Sunday, October 12, 2008

The lesser of a whole mess of evils, perhaps?

After watching two presidential debates (during which I sighed and threw up my hands and talked to the TV a lot) and reading way too much news on the topic, I decided to break my own rule and talk a little politics.This one might get too academic for some of you. My apologies, right up-front, for that. But if I’m going to talk politics, that disclaimer seems only fair.

And so…

I’ll start by saying this. I have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about. this political season has me so flustered and bored and confused that, at least in terms of this particular topic, I'm feeling sort of like a urinal cake: always getting doused in some kind of liquid, and never quite sure what's clean water and what's tee-tee.

Oh, don't be so offended. It's actually not a bad metaphor.


This is The Over-Reaching, All-Encompassing Truth: Only the Lord is able to make all things right. He has The Way. No other way will do. Not the Republican way. Not the Democratic way. Only one Way.

Thad posted something a few days ago about all this over on his blog, and as usual, it’s way better than what I could say, so go here an read it. Then come back and read the rest of this.

OK, now that we’ve established that politics aren’t the answer, let’s do some theorizing.

What if there were an influential, politically-motivated man or woman in this country (for reasons that make lots of sense to me but maybe not to you, I’d prefer for it to be a man, and I’d prefer for him to be unmarried or maybe married but without young children) who woke up one day and said, “you know what, I think I’d like to run on a ticket that is absolutely, in every sense of the word, PRO-LIFE!”

Let’s say this person had thought it thru pretty well, and he/she just felt like consistency in conviction was the most important thing. So he/she figured “pro-life” meant pro-LIFE, even in ways that seemed difficult and uncomfortable to him/her. Pro-life. So anti-abortion, of course. But also anti-death-penalty. Pro-animal-rights. Pro-adoption and pro-family. Anti-war. Anti-violence. Pro-environment. Pro-religious-freedom (except in the rare occasions when religions condone or promote violence). Pro-affordable-health-care. Pro-everybody-getting-along. Etc. Any area that had to do with preserving life and encouraging the public to preserve life, this man or woman would be for that.

A truly and comprehensively Pro-Life candidate. Can you imagine it?

Me neither, but still...

Let’s not spend a lot of time parsing thru the various problems that this person would run into as one “pro-life” conviction slammed into another, causing (I would imagine) all kinds of moral conflict. That’s not the issue. Politicians are already – by nature and by the necessity of their vocation – forced into ethical conundrums of one sort or another every day. I would venture to guess that the President of the United States, throughout history, moment to moment, has had to balance one deeply held conviction against another and try to sleep at night with the way the scales are finally tipped. That’s nothing new. So a person with these kinds of convictions would probably be no more or no less likely to be able to stay true to their promises and convictions than any other candidate running for public office.

So for the sake of this particular post, let’s just agree that we don’t need to delve into all that. That’s not the discussion I want to have today. If you’ll bear with me for a few more paragraphs, I think you’ll see why.

And let’s not talk about whether or not I’d vote for this person. I’m not sure that I would. I certainly don’t agree, out-right or whole-heartedly, with all of the positions that I listed (or rather, I should say I’m as suspicious as anyone of how a serious conviction on those various positions would play out in terms of public policy). Again, these aren’t necessarily the issues.

What I’m getting at is that this person would have no place in either party as it exists today. My mythical, Totally-Pro-Life Candidate is just a personification of consistency taken to an extreme degree. Is it a sensible personification? I don’t know. Remember, that’s not the point. I’m saying that somebody could arrive at this place. I’m not saying that they should, or that I would (I’m definitely not saying that I have). I’m saying someone could. And if they did, they’d have no place in either of the major parties.

And of course that means that it's possible that lots of people in this country don’t fit easily into either of the major parties. Perhaps (hey, it's possible) it’s even true that a majority of the people in this country don’t fit easily into either of the major parties. And yet those two parties still garner the vast, vast majority of the votes.

Doesn’t that seem weird?I don’t like it. In fact, I don’t like a lot of what’s happening in the political world, but no one really cares what I think about such things.

So let’s just move on.

The short version is that I’m getting less and less interested in politics these days. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that politics don’t matter or that we shouldn’t pray for our leaders or involve ourselves in the political goings-on of our nation.

