Wednesday, November 05, 2008

thoughts on politics

I’ve been trying to write a post on politics for weeks now, thus the silence on my blog. It’s so hard to do the 2008 election justice. And it’s so hard to write this post without bias. In the end, I’ve decided not to try. So the following are my thoughts, scattered as they may be, on what is a historic moment in the history of the United States, but also on the words and attitudes of my fellow Christians during this time.

First, I have known for quite some time that people believe what they want to believe. Is Obama really a socialist? Only if you believe that public schools, a military that fights wars on your behalf, infrastructure built for you, and social security are socialist programs. On the flip side, is John McCain the next George W. Bush? I wouldn’t call a guy who, up until two years ago, was pro-choice, was calling leading evangelical ministers “agents of intolerance”, was and is a war hero, opposes the torture of war prisoners, and would give his right eye to meet Bush out back in a dark alley the next George W. Bush. But people believe what they want to believe. And they do so to justify their own desires. I’m speaking in general terms here, but the majority of people I know don’t watch speeches to help form their opinion, they watch speeches to help them justify it, waiting and watching for any little phrase or slip up that can be used to validate their choice. I recently read the following by conservative columnist David Brooks in the New York Times and I couldn’t have said it any better myself:

"(Ronald) Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition lately, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely.”

Second, in the past few years my hope in the church has been gaining. Maybe it’s because my role has put me in touch with so many churches who are at the forefront of something new and who are looking to reclaim the prophetic social reform witness of evangelicals from the 19th century. But for the past thirty years, no thought has been allowed by the evangelical community when it came to politics. We were taught that there were only two issues when it came to God and politics: homosexuality and abortion. And while I do believe that these two issues are important, I also think that they’ve allowed us to pass the buck when it comes to our responsibility in loving our neighbor. This year I’ve watched as a great number of young and old Christians alike have risen up and voted for something different. Now before anybody gets upset at my suggestion that “voting democrat” is something positive in the life of the church, let me be clear in what I’m really saying; what’s positive about this is that the church is beginning to realize that there are many, many social issues that we are responsible to respond to. I believe that we are finally beginning to let loose of canned answers and really think through our faith and theology, and that gives me hope. In the end that may not cause us to vote for a democrat in every instance, and if we’re educating ourselves and paying attention, it shouldn’t. But as I stated above, a socially conscious church is a positive witness in an unjust world. I believe that if we were leading the way in all the social issues – human trafficking, the environment, fair trade, human rights, etc. – our stance on abortion would not be seen as an affront to people’s rights, but would be seen as a part of our consistent stance FOR the life and well being of others. It would be seen as loving our neighbor.

When all is said and done, I hope a few things for the church in its response to faith and politics:

I hope that it will grow in wisdom, and wisdom always involves the making of a decision based on as much evidence and understanding as possible.

I hope that the church in America will remember that WE are the church, and that WE are the kingdom, not our country. Am I proud to be an American? Let’s just say that I’m a little prouder today than I’ve been in quite some time. But my allegiance isn’t to a country, it’s to a King and a Kingdom. I’m blessed to have been born in America. Blessed beyond measure. But in the end, America is not the Kingdom in which I have placed my allegiance. It is simply my earthly home.

And I hope that we can be constructive instead of destructive. I’ve watched the rhetoric being tossed around over the last few days in relation to an Obama win, and it hasn’t been pretty. In fact, it hasn’t been very Christ like at all. Obama won’t be everything that the evangelical community would like in a President. But he will bring some issues to the forefront that we should be fans of. Take it from somebody who threw words like “socialist” and “communist” around in 1992 in relation to a possible Clinton Presidency; the four horseman are not in sight. Life will go on. And Obama will bring some issues to the table that we can get behind. And when it comes to those issues that we cannot get behind, we’ll need to stand up and make our voices heard. Just like we should have been doing for the past eight years.

Third, and as a member of the international community, I’m proud of my country today and hopeful for what this new presidency will mean for the world. I’ve never seen an international reaction to a U.S. President like I’ve seen to this one. And while there will be some cynics out there who will read this to mean that other countries see an opportunity to take advantage of America, the truth is that most of them now see an America who may not be so quick to take advantage of them. More importantly, they see the America that the rest of the world once believed in. I once heard Bono say that America is not a country, it’s an idea. In doing so he said what so many people have believed about America; that it represents the hopes and dreams of the world. That it SHOULD go without saying that all men are created equal. That race and birth rights should have no bearing in one’s right to the pursuit of happiness. To the rest of the world, if a black man can be President of the United States of America, then anything is possible. I join the international community in celebrating this hope that the world CAN be a better place.

