This week I welcome Ralph Reed, the former director of the Christian Coalition and one of the most articulate leaders of America’s Religious Right, to be my first dialogue partner on God’s Politics. We will post our comments and responses to each other, back and forth, all week long–and you can read it all right here.
As you know Ralph, since the 2004 election, the term “values voters” has become a mainstay of the political discussion – and we’re hearing it again this fall. But the discussion has been generally used by its proponents (and the media) to describe one specific kind of voter – a conservative, white, evangelical, Republican. But that is now changing quite dramatically. Because, of course, many voters (maybe even most) are “values voters” – that who they vote for and why are determined by their values.
I believe a debate on moral values should be central in American politics. The question is, of course, which values? Whose values? And how should we define moral values? The problem is when one side of the political spectrum (your side) tries to define values as meaning only two things – opposition to same-sex marriage and criminalizing abortion. And while those two have become “wedge issues” that your side has effectively used for quite partisan purposes, many of the pressing problems our society confronts have an essential moral character. Issues regarding the sacredness of life and family values are indeed very important, and need a much deeper moral discussion; but there is also a broader moral agenda that reflects all the values Americans care about.
So it is actually arrogant to assume that only two issues involve moral values. And it is hubris to say that only those people with a conservative political position on those two issues are voting based on values. What should be valued most is a broader and deeper view of a politics grounded in all our values. What really appeals to the most basic moral concerns of Americans? A deeper discussion of both political principles and issues has the capability of really uniting a large number of people. Ralph?