Category Archives: Politics

I am a Christian and I am a Democrat

This month’s synchroblog theme is “Faith and Politics”  One of the things that bothers me a lot when it comes to faith and politics is when I hear someone say that one cannot be a Christian and a Democrat … so I thought I would write about being a Christian and a Democrat.  I will add the links to the other synchroblog contributions to the bottom of this post as they become available. 

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Contrary to what some people think these days it is possible to be a faithful follower of Jesus and a Democrat at the same time.

Take me for instance.  I am a Christian and I am a Democrat.

I wasn’t always a Democrat.  I grew up in a conservative Christian community and was a Republican for most of my life.  However, several years ago the Republican party went so far right that I had to seriously consider what I believed and why.  It was a process but after a lot of thought, discussion, prayer and study of scripture I left the Republican party.

Some people would argue that the bible doesn’t have a lot to say about government but I disagree.  I believe that scripture instructs that government should exist to protect it’s citizens and promote a common good for the society it serves. As I studied scripture I came to believe that the Democratic party did that better than the Republican party at this point in time.

Whether we are talking about the sanctity of life, healthcare, education, animal rights, environment, civil rights, immigration, caring for the poor, war, taxes or economy the Democratic platform represents the tenets of my faith “better” than the Republican party. It doesn’t represent it perfectly and never will.  I don’t even believe that it should.

Personally, I don’t really like political parties to say too much about religion or God.  Of course my beliefs are going to inform how I vote and what party I affiliate with, but I think that government should strive to serve a larger base than one particular religion, even if it is my own.  My observation in recent years is that the injection of the Christian religion into American politics has caused more division than unity and done more harm than good.  Therefore, recently when the Democratic party didn’t include the mention of God in their platform I wasn’t upset as a person of faith.  To be honest it doesn’t really matter to me how many times God is mentioned and actually I think it would be better to leave his name out of political platforms altogether.  As a person of faith I am more concerned with the principles and policies that a party is supporting and promoting and how they line up with my beliefs – not whether or not the name of God was mentioned.  In fact, I even think that using the name of God in a political platform can come across as emotionally manipulative and before I left the Republican party I had begun to feel like the party had become insincere and manipulative when it came to certain issues such as abortion and same sex marriage.

At first I was timid about speaking out about leaving the Republican party behind.  After all I had been part of the conservative Christian community and heard the declarations about how evil Democrats and liberals were.  And when I did share my thoughts and doubts and questions about the Republican party with my conservative Christian friends and acquaintances I often got the idea that my faith was being questioned more than my politics.

But as the years have gone by I have met a lot of people who are serious about following in the way of Jesus who are Democrats and they are some of the most loving and kind people I have ever met. And I believe that they have helped to change me for the better.

I have been moved by the way they are willing to give up some of their rights, conveniences and possessions in order to promote the common good.  I have been inspired by the way they are careful not to push their beliefs onto others or denigrate people who believe differently than they do.  I have been encouraged by the way they are willing to take the extra effort and time it takes to care for our environment and protect animals.  I have been emboldened by the way they are so dedicated to the idea that everyone is created in the image of God and deserves to be treated equally with dignity and respect.

Today I am no longer timid about my affiliation with the Democratic party.  Today I am even proud to say, “I am a Christian and I am a Democrat”

and sometimes I even add:

“In fact, I am NOT a Democrat in spite of my faith … I am a Democrat BECAUSE of my faith.”

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Here are the links to other posts for this month’s synchroblog:

We The People by Wendy McCaig

Pulpit Freedom, Public Faith by Carol Kuniholm

Plumbers and Politicians by Glenn Hager

Conflating Faith and Politics by Maurice Broaddus

You Cannot Serve Two Masters by Sonja Andrews

Would Jesus Vote by Jeremy Myers

A Kingdom Not Of This World by Jareth Caelum

I am a Christian and I am a Democrat by Liz Dyer

5 ways to make it through the election and still keep your friends by Kathy Escobar

Why There’s No Such Thing As The Christian Vote by Marta Layton

God’s Politics? by Andrew Carmichael

The First Step Is Admitting There Is A Problem

This post is part of a synchroblog on extreme economic inequality. The list of participants will be posted at the end of this post as soon as they are available.

Extreme Income Inequality is a hot topic in theU.S.

