3.11.08

Burnside Endorses: Neither Candidate

As my friend Ali pointed out, the Burnside Blog's coverage of the 2008 Presidential Election has certainly leaned in one direction. She claimed posts critical of John McCain outnumbered posts critical of Barack Obama 3 to 1, and that estimate was probably kind.

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.

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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.

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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.

14 comments:

  1. Well said Jordan. I can't wait until all this is over.

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  2. Jordan, I really appreciate how you've expressed your point of view. I've been repeatedly frustrated and disheartened by attempts to discuss this election and candidates with other Christians, without feeling judged by what they see as differences of opinion. Ultimately, I've come to the same conclusion as you: I can't endorse either candidate, and what carries incredible weight in this election is not what boxes I check but how I live on a daily basis, how I vote with my life. Thanks for sharing your heart with us. And by the way, you've developed into quite a writer since high school.

    Take care,
    Amber Donais

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  3. @leo: I'm with you, but even on my best days politics is still a spectator sport...sometimes it's fun to watch.

    @amber: Great to hear from you! Your compliment means a lot.

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  4. Great post Jordan...the last part had me daydreaming of a candidate that spent his campain time (and money) serving food to the hungry, building shelter for the homeless, offering hope to the hopeless, and almost as an aside, letting people know he was running for president. The media would follow with cameras, and a baffled look...and that person would absolutely win my vote. Christ led with action, not just words, and we should do the same. Thanks for the reminder, and the imagery!

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  5. Thanks Jordan. I think it's very well said and needed to be said. I really appreciated this a lot and it's helped me in deciding who and how to vote. I second or third Leo's remark.

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  6. that's what i've been trying to tell people all along -- it's our responsibility as citizens, as christians, as human beings, to care for one another. we can't just look to the government. we need to take action.

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  7. Jordan, you've laid out a case not to vote Republican or Democrat, not a case against either McCain or Obama. Secondly, your argument for political disengagement is flawed. Is it truly the better choice for Christians not to "check boxes?" Why do you frame it as an either/or proposition? We need to live out our faith both in action and as citizens. I am with you on not falling back on the hopes of legislating morality. But the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship should be lived out with integrity especially by Christians.

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  8. Well said Jenni--you captured my thoughts exactly. I'm glad to see you voted, Jordan.

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  9. @ip: I voted...but I didn't say I voted for President. There were some propositions (and a sheriff) here in phoenix I vehemently disagreed with. I'm not sure voting against them was the right thing to do, but I...well...voted. Pretty hypocritical, I know.

    @jenni: Of your points, I particularly resonated with your question, "Why do you frame it as an either/or proposition?"

    Theoretically, I don't see a problem with 'checking a box'.

    But I've never met anyone who was able to just 'check a box'.

    If we're called to follow Jesus, then it's difficult for me to look at how he acted and then act differently.

    He could've had some level of political power (if not king, he could've leveraged his sway over the people to another high, influential office), but he never did so.

    If Jesus is the perfect man we are called to be, impossible as that is, why would we head off on a path he went at lengths not to take?

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  10. Hey fellow Phoenician! All in the friendly spirit of lively discourse, but - flawed again! Yes Jesus did not seek political power but voting and seeking office are not remotely the same thing. A democracy (which some may argue is not a biblical construct!) can only truly represent its members when its members participate in it. Your advocacy of non-involvement only creates an environment ripe for the tyranny of an active minority. A Christian can BOTH vote and live a counter cultural life in Christ's footsteps.

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  11. Jenni,

    It's nice to know you're a fellow Phoenician...it often feels alone here.

    I'm fairly unclear on how to respond to your assertions. You and I have some fundamental differences, and I understand that neither of us is necessarily right.

    I am one of those people who would argue democracy is not a Biblical construct. The idea of (for lack of a better term) Christian anarchy, long-practiced by theologians like Keirkegaard, George Fox, Jacques Ellul and Karl Barth (among many others) appeals to me for a few reasons:

    1. I understand it's Biblical roots. And by that I mean I see plenty of evidence for it and very little to dismiss it. Your argument against it consists of a) democracy not working correctly and b) the possibility of tyranny. Neither of these points is biblically based. In fact, our faith spread and gained true ground faster WITHOUT democracy and UNDER tyranny.

    2. Personal experience and my understanding of history. Much of my experience is based on being a part of a government (through the military) and previously being someone who voted in the hope it would make the world better. Beyond that, I see through history the dismal results of the marriage of Church and State. Ironically, many would say our country was first settled because of those failings.

    Now, as I said, theoretically we could vote and not be involved, but I've never seen it happen. Maybe the lure of power becomes too much, or we begin to trust in our problems being fixed (hell, right now I'm really hoping Barack Obama fixes our foreign policy and economy), but ultimately it is misplaced trust.

    I'd suggest picking up a copy of Jacques Ellul's "Anarchy and Christiany" or "The Presence of the Kingdom", both excellent books on the subject. He writes honestly and makes his points far better than I ever could.

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