used to endorse a specific political party, this vision gets compromised.”

    Neither is close to the truth. Mr. Steidl seem to miss the point of the entire Bible itself let alone the Gospels where offered hope for the future not in humans efforts of governance, but in the good news of God’s kingdom of the Heavens. Luke 4:43, Matthew 24:14

    Jesus plainly stated the “his kingdom was no part of the world” (John18:36) of human governance which by it’s long and extensive of inflicting misery for mankind, then or now.

    Further, the Bible plainly states that the whole world as we know it today as then when written, “the whole world is lying in the [power of the] wicked one. 1John 5:19

    If this article was a true theologian he would be admonishing not to “… be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.  Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” 1John 2:15-17

    Where God stands on earths “political issues” as Mr. Steidl wishes for “people like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz” won’t be as Mr. Steidl expects that that humanity can always do better here in America, rather is better explained at 1Corinthians 15:24, “Next, the end, when he (Jesus) hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing ALL government and ALL authority and power.”

    ALL human governments will end and Rulership of heavens and earth will return to God. It was not for no reason that Jesus said we should pray for God’s Kingdom to come.

  • FranknErnest

    why does the GOP hijack religion for political gain? i know it works for them, but they sound like the christian taliban… the very same enemy they despise. it seems like the GOP get all their talking points and strategy from Bin Laden’s followers and the Taliban, seriously… all you do is have to replace the religion and butta-bing-butta-boom you have the Christian Taliban in action.

  • nkri401

    Like those who live by sword will die by sword, a Politian who courts religious fanatic will be ruined by the fanaticism.

  • nkri401

    Politian?? politician…

  • Catken1

    Have fun waiting! (Mind you, Jesus also said it would come at a time when people who heard him speak were still living, so obviously Jesus could be wrong…)

  • nkri401

    Waiting for Godot…

  • Sandydayl

    For years, now, the speeches at the misnamed “Value Voter Summit” have been dripping not only with self righteousness but also with hate. They are painful things to behold. What value is to be gotten out of demonizing others for political gain? It is one thing when it is done in the political arena, but when it is done in God’s name or for the false claim of good Christian values, it is particularly odious. That summit is like watching blood sports.

  • mikegolf

    John Steidl, thank you!

  • Tender Hooligan

    Jd, I read what you post, and I don’t doubt that you believe it sincerely. The problem is that to the increasing numbers of people that turn away from the literal interpretation of the bible, or regard religious texts as outdated mythologies, it reads as utter gibberish. I’m not sure, therefore, whether your views have much chance of making it into the political arena, or could have any relevance to today’s more educated and enlightened voter.

  • jdpetric

    “Mind you, Jesus also said it would come at a time when people who heard him speak were still living, so obviously Jesus could be wrong…”

    Thank you for bring that up.

    There were two fulfillments to Jesus prophecy. The first and minor fulfillment had to do with the destruction of the city and worship center of Jerusalem and it’s temple. (Matthew 24:1) This was fulfilled on 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army witnessed by his followers and the Jews of that time.

    The second part of this prophecy had to do with Jesus “presence” (Matthew 24:3) Jesus explains dire world conditions that would be indicators of his “presence” in Matthew 24:4-28. In verses 8 Jesus refers to these signs as “a beginning of pangs of distress”, and as verified by current world conditions, this is being fulfilled now by world event in our day.

    Included as part of Jesus prophecy of his “presence” and “the pangs of distress”, is a great tribulation happening on earth so destructive that many will die (Matthew 24: 21-22) This hasn’t happened yet and is yet to come.

    The final part of his prophecy is his “return” or “coming” (Matthew 24:29-43) In the book of Revelation this is called “Armageddon” (Revelation 16:11-16, 19:11-21) And is also referred to as the “Great day of God the Almighty”.

    For the world this will mean the destruction of it’s system of things of human governance, but for the meek who will inherit the earth, a day of salvation. (Luke 19:29)

  • Tender Hooligan

    You”re right jd, things are so much worse now than the days of the Black Death, or the Dark Ages, or the two World Wars, or any other event in history you could mention. I’m sorry to hear that you are suffering from “pangs of distress”. Being religious must be a right pain.
    Luckily, there are enough people around who are forward thinking, and look to improve the conditions of suffering people in the world, rather than sitting around, crying “woe is me” and waiting for the end times.

