Aug 18, 2008

confused to be an american


Here's the transcript from last night's "civil" discussion with Rick Warren and the two outstanding candidates for the upcoming election.

Enjoy it.

Me? I remain confused.

If you'll allow me this rare venting about politics, I'd appreciate it.

So... what do you do when the two remaining political candidates trouble you on varying levels?

Strike that... let me reword it.

What does a Christ-follower do when it comes time to vote in a country's election? Should he/she pray and follow God's lead (even if it's not one of these two)? Or should he/she vote for the lesser of two evils between the two outstanding options?

I'm not claiming that McCain and Obama are not Christians... I read that they are, and yet my skeptical side wonders what is real and what's political spin to gain a few points among evangelicals.

In the meantime, more than 80 evangelical leaders have gone on the offense by signing the Evangelical Manifesto this year - a document designed to clarify what evangelicals stand for in an attempt to return civility to public discourse. While this document is primarily theological, it seems to be a movement away from party politics in an effort to make sure that evangelicals would not simply be "useful idiots" in the nation's partisan politics. Interestingly, a number of the signers have been politically active in the past.

On the flipside, young voters have become very engaged in this year's election cycle. This election, those demographics will reach parity with a greater number of young people having reached voting age as the Baby Boomer generation just begins to turn 65. A motivated young electorate will have a significant voice. USA Today cited that:
  • 57% of voters under 30 say they have given "quite a lot" of thought to the election, up from 44% in 2004.

  • 87% say they plan to vote this fall, up from 81% four years ago.

  • In 2004, 24 million voters were over the age of 65, and 21 million 30 and under.
I write this as an American, well aware that many died to give me the privilege to vote on certain matters. That also means I have the right not to vote, for those people died for that opportunity just as well.

Before all of that, though, I am a Christ-follower... someone who has to remember that it was never God's idea to put human kings above any kingdom. When His people demanded it, the Lord warned them where it would lead. (As one book put it, it became harder to trust the leaders we could see instead of the one we couldn't yet see.)

So I find myself confused to be an American.
Which leaves me with my only tool - prayer to discrern Truth and the Spirit in all of this.
So I will continue to pray – for the candidates, for myself and for wisdom. While the issues of the candidates are important, may we be most clear on their character... skills can be taught and advisors on any issue can be gathered, but what a person stands for (and Who they stand for) are the compass by which the map will be read.
The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9)

11 comments:

Becky; said...

thank you for putting into words my feelings...i know i am to pay attention.....but very confused and prayerful....thank you

The Momma said...

Excellent post. Excellent.

David Malouf -- said...

If I may add to your thoughts for you (ha)...

Posting and talking are another "tool" you have - the Spirit has chosen to work through community, too!

As to voting, I see it a wee bit different. At this point, the government spends taxes, makes rules, and creates a significant amount of world-wide opinion of the U.S. So we get the privilege of voting for what we want the U.S. to be.

I agree, there is much dilemma in my mind about voting for the perfect candidate vs. the top-two. And there are other complexities like: what if a lot of other people feel like me, but we never vote outside the top-two so we never know if others will do this also so that our votes stop becoming throw-away, etc.

As to 'character' I have actually tossed that one out (for the most part). They're trained public-figures (technically, then, they are "actors" - by definition). I want them to act a certain way so I'll vote for the one who makes him/herself most like what I want them to be. I use their political-ness to accomplish my purposes :-)

Having just spent some time in the Middle East, I have become MUCH more aware of how incredibly powerful the President is. Every T.V. had the Clinton-Obama race on (this was in May). EVERY T.V.! Talking to common-folk, the poor, and some upper-class, I found that they watch our President carefully. For me, the most important part of a President's role is their International Presence. Congress is gonna hamstring the national issues anyway ;-)

My 422 cents,
David

Tony Myles said...

That is quite the spin to judo their faults into strengths. You're right - there is no perfect candidate and we know we shouldn't expect one. That's the job of the one true King.

