Michael Wear, former White House Director for Faith Outreach during the Obama Administration, is a lead strategist for The AND Campaign.
He promoted the release of their 2020 statement on Twitter and encouraged Christians to sign.
A friend of mine suggested that this could be a statement that every “thoughtful conservative Christian” could agree with.
I would like to think I’m a “thoughtful conservative Christian.” Do I agree with this statement? Well, yes and no.
There is a lot in this statement I agree with, but a lot that I don’t. I recognize Christians should hold both Democrats and Republicans accountable. I agree that both parties’ platforms fall short, and neither fully represent biblical values. I appreciate their recognition that Christians exercise their values when they vote, and it is nonsensical to expect otherwise.
I appreciate their commitment to the sanctity of life and religious liberty. I agree that every person is created in the image of God and as dignity as an image-bearer. I agree that Christians are obligated to “protect the vulnerable and defend human dignity even of those with whom we disagree.”
I agree that “the church should be a beacon of light to our nation” that calls out injustice and be the nation’s moral anchor.
I want to go through the statement and offer some commentary.
What do you mean by justice?
I dislike the term “social justice.” It’s a loaded phrase, and some of what is promoted under its banner is not biblical.
Our Christian faith’s call to recognize the image of God in every person and to love our neighbor as ourselves compels us to speak into the public square to promote social justice and moral order. We have a spiritual responsibility as followers of Jesus to seek common ground and the common good.
I agree that the Church should have a prophetic voice. I agree that we should speak out against injustice and speak up for the vulnerable. I agree that we should promote a moral order. I agree that we should seek common ground, but I would also say that on some issues, like the abortion issue, there is very little common ground.
We should also seek the common good, but we must recognize we live in a society that calls what is evil, good, and what is good, evil.
They attempt to outline a vision of what this pursuing common ground and common good would look like.
The Health of Our Democracy
They criticize President Trump directly after the preamble. They write:
By disregarding standards of decency and good faith, the current administration has significantly lowered our nation’s discourse and endangered the political process. This president’s callousness—especially toward non-white Americans and vulnerable citizens—his fomenting of chaos as Commander-in-Chief, and his cavalier attitude toward rule of law and basic norms of civility all undermine social cohesion, civic trust, and our very democracy.
President Trump deserves criticism, and followers of Christ should call him out for his lack of tact and civility.
That said, it should have stopped there. Instead, it reads like a statement from one of the Democratic presidential candidates. I also can’t agree with the “Chicken Little” statement that “our very democracy” is undermined. That is overly dramatic.
Also, in the spirit of holding both parties accountable, the statement did not have any criticism for any of the current Democratic presidential candidates. So their hostility to people of faith doesn’t deserve a rebuke?
Race and Voter Rights
America was built by enslaved people and immigrant workers who brought the country closer to its founding ideals through their sacrifices and protests. And yet racial discrimination has pervaded American public policy and the law since our nation’s inception, and its effects continue today. People of color still haven’t fully recovered from the War on Drugs and a myriad of other government sanctioned efforts that devastated communities and weakened families. We must address racial disparities in education, poverty-levels, healthcare, environmental quality, and the criminal justice system head on. Central to that effort must be the vigilant protection of voting rights. Voting should be fair, accessible, and convenient for all eligible American citizens, and enfranchisement should extend to former felons who have paid their debt to society.
I don’t, obviously, dispute the past, but what is the way forward? What are the solutions? What do they seek?
Reparations? Wealth redistribution? Socialized medicine? Expanded welfare? I can’t agree to anything like that.
I believe there are policies, like criminal justice reform, restoring felon voter rights, and school choice as examples, where common ground exists. But there will be other policies where Christians can disagree in good faith. Absolutely.
As far as voting rights do they believe Christians have to oppose voter ID? What exactly are they promoting?
The Poor and Pro-Family Economic Policies
America can’t disregard poor people in policymaking. We need creative anti-poverty policies that work in tandem with, not in opposition to, other institutions, including the family and the church. We believe in the dignity of work, and that workers should receive a livable wage. Education should be accessible and equitable for all children. Paid family leave and enhanced child tax credits are both family-oriented policies that relieve the burden on hard working parents and create opportunities for them to invest more time and resources into their children and loved ones. In order for families—and indeed, the nation—to thrive, women must be free from discrimination, harassment and abuse.
Again, this is another loaded statement. I do believe in the dignity of work, which is why I agree with welfare to work policies. Those policies work best when enacted with the private sector and faith and community-based organizations. Unfortunately, our welfare programs have created dependency and discouraged people from finding work, and some on the left have been resistant to change.
