As the dust still settles nationally, this much is clear in Kentucky: Worldviews hostile to Kentucky Baptist convictions suffered a staggering defeat last Tuesday, deepening Kentucky’s reputation as a solidly conservative state. After last Tuesday, progressivism is on the verge of political irrelevance in the Bluegrass.
Kentucky Baptists should be encouraged by the uptick of conservative legislators in Frankfort as Kentucky voters sent twelve new Republican legislators to the House and two in the Senate. The Kentucky legislature is now three-fourths Republican with super-majorities in both chambers. Tuesday’s election more or less stymies the legislative goals of Governor Andy Beshear and ensures that any further actions related to COVID-19 must be met with greater Republican consensus.
Indeed, if Gov. Beshear hopes to have any political relevance aside from a spate of executive orders, he is going to have to learn to work with Republicans and brush back the progressivism in his own party. And while the Republican Party is by no means God’s appointed means to save the world, or Frankfort for that matter, it is undeniable that the Republican Party is far better positioned to advance Kentucky Baptist values around issues of the sanctity of life, the protection of the family, and religious liberty than is modern progressivism. Because of Tuesday, we can look forward to a legislative session where legislators will be even more emboldened to vote for life, religious liberty, and the integrity of the family.
In recent years, election after election has seen Kentucky’s progressive coalition get bolder and more strident in its progressive stances, and at the same time, smaller. It almost seems to be such a formulaic relationship that one would think that Democratic party officials in the Bluegrass would re-think their progressivism. But the opposite appears to be the case. The old adage goes that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing while expecting different results. If that is true, insanity seems to be the chosen strategy for the Kentucky Democratic Party. I say this with no sense of gloating or hyper-partisanship, as it would be a wiser strategy for them to adopt a more moderating stance.
Just imagine, for example, if Kentucky Democrats were to lead the way in welcoming pro-life voices into the fold. That could have national repercussions in moving the national party away from its abortion devotion. But insofar as Kentucky Democrats have to bear the reputation of a national party lurching more in the direction of socialism, preferred pronouns, cancel culture, and late-term abortion, they are doomed. For their sake and for common decency’s, I hope they reverse course.
Until the Democratic party abandons its anti-biblical stances that thwart justice and undermine the common good, its influence will be deservedly sidelined. But this is not about politics for politics’ sake. No, this is about which party promotes policies that honor God’s moral law from those who want to stomp on it. For us as Christians, we must stand in line with what the famed Baptist theologian Carl F. H. Henry wrote as the basis of our political engagement: “For the Christian patriot, the nation reaches its highest pinnacle of prestige when it recognizes God as the sovereign source, support and sanction of all that is true and right, and makes its political institutions an instrumentality of public justice and order.”
This is an important reminder: God has no care of party affiliation. What he cares about is whether we are affiliated with Him and whether justice is advanced for all persons.
At the same time, just because there’s an R after someone’s name, it does not earn them unquestioned allegiance. This will especially be the case as the push for expanded gambling continues to make inroads with Republicans in the Kentucky legislature. For the sake of the poor and for the sake of loving our neighbor, Kentucky Baptists must stand against expanded gambling. So, Kentucky Baptists, we need to be willing to let God’s truth speak in a bipartisan matter: If Democrats wish to promote policies that tear apart unborn lives through abortion, we must speak a prophetic word against such things. If Republicans wish to promote policies that tear apart families through expanded gambling, so too must we speak against such things. Our calling as Christians means we owe our highest allegiance to God’s moral demands, not man’s political whims.
Tuesday’s election is a reminder that voting has real-world circumstances and politics has a tremendous impact on policies that will help us love our neighbor or harm them. I, for one, am thankful that Kentucky’s election results indicate further moves in the right direction on values sacred to Kentucky Baptists.
Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Public Affairs Advisor to the Kentucky Baptist Convention.