Thursday, November 06, 2008

Just a Mom's thoughts on the current situation

There is no way for me to blog about any other topics until I have reflected a little more about what has just happened in the US this week. Wow. I have been overcome with emotion in ways that are so similar to how I felt when Nelson Mandela was elected president of my country more than a decade ago.

I have taken some heat about my political leanings. But I have increasingly found more and more like minded believers. I was not going to post the following long diatribe on here because it seems self indulgent, but my husband suggested I should given that it is my blog and I can share my feelings on it whether readers agree or not.

So, here goes! Let me begin with this ground rule. This is a piece I wrote to a friend who asked me why I think the way I do - it is not meant for arguing against. I am not prepared to banter issues back and forth. I just won't do it. It is a window into my heart and head. And more than that we have all had enough politics to last a lifetime. I have waited until now to post this because I was hoping some of the fear driven emotional responses to the election would have settled down.

Let me tell you a little about where I am. This is so not a party political thing for me, because I think when forced to pick between two extremes, most of us wish we had a scissors and glue so we could construct something that is more of what we want. However, given what we have, I think my leanings are such because of how I would imagine Jesus feeling and thinking. Plus, I am a tax paying permanent resident, but not a citizen - so I don't get to vote anyhow ;-) And given my status in many ways I feel like a guest in this Country and so everything said below is said with respect.

Rarely when opinions are so different is the debate of issues helpful. For example in theology - one may disagree about worship or gender justice in the church, and argue the positions for years which seldom does any good. The usual reason is that one's way of interpreting scripture is different and so until that fundamental thing is aligned all the issue debating in the world will not help. Like wise with politics, I think the issues are just surface. It is more about how one sees the world, how one has been socialized etc.

Some important foundations for me are this:

1. I think when one is born and raised outside of the USA, one automatically has a different world view. Most of the foreigners I know in these parts, could never imagine themselves being Republican. I will not try to presume to understand why that is, because people from different countries have different world views, but there is a common “democratic” bent with them.

2. I do not believe that it is theologically responsible to think that God ever intended for their to be "Christian Nations." This immediately bumps up against much conservative christian right wing politics. I can not reconcile his call to us as aliens throughout scripture with the idea that we are to create some environment here that is conducive to Kingdom of God. I also know for a fact that Christianity thrives when it is not assumed or becomes the Constantinian religion of the time. I also do not believe America was ever intended by the founding fathers to be such. Instead of retyping this, I have cut and pasted an article below to support that idea. (Long article below, read it or not)

"For example, when John Adams was serving as our second President, the U.S. made a treaty with the Muslim country of Tripoli (now Libya). Article 11 of that treaty includes these words: “the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” Copies were distributed to the Legislature, and the treaty was read aloud on the floor of the U.S. Senate. In June of 1797, the Senate ratified the treaty by unanimous vote, and President Adams signed it into law. In his book, Jews, Turks, and Infidels, historian Morton Borden writes, “What is significant about the Tripoli treaty is . . . its ready acceptance by the government. Not a word of protest was raised . . . Whatever their personal feelings on the question of religious equality for non-Christians in particular states, all concurred that Article 11 comported with the principles of the Constitution.” Following its ratification, the text of the treaty appeared in several leading newspapers of the day. The public’s reaction was hardly a ripple. Why? Because the citizens of our new nation then understood something that threatens to become for us a forgotten truth: according to our Constitution, the United States of America was intended to be a federal republic where people can believe anything they like. Only the rule of law, rooted in self-evident morality, would be enforced. Religious beliefs, provided that they did not lead to the violation of law, could be advocated, criticized or ignored. Either way, all of them would be tolerated. For example, in his Notes on the State of Virginia, written in the early 1780s, Thomas Jefferson includes a short chapter on “Religion.” Regarding various religious beliefs, Jefferson observes: “[I]t does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” One might think his neighbor’s religious ideas are nonsense. But what is the effect of attempting to coerce people to accept what you “know” is the truth? Said Jefferson, it makes “one half of the world fools, and other half hypocrites.” Paradoxically, because the First Amendment to our Constitution prohibited the establishment of a national church, and any form of coercion, religion in the United States flourished. In those early years, devout Americans came to realize that they would have to do by persuasion what other countries had pretended to do by legislation.And persuade they did. But not because they were somehow compelled by their Uncle Sam, but because they felt called by their Father God. As a result, the United States certainly is, in that sense, a Christian nation. In 1819, James Madison, commonly regarded as the father of the Constitution, observed that the religious devotion of the American people had been encouraged by what he called “the total separation of the church and state.” I believe that when it comes to the political state and the church of God, Christians should remember what the Founding Fathers certainly knew: the first axiom of real religion is that it resonates in the heart. It cannot be coerced. Furthermore, according to the Scriptures, the responsibility of training children does not belong to some “Christian nation” and its public schools commissioned to make all students sufficiently “religious” through state-mandated, teacher-led prayer and Bible reading. The responsibility for training children belongs to parents. To the Israelite nation, Moses said, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV). At present, even in the midst of a real or imagined “godless assault,” Christians in the United States face much less hostility and oppression than did the earliest Christians. And yet, at least some of them went everywhere preaching the Word, serving others, setting an example, bringing up their children in the instruction that comes from heaven. Who would argue that under our present laws in these United States, Christians are not free to do the same? God has not been silenced. In these last days, he speaks clearly “by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2).

