Are voters uninterested in moral issues?

The Barna Group says “Voters Most Interested in Issues Concerning Security and Comfort, Least Interested in Moral Issues” but I’m curious as to why they don’t consider terrorism, war, tax policy, immigration policy or health care moral issues. For that matter, is there any aspect of life, public or private, that doesn’t have some sort of moral dimension?

9 Comments

  1. It’s an intriguing issue, this. As a observer from across the pond I scratch my head in disbelief to find most U.S. Mennonites voting Republican. In the main I suspect that many (probably a majority) of Christians mirror their cultural context. Perhaps that’s a way of observing that Constantinianism works culturally as well as politically. Those issues the survey lists under security and comfort are ‘ethical’ in a sense, but they are also the beating heart of social conservatism. If the survey is saying that Christians often put self-interest ahead of altruism or social justice then sadly I have observed the same thing.

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  2. Flipping it around the other way, are the Barna Group suggesting people never exercise self interest when considering domestic poverty, abortion, environmental policy or gay marriage?

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  3. To be perfectly frank, it often feels like “moral issues” has become synonymous with “homosexuality and abortion” here in the United States. (I was quite surprised to see poverty and environmental policy lumped in with them in the linked article.) It’s as if you’re a perfectly moral person, so long as you’re not having anal sex with another man* or “murdering your unborn baby.”** It gets annoying after a while.

    * Because, you know, the evils of male-male sex is talked about in great detail while being , but sexual relationships between women is mentioned only in passing, if it’s mentioned at all.
    ** As someone who is best described as “hesitantly pro-choice,” I actually have a lot of sympathy for some of the concerns of people who are anti-abortion. Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult it’s rather difficult to express that sympathy and open a dialogue in the face of such statements as the one I’ve included above.

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  4. I remember during the last presidential elections one guy said to me, abortion is the only moral issue to consider at voting time because if we couldn’t get that right we couldn’t get anything right. Now, I’m no fan of abortion, but I was absolutely amazed that anyone could be so morally myopic. What? Pedophilia, child slavery, bombing of children, these are not worthy of the same level of moral consideration? When I hear American voters sprouting this it scares the pants off me. God save us. As I’ve said before, I think pedophilia and pride are the greatest moral challenges before the church in our era and that’s where we should focus.

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  5. Barna didn’t consider war, poverty, immigration to be moral issues? Or voters didn’t consider them moral issues?
    In either case they are the biggest issues of the day for me.

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  6. I think it’s worth considering the difference between what’s ethical and what’s legal and to what degree this difference is a good or bad thing.
    For instance, in the light of the resurrection I consider war unethical, but I know this is a minority position. So it reassures me that our countries legally permit conscientious objection. But what if that were to change? What if the draft was re-instituted and conscientious objection disallowed? I can see situations in which I would feel morally obliged to break the law. I’m therefore cautious about over legislation of the citizenry.
    It gets me asking the question: should I in turn feel duty bound to insist legislation be enshrined against everything I find morally problematic? Quid pro quo after all. It is with this in mind that I approach ethical-legal dilemmas like homosexuality and abortion. Even where I find these ethically problematic I’m extremely reluctant to side with those who call for the practices to be criminalized. After all, in a pluralistic society why should we be surprised that there is ethical pluralism alongside religious pluralism. Is not freedom of ethics implied, to some extend, by freedom of religion?
    Of course there are some things we can all agree on, or at least the vast majority of us – things like murder and rape and theft – so I support legislation here. But I’m uneasy using legislation to drive ethical conformity where, in the community, there is extreme ethical diversity. I think this is where Christians should consider the church first, and the state second,
    as an instrument of change. We should seek to inspire not force. After all, don’t we preach grace over law?
    It’s with this in mind that the pedophilia controversy sticks out. Pedophilia is something that is illegal and which the vast majority of people, Christians included, denounce as highly corrupt. The complicity of church leaders in covering it up is therefore a moral and legal scandal of the highest order. Bearing in mind Jesus’ suggestion that we take the log out of our own eye before get too huffy able the speck in our brother’s eye, if the church seeks any moral authority in our pluralistic, democratic society, it’s ethical focus truly needs to begin here.

