Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Today, President Obama came to my town to give an invite-only speech at the University of Texas. Lacking an invite, I wondered what people with invites had to say about the Afghanistan War. Here’s what I found:

All the people who had tickets to the event who consented to be interviewed and who gave an opinion for or against are in this video, and their views are fairly represented. Of course, that’s not a surprise, given the levels of public disgust with this war, the higher levels of opposition among Democrats and the likely makeup of the invitee crowd.

Most Americans — 54 percent — think the U.S. should set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Forty-one percent disagree.

There is a partisan divide on the issue: 73 percent of Democrats think the U.S. should set a timetable, while only 32 percent of Republicans say the U.S. should do so. Fifty-four percent of independents want a timetable.

What is surprising, though, is the “heads down, follow through” attitude on the part of our elected leaders.

Poll: Afghanistan War Hurting Obama’s Support at Home

Poll: Afghanistan War Deeply Unpopular, Dragging Down Presidential Approval

Afghan War Looms As Electoral Problem

Ever heard of a thing called an election?

Here it comes.

Election Day is Tuesday. The race for the White House reached its final advertising crescendo on Thursday with a massive ad-buy by Senator Obama’s campaign on major primetime networks — half an hour of prime time television. The whole world holds its breath.

For what?

What do we wait for?

The end of the Bush era. The end of the Era of Katrinas and Bail-Outs. The end of al-Qaida. The end of the war in Iraq, that hitherto invulnerable monster we started but could not stop.  The end of all wars.

Hiding behind the President’s dismal approval ratings is the overlarge elephant in the room: we did this.  All of us. We elected President George W. Bush. Twice. We installed a jingoistic Republican Congress to aid his policies. We elected a Democratic Congress unable to stop him. We took out bad mortgages. We sold bad mortgages. We bought them from ourselves.

We watched a city drown, eyes glued to televisions but hands glued to remote controls, not outstretched to help.

We tortured, and we defended it.

We did this. We did it all.

So what do we wait for?

We wait for a time when we can look ourselves in the mirror and not feel like this. We want forgiveness, and we want to forgive ourselves.

The obstacle: we always get what we ask for. We asked for these last eight years. We asked for war after the towers fell. And in four days, we will get what we ask for again, and we still ask for the wrong things.

We get it partially right: we ask for new blood, for the expulsion of corrupt officials, for public structures that work. We ask for better judgment from our leaders. We ask for optimism, and we ask to be inspired.

These are good things to ask for.

But these are not all we ask for.

We ask for a reshuffling of conflicts to more lethally hate an enemy. We ask for continued economic and military dominance of a planet choking to death on our freedom from want.  We ask for safety, for power, for glory.

If we keep asking for these things, we will get them. They will taste like bitter ash in 2009 the same as they did in 2008 and in 2001.

The earliest of Christian writings speak of the three things that rise from ash, that persist, that do not fade: faith, hope and love. Hope is the word of the hour. We’re asking for hope. I even voted for hope.  But we’d be better off asking for the greatest of these, love.

Love can do what bullets cannot. Love can end these wars. Love can defeat evil. Love can bring freedom. The state apes an ability to do so, but it cannot. The violence of the state is God’s strategy to cause the works of the enemy to frustrate themselves. Though the civil religion thunders from a thousand pulpits tomorrow, it is an empty echo. As much as the state would like you to believe that it can defeat evil, that it is the “last, best hope of Earth,” its power pales before, kneels before, love. God is love.

Regardless who wins — although it’s probably safe to assume Obama will win — the next four years will not be about our chosen president saving us from ourselves. The next four years must be a constant struggle to save the president from the path we’re setting him on via a landslide vote for an agenda that, at least in part, commits us to killing more of our enemies, rather than loving them.

Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. Render the rest unto God. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has my vote. But Jesus has my loyalty.

The aptly named Alliance Defense Fund (presumably concerned with defending the alliance of Republicans and conservative churches) convinced several pastors to risk serious financial consequences for their congregations by “speaking about politics” from the pulpit, meaning they will act as surrogates for the McCain campaign and use scripture to do it. Here’s a sample:

“I’m going to talk about the un-biblical stands that Barack Obama takes. Nobody who follows the Bible can vote for him,” said the Rev. Wiley S. Drake of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park. “We may not be politically correct, but we are going to be biblically correct. We are going to vote for those who follow the Bible.”

Drake was the target of a recent IRS investigation into his endorsement last year of former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. In the end, Drake was cleared.

Readers of this blog and anyone who knows me personally will know that I believe Jesus’ teachings are inherently, intensely political, so if pastors want to talk about politics from the pulpit, they should, because in the end that forms the majority of what they should be talking about. What astounds me is the extent to which the church allows the kingdoms of the world to define for them what “political” means, and how we fall so quickly into the groves of the prevailing political ideologies that may or may not have anything to do with Christ in anything but cosmetic ways.

Politics can be defined as “the often internally conflicting interrelationships among people in a society.” Jesus had quite a lot to say about politics, including no small amount of material on violence and the proper responses to it. Jesus had quite a bit to say about how we are to manage the often conflicting relationships between ourselves and our brothers and sisters, with special emphasis on how we relate to the weak, the vulnerable, and the marginalized. So when I see pastors risking consequences to talk about “politics,” I feel like I should be encouraged.

But, I’m not.

All indications are that this will be a conservative-orchestrated campaign event, wherein pastors will push for support of McCain or at least for detraction of Obama. While the Alliance Defense Fund says the point of all of this is to push the feds into stripping the churches of their non-profit tax-exempt status and thus allowing for a lawsuit on free-speech grounds to establish a precedent, I suspect the true goal will be accomplished immediately: having a bunch of Christian leaders stand up and denounce a particular political candidate at a time politically advantageous to another candidate.

What bothers me most about this stunt is the narrow view of “biblical” being shouted out by the pastors involved. “Biblical” is often a euphemism for a certain perspective on the biblical texts that reflects a political / social ideology, not vice versa. In this case, “biblical” will mean that Obama is pro-choice, pro-inclusion, etc. etc. But will John McCain and Obama be equally criticized for their “unbiblical” stances on the use of violence in conflict? Jesus has something to say on that issue, something very, very forthright. And money, too…no, what I imagine will emerge will be a way of talking about liberalism or conservatism, Republicanism versus Democratic-ness, cloaked in a thin veneer of Christian language and symbolism.

I’d suggest that good starting points for our standard of “biblical” politics would be here and here.

Link Roundup

Posted: August 28, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,
  • Halden posted a great quote today.
  • Michael wrote about a topic on my mind: how to reconcile a detachment from the kingdoms of the world with citizenship in the Kingdom of God.
  • Thom disputes the notion that prayer is a form of insanity.
  • The U.S. still will not admit wrongdoing in Herat, even after everyone else confirms that one of the U.S. airstrikes killed more than 50 children. “One American military official, who has seen photographs taken at the scene as troops went house to house assessing damage and casualties, said there was no evidence to support the higher civilian death toll. Nor was there any evidence of a large number of recently dug graves or large number of injuries reported in local hospitals, the official said.” Here’s you’re problem, Pentagon – claims of civilian casualties fit an ongoing pattern: ” In the first week of July, 69 Afghan civilians were killed in two separate operations in eastern Afghanistan, including 47 people killed in Nangarhar province while they were walking to a wedding party, Afghan officials say.”
  • KBR is being sued for human trafficking. Wow.