‘Nothing Christian About Michele Bachmann’s Values’
Elizabeth Stoker and Matt Bruenig take a shot at the scandal-tainted Minnesota congresswoman – along with a scathing critique of institutional Christian conservatism – in Salon‘s wrap-up of the Family Research Council’s 2013 “Value Voters Summit.”
By all means, the American Christian Right is willing to leverage government authority to carry out a variety of Christian ethical projects, especially within the arena of family life. Michele Bachmann would make abortion illegal, and Rick Santorum has stated on multiple occasions that he supports laws against homosexual intercourse. But Christian politicians in the United States curtail their interest in making the gospel actionable when it comes to welfare. While the government should see to the moral uprightness of marriage, sex and family, the Value Voters 2013 Summit was notably bereft of talks on living wages, labor rights or basic incomes.
The notable exclusion of poverty from the Christian agenda would doubtlessly puzzle European Christians, whose support of Christian ethical approaches to family life have always been paired with a deep and vigorous concern for the poor. And, unlike their American counterparts, European Christians haven’t been willing to leave poverty up to individual charity or the market to handle. Quite the contrary: Just as public morality is an arena fit for intervention by a Christian-informed government, so too is welfare. …
Economic policy seems a strange place to wall off consideration of Christian ethics, but when it comes to policies that would expand welfare programs or extend particular benefits to the poor, the American Christian Right recoils, and tends to fall back on the rhetoric of personal accountability and individual liberty in matters of charity.… No principled reason can be given for the distinction the Christian Right draws between harnessing the state to pursue social objectives and harnessing it to pursue economic objectives. It is a uniquely American distinction as far as Christian politicking goes. What the distinction reveals is that so-called values voters are just a particular flavor of right-wing political culture, one that opts for Christian language and rhetoric when communicating its message. But in that case, it is their freestanding political commitments that inform their Christianity, not the other way around.
The answer to this riddle is therefore not so mysterious. Although nominally interested in harnessing the state to pursue Christian social objectives, the American Christian Right is not detached from the culture it has developed within. Their politics is not one that is Christian in origin; rather, it originates from the same place all other right-wing politics originates, but mobilizes Christian rhetoric and meanings post-hoc to justify its goals.