And I’m certainly not saying that people shouldn’t vote. I’m just less interested than I used to be. Most of you probably don’t know that I was a Political Science major in college, and that before my phone started ringing with offers to play my songs (for real money!), I had plans to go to grad school and hopefully end up with a job in research and/or law.

The Lord graciously intervened, and the rest is indie-wanna-be-rock-star history.

Anyway, I still vote, but I’m that voter that everybody hates, because I vote based almost entirely with specific issues in mind. I’ve stopped trying to find a perfect political party, and I’ve certainly stopped hoping that I’ll actually be able to discern the character and motives of the politicians who covet my vote.

By the way, Thad (who, as many of you know, is one of my co-pastors at Com Church) has been doing a fantastic sermon series on real hope and how it’s not ever going to be legitimately provided by politicians and world government. You can check it out here if you want.

So I still vote, even though I don’t pretend that I can greatly alter the nature of the world or the hearts of people when I do it. I have a smaller and more attainable goal in my voting. That is, I try to do a small part to secure (in that flimsy way that our political/governmental system allows for anything to be “secure”) certain things that are important to my family, my faith, my way of life, etc. In short, I vote with the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (at the macro level) and the family of Ross King (at the micro level) in mind. If you want to know how I vote and whom I vote for, I don’t mind telling you. Actually, that’s kind of what I’m about to do.

I’m thinking about voting for this guy. For president. I probably won't do it. I'm just saying that I'm thinking about it.

Yeah, I know he won’t win. But as far as I can tell, I basically agree with this dude more than anyone else who is trying to run the country (and again, we’re talking about an extremely flawed political system that has no power to really save or even change the world, and we're talking about a level of "agreement" that is pretty shallow, but still...).

Of course, this is a guy who I’ve only read about and watched on the internet; it’s not like I’ve hung out with him or played with his kids or anything. I don’t assume he’s perfect or that he espouses every opinion and belief to which I adhere, or even that I’d like him much if I met him. He might be a pompous, cold-hearted moron who puts on clown make-up to go strangle kittens that exist solely to bring comfort to blind orphans. Who knows?

Either way, if I did meet him, I’m sure I’d say something like, “seriously dude, you don’t really think you can change the world this way, do you?”

He probably wouldn’t listen. Or maybe he would. I don't know, but right now I'm not sure if my conscience will let me vote for either of the major-party candidates (sorry mom and dad). Like I said, I don’t really know this guy. But I don’t know any of the other people either. What I do know is that the major-party candidates are doing their best to please every single person in the very diverse respective parties to which they are loyal. These people want to please all the Americans who say they are Democrats, and these people want to please all the Americans who say they are Republicans.

Yeah, right. Good luck with that.

This guy is trying to please his party as well, but the slight difference (and it is very slight) is that his party seems to be concerned with adhering to one thing above all others: The Constitution.

I don’t think the Constitution is the Bible or anything, but I do think it’s the document that was carefully, thoughtfully (perhaps, for some of its architects, even prayerfully) considered as it was written, and it stands to this day as the -- at least theoretical -- basis for much of what we do and believe as a nation. And as long as I live in America, I have to have a certain modicum of respect and awareness with regard to that document.

It’s complicated. Again, I don’t want to veer too far off-point. I’m just trying to say that this guy seems to be posturing himself in such a way that he might actually be forced to some level of accountability. The Constitution, though flawed and worldly, is a well-known benchmark that he’s very publicly saying he would honor with a sense of priority. We could actually monitor that.

I mean, theoretically.

(Like I have any idea what I'm talking about. Are you still reading? Seriously, I'm so full of crap.)

In other words, this guy’s party seems like a viable “Third Party.” There are others. Some look postively loony, at least to me. This is just the one that I like (and it might seem positively loony to you).

And if you ask me (no one did), I say let’s have three parties. Hey, I don’t care if we have fifteen.
Someday maybe I’ll get into more of my whole speech (see bits and pieces of it in the first few paragraphs of this post) about the great problem with the two-party system and the other glaring flaws (according to ME) in our way of doing government in this great country of ours.

