When I was a puppy, about 17, I left the LA punk scene due to its hypocrisy. The stated ideals of the scene were not matching up with the reality. The same thing happened with my breaking politically from my hardcore Republican family (can we say Goldwater?) upbringing about the same time.
If you are a nice person, then be a nice person. If you are deep down inside a greedy bastard, then let the world know, buy the big house and Hummer, then brag about it. If you like to play games, be up front about it, play games, manipulate in broad daylight. If you want the one of the world’s largest reserves of oil to control the American market, then say it, don’t LIE about weapons of mass destruction to gain the oil. If you love Jesus, then seek to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and spirit, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Be who you are. Consistent. One person.
My longtime buddy, Peter Schrock, has pointed to a Christianity today article, entitled “Salt-and-Pepper Politics“, that brings to a head why I can’t vote for the Republican party.
Which brings us to Democrats and Republicans, and to why I will be voting this November with, well, fear and trembling.
Justice, in biblical terms, is more than equal treatment under the law—it involves putting power at the service of the powerless and wealth at the service of the poor. My friends who care about justice argue that Democrats have spent 50 years advocating for the vulnerable: the poor, the sick, the youngest, the oldest. And though the party of the powerless also has a curiously strong appeal among the elites of Hollywood and Manhattan, on the whole my friends are probably right.
Righteousness, meanwhile, is more than honesty and fair dealings—it requires the alignment of our lives with God’s original good intentions for creation. Like justice, righteousness in a nation especially benefits the poor and powerless, who cannot insulate themselves from the effects of sin. My friends who care about righteousness argue that Republicans have held the line against values that come straight from the maw (or the mall) of individualistic consumerism, where pleasure and preference reign. And while the party of moral character raises lots of money from people whose only interest is making the world safe for consumerism, I can’t argue with these friends either.
To make matters worse, each presidential candidate has blind spots even in his area of putative strength. John Kerry declines to see that abortion is not a matter of private morality but of public justice for utterly vulnerable human beings. (Bizarrely, he justifies his position by saying that government must keep out of people’s bedrooms. Abortions do not generally happen in bedrooms.) Any public official who professes Catholic faith and is as enthusiastically pro-choice as Kerry does not have, in the words of the Catholic bishops, “a well-formed conscience.”
Yet our President’s conscience also seems too clear to be true. Asked a simple and predictable question at an April 2004 press conference—to name his greatest mistake since September 11, 2001—he couldn’t answer, saying, “I don’t want to sound like I’ve made no mistakes. I’m confident I have. I just haven’t—you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I’m not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.” Is it too much to ask that the most devout President in recent history have a more concrete response to a question about his own limitations?
Such is the state of our presidential politics: an evangelical President flummoxed at any suggestion of his own fallibility, and a Catholic candidate who sidesteps his church’s teaching authority. And in both our political parties, concern for justice often serves as cover for self-justification; righteousness curdles all too quickly into self-righteousness.
The Republicans frequently bill themselves as the Party of Righteousness but continually make more mockery of the term than Jimmy Swaggart or Jim Bakker ever could. I can’t swallow their Pro-Life stance when they lie, cheat, and steal out of every orifice.
I can’t in good conscience fall for the Democrats hook-line-and-sinker either. The other day I received an over the top pitch letter from the Planned Parenthood of American about the evils of the Republicans. Sorry folks, but I refuse to be a single issue voter. For too long, abortion has held American politics hostage. I am pro-life, but not to the point of ignoring every other platform.
How about a viable third party that is pro-life (anti-death penalty, anti-war, and anti-abortion), a good steward of the planet that God has given us (yeah evironmentalists!), pro-balanced budgets, pro-poor, education friendly for all, justice for all, pro-looking ahead more than just this quarter’s worth of profits and pragmatic on infrastructure? Anyone want to join? Be you Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindi, Aetheist, Hedonist, TV-ist, Fashionaista, Punk Rock-ista, etc… how about we take American politics away from the blusterers and big business? How about it?