Scott Walker: A Bad Christian?

According to the Religious Left, standing up to public sector unions is a sin.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a bad Christian for standing up to government unions, according to the Religious Left.

Religious Left author Diana Butler Bass, writing for The Huffington Post, is the most explicit in faulting Walker’s ostensibly simplistic evangelical beliefs.  Butler revealed that Walker belongs to a nondenominational church with “boilerplate” evangelical theology about sin and salvation, with apparently none of the statist political demands that the Religious Left believes are more central to faith.

Bass derisively described Walker’s one-time testimony to Christian businessmen in which he shared the Gospel story of the Apostle Peter sinking into the water because of doubt.  She also mocked his favorite hymn of “Trust and Obey.” According to Bass’ breathless analysis, Walker believes only in blind “obedience,” just like the terrifying “evangelical spirituality” of George W. Bush, which resulted in two wars.  “In this theological universe, hard-headedness is a virtue, compromise is the work of the Devil, and anything that works to accomplish God's plan is considered ethically justifiable,” Bass explained.  Walker is listening only to Jesus and ignoring the wise spiritual voices on the Religious Left he should heed, Bass fretted. “Jesus speaking directly to him,” she alleged.  “God, evidently, has directed him on his current path.”  And not just Jesus, but also Libertarian philanthropist David Koch,” Bass sarcastically quipped.

Since Walker is not under the “authority” of a church defending the government labor unions, he has no “moral culpability in this situation,” Bass discerned.  “And this is why Scott Walker's religion is actually dangerous in the public square,” she warned.  “Because it lacks the ability to compromise, it is profoundly anti-democratic.”

Anti-Catholic bigots once argued that Catholics had no place in American democracy because Catholics were beholden to their church’s “authority.” Now Bass, a liberal Episcopalian, insists it is independent evangelicals who are dangerous to democracy because they have no church authority directing them politically.  This argument represents a new, different sort of bigotry. “Many faith traditions actually possess deep spiritual resources that allow them to participate in pluralistic, democratic, and creative political change,” Bass concluded.  But not independent, evangelical faith, whose practitioners evidently should be excluded or at least distrusted. "’Trust and Obey’" is not the best way to govern a state,” she opined.

The spiritually authoritative voices that the Governor should “obey,” as Bass would insist, are the United Methodist, Episcopal, and Evangelical Lutheran bishops in Wisconsin. The Lutheran bishop has urged the Wisconsin State Legislature to: “[A]ct with compassion and find solutions to the budget deficit bill that would not eliminate workers’ rights and medical care for the most vulnerable.”  The United Methodist bishop told Governor Walker:  “Because of my belief that far more is accomplished for the best interests of all those we serve when employers and employees work together, I am writing to ask you to reconsider your initiative which I believe would end the possibility for those who are government employees here in Wisconsin to negotiate settlement of labor and management disagreements.”  The Episcopal bishop noted:  “We have also seen democracy at work in Wisconsin as thousands gathered in Madison in response to the Governor’s Budget Bill. Regardless of our individual positions on the bill before the Legislature and what steps are necessary to build a stronger and better Wisconsin, I believe we can all agree that our baptismal vow to ‘respect the dignity of every human being’ is not served by a majority simply pushing through legislation because they have the votes necessary to do so.”   The local Presbytery urged “Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin’s other elected representatives to enter into good-faith negotiations with Wisconsin’s public employee unions to deal with Wisconsin’s current budget issues and to respect the rights of all workers to collectively bargain for wages and benefits.”  And the local United Church of Christ official warned:  “The right to negotiate is at the core of Wisconsin’s history, and tough economic times are not a moment to turn away from these essential rights that provide for fair and just decision-making.”

Of course, Governor Walker has not disputed the right of government employees to unionize but wants to limit their right to negotiate over budget busting benefits.  Why government employees should have better benefits than the tax payers who support them, the Religious Left prelates have not explained.   Bass invests Religious Left Mainline Protestant elites with authority they never had.  Most members of these imploding denominations have rarely if ever heeded their prelates politically. And even now, most church going Mainline Protestants vote Republican.

With more nuance, the Catholic Archbishop in Milwaukee has said:   “It does not follow…that every claim made by workers or their representatives is valid. Every union, like every other economic actor, is called to work for the common good, to make sacrifices when required, and to adjust to new economic realities.  However, it is equally a mistake to marginalize or dismiss unions as impediments to economic growth.”  He asked “lawmakers carefully [to] consider the implications of [the Governor’s] proposal and evaluate it in terms of its impact on the common good.  We also appeal to everyone –lawmakers, citizens, workers, and labor unions – to move beyond divisive words and actions and work together, so that Wisconsin can recover in a humane way from the current fiscal crisis.”

Governor Walker has cited fiscal reality, not religion, for his stance with Wisconsin’s government unions.  But Diana Butler Bass has peered deep into his heart and discovered the real obstacle to reasonable negotiation is Walker’s nondenominational evangelical faith, which is “dangerous” to American democracy. Maybe Bass and other angry Religious Leftists should heed the Archbishop’s warning against “divisive words.”