  • jdpetric

    Tender Hooligan, what I post is not for entry into the political arena. What I post is included in what Jesus said would be the “good news of God’s kingdom” and to dispel mis-information that others post and are written in articles.

    Oh and I’m not in pangs of distress, the world is. I don’t believe you live with blinders on and can’t see conditions worsening for people can’t see their way out except for those who rule.

  • Tender Hooligan

    Maybe I misinterpreted the article, but I thought it was about bringing religious views into the political arena, and whether that was valid.
    Anyway, from where I’m sitting, I see improvements to the conditions of people around the world. We have decreasing child mortality, increasing education for all, especially women, increasing equality and life expectancy. Developments in science in medicine have contributed so much, that we have a much greater hope for the future of mankind. This has been accompanied by a decrease in religiosity, with its accompanying fear, and need to keep us in the Dark Ages. The future is bright, and to be celebrated.

  • Wieru

    At the Value Voter Summit, Utah Senator Mike Lee said that economic issues such as a lack of economic opportunity, stagnant wages and spiraling housing costs represented “moral threats to families’ stability.” And Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said: “We can’t stop talking about them [our values and culture] because the moral well-being of our people is directly linked to their economic well-being.”

    I’m trying to understand what these sound bites mean, as I expect the concept to be hammered into the media through every future Tea Party/Conservative interview. Does it mean that a cut in pay, for instance, will lead previously moral people to become immoral, by, say, ending a pregnancy they could not afford? Do they think the government will “force” immorality on people who can’t afford homes and how would this be done. If I were a conservative Christian I would be deeply insulted by such implications. In the world of politics, though, money does appear to be linked to morality, making it an assumed universal for these politicians.

  • jdpetric

    Whether or not political views (real Christianity) into the political arena of this world does not supplant that the human political systems of the world are not only flawed, inept, but corrupt and blood guilty.

    Having said that I would agree that there have been improvements in some areas of the worlds societies as a means of some progress, but nothing has really changed through history. Has mankind achieved peace, end war and the misery that follow, end starvation and malnutrition ? Are people of the world generally happy or is there more unrest, dissatisfaction and mistrust in human governance than ever before. Is not next World War, bio-terrorist attack, or global catastrophe just a plane ride away ? Just where do you sit ?

  • jdpetric

    Sorry that should have read, “Whether or not the political views of Christendom (not real Christianity) are part of the political arena of this world’s politics does not supplant that the human political systems of the world are not only flawed, inept, but corrupt and blood guilty.

  • Tender Hooligan

    What I know is that progress towards ending starvation and malnutrition comes from scientific funding. That helping people to see that all religions deserve the same level of respect (ie none) can help to prevent mistrust, and violence, and that some political movements (eg the Tea Party) promote inequality and suffering by opposing the sort of free health care for all that we take for granted in the UK.

  • Lalande21185

    I hear you, Jason! Whenever I hear some politician saying “God is on my side” in some issue of the day, I always remember Jesus’s words in Luke when asked, “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.” His answer? “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?”

    God does not take sides in our political disputes, and is most definitely not on anyone’s side. Our task is to make sure we’re on His side!

  • observer9

    The Value Voters Gospel:

    I was hungry and you cut my food stamps. I was thirsty and you suggested I go find some water. I was a stranger and you told me to get lost. I was naked, and you called me indecent. I was sick, and you denied me health care, shutting even the government. I was in prison, and you threw away the key. And the Koch Brothers tell us, “what you do for the wealthiest and most powerful among us, you do for us.”

    Jesus weeps.

  • Hermit1951

    Is that really all you got out of that summit? I feel sorry for you. What was being spoken was not God’s views on political correctness, but on God’s view on sins. Those speakers were not prophesizing, they were doing nothing more than what millions of Clergy say every time they stand in front of a congregation.

    Are they not going out and doing God’s work, by witnessing to the people who do not know Him? Are they not portraying to the masses God’s written word concerning abortion, homosexuality, the sanctimony of marriage between a man and woman, and other biblical truths?

    In the end you nearly come to terms with the notion that it is God’s place to pass judgment, not yours, but not quite. You still put your disdain for those men in print, and used the authority of the Clergy to utter them in God’s name. While you are looking up the passage that says something like ‘judge not, lest ye also be judged’ you may want to visit with the passage that speaks to putting stumbling blocks in front of people. That doesn’t just to pertain to serving split hooved meat, it also applies to attempting to derail political aspirations of Christians who’s only real sin (in this analogy) is speaking in front of people about what the democratic party is doing to the moral conscience of America.