There are numerous reports, studies and books on the subject.  All presenting overwhelming evidence that income inequality is reaching never before seen levels in our country and around the world.

A Census Report finds that nearly half (1 in 2) of Americans are poor or low income.

A report from the Congressional Budget Office last October found that between the years 1979 and 2007 the average real after-tax household income for the bottom 20 percent rose 18% but the top 1 percent of the population saw their incomes rise 275%.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported in May 2011 that “the gap between rich and poor in O.E.C.D. countries has reached its highest level for over 30 years.” TheU.S.had a gap of 14 to 1 between the richest ten percent and the poorest ten percent.

Extreme income inequality is a fact and so is the possibility that it could prove economically and socially disastrous.

Before I go any further I want to address the idea of extreme income inequality and point out that what we are talking about is not “income inequality” but “EXTREME income inequality”.

Many people don’t understand the extreme income inequality that is occurring because that kind of wealth is beyond what most of us can imagine.

Here are a couple of illustrations that helped me understand the kind of exteme conditions that are occurring.

If you made a dollar per second, every second, you’d be making $3,600 per hour and you’d be a millionaire in 11.5 days.  But, it would take you 32 years to become a billionaire.  If Bill Gates had made his fortune at $3,600 per hour he would have had to be earning that rate of income for 1,600 years.

Or… let’s say you earned $29,000 per year (which is the median income in theU.S.).  If you made $29,000 a year and never spent a single penny of it you would need to earn that much for 34,482 years in order to save a billion dollars.

And yet, there are people in the U.S. who make a billion dollars a year, every year, while the majority of people make “extremely” less than that (obviously if the average income in the U.S. is $29,000 per year).

In 2007 Forbes reported 400 people had as much wealth as half of our population. The combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans in 2007: $1.5 trillion. The combined net worth of the poorest 50% of American households: $1.6 trillion.  

Now that we have an idea of the extreme income inequality that is occurring let’s look at why it matters.

Studies are revealing that many social problems are related to extreme income inequality.  A society being too rich or not rich enough does not seem to be the problem.  The problem is large gaps between the richest and poorest.  Whether it is a country, a state or a neighborhood extreme income inequality seems to affect everyone in the community negatively.  Physical health, teen pregnancy, imprisonment, education, trust, life expectancy, mental health, obesity, creativity, murder, innovation – whatever was measured seemed to prove extreme income inequality increases the problem.  Physical and mental health are worse, teen pregnancy is higher, more people are imprisoned, people trust other people less, life expectancy is lower, more people are obese, creativity and innovation decrease, murder rates increase as income inequality increases, people are less content. This doesn’t happen just for the poor but for everyone.  For example, countries that have the largest gaps have rates of mental illness that are five times higher than countries with the smallest gaps and that includes everyone; a baby born in the U.S. is twice as likely to die before turning one year old as a baby born in Japan where the gap is significantly less; and the average life expectancy for an American is three years shorter than for a Swede who lives in a country that enjoys a lower rate of inequality.  AND if you subtract the poor from the analysis the scores don’t change.  Extreme income inequality is like a pollutant that spreads throughout society.  For more detailed information check out The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (or here’s a Ted talk by Richard Wilkinson that does a good job of summarizing the info in the book).

In addition to all the social ills, extreme income inequality is not good for the economic condition of a country.  (Again, I am not talking about “income inequality” but “EXTREME income inequality”) Billionaires contributed to both the Great Depression and the recent depression. When money becomes mostly concentrated with a small percentage of the population less money is pumped back into the economy because the richest will invest the majority of their money. The increased investment levels vs the decreased money entering the market place leads to inflated bubbles and riskier investments which eventually lead to market crashes. Trickle down economics doesn’t work in the midst of extreme income inequality. The book The Trouble With Billionaires: Why Too Much Money At The Top Is Bad For Everyone by Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks is an excellent resource for more on this.

And finally, extreme income inequality is bad for everyone because obviously the rich will primarily use their wealth to help themselves socially, economically and politically.  A vicious cycle occurs where the super rich push for new laws and loop holes that allow them to become even richer, which allows them to push harder, and that makes them even more rich etc. etc. etc.  Mega rich billionaires represent a very real threat to democracy as their voices are heard much louder and clearer than the average citizen’s voice is ever heard. For example, the most advanced, lucrative investments are limited to “accredited” investors.  The average person may think that indicates some kind of license or education or certification.  No, “accredited” investors are the rich.  The rich have created investments that only they can invest in!  In other words, the “game” is rigged so that the rich can unfairly keep getting richer at the expense of everyone else.