I have this fear, though - maybe it's too many Left Behind books (which is one, by the way) - that I will become a part of the end times problems by propogating a system we've chosen to be blinded to versus standing up for what is True. Granted, I don't know which of the dominant end times theologies will ultimately prove right and who the anti-Christ is/was/will be, but I find it odd that I would settle for a human system to solve the world's problems than God Himself.

Than again, God did speak out of a donkey... and sometimes He speaks out of an elephant, too.

But I would guess neither is His preference.

The Mad Hoosier said...

I think we certainly have the right not to vote, but we have the obligation to vote.

While those many died for the opportunity of freedom, therefore allowing us to be free to do nearly whatever we want, including allowing our voices to be silenced and let others speak for us and decide who will lead us.

But they were fighting for Democracy...a Democracy in which officials represent us because they are elected by us. I feel we are doing those who died for this Democracy a disservice by not participating, nay doing our part, in the democratic process.

People certainly have the right not to vote, and some would argue that not voting is their way of making their voice heard. I still don't comprehend how being silent is having your voice be heard. All it does is give their power away to someone else to vote in who they would like.

I also reject the notion that not voting for one of the two main parties is throwing away a vote. I understand that an alternate candidate has literally no chance of winning, but at least you made your voice heard, and you didn't give your power away. Besides, at the end of the day, you can stand and say, "I voted, and I didn't vote for this bozo."

After all, isn't that what integrity is all about, too? Doing something that you feel is right, even if it is not popular?

Tony Myles said...

These comments raise for me an awareness of a presupposition - because many died for my right to vote, I am obligated to honor their sacrifice.

This is somewhat flawed, though.

For instance, many Nazi's died for their belief that certain people were inferior to others. If I was German (which part of me is, among many other things), I would not be obligated to honor that belief just because they died for it and believed it to be a better way of life.

Extreme example, I know. But my point is that being born into a country does not obligate me to propogate a system I don't believe in, even if blood was shed for it.

Keep in mind, I probably will vote. But by my freedom to do so.

Which... ironically, was provided for by people who shed their blood as well as others.

Which... coincidentally, is another system I don't believe in... even though in a backward world even it can be used to propel something "right" forward.

Which... incidentally, is why I would vote anyway.

The Mad Hoosier said...

Well...you lost me somewhere around "ironically". But your comparison is not only extreme, it's apples to oranges.

Germans no longer support the Nazis, yet America still stands for Freedom and Democracy. The very freedom that allows you to decide to vote or not, was a direct result of those young men and women's sacrifice. To me, that sacrifice obligates us to take part in what they fought to keep alive.

Of course, if it's obligation you don't believe in, they why is there an obligation to turn one's life over to Christ? Why does His death obligate us to follow Him to get into Heaven?

Most believe He had to die to get into Heaven, so we are obligated to follow Him if we are to make it there. Many, Many thousands of soldiers died so we can enjoy Freedom and Democracy, and so we are obligated to do our part to ensure Freedom and Democracy continues. Of course, if someone doesn't believe in Freedom and Democarcy, they why be in America in the first place...just because they were born here? I can think of a couple of places that one could move that are the anti-America.

Again, freedom allows you to vote or not to vote, just as you can follow Christ or not...but the obligation is still there.

Tony Myles said...

This is a fair argument, but using your words... apples and oranges, at least to me.

There *is* a difference between allegiance to God and country - a lot of people don't see this, even in the church. I've been a part of at least two congregations where patriotic holidays seemed to take over the song choices on a Sunday. That's a tangent, though.

To me, God deserves my obligation because He is God. The Creator has rights over His creation, and thankfully God invites us into relationship with Him. So not only does His title/position merit my allegiance, but also His character.

On the other hand, a country serves a human purpose - often its own preservation. I decided a long time ago that preservation wasn't my top priority, but pleasing the heart of the Lord is. So I will participate in the human ideas of this world as long as they underscore God's. That means that if I sense that the country I live in acts in a way that is more anti-Christ than Christ, I must choose one over the other.

