Values Voting

Tom Krattenmaker writes in USA Today, November 12, 2006, Confessions of a Values Voter as a political and religious “progressive” (which means Liberal) that conservatives and/or Republicans do not have a corner on the values market. And, of course, he is absolutely correct. Writers often use words and terms without defining them, assuming that the readers will know what they mean. Unfortunately, such assumptions always lead to confusion and misunderstanding.

Values are nothing more (or less) than the beliefs of a person or social group in which they have an emotional investment either for or against something. Note that values are beliefs. And beliefs are almost always religious. When people speak about beliefs they usually intend to reference ultimate concerns such as the origins and/or the purpose of the world or of humanity, etc. And the concern is not merely to delve into the past, but to chart a course for the present. This is only to say that people are guided by their beliefs.

Beliefs are understood to be religious when they pertain to God. Most of the time we think of beliefs as positing some true statement(s) about God. Such beliefs are considered to be religious in a positive way. But there are also negative beliefs that operate in the same manner. For instance, atheists believe that it is true that God does not exist. They hold a belief or set of beliefs about God that they believe to be true – that God does not exist. Thus, the atheist is every bit much a religious believer as is the most ardent or conservative Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, etc. They believe something about God to be true – that He doesn’t exist. It is a belief about God.

Why have I gone through the exercise of demonstrating that atheism is a religious belief? Because I want to agree with Mr. Krattenmaker’s argument that no one has a corner on values, and that everyone who votes always votes their values. And I want to argue that values voting (and there is no other kind of voting) is always religious, even when one is not a member of any particular church or religious group. Whether or not he realizes it, Krattemaker is arguing that voting is an exercise of religious expression.

The point that I want to make with this is that the effort of the civil government to regulate speech by religious organizations through its 501(c)(3) regulations regarding the endorsement of particular candidates is, in fact, an violation of the separation of church and state. But it is not the kind of violation that most people expect. Most people think that the separation of church and state is supposed to keep the church (or religious concerns) from influencing the civil government. But what has happened is that the concerns of the civil government have encroached upon the freedom of religious expression by attempting to control such expression by legitimizing and certain kinds of religious expression (and illegitimizing other kinds of religious expression) through 501(c)(3) registration.

In support of his argument Krattemaker invokes the leading Liberal (progressive) religion in the U.S. “William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, invokes values in describing the approach to sexuality education adopted by the theologically liberal Unitarians – an approach that directly acknowledges that people will have sex outside of the opposite-sex, husband-and-wife contexts. ‘Sexuality education is about much more than just biology and rules,’ Sinkford wrote recently. ‘It is about values, including self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, justice and inclusivity and communication.'” In short, it is about politics.

Note the role that sexuality plays in this discussion of politics. Notice is that the values that govern (or fail to govern) one’s sexual practices are the same values that people vote with. How is it that bedroom behavior and voting behavior are related?

Because of the fundamental unity of human experience, a unity, not of religious organizations or even of diverse people, but the unity of personal experience. It is this unity that is the basis for referring to us (human beings) as “individuals.” Our experience in life is not only individual and unique, but it is both of those things precisely because of the unity that defines it as one life.

I am here arguing against the fragmentation of humanity and of human experience that is the defining characteristic of Modernism, and which has become the foundation of Postmodernism. This fragmented and schizophrenic understanding of life attempts to isolate various kinds of experience from one another. In politics we find it as the belief that one’s private life and one’s public life are categorically different, as if the values of one do not bleed into the values of the others. The effort to separate these different areas of human experience amounts to the fragmentation of human character into isolated compartments, and is the antithesis of integrity. It is an expression of moral schizophrenia.

Integrity is not merely moral soundness, but is the undivided or unbroken completeness or totality of human and/or individual experience. To have integrity is to be whole, complete. It is to acknowledge that there is one set of values that rule all of life, public and private, the bedroom and the boardroom.

Thus, the issue regarding values and values voting is not that some people have values and some don’t. Such an idea is absolutely absurd. Rather, the issues is that some people define good values differently than others. The chief concern of the Christian is that the values that he or she holds are biblical, that the Bible defines good and evil, not man – not you or me, and not society, but God. Why can’t we human beings identify good and evil? Because we are the most adaptable creatures ever created, and our natural tendency is to adapt to our own desires. That is to say that people are naturally selfish and self-centered.

The Bible is categorically opposed to our defining good and evil on our own, and identifies such an effort as sin, even as Original Sin. This kind of sin is the chief protagonist in Scripture. All of the biblical values mitigate against such a self-centered society or world. In contrast, biblical values are about service and sacrifice, not self-fulfillment, selfishness or self-expression. The values of self-centeredness (self-fulfillment) are precisely the problem because they are at odds with the traditional, biblical values of self sacrifice.

Yes, all voters always vote their values, but all values are not equal in anyone’s sight. And that is the issue. The central dispute of our time is not values per se, but traditional, biblical Christian values.

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