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  7. Lest I be misunderstood on homosexuality I thought I should add a couple of extra points.
    1/ While I am against homosexual practice being criminalised, I am equally against Christian practice being criminalised. I start getting antsy whenever critics hint of using anti-discrimination laws to force churches to open up wedding ceremonies. My acceptance of gay civil ceremonies is predicated on the law respecting separation of church and state. Whether churches choose to open up or not, that’s their business and it should be a congregational decision, not a government one.
    2/ One thing I am happy to see criminalized is violence and bullying of any sort against any one.
    3/ In his blog Jarred draws some parallels between homosexuality and obesity when it comes to discrimination. I accept this is valid and confess I struggle with my weight. Indeed sometimes I don’t struggle enough. The fact that I don’t choose this, at least consciously, and am tempted to attribute at least some of this to genetics only reinforces the parallels. I affirm however that we’re not saved by how pure we are, but how pure God is. In this I affirm I need God’s grace as much as anyone else.

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  8. Matt, you said the following:
    “…I am equally against Christian practice being criminalised. I start getting antsy whenever critics hint of using anti-discrimination laws to force churches to open up wedding ceremonies.”
    Let me say up front that I don’t know what the situation is in Australia. If you actually have people doing what you describe over there (or even expressing an intent to do so), you have my sympathies. I also support you any attempt to fight that sort of thing.
    However, I’m extremely with the situation here in America, and I can say with near-absolute certainty that there is no such intent over over. Gays over here are simply seeking marriage equality on a civil level. What churches do is their own business.
    Of course, here comes the caveat. Yes there are some gay people (and straight allies) that are pushing various denominations to bless same sex marriages. However, this is because they are devout MEMBERS of those denominations whose understanding of what the Bible has to say on the topic differs from the official teaching and wish to challenge to official teaching. They do not do this through force of civil law, however. They do this the same way anyone in their denomination would challenge an official teaching that they think is in error. Most denominations are set up to allow for that.
    What we do have a lot of over here is certain anti-gay groups trying to drum up fear of the criminalization of Christianity in order to drum up support for their cause. They will cite seven to ten different stock stories (all of which are now at least five years old) in an attempt to prove “it’s already happening.” The problem is, they also misrepresent (bearing false witness?) the facts of those stories to make those points. That becomes obvious when someone comes along and says something like “Actually, the pavilion isn’t owned by a church, but an organization that’s associated with the United Methodist Church. And they didn’t lose their tax exempt status. They only lost it on that pavilion. Oh, and by the way, the reason they lost it on the pavilion was because the organization got tax exempt status on the pavilion not for religious reasons, but because they made it into a public accommodation. But then when they made it clear that they weren’t accommodating the entire public by refusing to let a lesbian couple use it for their civil union, the state rightfully decided that property not being treated as a truly public accommodation shouldn’t get to keep its tax exempt status that was granted based on it being a truly public accommodation. Wouldn’t you agree?”
    The maddening thing is, I’ve actually challenged some of these stories, given the facts, and cited sources, only to have the same exact person misrepresent the same exact story thirty minutes ago. Again, I say, “bearing false witness, anyone?”
    So yeah, I’m against the criminalization of Christianity of any kind, and I hope that if you’re facing it over there that you get all the support to fight it you need. But by and large, here in America, the criminalization of Christianity is primarily the invented bogeyman of certain Christian groups.
    Just look at the fact that the vile Westboro Baptist Church (rightfully, in my opinion) won their appeal that went before the Supreme Court of the United States. The justices agreed 8-1 that as vile as the WBC’s practice of picketing funerals is, they have a first amendment right to do so.

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