3. I am amazed at how Christians remain shocked at how dark society is. Much of right wing Christianized politics appears surprised at the worldliness in which we live. It makes me scratch my head because I want to yell, “what do you expect outside of Jesus?” Instead of being bothered by Hollywood etc, make your corner of the world an outpost of the Kingdom. The fear driven political agenda of right wing Christianity is unattractive to me on every level. And thus I struggle with the kind of thing that Focus on the Family is always trying to push.

4. Given all of that, I find myself looking at positions on:
the migrants
the aliens
the poor
international coercion
the elderly
health care
the environment
leverage of resources in order to force compliance from other countries
.....and imagining Jesus.
He always, without a doubt came down on the side of compassion.

5. With regards to abortion. The water gets muddy because instead of abortion being a moral issue it is now a political one. Thus we are left having to navigate lots of political issues that are wrapped up with abortion. Add to this the ridiculous dichotomy of names we have given the positions AS IF anyone is not really pro-life. Perhaps we should talk in terms of pro-choice and anti-choice. And more times than not the conservative position on the issue seems to be inconsistent to me. I am not in favor of babies being killed, but neither am I a fan of children, teens, young adults or adults being killed. IF ONE IS TO BE PRO LIFE I THINK IT IS IMPERATIVE TO BE PRO LIFE AFTER THE WOMB TOO. Once a baby is born into our world, how pro life are we in making sure that baby has every tool it needs to grow up into a healthy, productive citizen? How do we act pro life in terms of access to resources, health care, education, war......Politics will never cure this issue. Law does not change this kind of thing. Sodomy is outlawed in Texas but it has not prevented homosexual sex. No candidate will ever. No government will. Only living in ways that are Kingdom oriented will. As Christians, if we were standing outside the abortion clinics begging for the unwanted children to be given to us, that would make a difference.

6. I feel passionate about not just leaping to the aid of countries that are rich in resources that the US needs. How is it that we get entangled in issues under the guise of “setting free” “democracy” or even “human rights” but usually those countries are rich in what we need. And thus, The Sudan, Uganda, much of Asia etc go on with horrendous genocide and human rights abuses. Generally it is because they offer us nothing to boost the $.

7. I am also in the midst of a journey toward greater pacifism. I am not a complete pacifist because there are still inconsistencies in my mind. However, I know that I am not a war supporter either, especially under the circumstances of Iraq.

8. I get concerned about the conservative "anti gay rights" movement. I do not understand how allowing gay people in a monogamous relationship to get married threatens the status of my marriage. Heterosexual deviants, heterosexual addicts, heterosexual adulterers in marriages do not threaten the sanctity of my marriage. Once again I think this is a moral issue not a political one. Do we think that God in some way can not distinguish between a marriage that He sets forth in scripture and one that may violate that? Of course he can and does not need us to protect Him from that. And with regards to gay rights, until we are willing to take away the rights of the greedy, the slanderers, the adulterous, the incestuous, those addicted to pornography, the liars, the money hungry, the power manipulators etc, I am not willing to deny rights to gay people. Sin is sin - and I can not make one worse than another.

9. I am not railing against capitalism or wanting communism, but I feel like "sharing" is a closer pattern to how I would imagine Jesus instructing us to live together. That is scary for some Americans because anything socialistic in nature conjures up fear from the US/Russia struggle, I understand.

