The Nose-Holding Republican

Posted: August 16, 2010 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church

By Matt Horan

I’ve had some good discussions with good friends over the years about political matters.   I so value these shaping and enlightening discussions.   Many of them have been with people who politely disagree with me, and who love me enough to disagree and still be my friend.  They realize that what’s most important is friendship with endurance, rather than looking for new friends who are more like them.   So, many thanks to my friends who disagree with me, but still love me.

In many ways, I’m a guy without a party.  I find the grouping together of political issues in America to be totally arbitrary, but then cemented and used in the political game by politicians looking to gain or stay in power.  For example, the typical Democrat is supposed to be pro-choice, against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, for gay marriage, pro-gun control, for higher taxes to fund government-enforced charity, against term limits, for stem-cell research, and against stricter enforcement of immigration law, to name a few.

By contrast, typical Republicans are supposed to be pro-life, for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, against gay marriage, anti-gun control, opposed to higher taxes to fund government-enforced charity, for term limits, against stem-cell research, and for stricter enforcement of immigration law, once again, to name a few.  What’s the connection between these things?  I can’t find it.

Therefore, since I’m not able to fully lump myself in with either party’s slate of stances, I have a really hard time getting too excited about either side. When I vote, I tend to do it holding my nose.  For me, however, the party for whom I hold my nose slightly less tightly is the Republican Party, which is probably a great relief to them, and probably why they’re coming to my home of Tampa with their convention later this year.

I believe in the mission of the church, which is to bring the kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven.   The church should work to alleviate the suffering in this world by winning people to it’s cause and introducing people to Jesus Christ who saves us from our sin and leads us in a new life where we are increasingly equipped to love and serve others.

If the church is effective in its work, more and more people will choose to be selfless and charitable and forgiving, motivated from within by the power of the Holy Spirit which fills us and produces fruit in us like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There will then be less war, less poverty, less crime.   The elderly will be cared for whether they have a 401K or not, and the sick healed whether they’re insured or not.  There was a time when hospitals were started by churches.   There was a time when schools were started by churches.   There was a time when youth sports leagues were sponsored by churches.   But as the church became less effective in its mission, a void was left, and it was filled by government as politicians promised to provide these things to people so that they could win elections.

Then, as voters became accustomed to being promised things for their votes, they began voting for the people who convinced them they had the best plan to give them things.   Giving things to voters became the way to get elected and stay in power.   The future is continually leveraged to win elections now, and thus our government is trillions of dollars in debt.   With elections coming every two years, and with a 24 hour news cycle that fills slow news days with arguing politicians, our allegiances have been solidified, and rarely is that allegiance to the church anymore.  “If my church doesn’t seem to agree with me, I’ll leave and find one that does.”   Some church attenders become “doctrine police,” and forsake enduring friendship for finding friends that believe the same.  And so the church retreats from its mission, because those who used to be the church have become Republicans and Democrats who “attend a” church when they can.

The hard work of the Republican and Democratic parties has been to horde allegiance, and I feel that at in many ways this has come at the expense of allegiance to Jesus Christ and his church.

So here is the choice I perceive before me: Do I believe that the church has run its course?   Do I believe that the only hope for charity and peace and love in this world is when the government requires it by tax and by law?   Or, do I believe that there is still a chance that the church might wake up?   Do I believe that they might one day be more than Republicans and Democrats, motivated from within to offer generosity and service and love to those around them?  For me, more government is a sign of the failure of the church.

I know this is idealism.   I know that John Wesley, the founder of the United Methodist church that I serve, would say that the church should should work within the social structures of our community to alleviate suffering, and perhaps there is middle ground to be found there.   I know that the government offers grants and funding to invaluable nonprofit organizations who do quality work in the lives of the poor, and that it’s more practical to do the best we can with what we’ve got sometimes.   But ideally, there would be less government, lower taxes, and instead more private generosity and service by those who are the church.  I know, idealism.   Perhaps impractical.  Perhaps naïve.  I guess I just can’t get myself to give up yet.

And thus, as a Republican, I hold my nose just a tiny bit less.

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Comments
  1. Stuart Owens says:

    Very, very well said Matt. I agree 100%. And for me to agree 100% with anything political is rare. Thanks.

