So this week a new study by Pew came out looking at trends in religion in the United States. And as everyone seems to be reporting there are a lot fewer Christians. Now a lot of the articles that have picked this up talk about shifts in society or politics but pretty much only from the stance that politics and alliances are static.
Now, certainly for Huckabee, Carson, Santorum, and Cruz and the other Progressives for Jesus (what used to be incorrectly called Social Conservative–but really it’s the progressive desire to institute your values as law, just with religion instead of secular beliefs) who think they can get into the office only by rallying the Christian vote, an 8% drop in their expected voters is a bit much. Luckily, not only are those 4 idiots not really conservative, but they also don’t represent the majority of the party.
So with the Christian Coalition going the way of the dodo, how does the GOP deal with this?
Simple by dropping the phrase “Judeo-Christian Values”
Several times I have asked what the phrase “Judeo-Christian Values” means and how it is different from the values of other beliefs and religions. I haven’t received many good answers. Yes there are certainly differences between them in the nature of God or in the rituals and the structure of the community…but in terms of values there is little difference…everyone regards the soul as divine in some way* and proper understanding of any of these religions lends one to a virtue based ethics in line with the Classical Realism of Aristotle and Plato. In fact, when you look at most religions there are some pretty strong parallels in all the virtues—some may be more detailed than others in some areas and less in others, but they seem to focus on the same general virtues.
So the term Judeo-Christian values, which supposedly would mean the virtues and ethics this group holds to be good and right and true is just the same as the virtues of every other religion, then it’s not that meaningful a phrase. Yes there are differences between Judeo-Christian beliefs and other religions, but none of these differences have anything to do with the political context of how the phrase “Judeo-Christian values” is used.
The phrase is meant to draw a contrast between spiritual/religious values and those of the secular, progressive, fascist, fanatical sections of society that actually don’t share either a belief in virtue based ethics or have some very radically different values.
So why is this an important point to bring up?
Well because it makes a pretty clear distinction between those who follow Judeo-Christianity and everyone else. Including people of lots of different faiths who were not intended to be alienated. Is this relevant?
Well first off I think it’s a fair statement that the term Judeo-Christian values is primarily used by conservatives. Second I would assume we want to win. We lost the last election by 3.9% points. A 3% shift of the vote would have given Romney the popular and Electoral College vote and about 6 Senate seats (i.e., complete Republican control). So it then becomes a question, is there 3% of the electorate who is religious and spiritual, not already voting Republican, that is not in the Judeo-Christian bracket?
Let’s look at the polls.
So of the “other” religion and faith we have 5.9% of the nation and of the “nothing in particular” group we have 22.8% of the population. Together they make 28.7% of the population. Common sense alone says that if you have nearly 30% of the country, two-thirds of whom are voting against your party, then maybe if you stopped alienating them with an us vs. them term (or at least picked a new term) you could pick up a few…maybe?
So let’s look at the 28.7% a little more closely. Okay so we can discount about 1% of the “other” group as they are the “religion of peace” and their fairly fascist beliefs are moderately antithetical to conservative principles and the values/ethics being promoted. So we’re down to 27.7% up for grabs.
Now the let’s look at how the remaining 5% of the “Other” and the 15.8% of “nothing in particular.” Pew unfortunately didn’t look at politics this time around or just hasn’t published those figures…but they did in 2012 so can use those figures to get an idea of where these groups stand. Now a flaw of this report is that they lump the ““nothing in particular” in with Atheists and Agnostics under the heading of Unaffiliated (but for Pew the purpose of this let’s just assume the numbers are about the same throughout all the unaffiliated, it doesn’t make a terribly large difference anyway). From the data we can see that only about 57% of the Other group and 69% of the unaffiliated are voting for Democrats (trust me the math works). So give or take (you know there are some independents we’re not taking into account) that’s about 12%. 12% that probably share the values of the Christian voters who lean toward voting Republican, but for some reason aren’t voting Republican. Do you think that term “Judeo-Christianity” might have something, even a small part, to do with it?
