The practical choice

Campaign 2008

Regardless of how you feel about Pat Robertson, you have to appreciate his blunt prioritization: "To me," he said in his endorsement of Rudy Giuliani for president, "the overriding issue before the American people is the defense of our population from the blood lust of Islamic terrorists. Our second goal should be the control of massive government waste and crushing federal deficits."

Left off the list, among competing priorities for Christians, was stopping the practice of murdering the unborn. Giuliani is, though he downplays it as the Republican primaries near, in favor of allowing the practice. How inconvenient.

Unless, that is, one believes with Robertson that protecting our hides and pocketbooks is more important than protecting defenseless innocents. I wonder, however, if those are even really his priorities, or if they are simply the best way to dress up a fundamental fact driving many Christians to the Giuliani camp, which is that he is beginning to represent the best hope of defeating Hillary Clinton. I'm hard-pressed to think of any subject more likely to send sweet little church ladies into a fit of profanity than that woman.

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Perhaps this is uncharitable to Pat Robertson, though I'm not sure which casts him in a more damning light: elevating self-protection and tax rates above protecting the unborn, or simply listing the selling points of the guy he's backing, not because of the man's principles, but because he embodies the best chance of beating a despised opponent and maintaining a venal party's grip on executive power.

This being politics, of course, we are urged to be practical -- the only perfect candidate is Jesus, after all, and when he finally returns there ain't going to be no election. What's more, there's only so much a pro-life president can do, anyway. Back the candidate with the best chance of beating the bad guys, is the implicit message, though after numerous sex scandals, a pernicious addiction to federal earmarks, and failure to enact meaningful reform in virtually any policy area, I'm beginning to wonder if the party evangelicals have backed for years is any better than the party we routinely demonize. It's not so clear to me, in other words, that it's pragmatic to remain loyal to a band of partisans who make a mockery of Christ every time they refer to themselves as Christians.

What's more, why all this concern with practicality? It's always fascinating to hear people who claim to believe in the parting of the Red Sea, the feeding of the 5,000, and the Resurrection, among other natural impossibilities, wax eloquent about the imperative of practicality whenever elections roll around. If Christians have some sort of mandate to be active in the public arena, then at the very least it seems we ought to bring Christ along with us. Where in the Gospels are we called to stop government waste? How does that squeeze out protecting the voiceless? Are we called to obsess over our own survival? Are we called to embrace evil because it is lesser? What pathetic witnesses we make, when begin calculating electability quotients, and lending our names to those who oppose our fundamental beliefs, out of a desire for protection.

But perhaps I'm being impractical. We wouldn't want to stand on principles only to see a heathen elected, would we? Or worse yet, someone who might raise our taxes? Standing on principle might mean the Muslims get us. We'd be martyred, for crying out loud, and all because we couldn't compromise a little. Heaven forbid, and let the unborn fend for themselves.


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