What I Like About You: An Open Letter to the Democratic Party…

[Editors Note: As the second major convention ends, the election season is getting hotter than Nick Saban in a room full of journalists. 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 over the past two weeks I have hoped to present such a screed. Here is one man’s take on the Christian response to the American parties.

For additional insight: might I recommend this link to Pangea Blog where Kurt Willems have done typically amazing work replying to and expanding upon  an equally good piece found  at Revelant Mag entitled “7 Things Christians need to Remember about Politics.” Here is the link for part 1 of this series: An Open Letter to the GOP.

And so now we move on to the men and women who met in Charlotte, sans hurricane but with a troublesome rain prediction, here is a word to the Democratic party.

1) I would like to commend the many people in your party who are honestly attempting to apply the values of scripture to the world at large.

In the past century the men and women at Christian Century and Sojourners have provided the basis for a Christian left. Based strongly on the writings of men such as the Niebuhr brothers, your party has attempted to provide a truly scriptural viewpoint for American society. While I may not always agree with your exegesis, I respect that our President can point to scripture to defend his beliefs on gay marriage or immigration or taxes. As a intellectual and Christian I, too, believe in the value of doing solid exegetical work in order to bring the our stories into the story. Thank you for understanding the complexity of scripture and reminding us to dig deeper to inculcate the deep teachings of scripture. I would ask you to be true to your words when dealing with those of us who belong and / or come from more conservative backgrounds. You all talk a lot about acceptance and love, please continue to show this with those of us who might disagree on this or that stance. Please understand that when someone speaks out against gay marriage, they are not doing so out of some latent homophobia, they are trying their level best to do what they think is right. This does not excuse those who truly are speaking hate (such as Westboro or the FRC), but we are asking here for grace and forgiveness. As you remind us all the time speaking out does not mean hate. Please help us get control of the “war” language. Please help us continue to maintain the respectful dialogue that you claim to want.

2) Thank you for standing up for the least, the lowly, and the unlovely; the poor, the put-upon, and the powerless.

James, the brother of Christ, stated that, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble.” Thank you for keeping the orphans and widows central to your thought process. When I hear Bill Clinton say that the best thing he did as President was help people move from poverty to the middle class, it warms my heart. When I hear the current President speak up for the powerless, I am thankful to be an American. From the Civil Rights movement on, the church and the party have been great allies in advancing the Kingdom of God through justice for the weak, and increased opportunities for the powerless. You truly recognize the image of God in the poor. You truly understand that to serve the poor and imprisoned is to serve Christ. Thank you.

You know, it is for these reasons that Ted Kennedy and others initially opposed the Roe ruling. Kennedy and others saw another unempowered class of human beings being attacked without due process of law. I would ask the party to remember that they were against abortion before they were for it. Don’t get me wrong rape is a horrible thing and should never be excused or belittled by adding terms such as ‘legitimate,’ but as the old cliche goes, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Are there times when such calculations might factor in for the life of the mother, yes. But help us to keep the death of innocent life from being just another way to escape responsibility. You can also help us by continuing to push for a society in which no baby is unwanted, and every baby has a chance for a good life. Join us in making life good for all, even the lowest among us.

3) Keep using words like justice, hope, change, cooperation, and sharing. Do so without shame or mixed feelings.

In life it is easy to, as John Lennon said, to get busy making other plans. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the trapping of our modern society. We have so much. We are handed so much. It is at times obscene how much we want, and are given. In the numbing embrace of all-consuming quests for more and better happiness, it is so easy to forget that many do not have it so easy. That is why we need you to occasionally shake our shoulders, slap us in the face, and break us from the gluttonous monotony of modern life. Keep pressing for justice. Keep reminding us to cooperate with others. Keep reminding us of Uncle Ben’s maxim: that with great power comes great responsibility. Or as the Prophet long ago spoke in parable: to whom much is given, much is required. We have not been blessed with all these riches because of our own righteousness, or our own reward. We have been blessed to be a blessing. Keep reminding us that sharing the wealth is not evil, it is not socialism, it is the call of Christ to take up our cross and follow him. Keep reminding us of about camels and the needle’s eye. Keep reminding us what that stories reminds us about riches.

However there is a troubling trend to demonize the rich, to demonize the process of gaining wealth. As you confront our greed, do so with love seasoned by grace. Remembering John Wesley’s maxim: gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.

4) I love that you can love America; while being honest about its flaws, and seeing room for improvement.

I do not believe the lie that you somehow hate your country. I do not believe the lie that you secretly desire to overthrow the greatness of our land. I wish those who spread those lies on the radio or TV, or by forwarding chain emails, or with those dumb pictures and pithy quotes on social media sites would cease and desist. This is because true love desires for the best, and longs to bring out the good in the beloved. Apathy tells his wife that dress is OK. True love admits, hey, that dress does make you look fat. Now true love does not gloat or enjoy pointing out such an embarrassing tidbit, but when one cares about a person, one speaks up (in love). The GOP has said this for years about the LGBT community. It’s time for both parties to be able to admit it when the other is speaking to the other’s best interest. It’s time to stop expecting the worse and seeing the worst in each other.

This is why I applauded Bill Mahrer when he was willing to entertain the idea that an attack on us may have been inspired by less than pure actions on our part. As is his way he bollixed the sentiment and was rude and condescending, but still he was right to ask the question. We need you pushing us not to settle and rest on our laurels. If  Johnson had done so, millions of black Americans would still be in bondage to America’s own version of apartheid.

That said, sometimes you come across as bitter, angry, condescending, elitist, and hateful. I know it is frustrating to see so much wrong, but please learn to temper your wrath into something productive and something that does not assume that everyone else is evil. Please stop using the race card like you got them on red light special. Please stop using terms like racist, homophobe, and sexist (except when they are truly there).

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.

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