Isn’t this just a call for political correctness? No. The idiocy of political correctness is saying you have to watch everything you say because it might hurt someone’s feelings. And it is for all levels of life, from the public and political to the personal. I am not saying you have to adjust your personal language or beliefs. This is merely a political reality. We as conservatives have certain values and policies we know will work and better the lives of everyone. Politics is as much about emotion and perception as it is about facts and plans, probably more so. Political Correctness has nothing to do with practical ends, which is why it has to be enforced by the left so viciously else reason would drive most people to that end anyway; what I am talking about is something very different than being PC, I’m talking about selling an idea with very real consequences. A term like “Judeo-Christian values” is loaded from the get go, it creates an us vs. them mentality, at a time when we need more of the people in the “them” category to vote for us. If we switched to using the term “spiritual value” or “God centered” more often, it would mean the exact same thing in terms of everything relevant to politics and ethics, and it wouldn’t emotionally alienate those we are trying to win over. You can still use “Judeo-Christian” if you really feel strongly about it, but do it knowing you’re hurting the chance to actually see your goals accomplished.
Is this stupid? Yeah. It’s silly and ridiculous to think we should have to be this nitpicky about our language and terms to win people to our side. But, the last time I checked we already had reason, logic, facts, truth, plans, and vision on our side. Didn’t notice that doing us any good. Oh, wait this is politics. Stupid things like word choice do matter. Is it stupid? Yeah, but it’s something you have to do.
But should we end our discussion of this group of “nothing in particular” with just this term? Well that might work towards making in-roads with maybe 2% of those 15%, in-roads that would allow the rest of our arguments to make a difference, and that 1% we get to follow reason would be a third of the way we need to go, but it’s still not enough.
Let’s take a look at some of the actual beliefs of this group. Namely that 25% of them believe in reincarnation (If you assume that all the atheists and agnostics do not believe in reincarnation then it’s actually about 35% of the “nothing in particular” group…or about 5,5% of the general public.) Further while there is nothing in this year’s report, previous year’s reports showed that a belief in reincarnation was more popular with women, minorities, the young, Democrats, liberals, moderates, independents, and Christians who attend church less often (i.e., the people we need to win over).
So it is safe to assume that most of those in that 4% are not voting Republican.
But they should.
A belief in reincarnation by its very nature lends to long term thinking—the policies I put in place today won’t just affect my children and grandchildren, they’ll affect me over and over and over again. Thus anyone who believes in reincarnation has to believe in plans that aren’t as concerned with momentary problems, but with building long term systems that self-perpetuate and offer prosperity to the most people for the longest time with most chance of growth…that would be the capitalism and republicanism officered by real conservative belief. This is an argument I’ve made before, extensively in Republicans & Reincarnation, and one that we should all make to anyone who holds this article of faith in reincarnation. If you actually approach them on their own terms, and showed that the logical consequence of their beliefs is conservatism, we could get another 1% of that group…which means of the 49% left we only have to convince another 1% and given the abysmal failure of a second Obama term, that should be easy.
You don’t have to agree with people on faith. But you’re not going to convince them on politics if your stance is mine is the only religion worth following by using terms like “Judeo-Christian value.” Say “spiritual values” instead, it means the same thing, it still separates you from the secular liberal base you are trying to show a contrast with, and it may pick up a few votes. And if you’re arguing with someone who doesn’t agree with your religion or your politics, you’ll never convince them to give up a faith because of reason, it just doesn’t work (even if you do show contradictions and put them on the path to agreeing with you spiritually, it will initially only dig in their heels more on every other topic against you)…but if you approach them on their terms spiritually and show them how their beliefs do dictate a conservative point of view, then you at least get something. You don’t have to give up your values, but acknowledging the similarities in values with other faiths rather than focusing on the difference may be just the thing to get us over that winning number at the electoral college.
*The only two exceptions to this are followers of the religion of peace (Sufis excluded) and atheists.