Like I said the other day, I'm feeling pretty good about Obama's chances Tuesday but will be pleasantly surprised if he's elected. That said, it looks like there may be a fantastic opportunity upcoming for many Christians to demonstrate their submission to Christ and the teaching of his apostle Paul to pray for Obama and give him respect and honor.
1 Timothy 2:1-2
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyon - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
I doubt the average Christian had warm, fuzzy feelings for the emperor when Paul wrote those words to the Romans.
Bonus reading material:
Like many (most?) of us, in the last few days I've come to the point of really being ready for this presidential campaign to be over. I'm feeling pretty good about my candidate's chances, but I must admit I'm still quite nervous about it. No matter what the polls say, I think I'm going to have a bit of pleasant surprise when (if) Obama is elected. In the mean time, as you might have noticed, I'm doing a political purge via a few blog posts regarding what I've been thinking about lately concerning the election. Tonight, it's McCain's robocalls.
Recently McCain took some heat from the liberal media (in this case, Fox News) about the hypocrisy of not only sliming Obama with robocalls but hiring the same firm to do it that was used by the Bush campaign to slime McCain in the 2000 primaries. If you're not familiar with that story from 2000, you can read more about it in a NY Times article from last year (link). An few excerpts:
A smear campaign during the primary in February 2000 here had many in South Carolina falsely believing that Mr. McCain's wife, Cindy, was a drug addict and that the couple's adopted daughter, Bridget, was the product of an illicit union. Mr. McCain's patriotism, mental well-being and sexuality were also viciously called into question.
People in some areas of South Carolina began to receive phone calls in which self-described pollsters would ask, â€œWould you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?â€
It was a reference to Bridget, who was adopted as a baby from an orphanage in Bangladesh and is darker skinned than the rest of the McCain family. Richard Hand, a professor at Bob Jones University, sent an e-mail message to â€œfellow South Caroliniansâ€ telling recipients that Mr. McCain had â€œchosen to sire children without marriage.â€
Literature began to pepper the windshields of cars at political events suggesting that Mr. McCain had committed treason while a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, that he was mentally unstable after years in a P.O.W. camp, that he was the homosexual candidate and that Mrs. McCain, who had admitted to abusing prescription drugs years earlier, was an addict.
Here's the video of McCain being asked about employing those same robocallers:
Back in 2000, McCain said:
I promise you I have never and will never have anything to do with that kind of political tactic.
Now, McCain makes the excuse, without coming right out and saying it (because the 2000 smears were so nasty that they don't want to name them), that the smear from 2000 about McCain having an illegitimate black baby is "far different" and "dramatically different" from McCain now insinuating that Obama sympathizes with domestic terrorists. Really? I don't think so. McCain defends the robocall as "accurate", but we all know it's not really about a few dry facts - it's about implying that Obama is a terrorist sympathizer. That is downright nasty and is NOT far different from what happened in 2000.
Notice that McCain also continues to claim that at the last debate Obama refused to repudiate the statements that Congressman John Lewis made in which he expressed his view that McCain and Palin have been "sowing the seeds of hatred and division" at their rallies in a fashion reminiscent of George Wallace (read a sympathetic take on Lewis' statements here). That's ridiculous too. I watched the debate and heard the repudiation myself. From the debate transcript (link):
OBAMA: I mean, look, if we want to talk about Congressman Lewis, who is an American hero, he, unprompted by my campaign, without my campaign's awareness, made a statement that he was troubled with what he was hearing at some of the rallies that your running mate was holding, in which all the Republican reports indicated were shouting, when my name came up, things like "terrorist" and "kill him," and that you're running mate didn't mention, didn't stop, didn't say "Hold on a second, that's kind of out of line."
And I think Congressman Lewis' point was that we have to be careful about how we deal with our supporters.
MCCAIN: You've got to read what he said...
OBAMA: Let -- let -- let...
MCCAIN: You've got to read what he said.
OBAMA: Let me -- let me complete...
SCHIEFFER: Go ahead.
OBAMA: ... my response. I do think that he inappropriately drew a comparison between what was happening there and what had happened during the civil rights movement, and we immediately put out a statement saying that we don't think that comparison is appropriate.
And, in fact, afterwards, Congressman Lewis put out a similar statement, saying that he had probably gone over the line.
