11/03/2008

McCain or Obama ? - A Plea for Unity

Evangelicals and the Election, Part 3 of 3

No matter who is voted into office tomorrow, Christians must unite behind our new President-elect, and prayerfully move forward together with him as we deal with the major issues and crises that currently face our nation.

We should thank God that we live in a free Republic, in which we are able to hold our political leaders accountable by way of the electoral process. We should celebrate that we are allowed to vote any way we choose. And, as this series has attempted to show, there are good reasons for people (even evangelicals!) to vote for each of the candidates.

We also should celebrate that we have the right to freely speak – we can criticize and/or celebrate what our leaders are doing. But this is where things need to change…

As Christian citizens of the United States, we should see ourselves as a part of a society where people of different ideologies, religions, and political parties must co-exist and even work together for the common good. If your candidate does not win tomorrow, you will have to get over it and commit to working with the candidate that did win. Politics, by its very nature, is a give-and-take; it is about forging compromises so that we can make decisions for the country as a whole.

Special Interests are not what run the government. An interest group just pushes for one thing, regardless of how it affects other issues and people, and without ever having to deal with the demands that other people raise. Paul Marshall writes in his must-read book God and the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics, “A genuinely democratic politics means that decisions should, in principle and in practice, be accountable to all the population: Greenpeacers and forestry workers, New Yorkers and Californians, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists.” The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). Evangelical Christians have mistakenly and haughtily believed that their current political interests are in the best interests of everyone else in the country. However, how many of the issues that we see evangelicals fighting for are actually more about protecting themselves from their perceived threats in a secular and/or pagan society? And, more telling, how can evangelicals be so pompous as to think that they have all the right answers? Our history has shown that we often get it wrong. A lot.

I am also sickened by how ugly our nation has become over politics. And what is even more sickening is how we evangelicals have been dragged down into the scum of it all. Radio talk show hosts and cable television talking heads spew the most hateful, disgusting, and slanderous lies, and instead of Christians separating themselves from such slander, some have embraced it and even emulated it. This should not be.

What I fear is that if Obama is elected, he will be demonized by the Religious Right, and if McCain is elected, he will be demonized by the Religious Left. This has got to stop. We need to quit buying what the hate-filled partisan sleaze machines are selling, and instead move above it, showing the character of Christ.

Partisan punditry not only hurts our Christian witness, it also hurts our country.

Read all three part of this series:
Part 1: Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Vote for MCCAIN
Part 2: Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Vote for OBAMA
Part 3: McCain or Obama ? - A Plea for Unity

14 comments:

Nate said...

Bob, I want to thankful for your helpful series on a Christian's role in the political process in light of this year's election. It is so refreshing to know that Christians (like yourself) are moving beyond the partisan politics and the Religious Left/Right debate to seek a biblical worldview as it relates to our current endeavors.

I believe a reform is underway in how Christians choose to engage in government here in the U.S. And it is a reform that I hope will lead to a commonality established between people of diverse faith traditions, political ideologies, and ethnic backgrounds in order that we may all work for the common good in our world.

Thanks again!

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Thanks Bob,

I appreciate your effort to bring some sanity to the political enterprise. I too am sickened by both sides beating each other up all the time. There are some major differences of opinion on many subjects and these can and should be debated, even vigorously at times; but there is absolutely no excuse for not treating people with respect. Everyone...whether Christian or non-Christian, Liberal or Conservative, has been made in the image of God and is worthy of respect simply because we are human beings. We betray a lack of integrity to our created nature when we treat others so badly. Shame on us...and God help us!

And thank God it's almost over!! :-)

GGM

Byron Harvey said...

Yes, and maybe. You say a lot of good things, with which I must agree, Bob. The devil, of course, will be in the details. What will it mean, practically, to "unite behind our new President-elect"? What will it mean to "move forward together"? What will it mean to "get over it" and "commit to working with the candidate that did win"? And why should we?

I'm not saying we should or shouldn't, but while I agree in general principle, that sentiment won't get us very far, I fear. As Christians, we are certainly called, as you suggest in your closing words, to civility in our discourse (and we don't always do well at that, sure). But our first allegiance isn't to a candidate or a president or a country, but to Christ.

And that, it seems to me, is where the rub will likely come in. Neither you nor I have had any problem criticizing Bush; IMHO, you've not always been as charitable toward him as you suggest we ought to be toward the winner. I'm sure I've not always done that either, so we can both look in the mirror. But here's my point: there are some things that will be espoused by the winner which we ought to oppose with everything we've got, on the basis of our first Love. If it's Obama, as we all expect, I'm not going to unite with him in erasing restrictions on abortion, or imposing restrictions on free speech. I'm not going to work together with him to move us down the path toward socialism, where I believe he intends to take us (not that he'd take us all the way, but in that direction, it seems clear). I'm not going to support judges who make a joke of the Constitution.

So that's where the devil is, in such details and more. My thesis is that liberalism is a progressive disease, and I think that history bears that out, that yesterday's liberals are today's moderates and tomorrow's at-least-semi-conservatives (John Kennedy would be a middle-of-the-road Republican today, wouldn't he, if he believed exactly what he did when he was living?). At what point, short of full-blown Marxism, do we draw the line and say, "not with my blessing"? Shoot, McCain and many of the Republicans take us too far down that road as it is, in my mind.

