Monday, November 03, 2008

Navigating the Complexities of Civil Terrain

As we head to the polls on Tuesday, I’d like to draw our attention to some points brought forth by author Jim Wallis. Before I do, though, I need to make the disclaimer that I personally am uncomfortable with his “God’s Politics” language, and I also think it can be anachronistic to seek answers to specific contemporary political issues in the pages of Holy Writ. Still, I think he offers some valid challenges for those who think (somewhat simplistically) that certain hot-button issues make our choice one between good and evil, with one guy wearing the white hat and the other wearing the black one.

First, with all that the Bible says about poverty, it is fitting to “examine the record, plans, policies, and promises made by the candidates on what they will do to overcome the scandal of extreme global poverty and the shame of such unnecessary domestic poverty in the richest nation in the world.”

Second, given the eschatological hope that we will one day beat our swords into plowshares, it is prudent to “choose the candidates who will be least likely to lead us into more disastrous wars and find better ways to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world and make us all safer.”

Third, a consistent ethic of life is crucial, which includes “addressing all the threats to human life and dignity that we face — not just one. 30,000 children dying globally each day of preventable hunger and disease is a life issue. The genocide in Darfur is a life issue. Health care is a life issue. War is a life issue. The death penalty is a life issue.” Concerning abortion, Wallis adds: “I will choose candidates who have the best chance to pursue the practical and proven policies which could dramatically reduce the number of abortions in America and therefore save precious unborn lives, rather than those who simply repeat the polarized legal debates and ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ mantras from either side.”

Fourth, given the issues of pollution and climate change, it is prudent to choose candidates who will “likely be most faithful in our care of the environment… And that choice could accomplish other key moral priorities like the redemption of a dangerous foreign policy built on Middle East oil dependence….”

Fifth, given the fact that all people are made in God’s image and retain human dignity, Wallis says that “torture is completely morally unacceptable, under any circumstances, and I will choose the candidates who are most committed to reversing American policy on the treatment of prisoners.”

Lastly, we ought to affirm family values and choose candidates who will “promise to really deal with the enormous economic and cultural pressures that have made parenting such a ‘countercultural activity’ in America today, rather than those who merely scapegoat gay people for the serious problems of heterosexual family breakdown.”

As we consider these issues, however we end up voting, may we seriously reckon with the difficulties involved in navigating the terrain of the kingdom of man, living as we do in this present age, albeit with one foot in the future.