Christianity and Politics in the US
Updated: May 18, 2021
American politics are complex and divided – especially in 2020. One confusing thing can be how American Christianity influences politics and culture. In this article, we will look at some ways American Christianity influences US politics.
Christianity Over Time
Christianity is about 2,000 years old and originated from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, an historical figure who lived in Israel as a Jewish teacher. Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies, forgive everyone, include outsiders, and have compassion on people in need. He wanted the whole world to flourish in peaceful diversity. In fact, he broke Jewish laws that prevented him from acting with love, peace, and justice.
Eventually, the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government that was occupying (controlling) Israel were so upset with Jesus’ revolutionary love and disobedience that was causing disruption (disturbance) that they killed him publicly. Little did they know that his spirit would live on in his followers and would change the world forever.
The US is not a Christian nation, but many Americans identify as Christian and claim to follow the way of Jesus. It’s important to understand that Christianity has changed over 2,000 years and many people have diverse interpretations (explanations) of what it means to be a “Christian.” In the US, many Christians disagree with each other about what it means to “be Christian.” These disagreements and arguments over the years have resulted in hundreds of different denominations, or separate, distinct Christian groups.
Some Main Issues
Now, let’s take a look at some of the sociopolitical issues that have the biggest impact on American politics. In this article, we will be referring not to all Christian groups, but just the majority, which are conservative American Christians, often known as Evangelicals. These conservative Christian values often line up with the Republican Party, resulting in strong support for this party, while the Democratic Party often has the opposite view. Also, this list of issues is limited, but it includes some of the issues that affect Christian voters the most.
Even though Jesus never talked about LGBTQ rights, many American Christians believe that an LGBTQ sexual identity and marriage equality go against God’s natural design. This moral conviction is so strong for many that it becomes one of the two top principles that control how people vote – generally for the Republican Party.
Abortion is probably the most sensitive issue in the US when it comes to human rights and ethics within politics. Generally, conservative Christians believe that human life begins at conception (fertilization, start of pregnancy) and that abortion is murder, while many non-Christians and liberals want to prioritize a woman’s right to choose how to handle her body and pregnancy.
In 1973, abortion became legal nationwide. Since then, the abortion rate has actually steadily decreased as various types of support for women have allowed them to receive help for the various needs of motherhood better than in the past. Nonetheless, abortion continues to be a top issue for American voters.
Now that we’ve discussed the two major issues, we will move on to some other important issues that are also influential. These issues stem from (come from) conservative Christians seeing the US as God’s specially blessed nation. Therefore, they feel the need to preserve what they view as Christian values within the US and desire to spread those values outside of the US. In other words, they want to conserve (preserve, protect) and spread their worldview.
This is a complex issue because political leaders who want votes from people who work in jobs that are bad for the environment may either downplay (minimize) the significance of climate change or even reject it. They may, for example, point to the very small minority of scientists who claim that climate change is not 100 percent clearly associated with carbon emissions.
In addition, many Christians believe that the world will eventually end and everyone will be sent by God, the judge, to either heaven or hell, depending on if they were Christian or not. This is one reason they would prioritize converting people to Christianity over fighting climate change. In this way of thinking, destroying the environment won’t matter anyway once people are in heaven or hell. The most important thing is getting into heaven and avoiding hell.
But at the end of the day – and perhaps we can all relate to this – many people acknowledge (admit) that climate change is real but they prioritize their lifestyle of work, leisure, and convenience instead of taking meaningful action.
Since only two percent of the US is Native American, that means that 98 percent of the population consists of immigrants from all over the world. However, xenophobia (fear or dislike of foreigners), racism, or fears about terrorism, crime, or losing jobs make some Americans want to reject immigrants – even refugees who need the most help.
Jesus said to welcome foreigners and care for the poor, so it’s ironic when Christians are the most adamant (determined, insistent) about blocking outsiders from entering. But at the same time, there are many Christians and churches that invest time, money, and energy to help refugees around the world and within the US.
In general, nobody wants war, but Americans have gotten used to the idea of having an active military around the world. It’s natural to them. Some Christians are anti-war, but others promote military involvement and sometimes even consider America as “God’s chosen country.” People with this implicit or explicit view may truly believe that God has blessed the United States with power, authority, and righteousness, which must be used to control the world and prevent countries with different religions or political ideologies like communism from getting too much power.
Behind this belief in America serving as God’s specially blessed country, Americans are often ethnocentric. Actually, Americans in general often suffer from at least subtle (understated, slight, nuanced) ethnocentrism. The irony of this national pride is that there are so many issues within the US like gun violence, unaffordable healthcare, racism, and extreme wealth inequality, which causes one to wonder if it really has such great things to protect and share in the global arena.
Ultimately, abortion and LGBTQ rights are the major issues that influence conservative Christian votes. Climate change, immigration, and military involvement, among other issues, are also substantial, but not quite to the same magnitude (extent, size, enormity).
When you hear that Americans – or at least American Christians – believe certain things or vote a certain way, just keep a few things in mind…
Some Christians really don’t like President Trump because they think he acts mean and tells lies, but they still vote for him only because of their strong convictions about abortion, sexuality, and so on. Other Christians vote against him because they choose to prioritize other issues such as healthcare, climate change, or immigration. Still, others love both Trump’s strong, abrasive personality as well as his policies.
Christianity is diverse globally, as well as within the US. The Jesus that many conservative American Christians claim to follow actually was killed for being too revolutionary in his love of enemies, foreigners, outsiders, and the poor. Christianity has most definitely changed a lot over 2,000 years.
The result of this 2020 election will certainly be close. The results just might depend on some of those Christians who usually vote Republican but decide to adjust their priorities and vote Democrat this year. (Now we know that Biden won.)
English tips that explain bold words in article:
Marriage equality – The right for LGBTQ couples to get legally married… “After a long fight for marriage equality, the US legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 sates in 2015.”
Ethnocentric – Evaluating other people and cultures according to the standards of one's own culture. Ultimately, ethnocentric people view their own culture as the best standard and view other cultures as inferior or less important. It is often an implicit and subconscious belief, but can also be explicit… “Sam sounded a bit ethnocentric when we talked about how great his culture was.”
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