How Political Sides Are Chosen

Andrew raises an interesting question here:

Why is it that many Christians buy into a package mentality, where decisions on one issue entail positions on other, logically distinct issues, because of a “Left-wing” or “Right-wing” system?

Here’s a vastly oversimplified scenario that I read somewhere online years ago (you’ll have to forgive me while I reconstruct it from memory): Say I’m a citizen who’s not all that political but I happen to feel strongly about issue X. I want to ensure that my views on X are heard by the government. I decide that, while I’m not quite sure what I believe about parties and politics and issues Y and Z, I do want to do something about X. So I start to take action regarding X – I might blog, go to meetings, attend protests, send donations, or what-have-you. Now, there might be some others out there who are also generally apathetic yet passionate about X. I am however crossing paths with people whose political concerns go beyond X and include stances on Y and Z. (Note: this may be a result of heartfelt opinions on Y and Z or simply adoption of a party platform intended to build a winning political machine or a combination of both.)

Now me and my fellow X-concerned citizens are making common cause with these others who are concerned about Y and Z. Since, as I said at the beginning, I’m not terribly concerned about Y and Z and since these other people who agree with me on X feel a certain way on Y and Z, it strikes me that perhaps I should adopt those opinions on Y and Z. Remember, if I feel strongly about X, I’m inclined to make a moral assessment of people based on their opinion of X (whether I’m correct in doing this is another matter altogether). If I see people agreeing with me on X, I’ll likely think they are good people – the sort whose opinion on Y and Z I can trust. Conversely, if I strongly disagree with them about Y and Z, I may be accused of bringing disunity to the cause of X. The cause of X is too important, why rock the boat when I don’t even care all that much about Y or Z anyway?

You can plug in any issue for X, Y or Z: crime, poverty, war, terrorism, fair trade, abortion, gay rights, consumerism, environmentalism and voila! Now you have your political views a la carte. I suppose people might not like to think that this is how they’ve arrived at their views, but try this, imagine it with some on the “other” side. It’s probably easier to start that way. And it doesn’t just happen to Christians that way either.