I have been utterly astounded by the number of people whom I have come across, on Facebook, in the media, or in person, who vote for political leaders based on one point only, no matter how relevant their other beliefs are for them. This is a very blinkered and self-defeating point of view, and the biggest share of this went to Christian fundamentalists, the vast majority of whom turn out time and time again for one party in many countries that best represents their chance to implement their ideologies, no matter what else the party believes in. We saw this in Poland, which swept the conservatives to power, and now we have seen it in the US, where the Republicans have steamrollered their way to all three houses.
In 2015, the Polish elected the Law and Justice (PiS) party to power, thanks to a growing dissatisfaction in rural areas with the speed of reforms implemented by the previous incumbents, Civic Platform. Although it is understandable for people to vote out a party that has ignored them, there were many who voted for PiS based purely on their sympathies with the Roman Catholic Church in the country. Since PiS was elected, it has taken a sledgehammer to the democratic institutions that were set up to assure constitutional equilibrium in the country, has tried to totally ban in-vitro fertilisation and pregnancy terminations (unsuccessfully) and tried to gag the independent media outlets.
Many fundamentalist Catholics in Poland would never consider voting for another party, and most certainly not for Civic Platform, the party that upheld the right to abortion in a vote not long before the last election. On 3 October 2016, the proposal to ban abortion outright brought Polish women of all kinds out on strike in a huge act of peaceful civil disobedience. Two days later, many politicians had begun to distance themselves from the proposal and an amendment was being considered at the time of writing this.
The irony is, the PiS (standing for Law and Justice) party claims they helped overthrow the Communist regime along with the Catholic Church, so they feel a little like they are owed a debt of gratitude for bringing about democracy, and yet they themselves have the most undemocratic agenda since the fall of Communism in 1989. So much so, a group of intellectuals and moderates established the KOD (Committee for the Safeguarding of Democracy) as a counterweight to the encroaching reduction in freedoms taking place in the country. What they want is closer to a theocracy than a democracy, and the people are finally beginning to realise the consequences of their actions.
The moral (pardon the pun) of the story here is, do not force your ideology on others. If you don't want to be involved in, or even inadvertently condone, something that you fundamentally deplore, that is your right. But it does not mean you should force your view on others by voting for a party based on one point of obsession. This is not how democracy works. Democracy is inclusive, and one size most certainly does not fit all.
Now we turn to the other side of the Atlantic, where the Republican party has won the right to govern the United States for the next four years. There is a great paradox between people with Christian values and the parties they vote for, the vast majority siding with the Republicans.
Let us take a look at Republicans' policies and compare them to Christian values:
So, to start with, they want to keep God in the public sphere. All's well and good if you're a Christian then. But dig a little deeper and the truth is very muddy.
Christian values stipulate that one should do unto others as you would do unto yourself, including:
- giving shelter to those in need;
- providing help to the sick and the poor;
- not killing your fellow human.
Then there are thorny issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, both favoured by the Democrats and opposed by Republicans. These issues are relevant to far fewer people than those in the preceding paragraph, and yet they are the Republicans' most fertile hunting grounds for opposition supporters. So what this suggests is that, despite the fact that Jesus himself is recorded as hanging around with socially stigmatised groups like prostitutes and ex-criminals, this is irrelevant when it comes to Christians' political behaviour in modern times.
We can ignore the hundreds of thousands of people on the poverty line who are about to have healthcare added to their list of debts; rough up and throw out any under-the-radar immigrants who are doing all the jobs Americans don't want to do rather than give them an amnesty; and risk our lives by going out onto the street hoping not to meet a testosterone-fuelled sicko with a gun licence who can kill at a second's notice. Forget that, because hold your horses, folks... love between two people is only right and proper if they're male and female, and we shouldn't allow anyone to make sexual "mistakes". This is really rather creepy, but yes, fundamentalist (emphasis on the mental, and most definitely not on the fun) Christians would rather vote based on such kneejerk matters such as that rather than on the bigger issues.
The same goes with the environment:
It is entirely feasible that the next energy secretary will be a climate change denier. Despite all the warnings, the evidence and the fact that nearly two hundred countries have signed treaties to deal with it, the US is probably about to assign this job to a sceptic. Christians are split on this issue, although time and time again the Bible tells humans to respect the Earth:
Leviticus 25:1-7 and 23; Psalm 24; Ezekiel 34:18; Matthew 6:26; 1 Timothy 4:4; the list is endless, and they all point to the need to look after our planet. So one would think, that even as a sceptic, one would at least be respectful of our Earth and Her resources. But most Republicans favour withdrawing from environmental treaties and reigniting the fossil fuel industry.
Again, this is considered a side-issue by many fundamentalist Christians, because moral behaviour is a far greater threat to them than this. And to be honest, I find it at best very distasteful, at worst profoundly hypocritical. But most of all it highlights the easily-led, knuckle-headed narrow-mindedness of people (or sheeple, considering they are a flock) that:
- they would elect a party that condoned the widespread carrying of guns yet called themselves "pro-life";
- would listen to their priest telling them the story of the Good Samaritan and then immediately join a demonstration against Mexicans or Muslims;
- would read from 1 Corinthians 13, which even for a non-believer like me is the best definition of love in existence, and then go and heckle an LGBTQ event.
And this is my problem with religion interfering in politics. You cannot blindly let yourself be guided by priests, bishops and cardinals on the very narrow moral issue of sex and love which, by the way, they don't even take part in (if you don't play the game, you can't expect to make up the rules), and at the same time have a clear conscience on other issues of a more urgent nature, like the rising oceans, civilian gun crime, free healthcare, proper education, housing the homeless and welcoming refugees. The Statue of Liberty itself has these words:
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
To spread the light of liberty world-wide for every land."
If this is what you believe, then you are most definitely not a Republican, but you have probably been made to believe that you are by more eloquent people, or cajoled into voting for them by peer pressure, pressure from your elders or by your sheer blindness to the real issues.
I think it's only right to see that Bible verse in full. Learn from it, because it sums up not only what one might call "conventional" love, but also that for the Earth, for our neighbours, for our fellow humans, and our country:
So on that note, if you vote based on one narrow issue of religious doctrine, don't expect me to regard you as an example of moral fortitude, for you have done nothing more than condoned a sort of "Christian Sharia" - the imposition of your religious doctrine in our law and politics, where people of other religions need to coexist. The content of Sharia law is totally different to Christian teaching in many aspects, but I don't think anyone would agree that Christianity should be applied to our laws. This is why, even in France and ultra-Catholic Italy, religious symbols are banned from state workplaces. Religion has a place inside people as individuals - it is a very personal thing. It has no place in a one-size-fits-all public sphere.
So please, keep your own beliefs to yourself, and don't impose them on others.