  • leibowde84

    Political leaders should not profess to know what God thinks about controversial issues. It is the ultimate cop-out and a declaration that the politician really doesn’t know what he is talking about it. If your only arguments against something is that it is said to be wrong in the Bible and goes against tradition, then you need a much better argument.

  • leibowde84

    Do you really think that it is appropriate for our leaders to profess that they know how God feels about certain controversial issues? I can understand, for example, being against same-sex marriage, but defend your position with reality … don’t bring God into it. They are merely going on the Bible, a book written by a collection of imperfect men whose names we don’t even know. Believing that it is actually the word of God is fine, but using it as reasoning behind legislation is just about the most un-American thing possible.

  • leibowde84

    Get a life, nkri401. Do you just skim thru these trying to find spelling errors to make yourself feel superior. I’ll say it again … get a life.

  • leibowde84

    Elected officials should never preach. It violates the establishment clause. The United States Government cannot support the establishment of any religious beliefs. Thinking that the Bible is actually the word of God, or portrays God’s will accurately, is a HUGE religious belief. It is offensive to those who have chose not to by into Christianity or the Bible.

  • Secular1

    JD, there never has been a time where the people on this planet have lived most morally and ethically, than NOW. Even in the fictitious times of Avram, Moses, and whatever prophet of your choice’s time the world was a lurid place full of moral filth, bigotry glorified as piety, Slavery masquerading as will of fictitious deities and countless others. So give it a rest,

  • Thrush

    It is amazing to think back a couple of centuries ago when democracies were denounced by the religious establishment as absolutely contrary to Christian principles and the will of God, whom “everyone knew” operated on earth via divinely anointed monarchs.

  • jdpetric

    I’m not sure where you get your news Secular1 to base such an uneducated claim.

    Was it morals and ethics that guided the banking industry into cheating the world into losing 40% of it’s wealth and everyday people lose their jobs, their homes, their savings, and their future pensions ?

    Is it morals and ethics that guide the war lords to rape, murder and pillage in Africa, or the sectarians violence in the ME and Myanmar ?

    Is it morals and ethics that guides the human traffickers and sex slaves ?

    Is it morals and ethics that guided America’s to make war in Iraq or Vietnam creating death and misery for many millions of lives ?

    Give it a rest ? Not today and not tomorrow.

  • jdpetric

    There are Christian principles and God’s Will, then there are those who claim to live by Christian principles through misuse and abuse.

  • leibowde84

    That’s why you should always be skeptical of anyone who claims to know God’s will. They are usually out for their own self-righteousness and not your interests.

  • leibowde84

    JD, your points above don’t prove anything. No one is claiming that bad things don’t happen today. No one will argue with that. But, most people, and historians, would agree that modern times (especially in the United States) is much safer and moral than in ancient times. I mean, give me a break. The financial collapse was absolutely nothing compared to Kings taking daughters from peasants and the plague.

    We might have football … but they had gladiators. We might have terrorists, but they had unsanitary living conditions.

    We might have prostitutes, but they would just rape any woman they wanted to.

    It is clearly much better now.

  • jay2drummer

    To say it’s safer is probably true, but to say anything regarding whether one period or another (or 1 country or another) is more moral is impossible to say, because it depends on one’s moral code.

  • job22

    uh… he was only correcting him(her)self

  • leibowde84

    We aren’t talking morality, we are talking quality of life.

  • Secular1

    Actually Leibode84, I was indeed talking about everything, not just creature comforts, but also morality and ethics. When folks wax nostalgic about bygone days, I ask them what are you talking about. Take teh Pyramids of the Sistine chapel on one hand and take say the Sears tower. Which of these buildings were built most humanely, justly, ethically, or whatever value judgement you want to go with. Without a shadow of a doubt Sears tower wins the prize running away, insofar as the treatment of the workers, vendors suppliers, etc.. This is all due to human zeitgeist. The reason why we do not stone people who work on Saturday or Sunday is a testament to the fact that we are more noble people than the people of those mythical times or the centuries past. Even the worst racist would not publicly advocate that we should lynch a african american boy for staring at a white woman., at least publicly. What I am saying is that even some of the worst amongst us is more chastened the so called fine upstanding gentry of even hundred years ago. So JD you give it a rest with all the garbage you bring from those filthy tomes of yours.

