Can a Christian vote for Obama?
I've had a couple of posts recently about people who couldn't restrain themselves from endorsing political candidates in the classroom. Recently a number of pastors, who can't resist telling their parishioners who they should vote for, have made the news. They risk their churches' tax exempt status by doing so, and Minneapolis StarTribune carried an article about them yesterday. Gus Booth, a fundamentalist pastor in Warroad, has been very involved in this movement. He made headlines across the country last May when he told his parishioners that a Christian cannot vote for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton because of their positions on abortion and gay rights.
I find pastors like Booth offensive for two reasons. First of all, I think they give Christianity a bad name. Like radical Muslims, or radicals of any other faith, they are convinced that they have a complete monopoly on the truth, and anyone who believes anything different is evil. I also find them offensive because of the effect they have on our politics. I am so sick of Republicans and Democrats who find it necessary to demonize the other side. Not only that, but they drive a lot of good people out of politics who don't want to associate with the extemists who have taken over the two parties. After Booth and his followers took control of the local Republican caucus in February, a number of local Republicans with common sense said they would never go back again.
When I read about Booth's idiotic sermon last spring, I was appalled. At that time, I was leaning toward McCain, but I was tempted to respond with a letter to the editor in our local newspaper. Since I always have some kids in my classes who go to his church, however, I decided that it probably wasn't a good idea. As it turned out, I'm glad I didn't, because Robert Baril, a former student who is now majoring in political science at Bemidji State University, wrote a better letter than I could have. Robert is more to the left than I am, but his letter made me proud to have been his teacher. Here it is.
I was stunned recently to hear that a pastor in Warroad was using his sermons to tell people who they should vote for. Apparently, his message was the "good Christians" should not vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton because of their stances on abortion and gay marriage, which seems somewhat lmiting as there are plenty of other reasons not to vote for them (though I did).
Now, I have seen Pastor Booth administer a wedding, and he came off as both warm and funny. He seems like a decent man, and I understand his passion for politics. What I disagree with is by making statements like that, Mr. Booth is turning the 2008 campaign into a two-issue election: abortion and gay marriage. This may be painful for some to hear, but this is exactly what the Republicans want, because they use the religious vote to win elections.
The same thing happened in 2004 when gay marriage was the big issue for religious voters, instead of the war in Iraq--currently in year five. As soon as they won, what? That promised gay marriage to the Constitution? Didn't happen. What did happen? A disastrous foreign and domestic policy that has left us militarily vulnereable abroad and financially unstable at home.
The only role these issues really play in elections is to serve as a conservative distraction from issues they're less inclined to talk about, such as the deficit. Could we at least make China work a little bit for their ultimate takeover?
This also may be tough to hear, but it's the truth: abortion will never be completely banned in this country. The closest you can come is to make it a state's issue and limit it to the first or second term. I don't agree with the practice myself, but at the same time recognize that others may live under circumstances that precipitate a different belief and ulimately their call, just as it should be a consenting adult's call to marry the consenting adult of their choice.
I'm sorry, but I fail to see how a gay couple threatens the sanctity of marriage, which straight people can't seem to get right, having a roughly 50% divorce rate. The Bible is often referenced to combat the argument for gay marriage. The problem is that it has also been referenced to justify slavery. There are so many alternate translations that practically anyone can use the Bible to justify their actions.
Our death penalty is based on eye-for-an-eye vengeance, yet there's a commandment against killing. And if the Bible is excused from participation, the argument against gay marriage falls through. For procreation only? Well, sorry infertile people. They'll raise gay children? We'll just elect them to be vice-president.
What issues should matter? Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, universal health care (something I think Jesus would be just alright with), our painfully degraded infrastructure, taxes (this is the first time the country has been at war and we haven't raised taxes. I think if we ask our soldiers to sacrifice their lives, we can sacrifice a few extra cents), and the environment...
If you want to vote for John McCain, that's fine. I'm not. If that makes me a bad Christian, I ask you to pray for me. But I'm choosing to base my vote on issues that affect me directly: the economy, the wars we're deeply involved in, and health care.
It's not that issues like abortion and gay marriage don't matter to me, but I know that whoever I elect is not going to affect these already contentious issues that much. Because these areas are such political land mines, and politicians are all about career survival, they try to avoid dealing with them as much as possible. They're much more satisfied with the status quo because that gives them something dependable to complain about every four year to stay in power. Conversely, on matters such as foreign policy and economic strategy, our future president will have a significant and profound influence. That is why I feel they are of greater concern when it comes to basing your electoral choice. Your vote is your choice, for your reasons. I didn't write this to tell you who to vote for. I just wanted to remind you that there's too much at stake in this presidential race for it to be reduced to a two-issue campaign.