You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Politics’ category.

(Crossposted on The Obama Administration)

Drea and I recently had the opportunity to hang out with a friend who just returned from a missions trip to a Dalit colony in India. The Dalits, or “untouchables”, are the lowest-ranking group in India’s caste system and the recipients of brutal and long-standing injustice. Some actually say they are the most oppressed people in all humanity. Because of their status, Dalits are often consigned to live in such colonies where they present no threat of “contaminating” the upper castes. It’s hard to believe that in our modern world, such a backwards social system still exists, but it does. While social equality is officially mandated in the Indian Constitution, the systemic oppression of Dalits persists today, even 50 years after their political emancipation.

My eyes (and Drea’s) were first opened to Dalit oppression and the horrors of caste about four years ago through the amazing Caedmon’s Call album Share the Well. Since then, Drea and I have both developed a heart for India. (It’s actually part of why we started dating, but that’s another story.)

Anyhow, in learning about India’s struggle with oppression and slavery, I’m reminded of our own struggle here in America. While slavery and government-sanctioned oppression of blacks are thankfully off the books thanks to the work of Lincoln, King, and countless others, a stubborn remnant of injustice still plagues our country, just as it plagues India (albeit more subtly). In short, we can see clearly that criminalizing injustice doesn’t necessarily put an end to it.

But praise God for people like Joseph D’souza, the Indian Christian who founded the Dalit Freedom Network; for Bill Hybels, the pastor of a large, well-to-do suburban church whose eyes were opened to the economic and racial injustices in his own backyard, and responded accordingly; for Martin Luther King, Jr., who labored diligently “to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression”; for Derek Webb, whose honest music has educated me, challenged me, and helped me realize that Jesus came not just to die for my sins, but to make things right, including every injustice, both personal and systemic.

Today, we inaugurated our first African-American President, and arguably the first President to, through both racial identity and experience, have significant ties to the developing world. In his inaugural address, President Obama made a pledge:

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.”

I watched Obama’s speech live, and was impressed as usual with his humility and intelligence. But when he said this, I teared up a little. Not just because it’s a beautiful thought, but because of the opportunity being presented to our country right now. It’s not my intention at all to immortalize Obama (he’s only a man, and an imperfect one at that), but it’s obvious that he wields a degree of influence that few political leaders, if any, have had.

In an article published shortly after the election, Joseph D’souza remarked that “the world’s oppressed will follow the statements and actions of this president more than any other.” What an extraordinary challenge our new President has. I pray that Obama makes good on his promise, that he uses his influence to inaugurate peace and justice into the lives of those who have never experienced it. If he can do this, well, I think that will be pretty great.

Barack Obama accomplished something truly extraordinary today. I think that given my meager life experiences, I can hardly wrap my head around the significance this day must have not only for African-Americans, but for every person in the world who’s suffered injustice. As they look by the millions to Obama to champion their cause, I pray that he accepts the challenge as a vital objective of his administration, and more importantly, as his calling as a follower of Jesus.

My deepest, deepest congratulations to President and Mrs. Obama. Let’s do this thing!

Well, if you guys were expecting a “post-election” post on this blog…you were right! (I know I’m like a week late on this…sorry.)

I still can’t really get over what happened Tuesday night. We all knew that it would be historic if Obama won, but I don’t think it really sank in for me until it actually happened. For the first time ever, the leader of our country, our primary representative overseas, the person who will address our nation from the Oval Office, will be a black man.

november-4-2008

I’m not an extremely emotional guy, but I couldn’t stop from tearing up a little bit as I watched our President-elect address the crowd in Grant Park. It was obvious that people were there not just to celebrate their candidate’s victory, but to see a noble and long-awaited dream finally realized. While it’s obvious that the celebration was particularly meaningful for African-Americans, that didn’t stop people of every color and background from joining in the celebration. This was what I found most beautiful about the night. At least for those few moments, any hints of racial conflict or bitterness seemed to be forgotten, and a spirit of “we’re all in this together” appeared to saturate the evening.

