I thought I'd take a moment, this day before Election Day, to explain my thoughts on this election. I do not speak for Burnside contributors as a whole.
Part of the reason we've been particularly critical of the McCain/Palin ticket rests on us identifying ourselves as Evangelicals, a demographic which overwhelmingly supports Republican tickets. At the same time, many younger Christians, the sort who read this site, support Barack Obama for president. The balance of speaking to power has been difficult to find, so I'll attempt to lay out, in an admittedly simplistic way, the choice many Americans face tomorrow.
Reasons to Like John McCain
While the "maverick" label has been overplayed, it's true John McCain has been a tenacious advocate for his constituents. While he's certainly not flawless, McCain is well-regarded by both parties, a strong leader, and an good-humored, indepedent thinker. While the Obama campaign has painted him such, John McCain is not George W. Bush. He's smarter and more accomodating, and doesn't run party lines. The tactics which have marked this campaign have been against type, and John McCain has been a man of character and duty who has served his public office with the American people at heart, more than we can say for many of the elected officials in Washington. I have no doubt that, if elected, John McCain will serve the office of President with integrity and conviction.
Reasons to Like Barack Obama
Obama is a charismatic and thoughtful leader, nearly the anthesis of our current president. He has been unflappable and instills a sense of hope and renewal. He speaks eloquently and gets his point across. He is openly Christian, and discusses his faith in Jesus Christ. Policy-wise, Obama has impressed me with his willingness for open communication with our enemies (Republicans critical of his foreign policy seem to forget both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were lauded for improving dialogue with China and the USSR, respectively), as well as a call for a return to community service.
I don't support either candidate.
My differences with John McCain are based on policy, and my differences with Barack Obama are based on principle.
Why You Shouldn't Vote for John McCain
Eight years ago, fresh off a previous eight years of a blue president and Congress, I (along with many other Christians) voted for George W. Bush. I believed true conservative policies would work, the Republican party just needed a chance. In 2004, while leery, I still believed a Republican president could lead best.
Fast forward to 2008:
- America suffered its worst terrorist attack in history on September 11th.
- US forces have been mired in an unpopular war in Iraq which cost a ridiculous sum of money and which has drawn our military and resources away from a popular war (Afghanistan).
- Because of the focus on Iraq, National Intelligence Estimates have just recently painted a very grim picture of the state of Afghanistan.
- Our civil rights have been eroded, at least slightly, by the Patriot Act. American citizens have had their phones tapped without warrants.
- Our nation's checks and balances, which many claim are the lynchpin of our democracy, have been tipped in favor of the Executive Branch, and the Judicial Branch has lost some respect in the eyes of the American people, who view it as partisan.
- Our nation has detained, without trial, suspected terrorists. This includes 17 Chinese Muslims who were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay since 2002, and were recently released, free of all charges, back into the United States (no other country will accept them, and US officials believe the men will be killed if returned to China). One person who has not been detained? Osama Bin Laden.
- The United States has participated in the torture of suspected terrorists. "Tortured" is debatable, at least according to the Bush Administration.
- The global climate crisis has worsened to the point where its affects are widely-accepted, if the causes aren't.
- America has become no less dependent on foreign oil (controlled, for the most part, by America's worst enemies), and transitions to alternative fuel sources have been long in coming, despite the fact the technology is there.
- Health insurance has become increasingly more expensive.
- America is facing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, brought on primarily by a culture of greed on Wall Street, quixotic consumerism of the American people, and lack of action by elected officials.
- The looming Social Security crisis, which threatens to be far worse than our current economic woes, has not been addressed.
- The international goodwill America had built up, the image of the United States as a shining beacon of freedom, has been eroded to the point where we are loathed the world over. A return to the Cold War with Russian looms, and once-strong allies have distanced themselves from our policies.
The cause and effect of each of these is certainly debatable. Two or three could be explained away. But the fact remains all of these events have occurred during a Republican presidency. While John McCain is not President Bush, it has been clear over the last eight years that Republican policies have not worked.
But the truth is, I oppose a McCain presidency for earthly reasons. I like the United States. I want it to be healthy and well-regarded. I enjoy our comforts.
Why You Shouldn't Vote for Barack Obama
It's telling neither candidate has truly echoed John F. Kennedy's famous line, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Both have listed our problems and declared their form of governance the solution. Barack Obama's promises solutions, and those solutions will come from the administration.
But we, as Christians, should understand the futility of the actions of empires. Our faith has existed through the fall of each, from Rome to the Soviet Union. To quote Jacques Ellul:
“…the Christian must not act in exactly the same way as everyone else. He has a part to play in this world which no one else can possibly fulfill. He is not asked to look at the various movements which men have started, choose those which seem ‘good,’ and then support them. He is not asked to give his blessing to any particular human enterprise, nor to support the decisions of man.”We do not need to government to tell us to serve the poor and needy, to support missions abroad, to build wells in Africa. We do not need to government to subsidize our pregnancy resource centers or tell us who can get married.
Over time, we've forgotten this. We've chosen to legislate morality, to focus our thought and time on the political process.
Instead of supporting, loving and providing guidance for pregnant mothers through Christian pregnancy resource centers, we've checked a ballot and called ourselves "pro-life". Instead of spending time talking with and loving our homosexual neighbors, we've used our laws to tell them their lifestyles are unwelcome. Instead of feeding the homeless at inner city missions, we've asked the government to take care of the problem of poverty. Instead of raising our children, we've depended on public sex-education and television.
Over the last few months, we have spent untold amounts of energy, ballooning measures of time and titanic loads of cash promoting political measures and candidates. What if we'd spent that time, energy and money serving others? What if we'd ignored this whole election, and followed Jesus' commandments: to love the Lord, our God, with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves? What if we'd been following our call all along?
Maybe the sweep of greed and our economic crisis would have been averted. Maybe the number of abortions would have dropped to the point where legality wasn't even an issue. Maybe terrorists would not have hijacked those planes.
Of course, we know we alone cannot overcome evil completely. We know this because we are evil, but we also know our Savior has redeemed us. No law brought us to Him, just His love.
Tomorrow, if you feel lead, vote. We've spent so much wasted time already, what's another hour?
But it's time for us to change. Most of us who claim Christ as our king have neglected our role. If you check boxes tomorrow, remember how little that means. Checking a box does not make you pro-life or anti-war. Checking a box does not provide clean water for poor Africans or free kidnapped women from sexual slavery.
Checking a box means you are checking a stupid, meaningless box.
The world may say this is action, but we know better. Our King took real action, and He called us to follow him.
As Penny noted in her article on Burnside, the American Church has become a laughingstock of hypocrisy and judgmentalism.
So here's my call to you, my Christian brothers and sisters, and to myself: prove them wrong. Go to work now. Don't wait until the election, or for federal funds to trickle down. You want to end abortion? Volunteer at a pregnancy resource center. Poverty? Gospel missions could always use help. Crime rate up? Be a mentor to fatherless kids. Greed? Love your neighbor...show them there's another way.
We don't need Republicans or Democrats to tell us what to do, and we've relied on their platforms for too long. We have our King, and we have our orders.