Sunday, February 04, 2007

Barack Obama?

So, I've been asked why do I like this guy? Here's a start. Competency. Simple.


Anonymous said...

Is it good for pastors to endorse candidates?

Randy said...

Hmmmm... the old debate if church and state should remain apart.

Well, Martin Luter Kind Jr., Jesse Jackson, James Dobson, among other have all been pastors. So, I wouldn't be the first.

For that matter, the Republican Right has pretty much endorsed candidates, and it has acutally been driven by many pastors.

The political left has stayed away from most religious voices in recent years, but it seems this is now changing.

I don't know how to speak for social justice but not tie this to the political scene.

For example, I can't be in favor of a minimum wage and not find myself identifying to particular voices in this debate.

If I am to care about issues of justice and mercy... "What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." ... I have little choice but to support an increase in the minimum wage...


Anonymous said...

But isn't there a difference between preaching justice, peace, and mercy and publically supporting a particular candidate? Isn't it better to preach God's word into people's lives and leave them to make the connections?
You're right that both the political right and left heavily rely on churches, namely the religious right and left (think of all the democrats in African American churches). You're also right that many pastors in the past not only support candidates publically, but some all but command that if their congregants are good Christians they must vote one way or the others. But none of those reasons say its a good thing to do!
This also isn't about the separation of church and state as that is about the state staying out of churches! Its about what a pastor's role is. I and many others see it as inapropriate for pastors to publically endorse particular candidates. Even policies seem dangerous as pastors are not economists or biologists or MD's or whatever else. I think pastors should preach God's word into people's lives and leave them to make some of the particular connections, especially when the particular is very technical and outside the pastor's scope of knowledge!
I realize many pastors find their own opinions and ideas so compelling that they can't help but overstep the limits of their own expertise and role.

Randy said...

Good thoughts again.

I know your tension, and I respect your position. But...
~ I was raised a Calvinist. As a result, much of my theology is still in that direction. Niether Calvin nor those who followed him were shy about public life an public policy.

I believe that public policy to some degree directs our lives. What we endorse as a society says much about our values. While the church can, and often should, stand in direct contrast to public policy, I also believe it is of value to be influencial in the public square.

I do believe that there are consequences for endorsing candidates and policies, but if we dont' take positions, do we really stand for anything?

To now take a position would suggest:
~ Abortion doesn't matter.
~ War doesn't matter.
~ Killing doesn't matter.
~ Minimum wages don't matter.
And in turn justice and mercy doesn't matter.

As for beng qualified, I think this may have once been the case, but the world and people within the world are much more complex.

As an undergrad, I was a political science major as well as a psychology major. With that small amount of education, I could have told our leaders that democracy can not be imposed. It has never worked in the history of the world.

And as for economics, I am also a business owner employing 40 to 150 people at various times during the calendar year. So the impact of minimum wages, immigration policy, and tax policy are all carefully considered by people within our business.

In addition, my wife is an outstandng chemical engineer. So, there are many issues that she knows well that also are related to public policy.

As for Barack -- he instills hope. He believes in America. He has integrity, and he is brilliant. In addition, he claims to be a follower of Jesus. Anyone with all of these qualities is highly regarded by me... so at the end of this day, he will still be my choice.

Anonymous said...

That's all well and good, I appreciate the amount of thought you put into your political decisions.
I just worry that if someone who is a minister of the word attaches the office to a political candidate it creates an inappropriate situation. Pastors should speak with some level of authority that comes with the office and this is why I think it ill advised.
Interesting difference between four issues you mentions:abortion, killing, war, minimum wage. Those against abortion generally are against it because it is a sin, where as I don't think all cases of war and killing mean all involved are sinning while taking part (they may be a result of sin, but all who fight in all wars and all who kill in them are not sinning). I also don't believe that there is only one permissible position for Christians to hold on minimum wage. I also don't think it was against God's law to not have a minimum wage for centuries of history.
Even if a Christian does come to the conclusion, based on reflections on Scripture and reason, that certain perspectives on particular wars, killing or levels of the minimum wage are correct it seems wrong to think that Christians ought totally agree on these issues.
For pastors to publically endorse candidates on the basis of debatable conclusions on such issues seems off to me.
It is sort of like someone who is a doctor or a lawyer needs to recognize that what they say on such matters is understood differently by people, thus they must be much more careful because of power imbalances.