And as poignant and moving as it was, I couldn’t help but realize that this is not what it’s all about. The real “hope” and “change” that we need is not in a black President, or even in racial reconciliation. Our Messiah gives us real hope, and it’s His kingdom (not Obama’s America) that is truly good, and any good work we do on earth should be for the glory of God and His kingdom. I hope that for Christians, Obama’ s example of good work will not just encourage us to work alongside him for the sake of our country, but spur us on to join God in His bigger redemptive work in the world.

When I think about the reasons I voted for Obama (his decency, common respect for people, love for his family, concern for the poor, desire to reconcile people together, etc.), I realize that Jesus blows Obama out of the water by embodying these things perfectly, and that it is He who will ultimately make things right. If Obama can point our country in a more redemptive direction, we should be thankful for his efforts, imperfect as they are. I just hope we will continue to look to Christ for our true hope, example, and glory.

With that said, congratulations to Barack Obama for an absolutely history-making win, and hopefully a fine four years to come!

Jim Wallis is a Christian I deeply respect. In addition to writing several books on faith and politics (which are still on my list of to-reads), he’s the founder of Sojourners, a Christian organization that promotes social justice from a biblical perspective. I read his blog frequently, and I particularly appreciated one of his more recent posts in which he lists his personal “faith priorities” that will guide his vote in this election. His insights are thoughtful and worth considering, especially for those Christians who are still undecided on who to vote for.

At the end of his post, he invites us readers to examine our own faith priorities and make a similar list for ourselves. Over the past few months I’d had numerous friends and family members ask me why I’m voting for Obama in light of my Christian faith. I thought this might be a good opportunity to discuss the faith priorities that have guided my decision.

Consistent life ethic. This is probably the most significant of my faith priorities. Since God is the author and giver of life, I believe He alone has the right to decide when to end it. I believe our job then is to defend and preserve life “from womb to tomb.” This belief guides my position on a few issues (in no particular order)…

Foreign policy. Since I believe life is sacred, I think war is something to be considered with a great amount of caution. While I don’t believe all war is wrong, I do believe that there are certain criteria for a “just war.” While there are various “just war theories”, here is a short list of things I personally consider important criteria:

  • The intent is to leave our world a safer and more peaceful place than when we began, and has nothing to do with economic or political gain.
  • Every practical non-violent solution has already been tried without success.
  • There is a real, legitimate threat to our security if military action is not taken.
  • Benefits of success are proportionate to measures necessary for success.
  • The intended outcome is sustainable after troops are withdrawn.

To me, justification of war is just as much a life issue as anything else. I cannot support a candidate who so disregards the sanctity of life as to send our soldiers to risk their lives in an unjust war. I’m interested in a candidate who “chooses life” whenever possible in this regard. To me, this approach is not only more honoring to God, but also more consistent with the values of life and liberty that America is supposed to represent.

Abortion. Continuing in this consistent life ethic, I also believe in the sanctity of life in the womb. I believe abortion is more than an unfortunate reality of our time, but a brazen rejection of sacred life. Whatever our different spiritual beliefs are about when life begins, I think we can all agree on a goal of reducing the abortion rate as much as possible.

While there was a time when I wouldn’t have even considered voting for a pro-choice candidate, I’m now convinced that this issue demands a deeper look than simply a candidate’s position on Roe v. Wade. Given the implications that financial status, availability and affordability of health care, economic assistance, and other social services have on the abortion rate, I’m interested in a candidate’s stances in these areas. I believe that if a candidate truly cares about the welfare of the unborn, it will be reflected in his policies, not just his words.

Obama’s support of the 95-10 Initiative, in addition to his health care plan and other economic policies that will aid lower and middle class women, indicate to me that he offers (whether intentionally or as a by-product) a pragmatic, realistic plan to reduce the abortion rate in this country. While I commend John McCain’s verbal opposition to Roe v. Wade, he has not backed up his words with the kind of policies that have proven to be effective in reducing abortions. In short, I value a plan of action more than lip service, which is why I enthusiastically support Obama on this issue.

While there are other important issues I believe a consistent life ethic applies to (world hunger, genocide, social security, veteran care, capital punishment, tax policy, etc.) I will pass these over for brevity’s sake in order to discuss some other reasons why my Christian faith leads me to vote for Obama.

