Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Notes from a Liberal Christian


I said I wasn't going to talk politics on my blog. And I really didn't intend to... but as we wait for the election results I am feeling very pulled to defend being a liberal Christian. I feel like many people (and someone even wrote on my facebook wall) are shocked to see that I am supporting Obama and have been prayerful in my decision to do so. I think as Christians we so quickly jump to cover our two bases- abortion and marriage. Those are two very important things but my heart is much more convicted to take care of the poor. (I feel like the other two are also going to be touched on... but this should not be a basis to choose a leader for our nation.) My brother is majoring in biblical studies and I can testify that it is his first priority to further God's kingdom. We have had many political discussions and using the Bible as his foundation he supports the democratic party. I wanted to share some portions of his political rationale that so eloquently captures all that I believe as well. I love so much that he uses God's word to defend this stance to the many right-winged Christians that can quickly judge. I am not saying that if you voted for McCain you are wrong or going against God's word, however, what I am suggesting is that it is possible to love God with all of your heart and vote for Barack Obama.

My amazing brother and sweet, Baby Ivy! (*Photo opportunity I couldn't pass up*)

Anyways, here is some portions of his political defense! Really this is worth reading, even though it is a touch lengthy!

The main reason I am choosing to vote democrat this election has to do with poverty and issues related to it. With over 2000 verses in the Bible involving commands for God's people to care for the poor, I see loving and caring for the poor being one of the premiere characteristics of the people of God. Many Christians from the politically conservative viewpoint claim to agree that the poor must be taken care of, but their approach in doing so is different from mine. They prefer the least amount of government involvement as possible so that the only ways the poor's needs are reached are either through individual generosity or the church's relief efforts. While these are good things, I see them as insufficient. Both of these ways to address poverty only help the symptoms of the problem: hunger, homelessness, nakedness, etc. And they fail to address the things that have either helped to push people into poverty or prevent them from getting out of it. I liken this situation to a metaphor I once heard. If the town 10 miles down the road from you gets hammered by a flood, your town will go relieve them of the problems they have faced because of the flood. This may involve rebuilding, cleaning up, or just providing people with a place to stay. If the flood happens again, the same response ensues. And again, the cycle repeats. Eventually, I think the wise thing to do would be to try to figure out what it is that allows this flood to take place and do whatever is possible to prevent it from happening again. With poverty, then, I believe there are systemic and structural problems within our society that are oppressive in nature and thus keep people from getting out of the poverty they are in. Because of this, we need to do more to address poverty other than just giving people soup, sweatshirts, and shelters. We must address structural problems that cause poverty, predominantly in the education and business worlds.

Education example. Mason (a rich suburb outside of Cincinnati) public school system gives $6000 worth of resources per each fully functioning (not special needs) student while Cincinnati Public Schools, which predominantly comprises of inner city schools, only receive $3000 worth of resources. Is that just? How can we ever expect kids that are already in poor situations to climb out of the hole they are in and break the cycle when they already have several strikes against them? Statistically, many of these kids are in single parent families, often have a father absent from the house, and generally lack positive external motivation and influence. By refusing to provide them with sufficient educational resources, we just give another strike against them.

Business example. It is simply not just for CEOs to walk off with 10 million dollar severance packages while laying off thousands of workers. Nor is it just that the CEO of Disney used to get payed close to $17,000 PER HOUR while children in Haiti made Disney T-shirts for less than a dime an hour. Some sort of regulation needs to take place here. Too much power is given to the big boys at the top of the corporate world. Some people say, "Well, if we regulate a free market system, then our economy would drop." Bull, regulation has been happening for years and we still benefit from it today. 40 hour work weeks, minimum wage, adequate working conditions, and paid overtime are all examples of government mandates on the business world to prevent oppression and to take some power out of the business owners' hands. I think some regulation needs to be in place here.

Healthcare is also worth noting. While I don't necessarily think healthcare is a "right," I certainly don't see any reason why the richest nation in the world can't find a way to provide healthcare to the 47 million people without it. I am personally willing to give up the timely and luxurious nature of my healthcare so that the 47 million people with NOTHING can at least have something. Self-denial for the sake of others essentially sums up all of the ethical behaviors that Christians are expected to strive to do, and I see this as a way of demonstrating self-sacrificial love.