    P.S. thanks for putting up with me when I was in middle school.

  2. Rev. Alex Molozaiy says:

    While I agree with much of what you have said, Matt, I think there are some serious flaws that tend to have me holding my nose and voting the opposite way. First is the myth that the Republican Party is for smaller government and against deficit spending. Can you show me a Republican administration since Hoover (and maybe Eisenhower with his “military industrial complex” speech – on the eve of his resignation) that has truly concerned itself with shrinking government or deficits? I don’t think you can. The truth is that both parties want to spend money they don’t have, always within their state or district.

    I agree that government or other private institutions have taken over what used to be seen as charitable work done by churches – especially caring for needs of abused/abandoned children and hospitals. As a result, I think the modern American church has lost much of its identity over the past 100 or so years because these missions have been taken over by institutions that, generally speaking, have done it better and more consistently than churches. I’m not saying that they can love people better than churches, but they can operate on tumors better and more efficiently than churches. I don’t know that this is a failure of the church, as you argue, or a result of its success in making the case that we the people should care for the needs of those who cannot care for themselves. I’ve seen more and more churches turn their primary concern inward, toward the building up of themselves and their institutions, over the past decade or so. Nothing the government does is stopping churches from turning outward, so why don’t we do a better job of it? I think that many congregations have traded the vision of building the “Kingdom of God” with building castles for themselves.

    Anyway, I gotta go back to work, but I think that it might be wise to talk to some faithful, Christian Democrats to define and support their positions in their own words rather than set up some straw men because I think you’ll find nuances in the language that make a sincere difference.

    Blessings to you and thanks for getting us to think about these issues in intelligent, meaningful, and faithful ways.

    -Alex

  3. Matt Horan says:

    Hey Alex my friend! Glad to know that I’m not the only one holding my nose, regardless of which way you vote.

    You make some great points here that give me some helpful food for thought. True, I don’t know of any church that I’d want operating on my tumors…

    I confess that there may be some “straw men” in my post. I try to avoid that or at least admit it when I include them. Thanks for articulating the faithful Christian Democrat voice. Many of my co-laborers and members at Hyde Park at kind and faithful Christian Democrats. I’ve disappointed a good many of them I think when they find that I’m a Republican–nose-holding one though I am.

    I wish I could say that Republicans have a track record of keeping the size of government in check, but you’re right. Reagan’s “peace through strength” philosophy was particularly expensive, and of course, the last ten years have seen the government become a massive and expensive beast. I guess in that case I would say that the Republican party totally abandoned the fiscal conservatism that it is supposed to embrace. I am clearly short on Republican champions, and since you read my post you know that I lack enthusiasm for beating the drum very loudly for my “grand old party.” On philosophical grounds, however, my scale continues to tip slightly Republicanward.

    I join you in lamenting the church’s inward turn. It seems to me that the “rocks have cried out.” If the church won’t be what it is supposed to be, then someone or something else will fill in the void. I should be more careful about implying that one side is wrong while another is right here. Instead, there are two schools of thought–use the social/government structures available to do the most good for the most people, or urge the church to step up and start to solve the causes of suffering in our world so that the government will retreat to its rightful place. Maybe there’s middle ground there–I’ll have to pray on that.

    Thanks again my friend!

  4. Matt Horan says:

    Stuart–no problem, brother! So proud of the man you have become!!!!

  5. deb says:

    The government is set up to be the backstop, the last resort for the downtrodden. If a person isn’t of faith, doesn’t want help from a “church”, or is of a different, less charitable faith than Christianity, there is a constitutional govt which says that person has help. The Republican Party is becoming the fundamentalist Christian party. Equality is not as evident in this branch of faith as in most Christian churches. One problem with the Republican party, as I see it, is that their leaders articulate a mission that sounds like a crusade. How can we lump1 billion peace loving Muslims in with Al Qaeda? That’s like saying the Christians who murder abortion doctors represent all Christians? There would be no deficit without these wars. Social Security and Medicare would not be in question. One problem with the Democratic Party is they became part of the military industrial complex rather than reaching out to the world through peace. If we were all a little more like Greg Mortenson (3 cups of tea) and a little less like John McCain, (and now Obama) we would win our enemies over in the way Jesus did and it would cost a lot less or our tax dollars.