I will stand for Christ, whether its legal or illegal in my country to do so.

As I cited from Scripture, the original intent of God establishing His people was that He would be our King and we wouldn't feel the need to turn to human leaders. And if by chance we were born into a human system that encouraged us to, we should be wise against it.

Interestingly, in the Bible there are many, many instances of nations getting full of themselves. When the people blindly kept it going, God would try to get their attention through wars, natural disasters, and famines.

Because sometimes the onion must be peeled back from its fat status to see how empty it is at its true core.

America is a great place to live, at least comparatively. And yet our ideals of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" trouble me. Personally, I'd rather we pursue goodness instead of happiness, because one seems self-centered and peer-pressured while the other seems God-centered and proactive to all of creation.

Clearly there is a difference between pledging ourselves to God versus "mom, apple pie, and baseball?"

The Mad Hoosier said...

It's the act of feeling obligation that is key. You feel obligation to God because he is the Creator. Does God believe that He is the only thing worthy of obligation to? If so, He could have placed us in any corner of the world to have us exercise our sole obligation to Him. Or is it possible that He would have us feel obligated to other creators? Our parents? Our Founding Fathers?

I guess I missed where our country or our fallen soldiers have asked us to choose Country over God. I certainly woulnd't go for that either.

Luckily, it's never mutually exclusive. Despite who or what mainstream portrayal highlights self first, there are millions of examples of selflessness in this country. The military is a shining example. I say it's our obligation to pay homage to selflessness and sacrifice...and in this country, we do that by perpetuating Democracy...aka voting.

Perhaps it's the fact that you find the best country in the world to merely be comparatively better. I assure you that the likes of Russia or China won't allow you to choose God over them. If you are born in those countries, your religion is chosen for you...and in all likelihood, since it is all you would have known, you wouldn't mind at all.

Tony Myles said...

A country will always be imperfect. And so even the "best" one is only best by comparison.

That's one of the beauties of heaven... "stuff free" relationships and a community where selfishness doesn't dominate... masks no longer need to be worn... the true Leader is in obvious rule, and yet chooses to hang out with His people "face to face."

As per your last thought, it's a common misperception that we only believe what we're raised to believe, and that's why we believe it.

And yet for the past few decades the top ten Christian churches in the world (meaning, growing number of participants) are in countries like China where it is illegal to question what you were brought up with.

They worship not in loud songs with a sound system, but in whispers as they huddle together; they don't buy their Bibles at the local Christian bookstore because of religious freedom, but they grab whatever piece of a Bible they can muster and memorize pages upon pages so they won't get caught with it; instead of talking about their faith out loud in the local coffee shop, they draw pictures on the ground and then quickly wipe it away.

Meanwhile, the churches in America and Europe seem be declining the more freedom people feel they have to do as they please.

Ironic, eh?

I don't know if there's a point in all of that, but perhaps there is.

Thanks for adding to the conversation.

The Mad Hoosier said...

No problem...glad I could contribute. It's always great to have conversations like this...I think it probably helps me more than I persuade other people.

I think I found your point in the last post. America and Europe, perhaps, have come to believe that they don't need God to live a meaningful life...or even worse, they are bold enough to believe that they are better than God.

I think Europe is proof that secularism can lead to a dismantling of society. America is following down that path. We weren't founded in secularism.

I think God put our Founding Fathers together in a one-time-only gathering...to found a nation that will lead the world. I think they knew it God was working miracles here too, and they founded a nation based on ideas that were meant to stand the test of time.

It's unfortunate that various leaders today don't feel the same way. It's even more unfortunate that we seem to have let secularism become mainstream...that we have failed to see what the Found Fathers believed in and fought for.

Thanks for your post on my blog...I'll definitely be considering your point of view as I work things out in my mind.