And finally, I could not finish this post without a nod to the black community. I cannot imagine what many of you must be feeling right now. In my lifetime, I never thought I’d see a black President. In fact, Jamie and I have been discussing for years now which would be first; a black Vice President or a female Vice President. The discussion of a possible black President never even entered our minds (though at one time, I did hold out some hope for J.C. Watts). I celebrate with you today and also ecstatically celebrate the turning to a new chapter in our nation’s history. Racism in America is not dead. But we’re much further along than I realized. That gives me hope and, again, makes me very proud of my country. As I walk through London over the next few months, people can say anything they want about my country. But America is the first country in the world to have been able to set its racism aside enough to elect a black man as President. In the five years that I’ve lived in London, I have not advertised my citizenship. But you better believe I will today! Say anything you want! Walking on the moon and helping to win the World Wars pale in comparison to what we’ve accomplished this week. I’m so ready for this new chapter. And I’m so ready to raise my daughter in a country where she will be able to see a strong, educated black leader in front of her (possibly) ‘till the age of eleven. What can it do for the mind and heart of a young child to see a constant positive image of the black race in front of her from day to day? I grew up in a world where the black community was most often portrayed in a negative light. But to have such a strong positive representative of the black community in front of her throughout her childhood…gives me hope that maybe color (race) blindness IS possible? On the top ten list of gifts that I would love to give to my daughter, color blindness has a firm position.

For those of you who read the above thoughts and disagree, I do hope that you will be constructive in your dialogue, rather than destructive. We have a real opportunity to be a witness right now on the world stage. I do hope that we will take it and leave behind the temptation for bitterness and vengeful dialogue.

Dr. King, I wish you were alive to see this. One more underdog rises up.

Comments on "thoughts on politics"


Blogger tarisayl said ... (5:42 PM) : 

I apologize for nit-picking on this one issue but he was raised white. Yes, his skin is black (well, brown) but his mother and grandparents raised him and all three were very much white. I didn't vote for him but not because of his color. I had my own opinions about who I wanted to be President. He is an intelligent man who many believe will be a good President. Unfortunately, I'm willing to bet that race played a bigger part in some peoples' voting process than any of the candidates' political agendas did. On both sides. It's very sad that we can't turn a blind eye to color and see just the man. That's just my two cents and it's probably not even worth that much. :-)


Blogger shaunespencer said ... (9:00 PM) : 

As a pastor stateside I have been deleting all sorts of stupid, forwarded emails about Obama and his relation to poorly interpreted eschatalogical texts. That is while also trying to remind my very conservative community that we cannot blur the distinction between the kingdoms of the world and the kingdom of Jesus (very hard to do here in the south). All that to say I really appreciate your post.

I have my thoughts on the merits of Obama's policies (as he has presented them) but I am also very appreciative of his tone and what he seeks to stand for. I plan to live dutifully as an American under his leadership.

I also hope that American Christians will remember the passage from Titus 3 that was often forgotten under Clinton and gets brushed aside in much of our political discourse:

"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people."

[enter the singing of "God Bless America", flag waving and fireworks here]


Blogger Andi said ... (5:57 PM) : 

Good post, Tim. And I agree, I am hopeful for change. I have craved it. I have been so sick and tired of the Christian community telling me I was a "bad" Christian because I refused to let abortion and homosexuality be the only issues I cared about.

As for Obama being "raised white." Therein lies the problem. What is "raised white"? Will my son be white because his parents are? Highly unlikely. No one cared about Obama's upbringing as much as the color of his skin. And only half of his skin color at that. Ever heard of the "one drop rule"? ;o)


Blogger tarisayl said ... (10:26 PM) : 

I have trouble explaining on paper what is better said from the mouth. (I can back track better that way.) It's the same problem with Tim and typed sarcasm. My first sentence could have been a little better thought out. Or left out altogether. What I meant to say, basically, is that everyone is jumping all over one aspect of him and ignoring the whole. This is one of those times I wish that we had only the issues and platforms to look at and not pictures.


Blogger Larry said ... (12:46 AM) : 

thoughtful post and comments..andi i have heard of the one drop theory...

i also guess the question is..when did capitalism become the "christian way." by the way, i think the days of unabashed capitalism are dead because of our recent financial collapse.

the most significant thing here is that Christians in the 1960's stood up for basic rights and now those rights are coming to full bloom


Blogger J.L.CIBILS said ... (12:28 AM) : 

I liked so much your photographies. When you'll be able, visit my blog to see my photo-jornalism's works. You will find there images of the south of Brazil.


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