The important point here is, though, the American people have become so cynical about our politics, because all they see is a tit- for-tat and back-and-forth. And what they want is the ability to just focus on some really big challenges that we face right now, and that's what I have been trying to focus on this entire campaign.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that I think Obama has run a squeaky-clean campaign either. He's made questionable claims about McCain on more than one occasion. While we're on the subject of Obama's campaign, let me also recommend an article by Ruth Marcus that I read today (link). She observes, as many of us have, that Obama's promise of "a new kind of politics" (which, admittedly, it what first got me excited about him) hasn't really been demonstrated in his campaign (which turned out to be quite conventional). Honestly, I rationalize it as him having to do what he had to do to get elected, and I hold out hope that once elected he'll start walking the talk. Marcus throws some cold water on that view:
What evidence is there that a President Obama would govern differently than candidate Obama campaigned? Would a President Obama press policies -- on teacher accountability, on climate change, on trade -- that discomfit Democratic Party interest groups? Does he have the spine to stand up to the inevitably overreaching demands of congressional Democrats? Does he have some magical, Republican-whisperer ability to quell a political opposition that will be determined from Day One to frustrate his program and regain power?
Obama's closing argument offers reassuring words, undergirded by his evident instinct for consensus and pragmatism.
I know how he wants to govern. I'm not convinced he can pull it off.
Neither am I, but I can hope.
That's a question I've seen people asking lately. For example, here's a conversation I had on Facebook:
Below are some links that might help for anyone else asking that same question, but first here are a few of my reasons:
- I desire a foreign policy that is less bellicose and more reliant on international cooperation and diplomacy
- I support generous treatment of immigrants
- I believe that the policies of the Democrats are more likely to reduce the abortion rate
- I believe that we need to protect the environment and can't depend on "the market" to do it for us
- Though I realize this is a gross oversimplification, I feel more kinship with a party whose focus is on the poor and powerless rather than on the rich and powerful
- I am confident that Obama has a first-class intellect and temperament, qualities that are highly desirable for the job of president
How a Christian Can Vote for Obama (link)
Frank! As A Former Pro-Life Leader How Dare You Support Pro-Choice Obama? (link)
I'm Catholic, staunchly anti-abortion, and support Obama (link)
Pro Life - Pro Obama (link)
Interview with Donald Miller (link)
On the Campaign Trail in MI, IN, NC, VA and OH This Week (link)
From Reagan to Obama, a brief Political History (link)
Endorsing Obama (link)
My Support for Obama (link)
Why I'm Voting for Obama, and Why I Hope You Will Too (link)
Why I'm Voting for Obama (link)
If you're a Christian planning to vote for Obama, tell us why...
â€¦characterizing Obama's plan to tax the nation's top earners at 39 percent instead of 36 percent as socialist is absurd. Dwight Eisenhower taxed top earners at 91 percent. Richard Nixon taxed them at more than 50 percent. Even Ronald Reagan didn't lower the top marginal rate to less than 50 percent until the last two years of his second term. Were these Republicans secret socialists, too?
- Andrew Romano (link)
Who would have guessed that such a reasonable analysis of the Obama/McCain race would come from the Iranian government:
We are leaning more in favor of Barack Obama because he is more flexible and rational, even though we know American policy will not change that muchâ€¦
But before you make up your mind based on Iranâ€™s analysis, you should know that al Qaeda has endorsed McCain. From an article in WaPo (link):
"Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election," said a commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the "failing march of his predecessor," President Bushâ€¦
In language that was by turns mocking and ominous, the newest posting credited al-Qaeda with having lured Washington into a trap that had "exhausted its resources and bankrupted its economy." It further suggested that a terrorist strike might swing the election to McCain and guarantee an expansion of U.S. military commitments in the Islamic world.
"It will push the Americans deliberately to vote for McCain so that he takes revenge for them against al-Qaeda," said the posting, attributed to Muhammad Haafid, a longtime contributor to the password-protected site. "Al-Qaeda then will succeed in exhausting America."
Obviously, al-Qaeda has no hope of defeating us in any sort of conventional conflict. Therefore, they have a different strategy as bin Laden outlined in 2004: (link):
"We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah," bin Laden said in the transcript.
He said the mujahedeen fighters did the same thing to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, "using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers."
"We, alongside the mujahedeen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat," bin Laden said.
He also said al Qaeda has found it "easy for us to provoke and bait this administration."
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations," bin Laden said.
Good thing we were too smart to fall for that and didnâ€™t get lured into a seemingly endless occupation of a Middle Eastern country that would cost us hundreds of billions of dollars right before our economy teetered on the verge of collapse..er..I mean, unfortunately, he's right that we have been (and many of us continue to be) eager to take the bait.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a proponent of capitalism (in concert with a robust regulatory framework to limit its potential excesses). However, I find it quite curious that the concepts of socialism and communism are so taboo. Furthermore, it seems especially strange that Christians, of all people, seem to consider communism/socialism as the 8th deadly sin. It's as if they think that all that is necessary is to cry "SOCIALISM!" to reveal any tax proposal or social program funded by a progressive tax system as blatantly un-American.
