It is no longer true that a coalition of orthodox or bible-believing Christians can form a governing majority in America. It may have been true within living memory, and it may well still be true within certain states, but the idea of a national coalition of Christians gaining and exercising, through representative institutions, the decisive governing authority in the Republic, is now an illusion fit only for illusionists and their audience, most of whom are the enemies of Christianity.
Necessity, therefore, compels orthodox Christians to seek out active political alliances with Americans outside the faith. A political rhetoric which finds its purpose in civic persuasion short of conversion, cannot be inherently disreputable for Christians, unless all action toward the common good short of conversion is disreputable.
It is of course true that conversion to the Creed of the Cross is part of the common good of all mankind; but it is not true that by declining to embrace that Creed, a man ceases to have a common good, which is set before him in such a way as to be intelligible.
According to these postulates, I judge it impossible, as a matter of right reason, for Christians to leave off the work of persuading non-Christians to join their political efforts toward the common good. Reasoning rightly, a follower of Christ cannot endorse political quietism or withdrawal from politics. He must join with the rest of America in the rough and tumble of coalition politics in a federal republic.
For instance, soon the state of Tennessee votes, in a massive state-wide plebiscite, on the question of whether Tennessee’s constitution permits any restrictions on the slaughter of the unborn. Under the logic just laid out, I say that every last Christian in Tennessee, without exception, must vote for Amendment 1; and furthermore attempt, according to his best lights, to persuade his neighbors of all faiths and of none, to likewise vote the measure in. He cannot leave off the obligation, no matter how unwise he may think a state-wide plebiscite, representative assemblies, or popular government themselves to be.
In other words, our Volunteer State Christian may well say, with sound though not definitive reasoning, that plebiscites on that scale are pernicious and perilous instruments. He may say, again with sound reasoning, that representative assemblies are very far from sagacious modes of ruling and being ruled. He may even say that popular government itself partakes of far too many evils and distempers, to recommend itself to the mature Christian mind. He may say all this, and be right as rain; but still he must work to vote in Tennessee’s Amendment 1.
The same thing I have just said by stern prosaic logic, may also be said, as it were, by poetic inference. The inference lies in the plain fact that passage of this Amendment is strongly encouraged, in Tennessee, by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention; and the poetry may be rendered colloquially as, Any measure that unites both Catholics and Southern Baptists can’t be wrong, because one thing about Catholics and Southern Baptists is that, historically, they are not characterized by extensive collegiality and agreement. They have, in this uncommon circumstance, been pushed into political alliance by the manifest inequity of the alternative to passing Tennessee’s Amendment 1 — defeating it; which means establishing by implication that Tennessee’s constitution requires abortion on demand.
This latter approach — the poetic one — may seem better calculated toward persuading friendly non-believers: it is suggestive rather than syllogistic. It neither presupposes shared Christian theological principles nor requires sympathy with them. It invites historical curiosity and insinuates important details about the opposition to Amendment 1. A variation on the poetic approach, again with an eye toward persuading nonbelievers, would be to call attention to the base dishonesty of that opposition: how they must constantly rely on elisions and lies, alleging that Amendment 1 would ban condoms and suchlike.
(Such inferences ramify rapidly. In a Colorado Senate race, a vulnerable incumbent Democrat, in desperation, has resorted to lies of a similar character, accusing his opponent of conniving to ban birth control, when in fact his opponent’s policy would make most birth control an over-the-counter medication, thus untangling the snarl of health insurance and religious liberty. These distortions achieved such an egregious depth of infamy that the Denver Post, the state’s leading liberal newspaper, shocked everyone [even that delicate flower Gary Hart] and endorsed the Republican.)
Few political conditions admit of the kind of prosaic or poetic clarity afforded by Tennessee’s Amendment 1. Thus the proper posture of the Christian citizen is in most cases ambiguous. It is not manifest to even perspicacious eyes what best might form the foundation of a coalition toward the common good.
For instance, how should Christians go about defending marriage? This question is fraught with difficulties. In my opinion, it is unwise to scorn the efforts to marshal data in a utilitarian fashion, even though it is dangerous to let mere utility appear to comprise the full basis for marriage. That stable marriages usually result in sound family finances, avoidance of drugs, crime, and bastardy, sound education for children, and sound generational prosperity, while hardly exhausting the benefits of marriage, unquestionably supply powerful arguments for policy defenses of marriage. It is no exaggeration to say that the debasement of human sexual relations, of which the deterioration of a marriage is but a symptom, lies at the very root of social and economic inequality in America.
Do you care that your countrymen of this past decade, while in aggregate have mildly prospered, as a class of the less privileged, have inexorably privated? Is America better when the idle rich gain while the hardworking poor get jobbed? Do you care about inequality? Then you must care that traditional marriage be preserved.
Poetry and rhetoric. The arts of persuasion. Ballots over bullets. Happy Election Day.