My op-ed in today's Baltimore Sun says that O'Donnell's personal religious beliefs about abstinence and masturbation are reasonably mainstream evangelical beliefs, but that her mainstream Republican beliefs ignore that the Bible says that fortunate, wealthy societies have an obligation to provide for the poor.
Originally I framed the article as we should be sensitive to her because the Bible says to be sensitive to those who are alone through no fault of their own like widows, orphans, and converts, but the Bible also says societies have the obligation to be generous to the poor. This obligation to sensitivity for widows, orphans, and converts seems to extend to be sensitive also to people who are involuntarily single, as virtually all religious single adults are, and abstinence must be a particularly difficult subject for her since abstinence means that she has an idealized view of marriage and her eventual husband she hoped would love her for her beliefs and admire her for having stuck to them since her conversion to become more religious. I liked the parallelism, but it involved too much speculation about her personal life.
More importantly, I'm not a religious authority, so it's not my place to say what we should and shouldn't do.
Two good comments so far on Baltimore Sun. One said how to you judge which beliefs you criticize candidates for. That's a really terrific topic --- many politicians have personal religious beliefs, but they maintain a line between those beliefs and the policies that they support. One example is Joe Lieberman where it's my understanding that his personal religious beliefs should in theory make him more supportive of social programs to help the poor, but lately he has been voting against these programs for what may be political reasons. A case where religious beliefs do influence policy for Christine O'Donnell is that she is clearly extremely anti-abortion and anti-choice --- she would ban abortion even for rape survivors --- and there's every reason to expect she would vote that way, and that's a great reason to vote against her, but that's from her policy statements, not from her religious beliefs. On the other hand, there are some distinguished politicians who have personal beliefs against abortion, and they themselves would not have abortions except under limited circumstances, who have strongly pro-choice voting records. It would be a great study to look at when what we know of candidates' personal religious beliefs agree with their voting records, and when their personal religious beliefs contrast with them. And perhaps this study has already been done. Any political scientists to comment?
Second comment calls for holding politicians accountable for making "rational evidence-based decisions," and oh my, I am so in agreement with that. Not making evidence-based decisions, and instead making decisions for reasons of politics, is extremely common in our government. Paul Krugman is a Nobel Prize winning economist and an expert in the Great Depression, and he's been writing op-eds for the past 2 years saying that we need to give more stimulus or unemployment is going to stay high for years and years, and we are going to lose a generation. And he's been saying the same theme over and over, and he's an extremely distinguished economist, a Nobel Prize winner, and not enough politicians listened to him to affect policy. And the failure to provide fiscal policy that can be adequate stimulus is the worst way that the government can fail people. We're talking about hurting young adults who happen to be coming of age now and during the next several years, and the effects of a worse job market when they come of age will affect them for their ENTIRE LIVES, and they will have not just lower earnings, but (judging by studies of past generations born in high unemployment eras) worse social problems. That's huge, and in my opinion way more important than abstinence education. But, yes, abstinence education is a shame, especially how $50 million abstinence-only funding came back in the health care reform bill in order to get it through Congress. And both of those issues are because of the 60 vote filibuster, and the fact that Senators no longer have to actually filibuster, they can just claim that they are. Some have said that if they actually had to speak for 24 hours straight, they would do it less. Again, the political scientists can speak.