A right-wing Christian is sure to shout out, "But what about abortion!" I personally believe that Obama's healthcare and economic policies will do a better job at actually reducing abortions than the Republican party's failed attempts to overturn Roe V. Wade. In the 35 years that Roe v. Wade has been in effect, a Republican president held office for 23 of those years, and nothing was changed. Also, from January 2006 (with the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito) until January 2007 (when Democratic majority took over congress), the Republicans controlled all three branches of the government and still no effort was made to overturn Roe v. Wade. Additionally, Chief Justice Roberts, the most conservative Justice, has come out and stated that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and it was backed up by the Casey case. Furthermore, all overturning Roe v. Wade would do would be to allow each state to decide for itself whether or not to legalize abortions. It would not nationally prohibit abortions. Naturally, then, the only states that would actually legislate against abortion would be those with the fewest abortions already, not the ones with the most abortions. Combine that with the ability to cross state lines and the amount of actual reduction of abortions is close to zero. And that is if Roe v. Wade even gets overturned! Because of that, I think it's time to use another plan. It has been statistically proven time and again that there is a direct correlation between poverty and abortion, which means that those experiencing financial hardship are most likely to abort their babies. Because of that, I think addressing poverty (which Obama will do, i think) will reduce some abortions. Also, with Obama's healthcare plan, prenatal and postnatal healthcare become available and affordable for poor pregnant women, thus reducing more abortions. Additonally, a liberal sexual education curriculum would allow for students to be educated about birth control and different forms of contraception in order to prevent pregnancy instead of just focusing on abstinence, thus eliminating more abortions.

Many Christians get all bent out of shape about the government forcing people to give and whatnot. They think that all giving needs to come from a inner conviction in the hear to meet someone's needs. I am definitely in favor of that, but that that it is alright also for the government to take SOME in order to take care of its people. I see two examples of this in the Old Testament. First, the time of Jubilee found in Leviticus 25 (i think?). God understood the injustices that would be involved in slavery and economic trade, so he put a MANDATE down across the nation to return all bought property to its original owners and free all slaves every 50 years. Now I realize this is a theocratic government with a completely different situation and that this is far from the main point of the text, but I'm positive that not all people that participated in Jubilee did it out of personal conviction or choice. It was a law, mandated by the leader of the nation (God), that people had to participate in whether they like it or not.Another example is the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. He was thrown into a leadership position in what we would call a "secular" government in a secular nation. While in that position, he made it a requirement for everyone to bring 20% of their crops to him to be stored for times of future need. People say, "but he was led by God!" I certainly agree, but I definitely don't think that all the people living in Egypt that brought 20% of their crops to Joseph did so out of a realization of the famine that was coming or the conviction that they needed to do something to help other people in times of need. Once again, this is NOT the main point of the story. I'm only saying that it is an instance when people were forced by the government to give up something for the sake of others, regardless of their personal convictions.

Do I think that the government should take the primary role in addressing poverty? No, the church should. Do I think the government should be allowed to force people to give everything or to put extreme regulations on people or to become extremely communist like Soviet Union or Germany? Absolutely not, and conveniently, this has NO CHANCE of happening in the U.S. However, I do think that the government should be involved in regulation on some level or another and am perfectly fine with the government forcing fortunate folks to give a little more, even if it is unwillingly, out of their surplus for the greater need of the impoverished. Nothing extreme here. (Heaven forbid a rich person downgrading from an 8 car garage to a 3 or from a pool to a hot tub so that others can eat! Wouldn't want that to happen!)

Also, I do want to point out that I am NOT in favor of welfare for people who are capable of working, but don't. I am okay with welfare for people who are incapable of working (due to illness or disability), or for people who work but are not able to fully pay for their bills. I am for money being spent on projects and programs that involve helping people get employed, providing them with job training, paying for people to go to school or a technical college, and things of that nature. I do realize that the democratic party will always give some handouts to people that don't work even though they can, and I don't approve of it. But I'm willing to let the system be abused some if it can bring good in other areas.

All that said, I don't think my views are perfect. Nor do I think that all Christians must vote Democrat. I am voting Democrat based on convictions that I have based on my study of the Bible and my belief that democratic policies will address those convictions. Likewise, my teach Dr. Weatherly is voting Republican for the exact same reasons. He truly thinks that government regulation hinders the economy, and that hinders the relief of poverty, so he is all for conservative politics and economics. He is passionate about the same things as me, but he thinks the problem should be addressed in different ways. That's okay. I'm not forcing my views on anybody. I'm simply showing how my vote can come from Christian convictions and coincides with my faith.

I love my brother! I think he is awesome. His words just help to put my veiws (with a lot of support behind them) out there.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing... I've had many discussions about this same topic with other Christians and really enjoyed reading your brothers take on the matter.

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  2. There's a lot more to it, I might add, so if any of you have questions or think my arguments are unsupported, I'd be glad talk.

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  3. haha~ anthony, you like to be the guest speaker on the smorsfamily blog!

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  4. haha I'll take my chance to soak up the spotlight...seriously, though, I just know this topic can offend people quickly so I wanted to be available in case that happens.

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  5. Check your facebook messages for my response. It was too lengthy. :)

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  6. You and your brother should check out Omar's blog (Jenn's husband), there is a link on my blog. I think you all would appreciate a lot of his words. He even gets published sometimes on this online journal (or something like that.)

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  7. I absolutely love it! I totally agree!

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Thanks for your encouragement as I travel through this season of life called mommyhood!