Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Political Wrestling Match of 2008

I will admit that for me the is probably the first political season in which I have no idea what I will do. I have voted pretty consistently Republican in past elections but I am not at all content with where we are as a nation right now. I am mad at what has become of our nation, the way in which the Republicans have squandered their opportunity to make significant, positive changes. I am mad that instead of sticking to one of the Republican ideals of "less government", Bush has increased the government beyond what Clinton accomplished in his two terms. I am ticked that I believe Christians were manipulated for votes by the likes of Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff and once they got what they wanted, the Christian community got nothing of interest to them (I know, shame on us for trusting in politicians). I am bothered that fear and manipulation are used consistently to win favor and votes when the Bible tells us specifically that fear is not supposed to be a defining characteristic of a Christ-follower. And so, in an attempt to rise above politics and consider some other thoughts and ideas i decided to read a variety of pseudo-political books before the election.
The first book I read was "Jesus for President" by Shane Claiborne. Go to www.frequency412.blogspot.com for the posts related to that book. I explored the issues of war and peace, poverty and the economy, and environmentalism and the creation.
The second book I read was "We The Purple" by Marcia Ford. This book highlights the frustrations of the current political situation we find ourselves in when there are only two parties fighting each other for control. She presents a view of opening up the door to independent voters. It is a very interesting read although I wish there was more of a movement for people who think outside of the box. Ross Perot and Ralph Nader were interesting but hard to take seriously. There was rumors of Mike Blumberg, John McCain, or Ron Paul running on an Independent ticket but nothing materialized this time around. Instead we seem to be even more entrenched in the two parties fighting each other for power and control. One on sense I just wish we could put McCain and Biden together and give Obama and Palin 8 more years of experience and then give them their turn in 2016. But I know that is not an option.

It takes a while to get through Marcia's book as she take a lot of the first part of the book to talk about the independent movement. I could see that I would be much more interested in what she has to say if we actually went in that direction during this political season. But instead, it seems like the independents have taken a back seat more this time around then any other time that i can remember. But I began to really get into her thoughts in the chapter entitled "Pew Distrust". In reflecting on the religious leaders who were the faces of the Moral Majority during the 80's she says,

"I have no quarrel with Falwell or any of our other religious-political leaders. I am serious when i say that I believe each of these men - along with their spouses - has done a tremendous amount of good. When you peel away their political efforts, which were significant, you find an equally significant body of work that provided physical, financial, and spiritual help to millions of people, including my own family. The problem is that we do have to peel away that top layer of political activity to see the core of good work that they accomplished. And the reputation of evangelicalism within the wider culture suffered as a result. We were seen as gay-bashing, woman-oppressing, war-supporting, anti-sex, anti-fun, anti-everything hatemongers.

That didn't sound like me or any of my evangelical friends. It didn't sound like Jesus, either, and he was the One we were supposed to be following. It took a while, but eventually I started asking questions like, Who gave these guys the right to speak for me and my kindred evangelical spirits?

Our leaders kept trying to convince us that we were in the middle of a war, and the culture was our enemy. For a long time I believed them. . . . The America they described was not the America I experienced. The church - the body of Christ - they purported to speak for was not the church I had signed on to. . . . many evangelicals on the ground had already been turning their attention to issues like war, genocide, poverty, injustice, AIDS, and climate change and other environmental issues. At the same time, religious leaders off the ground were bickering over whether to keep a narrow focus on abortion and same-sex marriage or expand the focus to include broader issues. Their dispute, which one media outlet called a 'family fight,' is essentially meaningless to evangelicals who have already moved on." pp. 139-142

In so many ways what Ford says here is one of those crystal clear moments in which she has defined perfectly how i have been thinking and feeling over these past few years. I went to Liberty University for two years and I did see a lot of good that Falwell was able to accomplish with the ministries he was involved in. But I would become very frustrated whenever he used the pulpit for political speeches laced with fear and ignorance. It went contrary to the teaching of Christ on many levels. And the greater culture will always know him for the controversial things he would say more than the good he accomplished through his ministry.

I am angry at how nothing has been done in relation to the pro-life issues that were used toward many Christians to gain votes. I have come to believe that the approach that was taken in the 90's to declare a culture war and protest in front of abortion clinics was horribly wrong. That was the beginning for me to start pulling away from the "Religious Right" and begin wondering if there was a better way than to go from that extreme to the opposite extreme that any and all abortions are okay. And also, if there isn't a more compassionate, thoughtful and Christ-like way that we could approach the issue of abortion as well as many other issues.

But then again, I wonder if the bigger issue is should we be putting our hopes and dreams in ANY political candidate for that matter. We put these people on God-like pedestals to the point where we lose sight of the humanity and goodness of the opposing candidate and instead we demonize them. I have had well-meaning, educated, religious people say some of the most demonic things in relation to Obama who just happens to be the most out-spoken Christian out of all the candidates! It surprises me at times how we give into the political process on a level that if the candidate we don't want ends up winning then he will most likely bring about the end of the world as we know it, pull off his mask and reveal his true identity as the spawn of Satan. To that I want to say did we forget about the sovereignty of God? Whomever gets elected is God going to wake up that morning and say "whoops!" and his self-destruct button begins the countdown to Armageddon? Come on! Really, let's act like Christ-followers for a change and put our trust in Him and FINALLY come to our senses that politics will never further the kingdom of God here on earth more than if we as a church shut our big mouths and begin living out the Sermon on the Mount in our everyday lives. That will have a more redemptive impact on society than getting our Republican, Democrat or Independent candidate elected.

I will leave you with a final quote that I believe sums up the journey I have been on with my faith and political views. Ford states that,

"Evangelicals may be at a crossroads, but many that I know have already come to that intersection, decided which road to take, and found themselves back at the foot of the cross - right where they started their faith journeys in the first place. It's there, seeking the wisdom of God, that they are learning all over again what matters to God and therefore what should matter to them. And it has come as no surprise to them that what matters to God is much bigger than a political party's platform." p. 142.

Amen to that! Thank you Marcia Ford for putting words to so many of my thoughts lately. It still doesn't tell me who to vote for! But I have been forced back to the foot of the cross over this election and the state that our world and country are currently in. So I appreciate the reminder that God is not forced into a box labeled Republican or Democrat but instead He is above both of them and calls the church to be something else other that a barter chip for politics. And it is time for us as Christians and Americans to begin thinking creatively and out-of-the-box when it comes to politics and cultural issues that we need to address. We need to throw off the methods of the past that polarized people and consider Christ's approach which changed and transformed those he encountered from the inside-out because he entered into their world and showed them human dignity and love first!

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