In a recent blog post titled "Is Capitalism Christian?", Pastor Bob Cornwall quotes Jose Miranda:
The notion of communism is in the New Testament, right down to the letter -- and so well put that in the twenty centuries since it was written no one has come up with a better definition of communism than Luke in Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-35. In fact the definition Marx borrowed from Louis Blanc, "From each one according to his capacities, to each one according to his needs," is inspired by, if not directly copied from Luke's formulation eighteen centuries earlier. There is no clearer demonstration of the brainwashing to which the establishment keeps us subjected than the officially promulgated conception of Christianity as anticommunist (Jose Miranda, Communism in the Bible, Orbis Books, 1982, p. 7).
To refresh your memory about the passages Miranda cites:
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Of course, I understand that the voluntary charitable acts of community described in Acts 2 and 4 are not equivalent to a political system, especially the totalitarian ones of the historical and present-day communist regimes, where such actions are coerced. On the other hand, these principles of community and caring for one another and the least of us are clearly fundamental to the Christian worldview, yet most Christians, myself included, don't routinely put these principles to practice in a way that is consistent with the example of Acts 2. Ironically, it seems like some of the people who are most eager for the US of A to be an explicitly Christian nation are some of the same that are so strongly antagonistic to these particular Christian principles being implemented in our government.
The other thing that is funny is the way McCain and his supporters are so quick to brand Obama's proposals as socialist and as radically different from the system we've had in place ever since the income tax was instituted - as if McCain himself wasn't making many of the same arguments just a few years ago. Here's the video:
Folks are loving Orson Scott Card's opinion piece of the same title (link) in which he calls out the media for what he sees as its dishonesty in not assigning blame for the sub-prime crisis to the Democrats. Let me first say that I like Card's science fiction books and that I agree that the Democrats deserve some of the blame. However, I find it funny that the editor's note highlights that Card is a Democrat. From what I can tell from Card's actions of the last few years, he's a Democrat in the mold of Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman. Furthermore, an alternative explanation to Card's charge of dishonesty is that the press has not championed the theory that Card describes because reality is not as simple and straightforward as he claims. Obviously, giving too much credit to people who can't afford it has consequences, but half the sub-prime mortgages were from institutions not subject to the Community Reinvestment Act (link). Furthermore,
...the reason for the financial collapse is that debt was chopped up and marketed as mortgage-backed securities to financial institutions all over the world. If the debt hadn't been sold...the bad debt wouldn't have been integrated into the rest of the financial system and it would have just led to the collapse of the original institutions providing mortgages. In other words, it wasn't the debt itself; it was the very lucrative selling of the debt that got us where we are today.
It was Phil Gramm who championed the Financial Services Modernization Act that allowed that allowed those shenanigans. The blame doesn't just belong with the Dems.
I'm sure many people who read today's HuffPo piece by Christine Wicker titled "If You Love Jesus, Vote for Obama" (link) won't appreciate it, won't get it. I do. Though I wouldn't tell anyone that a love of Jesus requires voting for any particular candidate (which, by the way, is what many on the religious right actually do), I'm in agreement with much of what Wicker writes in the article. For example:
After more than 20 years during which the Religious Right has been the dominant ethical and moral voice in the public square, the reputation of American Christians is at an all time low, especially among young people. As the political ambitions of the most right wing Christians have soared, the influence of Christian teachings on popular culture has plummeted.
I recommend following the link above and reading the whole piece. Personally, I like Wicker's article because it expresses in a clever and provocative way ("If you love Jesus, vote for" is certainly provocative language) something that I believe to be true: the strong association of the religious right with the political far right is a liability in accomplishing the mission of the church among about half of the population.
I think there is a real danger for the stink of politics to mask the beautiful aroma of the gospel. Look at the way the current campaign has inevitably ended up in the gutter despite the initial promise of a different kind of campaign from these two candidates. And the way people like Dobson wield political power is so distasteful to me. And the culture war? That's the way to engage outsiders? There's a reason why they like Jesus but not the church.
I don't think the answer is for the religious left to become the new religious right in the political realm, but I think it would be very healthy for it to be more obvious that Christianity and Republicanism are not synonymous.
The fact that for a moment I thought "It's crazy, but I wonder if she really did pretend to have her kid's baby?" helps me understand how some folks can believe the stuff they do about Obama.
Following on the heels of The Daily Show's fantastic version of the Obama convention video profile (Barack Obama: He Completes Us), here is another brilliant contribution, this time for John McCain...n particular the part near the end that highlights the change from maverick reformer to reformed maverick:
John McCain: Reformed Maverick