10. And then finally, I look back at how I believe President Bush has mishandled his presidency and have no desire for that again. I believe the war was pre-emptive, motivated by other issues. I believe he acted in a lone-ranger way ignoring global wisdom. A personal agenda, with a lot of arrogance mixed in won out in that decision.

And so like you in ministry and a disciple of Jesus - we make our decisions. And as far as I can see I believe the life of Jesus lines up more closely with the whole package of Obama - another next to me, tries to line up their views with Jesus and sides with McCain. Complicated does not begin to describe this. Bottom line, Jesus is the only hope - not candidates or parties. And so, when making a personal choice, I can not base it on one or two issues that I do not think are political ones to begin with.


jeleasure said...

I don't have a need to argue or find fault with your reasoning. I would, however like to express my thoughts on two points you have made.
You suggested that God does not expect any one nation to be entirely Christian. I would say you are correct. My reason is that God understands the freedom He has given us. With this, God realized He would be suffer adversity and His ideal for creating the human family would never be met. But, this is what brings Glory to our Lord. It is the fact that God is sought after by us 'free will' wielding members of the Human Family that edifies God.

The second point to comment on was your suggestion of socialism. This is an aspect of community, which God created us for. So, I think it is Biblical. I see selfishness always raising a fence around socialist. And, if this is the case, socialism will never work. Community is what God desires. But, as you said, 'there are not any one single nations we can call Christian'.

Amy said...

Thank you for posting this and stating so clearly the views I share with you. I would like to link to this post if you don't mind (not that I generate much traffic these days!). word verification below spelles "messes". I kid you not. Maybe I shouldn't link? haha

Steven J Bruce said...

I have been reading a lot of posts by a number of people, and although I'm sure I'm biased :), I love the sentiment and thoughtfulness of this post the most. I don't usually talk "politics", especially among those @ church, as the last thing I want is for them to be so troubled with my views on politics that they become distracted during worship...but if I was half as eloquent as this post, I would. So all I'll say is 'Amen!'

love and miss ya,

Arlene Kasselman said...

Jim, I always am interested in what you have to say and believe that God really works through your words, so thank you for pointing us to community. Exactly! I think that is spot on.

Amy, you may link here sure. I would love to cause a "messes" for you :-)

Steven, you know that I admire and respect your opinion and input so much - thanks for the kind words. You are wise and very prudent to weigh what is important and you choose the right thing, when you uphold worship instead of politics!

preacherman said...

Wonderful post yet again sis. I enjoy so much reading your blog. It renews my spirit and is such a great encouragement to my life. Your blog makes a difference I know at least in my life. You are special and I know that God has great plans for your life. Keep trusting him in every aspect. I hope you have a fantastic rest of the week.

Allison said...

hi arlene, it's allison from the come before winter in canada--I just had to comment on how well thought out and written I think this post is! you bring up so many good points and have clear "logic" and I found myself nodding and saying audible, "mmhmmm!"s as I read it. thank you for sharing!

WendyC said...

AMEN, Arlene!

Arlene Kasselman said...

Kinney, thanks you have such a gift of encouragement.

Allison it is good to hear from you. I bet MN is getting cold already. I thought of you guys so much during the last renewal - so many good memories from Canada!

And Wendy, you can probably hear what I am saying from the "International" perspective!

jeleasure said...

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

Angel said...

Arlene, thanks for listening to David and sharing your views. To hear reasons for what a person believes, and not just political rhetoric, is refreshing. I have struggled with this election because there are so many issues to consider. I think the hardest part for me has been being a "closet socialist" for so many years. However, when my government started bailing out companies that had made greedy decisions, I found myself questioning my socialist views. I finally came down to this...I want to be a Socialist who gets to choose whom they help. I believe we call that a Christian.

Lisa said...

Amen!! You have such a gift with words - keep using it. Love you!

Beaner said...

I could have written this, except that I was born here & I don't have your way with words!!!!

Frank Bellizzi said...

Great post, especially that quote in point 2.

Colin McKay said...

we dadewethu, simunye :) Thank you for inviting me to read your blog. I found it very thought provoking. I am reminded of how much your experience of southern Republicanism resonates with our own experience of white South African nationalism in the 70s and 80s. Sometimes, if Israel doesn't sort itself out God sends the neighbours in to speed up the process....

Warm regards from home