Monday, November 5, 2012

Campaign 2012 - part 4


For the 2012 election, evangelical Christian Jim Wallis from the Sojourners community has identified five issues about which Christians of all political views should be able to find common ground (Jim Wallis, “Listening for the Voice of Aslan,” Huffington Post, April 13, 2012):

1.      Defense of the poor, which neither party will champion during an election year -- they all want donors and voters. How policies affect the most vulnerable is always the Christian political question; vital international and domestic poverty programs which allow the poor to survive and prevent their further suffering should be defended by Christians of all political stripes.

2.      A particular focus on how undocumented immigrants will be talked about and treated -- the biblical "stranger" in our midst -- and the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform. Christians across political boundaries are coming together around the urgent agenda to fix a broken immigration system.

3.      Supporting policies that reduce abortion and that support strong families should be points of agreement between both liberals and conservatives, especially people of faith.

4.      Protecting religious liberty is a commitment we also share -- both at home and around the world.

5.      Promoting foreign policies that seek to prevent and resolve inevitable human conflicts, instead of increasing them, should be something that Christians should also support because Jesus called us to be peacemakers.

His first two issues are both domestic; the last three are primarily international. This chart makes clear the difference between a Christian approach and the major political parties’ approaches:

Christianity
Democrats/Republicans
How help the poor?
·         Domestically
·         Internationally
What will benefit you?
·         Tax policies
·         Job creation
·         Education programs
·         Healthcare coverage
Welcoming the stranger
How preserve what I have?
·         Border control
·         Voter ID
·         Deporting illegals
Promoting human dignity
·         Respect for life
·         Strengthening healthy relationships
·         Honoring all freedoms
Protecting “my” dignity
·         Respect for my values
·         Respecting relationships like mine
·         Protecting freedoms important to me
Peacemaking and conflict resolution
Promoting national interests

Recasting campaign issues to frame them in a Christian context requires extensive homework, pushing past one’s own biases and political rhetoric in an effort to promote God's agenda. I suspect few voters have the information or inclination to pursue this option with sufficient comprehensiveness to permit actually assessing which candidate appears likely, in an uncertain world, to best advance God's kingdom. Nevertheless, this is a second possible approach for Christians to decide for whom to vote. This approach is the best for referendum questions in which one must vote on an issue rather than for a candidate.

I have three major complaints about political campaigns:

1.      We spend too much money on campaigns ($5.3 billion in 2008, for example). Too often the candidate who raises and spends the most money wins creating the hard to refute appearance of having bought the election.

2.      Too few people vote (e.g., in 2008 only 56.8% of U.S. citizens old enough to vote actually voted). Non-presidential elections have even lower voter turnout.

3.      Political campaigns increasingly have too much fire (and incivility!) and too little substance to encourage careful voter consideration. Politicians typically seek to pander to voter emotions rather than offer substantive, well-reasoned views.

When I despair, I find hope in these words from Roman Catholic priest, theologian, and spiritual writer Richard Rohr:

There is no perfect political system. Jesus never promised us that any political system could realize the Reign of God on earth. … He said we should be the light on the mountain, but we want to be the whole mountain (Matthew 5:13ff). (Simplicity: The art of living, p. 71)

If you have not already done so, and are eligible, then VOTE! It’s an opportunity to let God's light shine.

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