[editors note: this is part one of a series to be continued next week with a post coinciding with the Democratic Convention. That link here]As the first of the two major national conventions end, the election season is every bit as real as the college football season that began tonight with ESPN’s South Carolina- Vandy scorcher. It’s time for what many are already calling the nastiest election in quite some time. With Citizens United in full effect, unaccountable “voter” groups throughout the country will be seeking to end the election chances of their opponent with the nastiest uppercut or low-blow they can find. With that approaching it is perhaps a good time for another call for civility (I know might as well ask the GOP to vote for a tax hike or the Dems to vote for a Medicare voucher system). In his book God’s Politics Jim Wallis forcefully argued that the Evangelical community ought not to place solo republicas alongside such important ideals as solo fidelis or solo scriptura or even soli deo gloria. He argued that the Church at large has something important to say to both parties. That the message of faith could and should inform both the Democrat and the Republican. In speaking to both parties we, the church, could bring out the best in each tradition and hopefully restrict the worst. It’s a shame he has not able to do so in his own book or magazine, but the idea is a good one. To that end I would like to submit over the next two weeks such a screed. Here is one man’s take on the Christian response to the American parties.
1) I would like to commend the many members of your party who are honestly seeking to apply principles and values found in scripture to work in your policies.
There are a great many good, honest, and thoughtful people in your party asking what does scripture mean and how can I apply that the modern American situation. As a Christian and Protestant, I, too, believe in the value of solo scriptura and thank you for attempting to do the same. Of course sometimes we do not always agree with what these passages mean, how they apply, or any which theme or value should be pre-eminent. When we disagree I simply ask that you not treat me as a heretic out to destroy America. I, too, love America even if I disagree what is best for our country. I, also, love our Lord and would love to see the Wesleyan principle of unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and in all things, love. And yes, I know we might sometimes disagree into what category taxation should rest, but let us all agree that in all things, love will bind our tongues, and free our ears to hear what the other is actually saying.
2) I love that you stand for the importance of human life.
As a Christian I, too, believe in the imageo deo. I believe in some way God works with His creation to create the broad spectrum of life we behold daily. I believe that each person with whom we come into contact is fearfully and wonderfully made (whether in the womb or a test-tube, whether by the combination of natural elements, or perhaps in the future a combination of lab parts). To be fully human is to be in community, and a part of this community is to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. It is to stand up for those with both limited and unlimited potential. Thank you for caring for those potentialities within the womb. I just wish that you would show the same amount of concern for those who have already breeched the lady parts and entered into our society. Perhaps if we showed love and respect to those who have been raped and abused (rather than compounding the abuse with loose talk, abstractions, and inanities) we might work together to create a world in which no one is unloved, and no one is left alone in their pain. Perhaps if we passed the kind of laws that made parenting easier; if we put our money where our mouth is; if we actually cared for the poor, then maybe, just maybe, we could make the need for such a drastic procedure as abortion rarely wanted or used. That would actually accomplish what you are trying to do with legal mumbo jumbo like Arizona’s new ruling on pregnancy.
Beyond that I wish we would see the value of life as it relates to the experience of gender, race, and sexuality. I wish you would place the same value on the Trayvon Martins of the world as you often do the missing white chick de jure. I wish you could understand what the President means when he says Trayvon could be his son. I wish you could get why it is inappropriate to state that his wife does not look like an American. I wish you could for a moment feel the sting of abuse so that you would no longer preface words like ‘rape’ with words like ‘legitimate.’ I wish you could feel the pain of being called queer or gay just because you appear ‘effeminate.’ I wish you could see the connection between “don’t say gay” policies and rising suicide rates of teens in one of your senator’s home districts. I wish we could agree that all means all, and that to start out we must respect and love everyone regardless. I know that you like to say you love the sinner, but sometimes it’s really hard to tell if that is not just another prevarication.
3) I appreciate that you can use words like responsibility, values, honor, and respect without sneering or seeming ironic.
We need you talking about responsibility even as my and other generations roll our eyes. We need people talking about family values (even if it sometimes seems a code word for something else which I don’t exactly get). We need people who believe there is such a thing as honor; even as our athletes, movie stars, and celebrities (and yes some politicians as well) act as if it does not exist. We need you reminding us that our choices are important and always have consequences. We need you reminding us that sometimes even if we can be protected from them, we should face them anyway. We need you reminding us that soldiers do a hard and valuable job. We need you standing look-out against the ever encroaching problems of post-modernity. We need you on that wall, we want you on that wall. Just try to keep in mind that when we roll our eyes and rebel, we will need your grace. We need your talk of consequences to include the grace and forgiveness marked by our God who would send his son to give his life for his enemies.
4) Last, I love that you love America.
In the book and movie of the same name Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller stated that you cannot love something unless you see someone else love that same thing. Miller talked about how his father’s love of jazz led him to an appreciation of that fine art, or how Penny’s love of Jesus led him to understand the Saviors love for him. In that sense your love for America is contagious. Thank you for not being afraid to get corny, sappy, and sentimental about it. When I see you love your country, I remember why I, too, love my country. In our post-modern world it is all too easy to be ironic and get detached; to see all the bad, and get bitter. Thank you for reminding us that we have a great country. Please be kind when we too easily drift into bitter irony.
But here’s the deal: we all love America. We all want what is best. We simply sometimes disagree on what the best is or means. Can we at least agree to stop with the insinuations, innuendos, and aspirations? Can we agree to disagree without calling each other names? Could you agree not to compare others with Hitler? Hitler was Hitler. No one else is in the same league. Can you agree to stop throwing the word Socialist around like you can the economy bag at Costco? Neither a businessman who made money on Wall Street, or a lawyer who made his money selling a book on the open market are socialists. Nor are people who want you to pay taxes (even more taxes). Can we stop fearing Muslims, Mexicans, and Gays? Most of them are really quite nice once you get to meet them. And for most of them the closest they get to a conspiracy is trying to plan a surprise party for a loved one. They don’t want to take over America, they just want what you already have: the chance to be heard, the chance to be normal, and a chance to make something of themselves.So go out on the campaign trail and tell us your plan for the country. Tell us what you think went wrong and how you plan to fix it. By all means point out the differences between yourselves and others. Just don’t forget to breathe, and stop, and consider how hurtful lies, misrepresentations, and false allegations can be. Remember to campaign with the honor, values, and integrity you wax on about, and remember that choices do have consequences.