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Christianity for votes: How Republicans are using a religious facade to gain political power

On full display: Rep. Ted Yoho, in his non-apology to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, remarkably argued, “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family, and my country.”

Rep. Ted Yoho
Rep. Ted Yoho
REUTERS/Phelan Ebenhack

Talk of God has been brought into and out of national politics throughout American history, with various partisan and non-partisan causes, but rarely in our history has any political group weaponized faith for political goals as comprehensively as today’s Republican Party. Although the name of God has been used as a rallying cry for Republicans for decades, the party that claims to support Christian values has developed a twisted ideology where the mere mention of God has become a license for injustice. Consequently, his name is being thrown out in vain by Republicans who seek to avoid being held responsible for their actions, even when those actions go directly against the Scripture.

The contradictory nature of devotional statements made by GOP members was put on full display in a recent scandal in Congress, when Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Florida, was forced to resign from a Christian organization’s board after publicly exhibiting a behavior profoundly opposite to the values he claimed to stand for.

Yoho’s non-apology

The sinister nature of an ideology that weaponizes faith to justify divisive and dehumanizing rhetoric left little to the imagination as Yoho laid out his non-apology speech on the House floor for calling a fellow member of Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), a “f—–g b—h” while standing in front of the Capitol building. Not only did he not acknowledge how his actions were antithetical to Christian values, he also doubled-down on denying that he ever said the words that both Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a reporter from The Hill, who was a witness at the scene, had clearly heard. In the end of his non-apology speech, Yoho  remarkably argued: “I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family, and my country.”

As a Christian, I am disgusted that Yoho would appeal to his audience’s love of God as he simultaneously refused to recognize his actions as an assault on the very letter of scripture. The Bible says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister (NIV, 1 John 4:20-21).”

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I am further appalled seeing the rest of the GOP members who call themselves Christians allowing themselves to overlook such disgraceful actions and remain silent, which not only make profane the very things believers hold dear, but also appear to endorse the dangerous rhetoric of hate and division in a time when our nation is severely plagued with both. At this time we should come together, united in standing up against inflammatory speech that incites violence and division, and stay vigilant in the face of disingenuous political leaders using faith to cover up hate and claiming to support the values they don’t care to follow. Hate is not and has never been a Christian value.

Jordan Rynning
Jordan Rynning
A party with overwhelmingly hateful and divisive rhetoric has no grounds to claim association with Christianity, period. To claim such would be a blatant lie against the Scripture itself. Jesus called us to love our neighbor. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; love is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth (ESV, 1 Corinthians 13:4-6).”

A powerful political tool

At this time, when the soul of our nation is at stake, I encourage fellow believers to ask themselves if the divisive and hateful rhetoric we see is what Jesus would stand for; if racism and prejudice are what Jesus would stand for; if lying for political benefit is acceptable when the policies fit your narrative. At this point, it is evident that claiming to support religious values has become a powerful political tool for right-wing politicians. The Christian faith has been distorted to fit longstanding political goals, while a dire state of racial and social justice is calling for strong moral leadership.

If we want to resemble a hope for uniting and healing within our nation, we must rebuke lies, hate and division. We must rejoice in the truth.

Jordan Rynning is a U.S. Navy veteran originally from Kennedy, Minnesota. He has a professional background in military intelligence analysis and is currently studying political science at the University of Hawaii.

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