Personality. OK, pease don’t misinterpret me here; I’m not talking about Obama’s oratory skills or charisma (although these attributes would serve him well as President). I’m talking about his personal demeanor and temperament. Having now watched Obama endure the attacks, smears, and hostile debates that characterize any presidential campaign, I have seen him firmly defend himself and argue against his opponents, but have never seen him lose his cool or react with anger or disrespect. His calm, collected composure and ability to control his temper are in sharp contrast with McCain’s angry, belligerent demeanor. As a Christian looking for attitudes and behaviors that reflect the heart of Christ, I think it’s obvious which candidate stands out.

Racial reconciliation. As our country continues to deal with foreign and domestic racial conflict, I’m looking for a candidate (white, black, or otherwise) who will stimulate progress in this area. To me, racial reconciliation is not just a social ideal for a stronger nation, but a crucial element in a God-honoring worldview.

Barack Obama has helped heal a lot of deep-seated racial tension in this country. Yes, it’s true that he can’t help the fact that he’s black. I believe, however, that his ability to bring racial and ethnic groups together is not just a result of his being black, but of his values and actions in this regard. I believe Obama has displayed one of the most unifying and God-glorifying attitudes toward race that I’ve seen. The speech he gave on race back in March was a great example of this attitude.

I believe an Obama administration would also bring much-needed healing to our relations with the Muslim world, and hopefully diminish the anti-Muslim sentiment that has grown rapidly in America since 9/11. When we make terrorist jokes about Muslims, or when a country singer blares on about how “we’ll put a boot in their ass ‘cuz it’s the American way”, or when a presidential candidate makes a joke about bombing a Muslim country, this brings racial and ethnic bigotry from both sides to a greater level. It does nothing to promote reconciliation, and certainly doesn’t reflect the heart of Christ. I’m not so naïve as to think that Obama will single-handedly solve the problem of racism, but his attitudes and policies indicate a significant step in the right direction.

This is only a short list of faith priorities I’m basing my decision on, and there are many other reasons, faith-related and otherwise, why I’m voting for Barack Obama. I realize that my political views are different than those of many Christians, and that I might catch some flack from other Christians for supporting Obama. I do believe, however, that our differences in this area are very small compared to our common ground of a love for Christ, and I have nothing against those Christians whose faith leads them to check a different box in the voting booth. With that said, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and maybe even some of your faith priorities for this election.

Stay classy. :)

DISCLAIMER: This post is long as crap.  Seriously, scroll down and take a look.  Do you really want to read this?  I won’t lie.  If I was just looking for something light and fun to read, I would totally skip this joint.  I’d probably check out this guy’s blog instead (hilarious).  But, if for some reason you’re inclined to read my ramblings about this book, go for it!

OK, end of disclaimer.

———-

Having finished my Bill Bryson book on vacation and having nothing else to read, I picked up Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” at a bookstore on a whim.  I was curious if what Barack had to say in his book was any different from what I’d been learning about him via the media for the past year.  Some things came as no surprise, but some of what I read gave me unexpected insights into the man himself and his values.  Here are a few of my basic observations…

1.  He’s smart.   OK, duh.  He graduated at the top of his Harvard Law class.  But it would seriously be hard to argue against the idea that Obama is a remarkably intelligent guy.  His analysis in the book of national and world issues are clear-cut and detailed when appropriate.  His well-rounded observations signify the high value he places (and has long placed) on educating himself on a broad scope of issues.  His keen familiarity with American history, combined with a commanding knowledge of other cultures, is impressive.

At times, the book actually reads more like a college lecture than a political analysis.  A former law professor, Obama is obviously in his element as he provides thoughtful insights into human history and its implications today.  It’s obvious that he isn’t just some emotion-manipulating rock star preaching an ambiguous message of change (like some of his critics would suggest.)  While he may be a relative newcomer, Obama knows what he’s talking about.

2.  His experience is unique.   I’ve heard few politicians draw such thoughtful conclusions as Barack Obama.  I specifically applaud his blunt but even-handed discussion on race in America.  While he admits that he enjoyed a more peaceful childhood than most blacks, he is also painfully candid about the racial division he’s lived in the midst of in Chicago (and indeed, that exists in most American cities).  In this regard, he has the invaluable advantage of a more experience-informed view of the whole of America (and indeed, the world).