  6. Matt Horan says:

    Hey Deb, thanks for your thoughts. You’ve taken a swing at several pitches here.

    First, I have to say that you’re kind of making my point for me. Would we need a “backstop government” if the church took responsibility for the poor?

    Further, the Constitution wasn’t written to help the poor, but to guarantee freedoms.

    Further further, the Republican party has been the home of fundamentalist Christians for a couple decades now, but the most recent development has been the fundamentalists reacting to moderate voices in the party through the “Tea Party” movement.

    What Republican leader lumped 1 billion peaceful Muslims in with Al Queda?

    There has been deficit spending for decades now, long before the Gulf Wars.

    Social Security and Medicare are in question because the Baby-Boomers are about to turn 65.

    Had to Google Greg Mortenson, but he sounds like a good guy.

    Again, I don’t have sufficient passion to go on with a long defense of the Republican Party, but I’d be glad to hear more from you on a couple of these items.

  7. deb says:

    I come here because you bring hope to true followers of the teachings of the man Jesus by reforming a confused church, just as Ron Paul gave hope to Americans against deficit spending and the power of the banks. So any “swing” is merely inquisitive as my beliefs are always under scrutiny by me!

    What is freedom if its citizens who fall on hard times do not have basic needs met? Freedom to die of starvation? That is extreme libertarianism. Would you at least insist medicine be non-profit? The GOP seems to believe health care is for people who can afford it. You can argue against social security/medicare as many wealthy who don’t need it collect it simply because they have “paid into it.” This is not my idea of backstop. But if you insist the church help those who cannot help themselves, then that leaves out a whole lot of people who do not want to be proselytized in return for food and shelter. I find this to be common with Christians-there is a drive to convert those they control (the downtrodden). This is not freedom if you have no where else to turn. So maybe if the modern church could free themselves of this tendency, then your point about the govt not being the backstop is more legitimate, imho. But when one argues for the church to do it, at least accept that this explains to non-Christians why the govt is currently the better model, flawed as it is. Tell parishioners who are financially secure to stop accepting social security because they are not downtrodden, but benefit from the welfare state-you’ll lose them. Makes me wonder– is the church really any different than a political party?

    There was something like a 200 billion dollar surplus when Bush took office. Of course ion addition to 2 unfunded wars there was that Bush Medicare benefit provided but never funded which was massive, but I still stand by my statement that without the wars, no deficit today. The deficits have been run up during GOP administrations, regardless of which party controlled Congress. Why?

    Why do Christians support war, ever? Peace is the way. I learned as a child that when someone slaps you,turn the other cheek, educate them, don’t attack them bigger and harder. Do you deny that the Republican party is fond of war as the first option? It seems so incongruent with the teachings of Jesus. He and his disciples could have chosen to attack those who attacked him, but did he? And the Dems don’t buy it but now go along because they can’t get elected any other way. (everyone holds their nose a lot to get disciples). This is something Christians have the power to change. You control many minds, but the percentages of those who attend church are dropping because people like me do not see the teachings of Jesus in the politics of their church. Most churches wouldn’t survive without govt assistance or donations from the wealthy so they play the game. Many Christians have bought into war as necessary, including our President, and this is a huge problem for America going forward. More crusades, at least pay for them with our tax dollars! GOP advocates these wars, but won’t fund them. Keep the sheeple quiet-we lose em if we tax em. I suspect we’re in agreement somewhat since you hold your nose to vote for them.

    The teaparty movement started as a movement to fix the deficit, a Ron Paul idea (who I voted for) but is now, thanks to Fox News, and Rick Santelli, an arm of the Republican Party, and by default, the bankers. They’ve been co-opted, and don’t even speak out against the oligarchy running this fine ideal of a nation into the ground. Do you deny that both parties are controlled by special interests, or that we live in a plutarchy?

