Smith: Our future - The Divided States of America

Smith: Our future - The Divided States of America

July 1st, 2013 Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

The events of the last few weeks triggered tons of emails, social media postings and texts to me expressing anger, weariness, sorrow and disgust.

A tremendous number of those recognized as Christian and/or conservative have voiced a sense of frustration.

Reading through and responding to many of the messages, there is a common theme:

• First, many of our elected officials respond to special interests and an echo chamber of opinions that do not reflect the citizens who elected them.

• Second, our foundational documents, including our Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, have not changed. What has changed is our culture. It's exchanging proven principles for the license to pursue personal gratification and behavioral acceptance.

Recent attacks on the beliefs of values voters include the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare; IRS targeting of pro-Israel, pro-Christian and conservative groups; and discipline of military personnel who outwardly live their Judeo-Christian faith. These have stirred individuals who do more than simply take the name of God, but instead, live their faith daily and see their vote and support as acts of personal accountability, not just politics.

The Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration bill. Thousands have called Congress to express concern that border enforcement must precede the legalization of illegal immigrants - a matter of equal justice.

Wednesday, the Supreme Court voided one section of the Defense of Marriage Act signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. The court's ruling allows same-sex couples who legally marry to qualify for spousal benefits, file taxes jointly and qualify for government benefits, such as Social Security.

Neither decision mandates that states must change nor recognize same-sex marriage unless that is current law or legislated in the future at the state level. Still, the written decision equated opposition to homosexuality as bigotry.

Yet, take heart! It's a matter of perspective.

Through votes and issue stances, it's becoming easier to identify the folks committed only to re-election and populism. These conflicts answer the question: Does their symbolism match their substance?

In the times of Christ, persecution was so prevalent, strangers would often greet each other in caution by drawing a fish in the dirt. The Ichthys served as a Christian symbol with the acrostic Greek message: "Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter," or Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.

This gesture, seemingly simple, identified one's faith, one's worldview, and functioned in the growth and survival of the Christian Church. The symbol matched their authentic substance.

So, what's ahead in politics?

A more vocal body of believers is likely to engage politically with a disregard to party labels and a departure from stereotypes of the past. The issues that put one's faith in conflict with one's politics are already beginning to transcend racial and socio-economic lines.

The precedent of the tea (taxed enough already) party in 2009 demonstrates that unrest exists among informed voters whose beliefs are ignored. Values voters make decisions based on their beliefs: whom to associate with, how to spend their entertainment dollars, where to send their children to school. At the same time they are squinting to find reasons to remain loyal to a political party or support elected officials.

Bottom line, there's guaranteed division ahead. And history has shown that in times of extraordinary crisis and trouble, those of faith will only deepen their roots, brace for unsettled times and endure.

Always remember, a united minority can be victorious against a divided majority.

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm.