I answered my landline one afternoon this past July. I never answer my landline. The ringer is off most of the time. We are afraid of sales calls I guess. Yet for some reason, I worked up the courage and answered the phone. I said hello. That is when I met Cecil.
Cecil is a field organizer with the Obama campaign here in Joplin. She is the kind of hard-working, ambitious person that you would expect to drop out of school for a semester and move out of Austin, TX to work for a candidate she believes in. She is a student at the University of Texas. Other than her love for the Longhorns, she has few faults.
My decision was made up long before I picked up the phone. I knew that this election was going to be important. We watched the primaries for months leading up to the summer. I read Obama’s The Audacity of Hope in nearly one sitting this summer. I wanted the experience of an election. Cecil helped me find ways to get involved. She demanded nothing less honestly. “We’ve got to get this man elected,” she’d say in her Texas accent.
The past few months have been nothing short of a learning experience for me. My story is not unlike most people’s who have gotten involved on either side of the party line. I have never been involved in a campaign until this year. I haven’t cared enough until this year. Like you, I sensed something was different this time around. Too much was at stake to do nothing. So I signed up with Cecil. I became a neighborhood team leader. I knocked on doors and made phone calls and attended debate watch parties.
I also answered questions. Word spreads fast that you are committed in early August to one side. Nearly every morning I was grilled with questions about the latest blunder or promise. Nearly every conversation started with “Did you hear…” or “Can you believe that…” Some questioners have been pleasant and honest. Most have been engaging and thought provoking. Some have been downright aggressive.
“I don’t want the government to take all my money!”
“I wanna ship that sonova’ bitch back to Africa!”
“I firmly believe that Obama is the anti-Christ.”
“How can you live with yourself?”
It is the last accusation that I feel compelled to address tonight.
I learned very early on that involvement in politics (on any level) demands compromise. There is absolutely no way that you can agree with every issue the candidate of your choice believes in. Maybe you’re like me and you back Sen. Obama but oppose abortion. Perhaps you are voting for Sen. McCain but don’t agree with his view on the war. Usually, the people who are so against one candidate or another have landed on one issue as a “deal breaker”.
By all means, I encourage people to vote their conscience. As a Christian, I will go into the booth with one question in mind, “how does my vote make Jesus famous?” I could be wrong in my decision (and so could you) but it is a decision we each have to make. The beautiful thing is, we have the ability to be wrong. If so, let me encourage you to be wrong boldly!
In my opinion, no election is a single-issue election. Issues are too complex and our country deserves better than such a polarized view. Yet, I know these concerns are real… they are personal and spiritual. It is not my goal to try to swing your vote or change your mind. It is my goal to explain myself.
“But Obama is a Socialist!”
Some people believe that Obama will come in and turn this country into a communist society. Some people I talk to say that he is going to take all of their hard earned money. That is simply untrue. In fact he has said time and time again that if you don’t make over a quarter million a year, you will not see a tax increase. He has been very public with this.
Most people say that they don’t want big government but these same people didn’t mind government assistance when they needed it. Raise your hand if you made it through college without a government grant. Raise your hand if your grandparents don’t depend on social security to keep their electricity on every month. We can’t forget that the GI Bill reshaped the higher education landscape. No one in their right mind would say that inner city schools should be left to crumble. But we want small government?
Now, I am proud to live in a country that rewards hard work. Part of what makes America great is the ability to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Yet what do you do if you don’t have any boots? So, no, I am not for freebies. I am not for encouraging laziness. But I am for giving people who will work hard a chance at making a better life for their families. I don’t think that makes me Karl Marx.
True, government cannot fix everything. I don’t think we are asking it to. But, if we claim to live in the greatest country in the world, mediocre health care should be available to every child. I’m not asking for braces on every kid in the inner city. But if your child needs a vaccine or a flu shot or a life saving surgery, he should be able to get it. And if you don’t think the government should be the one to answer the call, let’s work together so that the church can. Ready? Go.
“But Obama is connected to Crazy People!”
I hate to say this, but I have yet to talk to a single McCain supporter who can tell me why they support McCain. Usually, they begin with, “now McCain wasn’t my first choice”. It seems that the entire GOP feels the same way because their entire campaign has been driven on fear.
“Obama is a Muslim…! Obama is a racist…! Obama drinks the blood of cows…!”
ACORN has never been convicted of voter registration fraud. McCain has supported this organization in the past. Bill Ayers committed a crime forty years ago. He has been through rehabilitation and currently teaches at the University level. He is connected to Obama through a committee that the two served on. I don’t see how his connection would affect the Obama administration.
Yes, he is connected to a lot of world leaders that don’t look like us. Why in the world should we be scared of that? America has grown increasingly isolated over the past eight years. The “Maverick mentality” that we are just going to do whatever we want will not work in the competitive global economy. The world is shrinking. We need to be ready for it.
Whatever you decide, do not vote because of fear. You are smarter than that. Don’t vote because you were raised red or blue. Your parents and spouse are not making this decision for you. Tell me what you like about McCain. Tell me what he will do once elected. Vote for that.
“But Obama is a Baby Killer!”
This is the ultimate black and white issue for most Christian voters. I understand that. I respect that. You are justified for feeling that way. I want to be very careful and clear on this issue. For me personally, abortion is not an end-all issue when it comes to choosing a candidate.
Let me be blunt: Abortion is sinful and wrong. It is selfish. However, my stance comes down to this. If abortions were outlawed tomorrow, women would still terminate unwanted children. For most of these women, they are without hope and their options are limited. I'm not agreeing with this statement but to them, it is a “choice”. For most, it is their only choice.
Here is my response: Let's work to give them better choices. We (as the church) need to be more proactive in taking care of women who don't want their babies. We see examples of this in the early church in Rome. Could we fight to provide an easier adoption process? Could we take expectant mothers into our own homes? Could we fight for health care options for these children we march to protect?
If we care so much about giving these unborn children a "shot at life" then why do we turn our backs on them as soon as they are born? Remember, thousands of children live in this country without health insurance. Thousands more go hungry. Thousands more go without quality education. With all due respect, how come Christians aren't fighting as hard for them as they are the unborn?
Abortion is not just about pro-choice or pro-life. If we are to really fix this issue, we should aim to reconstruct the entire system. Did you know that abortion decreased by 18% while Clinton was president? Compare that to the 8% while Bush was in office and we can see that a pro-choice president does not necessarily produce desired results. When the entire safety net is intact (sex-education, affordable health care, options for young mothers, easier adoption avenues) moms are more likely to keep their babies.
Yes, the next president will probably select 2-4 Supreme Court justices. That is something we must consider. Yes, that will affect the future of Roe v. Wade in the coming years. Yet the president will also have to be able to address the complex issue at hand. I don’t believe McCain is able to do that.
“But it’s a big deal!”
It is a big deal. But whatever the outcome tomorrow, I have to admit that I will get up and go to work on Wednesday morning. So will you. The earth will continue spinning. All I hope is that we will work together for a better country and better world. We will speak truth to each other and demand it from our leaders.
I begin this article speaking about compromise. I think that points to the danger of mixing politics with religion. One demands compromise and the other cannot tolerate it. So where does our role fit in? I’m not sure. I’m still learning. For me, the best I can do is search for truth, whether it is red or blue. I can listen to your opinions (I hope you’ll comment below). I can pray and act. I can submit and follow Jesus no matter what. I can admit when I am wrong. I can handle a rightly earned, “I told you so”. I can search for my role in politics.
And I’m beginning to think that Christians make better prophets than politicians.
That is how I can live with myself.