McCain or Obama?

I have been an admirer of Ron Sider, President of Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA), for years. He is perhaps the most thoughtful and insightful evangelical leaders of political thought. Among is many books include Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity, The Scandal of Evangelical Politics: Why Are Christians Missing the Chance to Really Change the World?, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?, and Good News and Good Works: A Theology for the Whole Gospel.

In this article from PRISM (the magazine from ESA), Sider gives some great insights into the candidates on many of the issues that should concern evangelicals in this election.

McCain or Obama? (pdf)


Byron Harvey said...

Color me "less than impressed" with some of Sider's "biblical" reasoning. He gives away a decidedly humanistic leaning at one point, in his concern over the gap between the poor and the rich; that doesn't flow from anything biblical, but rather, as Herbert Schlossberg points out, from a humanistic elevation of envy from a sin to a good. He also fails to substantiate biblically anything about universal health care; the idea that we ought to "guarantee" such to our citizens may be catching on among Christians, but I don't see any Scriptural reason why a socialized approach is more inherently biblical than a free market one.

I also don't believe he's telling the truth when he says that "McCain mocks Obama's eagerness for diplomatic solutions"; I believe McCain mocks Obama's naive approach to such. Further, I think that Sider has been drinking the same economic Kool-Aid that his bud Campolo has; these guys have some good things to say, of course, but when it comes to economics, their silence would be golden.

Finally (not that there isn't more I could critique), Sider seems to suggest that all of the racism in this campaign comes from the McCain side of the coin, turning a politically-correct blind eye to any on the Obama side. We'll never get past the race problem until we recognize that it cuts both ways (Larry Elder, a black Libertarian, is convinced that it's worse among blacks than whites; whether it is or not, it's a problem that both men, not just McCain, ought to address regarding the clingers-on in both parties who use race as a wedge or as a club).

Sider does a reasonably good job of listing each man's position in nutshell form, but I'm not sure this article is particularly noteworthy, and I remain unable to see even one good reason as a Christian to support Barack Obama. Not even one.

Bob Robinson said...

I have yet to read a convincing case as to why the free market is a biblical notion, either.

The point: I am weary of Christians saying that a particular policy position is the biblical one, while those with opposing policy positions are inherently less Christian, demonizing them as less than "biblical."

If we are to hope that our national politics will become more civil, we need to learn how to be more civil in our in-house debates.

Byron Harvey said...

I don't get it though, Bob; Sider is the one who wrote the article talking about using the Bible as our "normative framework", and then proceeded to promote his center-left agenda with what he feels is Biblical justification.

I think that we need to realize a difference as well between a "biblical" position, per se (by that I mean something that we can clearly support with Scripture, and there are some, of course) and other positions which may not have direct Biblical support, but which tend to be more effective in promoting an agenda that is Biblical. The Bible, for instance, takes no position on the minimum wage, one way or the other (though Sider couches his support for it--he doesn't even make an argument, seems to just assume that support for minimum wage laws is a Biblical thing); the Bible insists that we show justice to the poor. The question then becomes a pragmatic one in such cases: are poor people helped or hurt by minimum wage laws?

Same with free market capitalism. As with every economic system, it has its flaws, but as I've heard many people say, capitalism is the worst economic system in the world except for all the others! No, I agree that we can't go "chapter and verse" and support any particular economic system, but we ought to be asking, "what economic system best allows to flourish the types of things that the Bible says should flourish, and provides the best safeguards against what the Bible says ought not to flourish?" In that regard, the free market, in my judgment, does a far better job at rewarding the right things and punishing the right things than does state-engineered economies. The liberal side of the equation wants to get in and, if not turn to outright socialism, tinker with the economy every which way possible in the name of "economic justice" or what have you, and turns our system into a dog's breakfast that hampers some of the very things that we ought to be encouraging. Obama-types want to harass banks into making risky loans to people who have no business taking them out (violating basic free market principles), and then want to hold the banks accountable for problems that the government encouraged, if not created.

I'm ranting...but I guess my point is that if you're weary of Christians promoting a point of view as the "biblical one", then why did you post the Sider article in the first place, because it seems to me that that's exactly what he's claiming, only he comes from a center-left position rather than the perhaps-more-typical right-wing position. Sider's civil enough--and I think my reply was as well--but I think he's dead wrong on some things, and decidedly unbiblical in at least a few.