Saturday, August 30

In a Nutshell.

Politics is always a hot topic of discussion during an election season. It's a time when people from all walks of life get involved in a process bigger than they are, and they bring their own unique perspective along with them.

I often get asked whether I am a Democrat or a Republican, and I always respond with neither. The follow up is usually something like, "Oh, You're and independent," and at that point I'm obligated to say, No, I am not. I am a Christian.

To quote Derek Webb, my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man, it's to a king and a kingdom. I don't align myself with a party, interest group (especially "Christian" lobbys), person, or platform; I align myself with the person of Jesus.

The simple fact of the matter is that many of us have been blessed by being born into a country with so many liberties as the United States, and one of those liberties is the privilege to cast a ballot in favor of the person we believe should be the leader of our country.

So when I go to vote, I am looking for the candidate who aligns himself with Jesus. I am looking for the one who is looking out for the least among us. Who feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, and tends to the sick. Jesus was never about hot topic issues, or even politics. He was about taking care of those who couldn't take care of themselves.

Many church leaders like to point out that if Jesus was physically here today teaching us, He would not be in our churches, lecture halls, or great institutions, but out on the streets, where the people are who need him the most. "It is not the healthy who require a doctor, but the sick; I did not come to appeal to the righteous, but to sinners."

So, what then are Christians supposed to do? Not vote? Maybe. If you are so fed up with the system that you believe no good will ever come out of it, you might want to refrain from the process. We are certainly not obligated to participate in politics. But when we do decide to exercise our freedoms and get plugged in, we then become obligated to find the candidate who is NOT looking out for us, but for our neighbor. Is that not one of the main messages of the gospel? Why should we forgo this teaching when it comes to politics and look out just for ourselves. The American government will never be an extension of the church, we have laws in place to prevent that from happening, but there is nothing to stop it from advancing the cause of Jesus in helping to reach out to those who are unreachable.

Lastly, this election year I myself will choose the candidate who makes an effort to measure up to this criteria. I believe Jesus loved peace, so I look for the candidate who also loves peace. I believe Jesus loved God's creation, so I look for the candidate who will be a good steward of that. I believe Jesus wants us to give out of not only our surplus, but our need, so I look for the candidate who plans to help those who are more needy than I am. And I believe that most of all Jesus loves us. People. All of us. On both sides of the aisle. Red States. Blue States. Rich. Poor. Our friends. And even our enemies.

The day the person shows up to proclaim all of these things will be a good day for all of us, but until then we have to make do with what we have. And what we have is an inheritance stored up for us in heaven; that no one, no Republican or Democrat or foreign aggressor, can take away from us. We are taken care of. There are so many out there who aren't.

In the end I love watching the political process because of how it reflects the human condition. Politics is the art of perception. It's amazing to watch, really. Two sides in a desperate struggle to gain power, who spend countless hours crafting the perfect statement to move a few people out of the other column and into theirs.

*Disclaimer* After this point I am speaking on a completely personal level.

I became a supporter of Barack Obama sometime last November. The reason I did so was because I believe most of what I just said, although that doesn't mean everyone should believe the same way I do. He has been dismissed by his opposition as a person of lofty rhetoric and no substance, lacking experience, and walking the party line. But, among his supporters, there is something more going on than the traditional partisanship we are so used to. There is a stirring, a movement coming about. But it is not really about Obama. The reason people flock to him is not because he is a celebrity, but because he has become a symbol. He represents everyone in this country who feels trapped in a system slowly spiraling downward. A generation of young people wo have read about the New Deal in their text books but have never seen anything like it in their lifetime. Obama tapped into that key human emotion, that if we all work together, and work hard, we can become somthing greater than we already are. That we don't have to coast through this life doing nothing, preserving the status quo, but that we can come together as a nation of people who are as diverse as can possibly be, and be good.

But whatever happens, we as Christians know, that God works all things to His own end. And as with any election there are going to be losers and there are going to be winners, but when all is said and done we are still a community. Friends may support different candidates, which could cause some friction. Families can be divided (trust me on this one). And many arguement could be had about who is right and who is wrong. But we are still family. All of us. The family of humanity. And something as cheap and petty as politics should never divide us. Because politics are not everything. Neither is patriotism. Or liberty. We're all looking for something bigger than ourselves, and if we really cared, then we could focus on the things that unite us, rather than the things that tear us apart.


Elaine said...


wait, what do i care? i'm an expat! :D

Sarah said...

I really should read your blog more often. :)

Though it doesn't come out near as eloquently when I speak it, I believe the same things about our political process, and have chosen to support Obama for much the same reason. My faith is not in him to change the United States, or the world, or to provide me with greater opportunity or even money (which, at this point, would clearly be an act of God!). I do think, however, that his voice is symbolic of millions seeking change in the fundamentals of how we treat our neighbor in this country. That is, in large part, why he's getting my vote. :)

Thanks for writing!
sarah bickerstaff

Rebecca Rabb said...

hey paul. you raise some interesting points... something to think about for sure. thanks. i feel like my heart has softened to the whole political thing. i generally get pretty worked up about it, but now i see that is a silly thing to do and am slightly embarrassed at my current blog because of it.

i still don't know what to think about obama... or mccain. like my blog mentions (well, more like yells. dang it.) im not much of a fan of either of their ideas or the "system" in general. so, i think i will choose, like you said, to not vote because i dont truly believe in either candidate. but now... i think i will calmly step aside instead of, well... yelling about it. your blog put my heart at ease. thanks.