Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thinking aloud about the election

In my message two weeks ago and with the document I handed out on Sunday, I challenged TFC to not just show up and touch a random place on the voting screen but to think through their votes from the perspective of Jesus' teachings.

Well, I found a few blog entries of people doing exactly that and I'd like to share it with you.

First of all, two posts from people voting for McCain.

Joe Kumor

Focus on the Family

I want to comment on those two links. First of all, Joe Kumor is one of my closest friends and someone for whom I have the utmost respect. Which makes it enjoyable to read Joe's thoughtful response.

I struggled with whether I should post the Focus on the Family link because of their use of fear to motivate. I decided to do so because you should think through the issues they raise. I do however, condemn their use of fear as a motivator. I do appreciate them finding a way to try to scare pastors of new churches that worship in school buildings, thanks for the shout out!
I remember reading a similar letter in 1992 about Hillary Clinton. I don't remember the details but I remember being scared to death. But since I'm not running for my life, I'm guessing those predictions did not come true.
While not all the things they're warning against are biblical issues (such as gun control), I believe that even if all the things FOTF is predicting did come true - the Church of Jesus Christ would survive! They seem to be looking for ways to avoid persecution while our picture of the early church is that of the Jesus movement thriving through and even because of persecution. I seriously believe that if Christians stopped worrying about government and stopped trying to protect whatever it is we think we have or need (the law's permission to talk about Jesus, peace on the home front promoted by war overseas or economic prosperity) we could get to the business of living out the Kingdom. The church stagnates in affluent countries with religious freedoms and it thrives in 'illegal' and 'poor' places like China. Are we about being comfortable and getting the government on our side or we about the radical teachings of Jesus? Sometimes those are mutually exclusive and we have to make a choice.

Now, here are some thinking Christians who have decided to vote for Obama.

Donald Miller (the author, not the pastor) - link

A lady who used to be in a small group with my sister - link

Now, I want to comment on the socialism promoted in the above link. I really struggle with this. I used to have a completely far-right approach to government and social programs. But during my last year in seminary, I took a class on the Old Testament prophets and it completely rocked my world. Over and over and over, the prophets (preachers) blasted the people of God (Israel and Judah) for ignoring and even exploiting the poor. Yes, their sexual ethics were blasted as well as their worship of false idols (which was really a money issue; worshipping Baal just to make sure they prayed to the god who was believed to bring the rain, so their family wouldn't starve - covering all their bases, so to speak). But it was mostly their care for the poor, or lack thereof, that was condemned. In fact, God told Israel to pass laws that would force rich people to give money to poor people as well as passing laws that would promote economic equality. The American-conservative idea that rich people should be allowed to get as rich as possible with no regard for the poor would be called a sin by the OT preachers.

Here's a quote from the book "God's Politics" regarding a seminary class' study of the Bible's teaching on money and the poor.
"We found several thousand verses in the Bible on the poor and God's response to injustice. We found it to be the second most prominent theme in the Old Testament - the first was idolatry, and the two were often related. One of every sixteen verses in the New Testament is about the poor or the subject of money. In the first three (Synoptic Gospels) it is one out of ten verses and in the book of Luke, it is one of seven."
The author goes on to talk about how they took a pair of scissors and cut out all the verses related to serving the poor. That bible was torn apart and full of holes. "Brothers and sisters, this is our American bible; it is full of holes."

You can argue whether this is the right way to count, but if you're only counting by the number of references in the Bible, the single biggest moral issue facing any government is how they treat the poor. For that reason, a truly "Christian" government would be a socialistic government.

However, the only God-ordained Theocracy (a nation where God rules) was the nation of Israel in the OT. No nation can be "Christian." Which is why I don't believe our government should pass laws based upon Christian scripture. The constitution enforces that belief. So, I really struggle with socialism because it's a secular government enforcing a Christian ethic, with all of the corruption and inequalities that happen despite all the talk of "equality."

But here's where I struggle with the Religious Right. The RR wants to enforce some biblical morals; allowing babies to be born, sexual morals, decency in entertainment, while ignoring the most prominent biblical morality - serving the poor.

I believe that inconsistency reveals the false god of the North American Church, our money. Sure, we want the government telling gay people they can't get married or a teenager she can't have an abortion, but we don't want ANYONE telling us what to do with our precious money. Can you see the inconsistency? It's why Jesus said, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." My problem with the right is that they seem to ignore the "least of these."

I'm using broad characterizations to describe both the Right and the Left.

Now, I'll turn my attention to the left, mainly Obama. I love what Obama says about the responsibility we have toward each other. Here's a great article from Newsweek that explains how Obama became a follower of Jesus after reading the Sermon on the Mount - link.

Now at the risk of making a vicious personal attack, it must be pointed out that from 2000-2004, Obama only gave away 1% of his income. In 2005, it jumped up to 4.7% and in 2006 it was 6.1%. Source

That's crap. And that's my problem with the left - they want the government to bring about the change rather than the local church/ Kingdom of God. The left seems to ignore personal responsibility.

If EVERY person who calls themselves a follower of Jesus gave away a minimum of 10% of their income (and local churches didn't blow it on North American affluency, like expensive buildings) it would be enough to completely eliminate world poverty!!!! Of course, that also depends upon governments not hoarding the aid money, as so often happens.

But the point is that we don't need the government, we already have all we need to bring about the Kingdom of God RIGHT NOW!!! But rather than trying to bring about the Kingdom of God, we're waiting for the government to do it (the left) or we're fighting with Christians who differ from us politically (the right).

Here's my last thought
As I see it, followers of Obama are motivated by a belief in change. It's been Obama's mantra since the start, "change we can believe in." Sorry to burst your bubble Obama supporters, but while Barack may be a genuine Christ-follower who believes what he's saying, he's just another politician and politics can't change squat. Transformation does not happen through legislation. Our faith is not in our government.

It seems to me that McCain supporters are motivated by fear. Fear that Obama is "untested" or that he'll destroy our country. Sorry to take away your fear-induced adrenaline rush, but followers of Jesus have nothing to fear. Even if Obama outlawed Christianity and allowed the US' military enemies to continually bomb every single one of our homes (yeah, worst case scenario) the Kingdom of God would survive! While this life certainly matters, the Kingdom of God transcends this life as well as the comforts and "freedoms" of this life. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church" - Tertullian. Our security is not in our government.

Finally, this series of posts on this pastor's blog should be a good read - link. His blog entry is what gave me the courage to finally come out of my shell.


Aaron Bonham said...

Good post Donnie! I think it's also important to remember that the government is a secular institution and as such it exists to serve secular goals such as the coordination of infrastructure projects, regulating the economy, establishing the rule of law to ensure physical security, providing education that meets certain minimum standards equally for all members of society. As a secular institution, it's provisions should not be designed to favour or discriminate against any particular demographic group, whether it be religious, gender (or gender orientation), racial, or ethnic. Politics is about how best to achieve these secular goals of equality, safety, and economic stability rather than to promote the kingdom of God.

This is not to say that all secular concerns are out of line with Kingdom of God concerns, but it is to say that the concerns of government exist in the profane realm rather than the sacred.

All too often I observe Christians getting swept up in the electoral process as if their Christian mission is dependent upon who's in control of government, and the belief that the government is an adequate. This happens on both the left and the right. As a person who generally identifies with the political left, this certainly applies to me.

As a Canadian, it's been my observation that politics in the US often seems to take on a greater sense of urgency than it does in other countries, as if the continuance of civilization depended on any single election. This may be in part due to the manipulation of the electorate using fear tactics by both political parties and partisan commentators like James Dobson or Micheal Moore, or due to the fact that the US is the only remaining superpower in the world. It’s even likely enhanced by the binary party system that exists in this country (in the recent Canadian election my riding had 4 options to choose from). I personally think that part of this sense of urgency has a lot to do with a general acceptance of the notion that government ought to be an institution with a church like mission, promoting what sociologist Robert Bellah refers to as American Civil Religion; A nationalistic religious orientation in which all Americans are bound together through shared values and rituals. For better or worse this is why qualities such as patriotism and liberty take on such meaning in the hearts of Americans, it is also why non-denominational national holidays such as memorial day, July 4th, and even Thanksgiving tend to evoke deep emotional responses from Americans of all religious persuasions. I’ve noticed that among some American Christians and commentators this civil religion is often fused with Christianity. I’m in agreement with Greg Boyd that to confuse the mission of state with the mission of the church is primarily at the church’s peril.

As Christians we can have our individual hopes for how things work out in government, and those hopes are reasonably based on our particular beliefs about what might work better to achieve the secular mission of government and ought to be informed by our faith as well. However, we must also recognize that politics are firmly and properly placed in the realm of the secular and profane, while the mission of the church is sacred and ought to remain so. If the church’s mission is even partially dependent upon government promotion and support, what has the church compromised in order to achieve that level of access?

joe k said...

You couldn't find a better blog to match me up with than Focus on the Family??? By the way, did you read any of the responses to the other Donald Miller's blog? Scandalous!!

Donnie Miller said...

Yeah, sorry about that.

Ben DeLong said...

What you talk about here is exactly why I don't see voting as important as some others do. I'm glad we have the right to vote, but in the end, we have no idea if the candidates are lying through their teeth just to get elected, and secondly, true lasting change comes from the bottom up, not from the bottom down.