It has definitely been a very interesting few days to say the least. If you have been keeping up with my posts, I have managed to complete my political de-conversion in time for election day. Both my wife and me were able to get some good information from great people and put it together in a way that led us to the vote that we felt was most truthful to our current stories of faith and community in the world. That vote was for Mr. Obama. We were not people flapping in the wind of influence. We agonized over this decision and voted what we felt to be best for the common good of the US and the world. But this has gained an interesting reception.
And I guess I should have expected it, knowing what I know about from where we have come and about where we currently find ourselves. Of course many are delighted and have expressed such delight and affirmed our pursuit of truth. On that side of the reception are Christians (mostly of a missional and/or emergent thought), atheists, agnostics, universalists. And I have been deeply warmed by the graciousness and decency that has existed on this side as we have discussed our differences and similarities in a manner that has affirmed all of us a people. The other side of the reception is different, however. On that side are mostly far right of center evangelical Chrisitians with whom in which we used to be in step. From them we have mostly received shock at our choice, implication that we are immoral and unethical, and marginalization as not thinking straight. And I think this is one of the first times in my life that I have found myself completely outside of and wrongly characterized by the religious right. In a way it feels great, but it also is very revealing about how the religious right marginalizes and abuses power. It took getting outside for me to see that of which I used to be a part. I will explain.
For those on the right who do not understand why I made the decision to vote for Obama, I will give a bit more explanation to try and clarify. Please do not see this as a defense of my action. I am perfectly comfortable with and excited about my choice. It feels like I have freed up part of myself. I don’t need you to agree with me to feel OK about it. My hope and purpose is that you may learn something about yourself by engaging in this discussion with me. To that end, I am willing to explain and discuss as long as anyone cares to engage. So to begin…
I think it is important to look at my decision from two different stances. I know there are some agnostics and atheists out there reading these words, and I want to respect their interest as much as anyone’s. So I will explain my decision briefly from a purely historical stance and then from a more faith based moral and ethical stance, probably not the moral stance from which you think I should come as a follower of Christ but I think it is a more critical moral stance.
The historical…The US is the lone super power in the world. In essence we can do what we want and have done what we want. We have the most advanced and elite military the world has ever known. We have more money than much of the rest of the world combined. We consume more energy than most of the rest of the world combined. And we justify our behavior as being good for the world. That is the behavior of an empire. The US is an empire, plain and simple, and we spread our values around the world as any empire would and historically have done. That is the natural behavior of empires, and we do it. And now for the bad news. Empires do not last. They come and they go, and the US will be no different. History does in fact repeat itself. The Egyptian Empire came and went. The Babylonian Empire came and went. The Roman Empire came and went. The British Empire came and went. And the US Empire has come and will go. It will be someone else’s turn. Now saying this does not mean that I think we ought to just roll over and hand our country over to the rest of the world. But I do think that it means we ought to have the foresight to examine our position in the world and to better understand what the rest of the world thinks of us and to do what we can to benefit the common good of the world. Why do Empires fall? They fall because they become victims of their own power. They misuse their power. It is important for us not to continue to misuse our power and instead to use it for the common good of the world.
So whom do I respect who knows a lot about the world? Colin Powell. He was most likely used by the current administration to make a case for the Iraq war, and his response to that has been nothing but gracious as far as I can tell. He has not lashed out. He has not pointed fingers. He has not gotten into a “he said, he said” debate. He has not been vindictive. Instead he quietly and respectfully withdrew himself from the stage where he felt he could no longer in good faith stand. If he had done it any other way. If he was vindictive. If he had not been played. If he was to blame for getting us into the Iraq mess. Then conservatives would have been all over him for it when he announced his support for Obama. But instead they called him a traitor. They had nothing better on him. Limbaugh and Hannity critized him not for his mistakes but for his refusal to be loyal to the Republican party. That says a great deal to me about Colin Powell. It says to me that his integrity is intact. That he has nothing else for which to be criticized. He has no major areas for which attack can be justified. He can only be labeled a traitor in a weak attempt to discredit his decision. And whom does Colin Powell think is the best to lead us through the maze of relationships that the world presents to us? Barack Obama. Colin Powell is at the heart of my non-faith-based reasons for voting for Obama.
Now for my evangelical friends (and I do honestly mean that), my moral/ethical reasons for voting for Obama…For those of you not familiar with Rob Bell, you should get familiar with him. He is talking about Christianity, along with many others, in a way that I believe gets at the heart of what Christ’s message to the world is. In his new book, Jesus Wants To Save Christians, he talks about Empire in much the same way I have heard it discussed by NT Wright. I have great respect for both of these men and the different way in which they are bringing about a reading of the bible that makes much more sense to me than I have ever before had. Bell on page 130-131 talks about the phrase “peace through victory” and how it relates to Empire.
“‘Peace through victory’ depended on which side of the sword you were on….If the system works for you, it can be quite hard to understand the perspective of people who have the boot of the system on their neck. If you have the power, it can be hard to understand the voice of those who have no power. If you have choice, options, luxuries, it can be hard to fathom the anger of those who don’t. If you have always had enough food, it can be hard to understand the shouts of those whose stomachs are grumbling from hunger….Followers of Christ missing the central message of the Bible? It happened then, and it happens now. And sometimes the reason is, of course, empire.”
Christ did not operate in the fashion of Empire. If anything he was anti-Empire. The weak will become strong. The meek will inherit the earth. The rich will become poor. His power is actually in weakness. Preservation of the US and of the world and of humanity is actually all about taking care of those most unfortunate. That is the true proper use of wealth and power. Not the spread of Empire. The spread of Empire will lead to the destruction of the Empire. It is happening now and will continue to happen unless we engage the world in a new way. Unless we care for the weak. Unless we care for the environment. Unless we become champions of the poor and destitue both at home and abroad. Continued misuse of power is immoral and unethical. We can no longer justify spending a trillion dollars to bail out Wall Street when 50 million Americans cannot get health care. We can no longer justify spending a trillion dollars to spread our Empire to Iraq when billions live on a few dollars a day. We can no longer support an economic system that gives power to a few at the top and leaves the poor at their mercy. I can no longer support such a system.
So suffice it to say that I believe Obama’s beliefs and strategies, after very close examination, more closely mirror what I understand to be both moral and for the common good of not only the US but the entire world. McCain, on the other hand, will be more of the same, and I believe, will lead us to a worse place. I invite any comments, postive or negative and even vicious if you feel you must vent, and will continue to engage as long as anyone cares to discuss. Thanks for reading.