So that's where I'm left: I can respect the office, and I can personally respect Mr. Obama in some ways, but I don't see many policy proposals that he's likely to push for that I can get behind. Where's that line then, Bob?

Bob Robinson said...

Byron,
What will it mean, practically, to "unite behind our new President-elect"? What will it mean to "move forward together"? What will it mean to "get over it" and "commit to working with the candidate that did win"?

It will mean what I said: We should celebrate that we have the right to freely criticize and/or celebrate what our leaders are doing.

What I fear is what I have seen from the Right and the Left in the past: While Clinton was in the White House, he was painted by Christians with conservative political ideology as an absolute evil - everything he did was held in suspicion. Bush, his father, and Reagan were all demonized by the Christian Left.

We need to get a grip on the fact that America is great BECAUSE, not IN SPITE of our political differences. The give-and-take, the debates about what is best for the country, the compromises that must be made so that no one special interest wins the day -- these are what make us a great democracy. We are unlike other countries... We can disagree with each other, and yet not kill each other! We can have sharp disagreements but we also know that we are all Americans, all seeking to do the patriotic thing in making this nation what it needs to be. It is ridiculous to call certain people "un-American" or to question their patriotism.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that we should exercise our rights to criticize our national leaders. However, this is DIFFERENT than having a totally defiant attitude toward them, convincing ourselves that there is not one shred of goodness in this person's leadership. Instead, we need to have a general attitude of unity and cooperation. We need to look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

By the way, some have made the case that conservatism has been the "progressive disease." ;-)

I personally think it is cyclical. Conservatism had its sway at the turn of the last century, but the unfettered capitalism of that day led to unjust business practices (child labor, robber barons) and the Great Depression. Liberalism came in and moved us into great prosperity through creating the Middle Class. But FDR's Liberal agenda fizzled out and caused more problems than it solved by the 1980s, so Reagan and the Free Market Capitalists came back in power, creating another time of prosperity. But Reaganomics has fizzled out, top-down economic theory has gone too far. So, we are entering into a new cycle. I know you won't like it, though!!

Bob Robinson said...

From John McCain's speech from last night:

"These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to [Barack Obama] tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face… I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited. Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that."

Read the full text of the speech here.

Byron Harvey said...

Methinks you overplay some of the negativism out there. I don't remember ever hearing a conservative question the patriotism of liberals, but I hear liberals making that charge all the time, just as you repeated that talking point. It's sort of like racism: there's too much of it truly still lingering in society, sure, but those who find it in every statement, in every nuance, surely contribute to the problem. I'm not saying there isn't a civility problem--there is--but let's not make more of it than is there.

And by the way, don't be guilty of acting as though there isn't "one shred of goodness" in some of the folks who aren't politicians whom you criticize. You seem to find little good, for instance, in Bill O'Reilly; I watch him a lot, and find him to be one of the best newsmen on the planet, because he'll ask tough questions of both sides, and be gracious with all (he did a nice and fair job with both Obama and Hillary, for instance). Occasionally, he'll go overboard, but who doesn't? So turn on the Factor and watch a bit for yourself, eh?

Anyway, that's off point. Your main point is well-taken; I always try to do those things anyway (I stopped several ridiculous anti-Obama smear emails over the course of this campaign), but I suppose redoubling the efforts would be a good thing for all of us.

Bob Robinson said...

Byron,
I'll let what you say here stand, and let the readers decide...

Bob Robinson said...

Byron,
One extra thought--Just to make sure you know...

Every day I watch:
Bill O'Reilly
Hannity & Colmes
Keith Olbermann
Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert

Every week I watch:
This Week with George Stephenopolis
Meet the Press
Fox Sunday with Chris Wallace
Bill Moyers Journal

(I love my DVR!)

Every week I listen to:
At least two hours total of Hannity, O'Reilly, Rush, and Glenn Beck;
At least two hours of Dianne Rehm, Krista Tippet, and other NPR shows (Fresh Air, Talk of the Nation, It's All Politics).

(I love my iPod!)

I purposely consume news from across the political spectrum. I see one of the big problems with today's American voters that they get their opinions from a single source that they already agree with, and then parrot those talking points, without thinking critically.

Bob Robinson said...

By the way,
It drives my wife batty that I'm always watching these shows...
"How can you stand it? All they do is argue. How can you watch Olbermann and then O'Reilly? Don't you get whiplash?"
I tell her that I feel it is my responsibility to listen to both sides so that I'm informed. She rolls her eyes and walks out of the room...

Byron Harvey said...

You watch that much TV? Well, that explains a lot, dude. :)

Seriously, it'd drive me batty to watch HALF that much news.

Bob Robinson said...

The DVR's great. You can zip through the fluff and just watch the meatier stuff.

Byron Harvey said...

I didn't think that there WAS any "meaty stuff".

And O'Reilly is not the polar opposite of Olbermann; Hannity is. O'Reilly certainly leans right, but he's not nearly the partisan that some are (like the above-mentioned pair).

Bob Robinson said...

By "meaty stuff" I mean O'Reilly's running segment on body language. THAT is deep, good journalism!!

Bob Robinson said...

I didn't mention a new favorite: Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN. Zakaria offers a very unique show - he actually interviews the most influential domestic and international leaders and thinkers.