This is particularly evident in the area of social issues.  While most politicians (I would hope) have at least a rudimentary awareness of poverty and injustice, Barack has lived and worked in direct, continued contact with these vices as a community organizer in Chicago.  No doubt he is personally familiar with the nuances and experiences of inner-city life that can’t be fully understood by occasionally driving through a poor neighborhood or watching a TV documentary.  What’s remarkable is that he thrives in the bipolar environments of the low-income working class and the lofty circles of wealthy academia.  He seems to be highly respected by both inner-city families on welfare and Harvard Law graduates with seven-figure salaries.  The vast majority of his political counterparts simply can’t make that claim.

Obama’s relatively brief career in national politics causes some to be concerned, and for good reason.  I certainly understand the desire to have as President a man who “knows the ropes” before taking office.  Conversely though, I also think that for veteran politicians, all those years of increasingly ugly bipartisanship can cause progress-stinting bitterness, making having too much political experience a potential liability.  So, of course Obama’s limited political experience should be accounted for, but not without also seeing the hidden benefits of fresh new talent.

3.  He’s not a raving liberal maniac.   Maybe that depends on your definition of “raving” and “maniac”, but the point here is that while Obama is a true progressive, he’s not an extreme, post-religious, post-moral, hyper-secularist fanatic.  This is particularly evident in the book’s chapters on faith and family.  While most liberals tend to steer clear of these topics in favor of talking about pluralism, tolerance, etc., Obama doesn’t hesitate to express his dismay at the moral degradation of our culture, and his desire that his daughters be raised to hold Christian faith, family, and moral decency in high regard.  He protests greedy consumerism, pleading for a return to the virtues of simple living and “delayed gratification.”  While he remains true to his belief that the government should never exert itself as a moral authority (a belief I share with him), he implores parents to take a more active role in being a positive moral influence for their kids.

While I’m don’t completely agree with all of his policies, I’m excited about the direction it seems he wants to take our country in, and his book left a good impression on me.  Obama is clearly a man with big dreams and big confidence that those dreams can be eventually realized.  Many have criticized his optimism, calling him naive or idealistic.  But I like to think that our country can, in fact, begin to make some fundamental changes for the better.  Of course, I’m wary of those Obama supporters who paint him as a panacea for every problem we face.  (Here are some more of my thoughts on this.)  But if Barack’s values and goals are what he says they are in this book, I believe he has unique and great potential to help push towards “a more perfect union.”

Casting a vote for any candidate is always a gamble (sometimes a costly one as with our current President), and Obama certainly has his share of shortcomings.  But by and large, what I’ve seen and read so far gives me considerable confidence that a vote for the Illinois Senator seems like a pretty solid bet.

As a big Donald Miller fan, I was pretty excited to read this!

Before I begin, let me just come out and say that I support Barack Obama. I know that it’s practically unheard-of for a Christian (much less a Southern Baptist church member) to support a Democratic candidate, but there you go. If I’ve learned anything from George W. Bush, it’s that the Conservative Right isn’t always, well, right. But I’d better hop down from that soapbox for civility’s sake.

Most of the people I work with and go to church with are conservative, so I try not to start up political conversations with people I’m sure to disagree with, or I at least try to be gracious in my disagreement. I care about most of these people, and would hate to give up good relationships with them over a political disagreement.

However, I do enjoy a friendly debate. I think political and even theological debates can be productive and enjoyable if there’s respect and civility from all participants. But this is where things tend to go south. I think the reason why politics and religion are considered taboo is that we forget that we can disagree and still get along. My political views are based on my human (read limited) interpretation of the world around me. While there are certain positions I doubt I’ll ever change on, I can’t insult another person’s intelligence or character if they disagree with me. There are godly and sound-minded people on both ends of the political spectrum. Neither conservatives nor liberals have it completely right (or completely wrong).

Plus, there’s the inescapable truth that no matter what side you’re on, you’re still casting your vote for a freaking politician. To further expound on this thought, let me borrow a line from Derek Webb:

“You can always trust the devil or a politician to be the devil or a politician.”

