Friday, May 11, 2012

More than an issue or two

Now it starts.
Romney is against gay marriage. Obama is for it. And if I’m reading it all correctly battle lines are being drawn around one issue.  Big mistake. There’s more than one issue. How about … immigration, poverty, terrorism, health care, race relations, civil rights,  the deficit, life issues , the global economy, crummy schools, and violence on our streets???
I’m interested in all of the above. But many will be driven to one or two issues only and dismiss the rest. That’s a mistake.
Recently a prominent Southern Baptist pastor endorsed Mitt Romney for the Presidency of the United States.  Here’s what the news report said: …the pastor … says “he still doesn't believe Mormons are Christians.” But he says voters will have to choose "between a Christian like Barack Obama, who embraces non-biblical principles, and a Mormon like Mitt Romney who embraces biblical principles like the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage."
As soon as I read this I began thinking “Oh no, here we go again.” 
So, Romney gets the pastor’s endorsement partly because he’s more Christian than Obama it seems. Or in this case, according to the pastor, he’s not really a Christian because of the Mormon thing but he acts like a Christian should. Obama, a professing Christian, doesn’t act like one or at least the way this pastor defines it.  So, he doesn’t get the endorsement. Confused?
I don’t mind a pastor endorsing a candidate if he/she chooses and I’m willing to cut the pastor a little slack. I’ve been interviewed and thought that the entirety of what I was saying wasn’t covered well. With that said, I do worry that the phrase ‘embraces biblical principles like the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage’ will be just the start of  a litmus test parade of narrowly defined issues that any candidate wanting the Christian vote will need to adhere to. If a candidate checks enough boxes then Christians can vote for that candidate.  And God help a candidate that happens neglects to check certain boxes. (For the record life and marriage issues are important to me)
Have you ever had someone hand little checklists out at your church during election time? On it you find someone’s opinion of the proper Christian position on issues of importance. Check enough boxes and you’ve got your candidate. Many people take these little checklists into the voting booth and dutifully vote for the right man or woman. I’m not a fan of those lists.  Here’s why.  Not all the issues that should be of importance to Christians are on the checklist and the definitions of the issues that are on the list are often inadequate.
Elections are more complicated than a check list.  Honest.
Personally, I’m interested in candidates who are thoughtful about all the vital issues of the day and I’m curious about whether or not there appears to be some prayerful reflection on how these things play out in our life together.  There has to be some coherent ethic of life and faith that weaves through a candidates thinking for me to sit up and take notice.  In all honesty, I don’t think any candidate is going to agree with me 100%.  But I’m interested in their breadth and depth of response.  Is their point of view broad enough to consider the magnitude of issues before us?
I happen to think that both candidates do embrace biblical principles and consider them as they think through policy positions. At least that’s what I like to believe. Call me an optimist. I also think that both can be amazingly shallow, at times, in addressing breadth and depth issues. I also believe that they are under crazy pressure from interest groups of all stripes and that they can easily choose to appease the loudest voice promising more votes. That’s scary.
What I’m looking for this year is someone who is consistently, morally thoughtful and brave. When I cast my ballot I don’t want to be voting for a sound byte accompanied by a scripture verse and an endorsement.   Neither do you.  That’s not good citizenship. The issues are many and amazingly complicated.  Look beyond the check list, beyond the endorsement. Do your homework. Ask the hard questions. Pray like crazy. Get involved.