Social ills, economic collapse, political corruption are all caused by extreme income inequality but the rich don’t want you to believe it and they have the power and money and connections to get all sorts of information out to you to convince you that extreme income inequality is not a problem.  Or sometimes they will tell you that extreme income inequality doesn’t even exist or that it isn’t increasing.   “It’s not bad for you”  “It has always been this way”  “It doesn’t exist”  I’m sure you have heard some or all of those. However, overwhelming evidence is beginning to reveal these kinds of statements as a last ditch effort for super rich individuals and big corporations to maintain the status quo.

Solutions to the problem will come in a variety of forms. Ending special tax breaks for the rich.  Fairer investment regulations.  Improved assistance programs.  Better public educational systems.  Campaign reform.  Reformed corporate regulations. Enrichment of opportunity enhancing programs.  However, the first step is admitting there is a problem and the evidence in the U. S. and around the world indicates that more and more people are coming to grips with the fact that extreme income inequality is a significant problem and that something has to be done about it.

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Be sure and check out the other contributions to this month’s synchroblog:

Marta Layton – Fear Leads to Anger. Anger Leads to hate …

Kathy Escobar – Pawn Shops, Empty Refrigerators, The Long Hill Up

Carol Kuniholm – Wondering About Wealth

Glenn Hager – Shrinking The Gap

Jeremy Myers – Wealth Distribution

Liz Dyer – The First Step Is Admitting There Is A Problem

Ellen Haroutunian – Economic Inequality: Coming Back To Our Senses 

K.W. Leslie – Wealth, Christians, and Justice

Abbie Watters – My Confession

Steve Hayes – Obscenity

Take A Flying Leap

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Sometimes I wonder how people take some of the leaps that I witness. 

For instance, a friend on facebook was talking about someone who said “God wants to strike her dead because she castrated him by supporting gender inclusive bibles.”  And recently someone said they didn’t understand how I could call myself a Christian if I thought feeding the homeless was as important as sharing the gospel (I didn’t even get into the discussion with her about how I probably didn’t share her definition of “the gospel”).  But the most unbelievable leap I have witnessed lately is this one:

Many conservatives are complaining that President Obama’s upcoming September 8 speech (which will be televised and presented during school to all elementary students) about “persisting and succeeding in school,” along with classroom activities about the “importance of education,” will “indoctrinate” and “brainwash” their children. Conservatives have compared Obama’s address to Chinese communism and the Hitler Youth, while also calling for parents to “keep your kids home” from the “fascist in chief.”

It makes you want to say “go take a flying leap” – but it looks like they already have!

A Christian Perspective On Health Care Reform

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(image of Creative Rescue Organization public option t-shirt)

This post is part of a synchroblog on Christian approaches to health care.

When it comes to the current health care reform debate I am totally dumbfounded that conservative Christians (for the most part) are against a public option and/or a universal health care plan.  I understand how Christians can fall on both sides of the abortion issue or both sides of the same sex marriage issue (for the record I am pro-choice but not pro-abortion and I am in favor of legalizing same sex marriage) – but I do not understand how they can be against a public option and/or a universal health care plan and not have it conflict with their faith. 

I know that there is contention over the issue of abortion but perhaps it should be considered that many of the private insurance carriers to whom we pay premiums presently cover abortion care.

I think the “socialistic” argument  is bunk.  We have medicare/medicaid and public schools – they are federally funded to educate and care for others and no one calls them socialism. 

The other arguments I hear seem to mostly have to do with individual rights and conveniences and it seems that those arguments fly in the face of the Christian faith.

Do I have scripture to support a public option and/or a universal health care plan?  No, I don’t – but neither is there scripture to oppose such a thing (although many twist and turn and contort scripture to support their position).  Although there isn’t a specific scripture that I can offer up to support a public option and/or a universal health care plan I would go so far as to say that it seems much more likely that the heart of scripture would support such a thing.  Scripture repeatedly calls us to care and provide for the poor and the sick, to give up our own rights, to put other’s interests above our own, to take action to help those less fortunate, to protect the most vulnerable, to share one another’s burdens, to be a voice for the oppressed and the weak.