Now don’t get be wrong; I really like Obama. I think he represents a much-needed change in our political system, and it’s evident in the way he’s run his campaign. (For more on this, check out this guy’s reaction to meeting him before his campaign began.) Barack Obama is undoubtedly a different kind of politician. But he’s still just a politician, indeed, just a man. His ability to solve our problems is surface-level at best. Even his greatest efforts to improve our nation will be motivated, to some degree, by political expediency.

Maybe it was providential that Drea and I saw Derek Webb in concert this weekend. I have a lot of respect for this guy. His more recent music has a decidedly social/political orientation, but he’s also quick to remind us that political ideals are not the answer to our deepest issues. Hearing him speak at the concert reminded me of one particular truth: that the commands of Jesus to care for the poor and love our enemies have nothing to do with any political agenda. They have everything to do with His desire for us to reflect His love and servanthood in our interactions with the world. Who I vote for should be merely peripheral in light of this greater task. (I’m paraphrasing Webb’s words here.)

It’s for this reason that I believe it should be even easier for Christians to get along despite political differences. We have a common ground that transcends everything.

I guess my point is that for Christians, political discussion and action is worthwhile, but not nearly as worthwhile as our greater task of sharing the love and message of Christ. It would be a terrible shame to see this greater task overshadowed by our preoccupation with secondary political and moral issues, which I fear is the path we’re headed down.

So here’s to a ceasefire on the political front, and a renewed focus on the task, which will be the same whether we put a Republican or a Democrat in the White House.

Cheers!

Well, I’m not sure if this satisfies Drea’s new-post-every-day policy, but I did add to my previous post today, so feel free to check it out!

Drea’s previous post is pretty much dead-on. I’m excited about this election! Who’d have thought I would ever be interested in politics? I remember pretty much not giving a crap in the ’04 Bush/Kerry race, despite that at that point I was in college and surrounded by people who…DID give a crap.

Anyhow, I guess I’m just now beginning to feel a real sense of ownership about who I vote for. (Maybe it’s because now I’m actually earning regular income, and therefore more aware of how the government spends our taxes.) I also care about how our country is perceived around the world. (I heard it recently said that we’re making enemies faster than we can kill them. How true.) There are many things about America I don’t like, but many things I do, and probably even more things I take for granted. All things considered, I’m proud and grateful to be an American.

With that said, I’d like to share a few of my reactions to the way this election is panning out. While I’m all for free speech, I think some people just need to exercise a little more decency. I’m obviously too young to remember, but I bet there was a time when politicians and their supporters could have a decent, civil conversation about the issues they disagreed on. I guess we’ve always had bipartisanship here in America, but only recently has it seemed so excessively polarizing. A few examples…

– The way many evangelicals will not just write off, but publicly berate anyone who is pro-choice or for gay rights without listening to a word they have to say about other topics.
– Christians implying that Barack Obama is a terrorist and/or the antichrist based on his cultural ties to the Muslim world and because his name sounds like Osama. (I’ve heard this one in person.)
– “Political analysts” on news shows interrupting and even insulting each other just to get their point across.
– Preachers from both the right and the left abusing their pulpit (and tax-exempt status) by promoting or bashing political agendas.

It’s not necessarily the conservative or the liberal agenda that’s to blame; it’s when either one is blown out of proportion. There is no imaginable situation where this kind of extremism is appropriate. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I’d like to think we can disagree while still having respect for our opponents, maybe even recognizing that our opponents might have a few good points. My dad recently sent me an email thread between him and his brothers about the election. One of them invoked Tony Campolo’s view that conservatives and liberals actually need each other to ensure a healthy balance. I did some more research on this idea and found the context of Campolo’s idea here.

I think the fact that Jesus steered clear of politics says a lot. I think it’s the reason why political discussions immediately go downhill when someone tries to put God in their political party. We only need to look at Jerry Falwell and Jeremiah Wright to realize that both sides are guilty of this. It’s OK to have strong political convictions, but it’s not OK to say that God hates everyone who disagrees with you. I think our society would be more civil and productive if we didn’t take ourselves so seriously. I think it would also give us Christians a great opportunity to show Christ’s love for everyone, which is the main point anyway.