  • jay2drummer

    ” But, most people, and historians, would agree that modern times (especially in the United States) is much safer and MORAL than in ancient times.” You can’t say you aren’t talking about morality when you make a statement regarding today being more moral than the past. However, you SHOULDN’T be talking about morality, since it’s completely subjective, based on religious beliefs, cultural background, nationality, and many other factors.

  • jdpetric

    Would God keep his Will obscure from people and offer everlasting life ?

    “Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” 1John 2:17

    As an example notice what the Bible say about who will not inherit God’s Kingdom, “Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom. 1Corinthians 6:9-10.

    Does that sound obscure and incomprehensible to you ?

  • jdpetric

    Also is it so hard to accept that people who continue to practice the following personality traits will not be the “meek who will inherit the earth” as Jesus said at Matthew 5:5 ?

    “But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here
    For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness,  betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God,  having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away” 2Timothy 3:1-6

  • leibowde84

    Morality, of course, plays a big role. But, it isn’t everything. Morality plays a huge role in quality of life, as it dictates how people treat each other. And, I wholeheartedly believe that morality and cultural acceptance has progressed a great deal since ancient times. Life in general is a lot better. People live longer. There is less prejudice against groups like African Americans, homosexuals and women. People are smarter in that they understand how the physical world works better.

    All good things.

  • RickyGibson

    Voltaire once noted that while Genesis states that God created man in His own image, man keeps returning the favor by creating his version of God in HIS own image.

    Explains a lot about why the voices of so many spouting about religious values make God sound so petty and repulsive.

    I’d also like to add that it’s difficult to believe in a God small enough to fit in the mind of a fundamentalist.

  • RickyGibson

    “why does the GOP hijack religion for political gain?”

    Why? Because they have discovered a goldmine of people who feel disenfranchised and marginalized and who are looking for an evil entity to blame things on. If they can’t find one at hand, they will make one up. Good way to get votes.

    It’s even more of a goldmine for the media talkers who know all too well how easy it is to inflame these people and convince them that everything that is wrong with their lives and their country can be blamed on evil liberals.

  • Catken1

    Obviously, he has, because you aren’t following his will as clearly expressed in the Koran, where it clearly tells you how to find everlasting life.
    Oh? You don’t find quotes from someone else’s holy book convincing concerning the truth of the very holy book being quoted?
    You go on cheerfully awaiting a world where you, the favored children, are petted and pampered by your loving Daddy while he burns in eternal, horrific, unimaginable torture the vast majority of your siblings, most of whose only crime is believing the religion their parents taught them instead of believing in yours. But please don’t imagine it makes you anything other than “puffed up with pride,” and “having no natural affection” for the vast majority of humanity.

  • leibowde84

    It is extremely likely that many of the passages in the Bible were added by men in an attempt to control the masses coming into Christianity. There is no reason, beyond strict belief/faith, to think that imperfect men added their imperfection to the book.

  • leibowde84

    So, I wouldn’t completely trust what is in the Bible. Some is great, but some is definitely inaccurate.

  • leibowde84

    * There is no reason, beyond strict belief/faith, to think that imperfect men did not add their imperfection to the book. You can claim all you want that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow this, but God and the Holy Spirit has allowed many atrocities to happen … so that wouldn’t be a very valid argument … plus, it is asking a lot from God.

  • Counterww

    catken strikes again. Where did you get the idea that God sends to hell people that believe in another religion? God judges righteously, and those that KNOW more about God, will be held more accountable for not following his precepts. End of story.

    And pride? Look in the mirror, you seem to have alot of it.

  • Counterww

    and , follow this- Love the lord thy God with all you heart soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. The TWO greatest commandments. You need BOTH to be the best human possible. You cannot do that without God.

  • Counterww

    there are still wars raging all over the earth, murders, raping, stealing , the list goes on and on. We are no more moral than we were before. You see things with rose colored glasses and pull examples out of the air without seeing the big picture. Easy to do living in one of the richest countries in the world.

  • Counterww

    It does not violate the establishment clause. You are sadly mistaken. It may be offensive tough cookies. Don’t vote for him/her. What nonsense you spew.