Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How to Vote Like A Christian in the Upcoming Election (Part 1)

As the day of the Presidential election draws closer, the name-calling and fear-mongering that has characterized this election cycle have increased. Never in my lifetime have I seen an election campaign that is so toxic and divisive.The question of who to vote for has strained friendships and even caused marital problems, as a recent LA Times article makes clear. See http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-split-household-20161027-story.html, Fortunately, Jill and I are on the same page and our marriage is doing very well, thank you. Even though she is Evangelical and I am Quaker, we agree on core values and on which candidate we support. We also agree to love each other even when we disagree. We hope other Americans will follow our example in this regard. 

Like many, we are appalled by the lies that have circulated during this campaign. But lying politicians are nothing new. Deception has been part of politics since the founding of our nation, and was something that our nation's founders expected. The founders believed in original sin and recognized the flawed nature of human beings, which is why they created a system of "checks and balances" so that one branch of government wouldn't dominate the other and so that one flawed individual would never have king-like powers. On the other hand, the founders also had tremendous faith in the potential goodness of each individual (the idea that each of us is "created equal" and made in God's image), which is why they believed democracy (power to the people) was better than monarchy (the rule of one powerful leader.) 

To make wise decisions about leaders, and to discern truth from falsehood,God has given us invaluable tools: our heart, our mind, our soul/spirit and our strength (body). We have also been given God's inspired scripture to give us moral guidance. We need to use all  these tools to help evaluate candidates and change the system.

Our hearts as well as our minds tell us that our political system is broken. The question is: Why? One answer is that ever since the Supreme Court decision on Citizen United, "dark money" has flooded our system and corrupted our politicians by making them utterly beholden to moneyed interests. This has increased the level of lies and deceit beyond anything we have previously experienced in our political life. In the current election, the only candidate to buck this system was Bernie Sanders, who refused to take corporate money. 

Trump says he is not beholden to moneyed interests, but that's because he is the embodiment of moneyed interests. As a billionaire, he has consistently done what profits himself (including tax avoidance) and is proud of it. 

Born into a middle class family, Hillary has also learned how to play the system to her advantage, while spending much of her career trying to help others through her liberal politics. 

Neither candidate is ideal because they are both part of our corrupt system. 

But we have to make an important moral as well as political decision: which candidate is better for our nation at this time? This is where we need to use our minds as well as our hearts. We also need to listen to the Holy Spirit and to read Scripture to clarify our moral perspective. 

Objectively, evidence shows that Trump lies far more than Hillary. Almost every fact checker agrees on this point. Even Trump's biographer said he had to fact check everything that Trump told him, and found that most of the time Trump lied about himself. This is a fundamental character flaw since Scripture tells us not to bear false witness. (See http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/lists/people/comparing-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-truth-o-met/)

Second, Trump is far more divisive than Hillary. Trump has divided his own party while Hillary has united her party, gaining the support of Bernie Sanders as well as the support of major leaders, including former presidents. For the first time in history, virtually no newspapers have endorsed Trump, including newspaper that have endorsed Republicans throughout most of their history. Families are even being divided by this election. Not since the 1960s has the US been so divided. Jesus tells us "a house divided against itself cannot stand." 

Trump has insulted more people and even places than any candidate on record, thereby violating Jesus' injunction "Judge not lest ye be judged."  See http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/01/28/upshot/donald-trump-twitter-insults.html. In contrast, Hillary has for the most part tried to follow Michelle Obama's advice to "go high" when they "go low." Let me be clear what I mean: it is fair for a politician to criticize another politician as long as he or she is civil and reasonably truthful. Saying your opponent is "unqualified or temperamentally unfit to be president" can be a rational assessment in keeping with biblical standards and civil discourse. Saying your opponent is a "nasty woman" or "crooked" is an insult that violates Christian ethics as well as common standards of civility.

I don't think there is a moral equivalency between these two candidates. Trump has violated the basic principles of democracy by threatening to jail his opponent and refusing to accept the results of the election unless he wins. This shows that Trump is anti-democratic in temperament and therefore unfit for office. 

Hillary has been accused of many crimes, but so far, despite intensive scrutiny, there has been no proof to any of the vicious charges made against her. Under American law people are considered innocent until proven guilty in court. Even the current email "scandal" is mainly a political ploy. The Republicans, including the Bush administration, have used private emails and deleted them when they wanted to cover up their activities. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_White_House_email_controversy and  http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/the-republicans-who-did-exactly-what-hillary-did.  These were not seen as criminal acts.

However, it is unprecedented for a foreign government, i.e. the Russians, to intervene in an American political campaign, as 17 national security agencies agree happened in this election. To me, this fact is far more serious than anything alleged about Hillary Clinton. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/08/us/politics/us-formally-accuses-russia-of-stealing-dnc-emails.html), What makes Trump's behavior deeply disturbing is that he publicly called upon the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's emails. Never before in American politics has a candidate called on a foreign power to interfere in our election process. 

America is at a crossroads. We desperately need to reform our corrupt system. We have to get money out of politics and restore the faith of the people in its leaders. We need a faith-based response to the burning issues of our time: poverty, immigration, housing justice, the climate crisis, prison reform, and militarism. We need to listen to our hearts, use our minds, and follow the guidance of the Spirit to discern what we can do to make a difference. And we also need to remember that God is in charge. As Paul says, "all things work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to God's purpose" (Romans 8:28). No matter how the election turns out, we are called by God to work for justice and peace as faithfully as we can.

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