I do not believe that Christians have to support a government-mandated minimum wage increase. Minimum wage jobs are not meant to be careers, and minimum wage increases have hurt the very people that were supposed to help.
In terms of paid family leave, it depends on the details. How is it paid for? I’m generally supportive of plans that utilize child tax credits and Social Security. I’m not supportive of plans that mandate employers pay for it or creates another entitlement program. I’m also not against tax credits that help families, but I also want to see a simplified tax code and lower taxes for everyone.
I also have no problem agreeing that women should not have to face discrimination, harassment, or abuse. That said, the gender pay gap is a myth, and I do not believe federal legislation is necessary to address this.
Religious Freedom and LGBTQ Rights
All attempts to remove more traditional religious beliefs from the public square should be opposed. We, like many other Americans, affirm the historic Christian sexual ethic, and we also believe that religious freedom and LGBTQ civil rights are not necessarily in irreconcilable conflict. Faith-based charities, hospitals and colleges should not have to choose between surrendering their convictions and closing their doors. At the same time, LGBTQ people should not lose jobs and housing because of how they identify. We must pursue ways to disagree and live together without bullying or compromising our conscience. Towards that end, we encourage all 2020 candidates to support the Fairness for All Act, which will grant basic civil rights for LGBTQ people while also protecting religious freedom for all faiths.
I appreciate what they have to say about religious freedom here. All of the Democratic presidential candidates have dismissed “so-called” religious freedom. In most instances, I would mostly agree with their statement about LGBTQ people not losing their jobs because of how they identify. I do believe faith-based organizations should be able to enforce statements of belief and conduct for their employees. I also think that employers should be able to implement a dress code. I certainly don’t believe someone should lose their home.
However, in most instances, I think the free market, not sexual orientation/gender identity accommodation laws, addresses most problems. SOGI laws are used as a club against people of faith. I see the “Fairness for All Act,” while certainly better than the Equality Act, as an impossible and unstainable compromise.
The Trump administration has failed to treat undocumented immigrants with dignity and care, especially at the U.S.-Mexico border. In light of God’s special concern for the immigrant and the sojourner, we are deeply dissatisfied with the federal government’s continued negligence when it comes to passing comprehensive immigration reform. The current administration’s willingness to use draconian, manipulative measures to stoke fear in immigrant communities and pit family members against one another is reprehensible. Our government must seek to be both just and compassionate regarding immigration policy, especially in protecting Dreamers and upholding longstanding laws regarding refugees fleeing violence, lawlessness and oppression.
I think some criticism of President Trump’s immigration policy is fair and some unfair. President Trump’s rhetoric concerning immigration is abysmal.
I do agree with immigration reform. I support making legal immigration easier. I support legal status for illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. I also support upholding longstanding laws regarding refugees “fleeing violence, lawlessness, and oppression,” but we need to be sure those laws are not interpreted so broadly that almost anyone qualifies.
That said, this statement is one-sided and does not rebuke Democrats who encourage lawbreaking, and open borders. So often Christians on both sides of this debate cherry-pick scripture, and this statement also overlooks a lot of biblical wisdom on this particular issue.
Healthcare and Abortion
We believe in building a society that respects human dignity at all stages of life, including the unborn. This includes accessible and affordable health care for everyone. Americans should not go bankrupt because they get sick or die because their medication is exorbitantly expensive. This includes policies that support maternal health and address our nation’s high rate of maternal mortality, especially among Black and Native American women. It includes vigilant prosecution of pregnancy discrimination in education and the workplace. It is essential that the sanctity of human life at every stage, in particular in the womb, is defended vigorously. Abortion is a tragedy, not a social good, that should be vehemently discouraged rather than promoted.
Again, I appreciate the pro-life sentiment. I don’t think Christians have to support government-run healthcare; I don’t. Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare and offer (and pass) a bill that would help expand health care access through the free market.
Christians, however, can, through charity, address this for those who do not qualify for Medicaid. Medicare for All, or some hybrid of it, will bankrupt us.
This statement also misses a rebuke of Democratic candidates’ promotion of taxpayer-funded abortion on demand. Also, they need to specify how abortion will be discouraged.
I’ve found that pro-life people on the left give lip service to abortion but rarely push any meaningful change, so color me skeptical.
While, as I said before, I agree with a lot in this statement. That said, it would lead a person to believe that a Christian’s calling is to agree with progressive talking points while discouraging abortion and giving a nod to religious liberty carveouts in SOGI laws.
It would also help if the statement actually held both parties and the presidential candidates of both major parties accountable, but it doesn’t.
I don’t find it inspiring and it is disappointing they didn’t go further to build a broader consensus.