Friday, April 25, 2008

Today's Sermon

As much as I don't want to be "too political" on my blog, I have become more interested in many issues over the last few years and enjoy dialoguing about them. The name of my blog, "Fade 2 Gray," comes from the idea that not all issues are black and white, and that there are some gray areas to certain issues in which I want to educate myself on and may not have an answer for. (I blogged about some of these issues in one of my very first posts-"Would Christ be a Pacifist?").

All that to say, I've been thinking a lot about the life and journey of my political opinions over the last few years. Having grown up in a pretty conservative Republican home, I began searching during my college years to decide what my own beliefs and thoughts are.

Obviously I don't have the time or space to go into every issue, and at times I find myself struggling to articulate myself in this area, so bear with me. This is just to get the juices flowing and the discussion started.

One of the issues I have wrestled with a lot, and still do, is the idea that many evangelical Christians are tightly associated with the Republican party. Growing up I realized that this seemed to be based on a few specific issues: gay rights and pro-life issues dominate, and gun control issues are sprinkled in there as well.

In college I read an editorial in our school newspaper that got me thinking about how many Christians grow up to be Republican based on these issues alone. As I began to explore my beliefs about Christianity and my own faith during college, it made sense that I would explore my political affiliations simultaneously. I began to study more of the issues that define the two political parties and was surprised at what I found.

As a Christian I have come to believe strongly in the words of Jesus to look out for the poor and needy. Attending an Evangelical Quaker school, dating (and eventually marrying) a Quaker, and studying these issues led me to believe in the importance of social issues concerning the plight of the less fortunate.

As I have studied the personhood of Jesus Christ, I have learned to ask myself the following question as a sort of litmus test on many issues: "What would Jesus do?" And often, "What did Jesus do?" Obviously, this is only speculation, and thus only my opinion and thoughts of what I think Jesus might have done in a given situation, based on his words and actions found in Scripture, but it has become a way for me to make decisions and form opinions on issues that may have at one point been a gray area for me.

(If you have never read In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon, I highly recommend it. Written in 1896, it's the story of a church whose people pledge to live a year asking themselves "What would Jesus do?" This book was life changing for me, and is where this idea of using that question as a litmus test came from. This link is the entire book reprinted online.)

(A few) Thoughts about how Jesus lived:
-Spent time with the outcasts, the poor, the unwanted, the misfits.
-Talked repeatedly about how difficult it is for the rich to get into heaven-encouraged those with money to give it away, to not feel the need to store up treasures on earth.
-Encouraged people to love others through providing basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter.

-In regards to war and violence (another issue that I won't go into too much now, but formed beliefs about using this same litmus test), I have come to believe that Jesus would not advocate for war...Ever...No exceptions. I know that will poke some people the wrong way, but I really, really cannot imagine Jesus EVER approving of fighting as a means of solving issues. I don't have any answers for how to solve diplomatic issues of today as they are complicated and span years of policies, decisions, and pure human error, but that cannot and should not justify killing others...regardless of the enemy. I think Americans do a good job dehumanizing our enemies in order to justify what we do to foreigners (wars in general dehumanize the enemy), but when asking myself the question, "How does Jesus feel about each of these individuals?", I can't bring myself to believe that God loves us more than them, or that he would see killing as an acceptable process to achieve peace.

Back to poverty. These seem to be important issues to Jesus. Priorities, in fact. Economically speaking, Republicans tend to promote helping the wealthy whereas Democrats focus on programs to help people in need. Granted, there is a whole discussion regarding whose responsibility it is to help the poor, the government versus the Church, and I would like to think the Church could handle this completely, but I just don't think it's a priority in enough evangelical churches. But this is somewhat of a separate tangent.

Many ardent Pro-Lifers are Republican simply for that issue. But what about after these babies are born? It seems Republicans are concerned with saving these babies (and bravo for that), but what about those babies that are born destitute, impoverished, or in abusive situations? Why isn't that an important issue to more Christians?

Recently I read some opinions in response to this article about Obama's recent comments in PA regarding the "bitterness" of the economically disadvantaged. It turned into a discussion regarding political party issues, as well as how values form public opinion. The author argues that "economic policy should be more important than social and cultural questions," because Republicans often vote solely on the Pro-Life issue, only to elect a Republican who focuses on economic issues, especially tax cuts, and ignore the issue of "saving the unborn." (I disagree, however that economics should be the only issue that voters consider). I found myself nodding in agreement at places, and I wanted to share a few of the comments to provoke further discussion:

There is an asymmetry between the wealthy Democrat voter and the working class guy who votes for the Republicans because they are thought to represent ‘family values.’

One difference is that when the Democrats promise more progressive policies to end poverty, even if it means reducing the affluence of the wealthy, they are promising something that they can deliver through legislative action.

When Republicans bang the ‘pro-life’ drum, they are promising something that they cannot deliver through legislation. So long as Roe v Wade stands, there are constitutional limits to the extent to which the state may infringe a woman’s right to control her reproduction. Of course, Republicans can try to change this by changing the courts, but such a promise itself implicitly infringes upon the constitutional separation of powers. We may conclude from this that such Republicans are largely disingenuous. As Thomas Frank points out, values voters vote to save the unborn and, once elected, their Republican legislators deliver capital gains tax cuts — not the saving of the unborn. But, of course, they knew that when they campaigned under the pro-life mantle. Conclusion: they manipulated the values voters, because they knew they couldn’t deliver what they promised and knew that they would deliver that which they did not promise. (Show me the Republican who campaigns on a platform of further enriching the rich!)

And another comment:

I have continually wondered why Christians would choose a Republican that protects the interest of big business. Making rich people richer goes against the teachings of Jesus.

While I can understand the abortion issue, in the past when abortion was illegal rich people were able to buy safe abortions. In addition, many Christian have had abortions.

It seems a logical conclusion that people are a victim of partisan deception or they have not studied the issues to understand the ramifications of voting for a Republican. As personality profile research has shown, people think differently. Some think more with feelings and others more with logical facts. It is often difficult for us logical thinkers to understand why not everyone understands our logical facts.

I want to clarify that I don't think any political party is completely right on all issues, and there are a lot of gray areas that are difficult to discern and that don't have black-and-white answers. What I do think is that there needs to be an on-going dialogue, especially among evangelicals, regarding more than just a small handful of issues.

As Christians we need to be well-informed and educated on issues. We need to put the needs of others above ourselves. We need to find ways to clothe, feed, and house the needy. We need to have a holistic approach to our faith, not just focus on a handful of issues and allow those to represent our entire belief system. We need to study the life of Christ and live as he did. We need to not simply accept what one or two dominant personalities proclaim, people who come to personify, erroneously, all evangelical Christians.

Jesus was a radical-he went against the status quo of his day.

And so should we.

Any thoughts to further this discussion?


Krista said...

This is why I hate politics. There's never anyone I really feel comfortable voting for so it's always choosing the lesser of two evils. I seriously wish John Edwards hadn't dropped out. And I will never vote for Hillary, she's so slimy and two faced... so depending on the candidates you'll know who I vote for!

cherice said...

preach it, sista! thanks for coming over yesterday!