From a Christian perspective it seems we must look at this from the perspective of the needy, of the poor, of the uninsured…and I don’t think we will hear many (if any) needy, poor, uninsured people rallying against a public option and/or universal health care plan.  From a Christian perspective it seems we must look at this from the perspective of Christ, the one who identifies himself with the least of these. 

Check out the other synchroblog participants:

How Healthy is Your Health Care? by Steve Hayes

Self-evident truths and moral turpitude by Steve Hayes

Christian perspectives on health care by Ellen Haroutunian

The Christian’s responsibility to healthcare by KW Leslie

Baby steps towards more humane humanity by Beth Patterson

Is Healthcare a Right  by Kimber Caldwell

Clowns to the left? Jokers to the right? Stuck In The Middle by Phil Wyman

Its Easy To Be Against Health Care Reform When You Have Insurance by Kathy Escobar

A Christian Response To Health Care In America by Jeff Goins

Carrying Your Own Load by Susan Barnes

Caring For Human Dignity by Lainie Peterson

Same Sex Marriage Blogalogue

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Tony Jones’ at  The New Christians blog and Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con blog are engaging in a Same Sex Marriage Blogalogue.  I am hopeful that this will be a helpful conversation for all of us who seek faithful discernment concerning one of the most controversial issues of our day.  However, I have to say that I have been disappointed to find so many comments containing declarations that Tony is not a christian and other hate filled messages.  Still, I think this is an important conversation and hope that things will settle down to a more civil discourse.

Tony began the blogalogue by clarifying where he stands on the issue of same sex marriage…

I now believe that GLBTQ can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.

I hope you will check it out…and remember to be civil and courteous if you comment.

I’m Disappointed!

Brian McLaren announces his endorsement of Barack Obama in a new Matthew25Network political ad.
 
 
 
 

 

I’m disappointed!

My disappointment does not come from McLaren’s support of Obama. I didn’t need to see this ad to know he supported Obama. My disappointment comes from me being sick of Christian leaders backing specific candidates and/or parties. My disappointment comes from me being tired of Christian leaders using their influence and position to coerce their “followers” into electing a particular individual. My disappointment comes from me believing that Brian and his circle of friends wouldn’t do this because they didn’t like it when the religious right did it — I assumed that meant that they wouldn’t do it. Apparently, even his friend, Tony Jones, didn’t think Brian would endorse a particular candidate.

I may be wrong but it feels like Brian has abandoned a principle that he believed in so that the person he is going to vote for will win. Even his letter of explanation sounded like he was trying to excuse something he didn’t feel completely comfortable about. And he says he isn’t speaking as a pastor (he is not presently a pastor) but he refers to himself as a pastor in the ad. 

Do I think he has done something “wrong”, “immoral”, “illegal”? No, I don’t. But I believe that his public endorsement in a political ad that takes a shot at the fact that McCain is divorced will do more harm than good and will be more divisive than unifying.

I believe McLaren would have better served his faith and beliefs by talking about the issues that are dear to his heart and encouraging others to have conversations and to think about the issues that are dear to their hearts.

Whether it is Dobson or McLaren, the Christian Coalition or the Matthew25Network, the right or the left, the conservatives or the liberals I don’t like it.

I like what Shane Claiborne said about endorsements:

In post-Religious Right America, we want to learn from the mistakes of the generation before us (so we don’t repeat them) – one of which was telling Christians who to vote for. Rather than spoon-feeding people answers, we hope to stir up the right questions – and trust that the Spirit will lead us as we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” One of the places the religious right went wrong was telling people what to do rather than inviting them to think for themselves, with the help of the Spirit of God (in fact, it even seems a real lack of faith to to coerce or convince people to do exactly what we want them to… as if the Spirit is not at work in them). That’s where Jesus shines – he stirs up questions and tells stories that unveil truth, rather than drafting a careful declaration or endorsement that’s going to solve everything wrong in the world.

Claiborne’s view is reminiscent of Martin Luther King’s perspective. King’s idea was, don’t endorse anyone. He believed that endorsing a candidate just makes it easy for them to count you as a part of their base and then move on and ignore you. Instead, King believed it was better to invite politicians on both sides to endorse your movement and your platform and that they should do that throughout their campaign and their time in office.

I am not angry at Brian McLaren and I am not here to bash him.

I just wanted to say that I am disappointed.