    Any politician who is against building a mosque blocks away from the site of 9-11 (there is already one mosque in the area) is lumping alll muslims in with Al Qaeda for political gain only. When Christians rant because they are forbidden from building a church in a muslim country, this shows the level of extreme hypocrisy the GOP stoops to in order to get confused Christian votes. A true follower of Jesus would not stand in the way of any house of worship for a peaceful religion in this United States of America, no matter what the address. To state that the mosque leaders are insensitive means Christians MUST look in the mirror when they do things perceived as insensitive by non Christians. But I don’t see such self reflection. Only judgement. Are the 9-11 perpetrators conquering us by building a mosque 3 blocks from ground zero? Wow, that is a belief I will never wrap my brain around.

    I have a ton of passion, not in supporting a political party while holding my nose, but in supporting higher ideals which are not evident in the current leadership of the GOP. The church could very easily change that by not supporting them, or any party which takes special interest money. A Church boycott of anyone who takes a dime from a news organization, a bank, defense contractor, etc, would indeed change things. You have the power to make this a peaceful, prosperous, charitable nation again. War is not the way. Education is the way. Peace is the way. True democracy is the way. Freedom of religion is the way.

  8. Karen says:

    Matt,

    Thanks for expressing something that has been on my heart since we heard rumblings at the beginning of this administration that our donations to churches and charities may become taxable. I really felt like the government was stepping onto some sacred ground for me and that it would make me angry and serve as a constant reminder of just how little confidence the government had in us, a people know for generosity, and known for being a helping hand to the world
    Just as our children tend to only remember the awful or embarrassing things we did to them as kids, we never seem to remember just how much our nation of faithful servants to the Lord have done for our own communities, our states, our country and the world.
    We tend to allow the media to constantly tell us how awful America is, and how awful the American people are. We are greedy, needy and seedy. We are also kind and giving and caring. And we are blessed ( or used to be) with an economy and personal wealth to be able to give.
    I don’t need some celebrity or politician to tell me how to give, when to give and why I should give.
    This is the nub. Christ created us with free will and it’s important to each of us that we learn that and make choices for ourselves that reflect our faith, our love for and our dedication to the teachings of Christ. As more and more Americans abandon their faith, and discontinue the works of charity, the government’s role seems more and more justified, and we have a government building monuments to itself and usurping faith in America.
    Sometimes, I hold my nose when I’m working with folks chained to government run welfare programs that do nothing to promote a fulfilling justified life and everything to tighten the bonds that keep them in poverty. I hold my nose when government and far left leaning culture tells me what I ought to think and if I don’t think it, then I must be a so and so or a this and that.
    As we’ve seen politicians buy votes for health care and abuse centuries old house rules to pass an agenda that 60% of Americans do not like or want – we begin to see that the blessing of Government by the People that is bestowed on us is becoming more and more Government by the Government. Take that clothespin off and smell the air of freedom and independence from the elitist Washington beltway be they democrat or republican politicians and find one who can tell you their favorite Bible Verse and why – or how God has touched their lives.
    To me, it does not matter what party you are with – it matters that 565 people are employed by us, the taxpayer to solve problems, protect our country and spend our money wisely. That’s a lot of problem solvers, and as far as I can tell the problems aren’t solved. This year I’ll be looking at who’s stuck in the “status quo” of elitism, who’s got their hands in the union till, who’s chained to which big business lobbying firm, and who’s been in the monkey house too long. I’ll also be testing the arm strength of my candidate, as the leader of either party seems to have a new arsenal of arm twisting weaponry in which to torture my candidate into voting the party line. Perhaps we should send them up to Washington with arm pads. Above all, I’ll be praying for our great country.

  9. Shaw says:

    I too would be proud to say I am a republican if it weren’t for two things: The Lunatic Fringe Christian hate mongers and George W. How did he get re-elected?

    I think the conservative entertainer Glen Beck explained it well. A republican passes a poor person on the street and helps them up. A democrat passes someone and says, “The government should do something to help these people.” and walks on.

    As one of very few conservative Social Workers it is very dangerous for me to voice my feelings. As soon as someone hears that I believe in a conservative view, I am usually labeled something vulgar. No one wants to hear about personal responsibility and the calling to help up. Everyone really wants a hand out. The government is supposed to act like Robin Hood and I am Santa Claus. Just last week my boss asked me to get a bicycle for a patient. I wanted to have him sit on my lap as I laughed, “Ho, ho, ho.”

    I think that when Jesus taught about feeding and clothing the poor, he was talking about widows and orphans, not the chronically lazy.

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