Theology

Why the Christian Right Loses, and How it Can Win

Jake Lay

Since the Dobbs decision and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many eyes have been opened on “the right” regarding our political and religious leaders’ ostensible commitment to human life. We have come to realize that many of our national pro-life organizations and politicians are simply using this issue to raise campaign funds for the likelihood of reelection. Since that realization, the debate has shifted in a positive direction.

An Issue of Semantics

The debate has quickly morphed into a question of how aggressively we attack this evil that plagues our country. While the debate is worth having, semantics can muddy the waters. But a huge issue is this: Incrementalists and abolitionists are now fighting amongst themselves, slinging insults at one another because they disagree on how the argument is framed. Semantics is causing the two groups to divide rather than unite around the common end goals both camps have.

An Issue of Unity

The issue of semantics is directly tied to the broader issue of unity on the right, or rather, disunity. The problem, however, isn’t disunity in the abstract, but rather in concrete terms. We are unified in one particular thing: our mutual disdain for “the left”. But, this alone can not, will not, and has not sustained an actionable movement. An effective political movement cannot be sustained based solely on the mutual disdain of a group of people or an ideology. A positive vision is required to explain how society will live and interact with one another. We do not have such a vision. We only have a negative vision. A negative vision can be useful for laying the foundations of a movement, but it will not last if it never develops a positive vision of governance. 

To paraphrase Steve Deace from The Blaze, “The right is a big tarp, not a big tent. A tent has stakes that keep it from blowing around too much; a tarp has no foundation at all but is simply a temporary covering.”

Approach and Solution

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says, “Nowadays, most people hardly think of Prudence as one of the ‘virtues’. In fact, because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the idea that provided you are ‘good’, it does not matter being a fool.”

Even Christ himself says that we are to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Again, the actual disagreement is not over either camp’s stated goals; both groups want to see abortion ended. The debate is about how to get there. This is where I might provide a surprising recommendation: take a page out of “the leftist” playbook because they often do both at the same time. Take any issue that they care about and think about how they advance it. What do they do? If, abstractly, “abolition” is the stated end goal on any issue and “incremental” is a step in the right direction, they fight tooth and nail for the end goal. Then, one of two things happens: either they completely achieve their goal or they gain an “incremental” step in their direction.

But, if they only achieve the “incremental” step, they immediately begin clamoring for the end goal again. Before the ink is dry on the “incremental” bill, they are already ginning up support for the end goal once again. They do not take a victory lap and try to ride that victory lap to reelection. If applying this concept to abortion, then push hard for abolition, but don’t be so “practically pious” that you make those with a more incremental approach more of an enemy than those doing the evil.

Conclusion

Here is some encouragement on how we may start winning politically. First, start local: there is far more sway with local county executives or the city council than at the state or federal level. It is also a lot cheaper to field candidates to challenge incumbents at the local level.

Second, become familiar with the folks in your local community. Believe it or not, we cannot chronically live as individuals; the greater good of our communities has to come into play, or we will get nowhere.

Finally, humble yourself and extend grace to others. It is not likely that any one of us will spark a mass reformation in political or theological thought. Our allies will not have a grid-locked agreement with us on every issue. We must keep in mind the end goal of any issue; if another approach gets closer to that goal, we can be co-belligerents.

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