That last phrase wasn’t a joke, by the way. I do think this is a great country. Really. I’m not so cynical and rebel-obsessed that I’ve stopped appreciating where I live and what it affords me. No way. I feel blessed to live in this place. Lots of folks have fought, bled, and died to keep this place, at least at some level, free. I get all that. I really do love America. For lots of reasons. One of those reasons is that, in America, I can vote for anybody I want to.

And right now, I’m thinking about voting for him. Tomorrow I may change my mind and want to vote for him. I'm pretty sure I won't be voting for him, though.

Speaking of crazy people who hate liquor enough to run for president, here's something that you can quote me on: if you're so passionate about liquor (one way or the other) that you're thinking of starting a politcal party to spread your views, it's probably best if you just move commit yourself to some kind of institution. Or have a beer and think it over. Whatever.

One more thing. Some of you might be tempted to say that, if I actually go thru with this crazy one-man-plan (and I probably won't), I’m throwing away my vote. That’s certainly a way of looking at it. But I prefer to think of it like this. If I just keep voting in one of the two parties, despite my discomfort with doing so, I’m being untrue to myself. Moreover, I’m affirming an over-generalizing, polarizing, crippling system of segmentation and people-wrangling and broad-stroke-painting that I have no belief in whatsoever. Perhaps if a few million people (starting with me) place their vote elsewhere, something might change.

OK, you're right. Who am I kidding?


thad said...

I'll defer all the other conversations for now and just say that voting for that guy is NOT throwing away your vote, and anyone who suggests as much: (a) doesn't get the very point of the right to vote, which is you get to cast your ballot for whoever you want without regard to popularity or odds or prevailing sentiment, and (b) probably doesn't really understand the joke of an electoral system we're chained to. As I've told you personally, in a true national election, I might find some way to entertain voting for one of the Big Two, as my vote would actually be tabulated in the big equation that selects the president. In this system, and in the state of Texas, the effect of my vote is different. Consequently, I can find no compelling reason to vote for either of the Big Two (given my massive reservations about them and the two party system, which largely mirror yours). So I won't.

thad said...

Also, it's late and I'm a little grumpy, so when I write phrases that include words like, "anyone who blah-blah-blah doesn't understand blah-blah-blah..." people can feel free to assume I'm being cranky and/or don't know what I'm talking about.

Dave said...

[delurking from Webster, NY]
All very good stuff Ross. I could write all day, but I won't. I would like to leave this tidbit on "throwing your vote away." It is this passage from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I like a lot of the rest of what you wrote here, but as I said I'm leaving that another time.


wishfulthinking said...

Interesting article by a Republican professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine who is breaking with his party to vote for Obama in this year's election. He's voting for Obama on the grounds that Obama is actually *more* consistently pro-life than McCain, given his policies on support for low-income families.

Johnny! said...

Politics is not the Savior, and pragmatism is not a Christian virtue. "Choose wise men of understanding and good report." Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. Understanding means understanding the rather limited scope of the powers of the civil magistrate, God's deacon according to Romans 13.

The only vote that matters is Jesus'. My vote in front of Him is going to be for someone who would govern according to His Word.

It's also not dishonorable to withhold one's vote if there is not a godly candidate available. If you have to choose between Nero and Titus, well, "neither" is a valid choice.

wishfulthinking said...

everyone should just read john howard yoder, dorothy day, and stanley hauerwas instead of voting. and get involved with a local IAF or catholic worker.

rk said...

Easy now. Any time i hear "everyone should," i start to get a little nervous.

As for your "suggestion," i'd say that's wishful thinking, indeed. Reading is a lot harder than voting.

Ben Love said...

That's what I'm talking about! This guy fits the mold of someone I would like to be president as well, or, like you said, at least for now. I also echo Thad's original comment minus the cranky ignorant parts... ;-)

20 Year Reunion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Garrison's said...

Oh Ross...can I get a flippin AMEN! Neither guy...of "the Big Two" convinces me that he would govern according to The Word. How many times, (in my own pride I am sure) have I said, "is this the best our country can come up with?!?" I dont know their relationships with Jesus, so I wont go there...can we write in Thad and Ross when we vote? At least we will have two people who love Jesus and are honest about not knowing everything all the time...Thanks for sharing as usual...