Thursday, October 30, 2008

God and Politics

Religion has moved to the forefront in this election in a way that I never imagined. Somehow John McCain- not a regular church-goer (I understand Cindy is a Baptist and John attends her church) - has become the darling of the religious right, while Barack Obama, a born-again Christian and faithful church-goer, is portrayed as a Muslim and a socialist. Topsy-turvy.

Then there is Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagans. This is really close to my heart as Hagans is a Presbyterian, teaches Sunday School, and is an elder in her church. Here is an attack video that Elizabeth Dole put out, accusing Hagans of being "godless."

Here is Hagan's response ad:

I guess in North Carolina you have to be a Christian to get elected. That is a shame.

Then today Jim Wallis called out James Dobson for a "slanderous" letter he wrote about an American in 2012 under Obama. In the preface to the letter Dobson wrote, "Of course, there are many evangelical Christians supporting Senator Obama as well as many supporting Senator McCain. Christians on both sides should continue to respect and cherish one another’s friendship as well as the freedom people have in the United States to differ on these issues and to freely speak their opinions about them to one another." The actual 'fictional' letter, however, goes way over the top, visualizing a worst-case scenario where America is not longer the "land of the free and the home of the brave." The 'fictional' letter concludes:

"Has America completely lost God’s favor and protection as a nation? If it has, is this surprising? How can God continue to bless a nation whose official policies promote blatant violation of God’s commands regarding the protection of human life, and sexual morality? Why should God bless any nation that elects officials who remove people’s freedom of religion and freedom of speech and freedom even to raise their own children? His Word says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34)."

On his "God's Politics" blog, Wallis calls on Dobson to apologize for the letter, saying that the letter "crosses all lines of decent public discourse. In a time of utter political incivility, it shows the kind of negative Christian leadership that has become so embarrassing to so many of your fellow Christians in America. We are weary of this kind of Christian leadership, and that is why so many are forsaking the Religious Right in this election."

Wallis continues to blast Dobson, writing: [links are Wallis']

"Such outrageous predictions not only damage your credibility, they slander Barack Obama who, you should remember, is a brother in Christ, and they insult any Christian who might choose to vote for him.

Let me make this clear: Christians will be voting both ways in this election, informed by their good faith, and based on their views of what are the best public policies and direction for America. But in utter disrespect for the prayerful discernment of your fellow Christians, this letter stirs their ugliest fears, appealing to their worst impulses instead of their best.

Fear is the clear motivator in the letter; especially fear that evangelical Christians might vote for Barack Obama. The letter was very revealing when it suggested that “younger Evangelicals” became the “swing vote” that elected Obama and the results were catastrophic.

You make a mistake when you assume that younger Christians don’t care as much as you about the sanctity of life. They do care—very much—but they have a more consistent ethic of life. Both broader and deeper, it is inclusive of abortion, but also of the many other assaults on human life and dignity. For the new generation, poverty, hunger, and disease are also life issues; creation care is a life issue; genocide, torture, the death penalty, and human rights are life issues; war is a life issue. What happens to poor children after they are born is also a life issue.

The America you helped vote into power has lost its moral standing in the world, and even here at home. The America you told Christians to vote for in past elections is now an embarrassment to Christians around the globe, and to the children of your generation of evangelicals. And the vision of America that you still tell Christians to vote for is not the one that many in a new generation of Christians believes expresses their best values and convictions.

Christians should be committed to the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of America, and the church is to live an alternative existence of love and justice, offering a prophetic witness to politics. Elections are full of imperfect choices where we all seek to what is best for the “common good” by applying the values of our faith as best we can.

Dr. Dobson, you of course have the same right as every Christian and every American to vote your own convictions on the issues you most care about, but you have chosen to insult the convictions of millions of other Christians, whose own deeply held faith convictions might motivate them to vote differently than you. This epistle of fear is perhaps the dying gasp of a discredited heterodoxy of conservative religion and conservative politics. But out of that death, a resurrection of biblical politics more faithful to the whole gospel—one that is truly good news—might indeed be coming to life."

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