Randy said...

As for supporting debatable issues:
~ We can agree that abortion is wrong. While it may be sin, I also believe it does not fit with the ways of the kingdom. The ways of Jesus support life.

~ Likewise, believing that people have value and believing they should be paid enough to feed themselves seems to fit with the ways of the kingdom.

We can perhaps argue if this is a biblical issue, but.
1 - Jesus talks about how we are to treat and care for the poor time and time again. This issue is more central to the actual teachings of Jesus than the cross and sin.

2 - Either we recognize the words of the Bible such as "Do justice and do mercy and walk humbly with your God" or we do not.

I think we are terribly misguided to suggest that abortion is a sin but greed (by not supporting minimuum wages) is not a sin.

It is Jesus who tells the rich young man that he will never enter the kingdom until he sells all that he has.

I doubt it was actually the money that Jesus was concerned about, but it is the reality that money controls the decisions of people, and the more money that we have, the more that we desire to control our money.

So, ultimately I do believe this is not a great gray area. Rather, we have given our alliegence to a political party (either one) without recognizing that neither party has the heart of God anywhere on its horizon.

Rather, a recognition that we need to support things that are near to the heart of God are of value. Life is of value. All life. Unborn babies and poor babies and poor people who need help.

And recognize, these are not my issues. These are issues of the Master. So, should they be of concern to me?

I've determined that they do matter to me...

Anonymous said...

It think the issue that troubles me is not that you value justice and mercy and the values of the master. Of course EVERY Christian needs to make these his or her priority in every area of theif life.
The issue is that you take your understanding of how justice and mercy and the priorities of the master play out in very particular situations and then how those situations line up with the words that come out of a pre-election politician's mouth!
The example you give of the minimum wage. While some people are against it for greed, do you deny that there might actually be some strong Christians who are committed to helping the poor, but who believe that in the long-run raising the minimum wage will have a negative effect? Now you might believe this is wrong, but do you deny that committed, intelligent, loving Christians might be able to come to this conclusion and still dedicate his or her life to the poor?
The grey area is not in the area of justice and mercy and the things the Lord requires, but it comes in how those play out in very complex areas of life.
It seems a strange hubris to assume that one's understanding of how these issues play out can be unequivocally equated with 'justice and mercy'.

Randy said...

from you: "The issue is that you take your understanding of how justice and mercy and the priorities of the master play out in very particular situations and then how those situations line up with the words that come out of a pre-election politician's mouth!"

Umm... We claim to chase after justice and mercy, and yet we have difficulty taking stands on very real issues. It is not until real theology (understanding of God) hits real life that anything changes.

So, reality hits the road with standing against abortion. It also hits the road expecting that we treat people in such a way that they can afford to make enough of a wage so they can at least eat. It is that simple.

In the case of the minimum wage increase, there are no significant group of economists who believe it will either hurt the economy or have long term negative effects.

It has become the republican agenda to be pro-business. I have no problem with that except it also tends to be anti-people. It places the good of the economy over the good of the people.

Apart from the far right wing, this issue is a slam dunk. No only is it popular, it is the right thing to do. If you disagree on this matter, let me know why. How do we deny someone $7/hour when we are making hundreds each day.

As for this comment: "It seems a strange hubris to assume that one's understanding of how these issues play out can be unequivocally equated with 'justice and mercy'."

I think this is where you began... All of life must be seen with the lens of the kingdom of God and God's passion for justice and mercy. IF these are not issues of justice and mercy, what is?

If not, we end up with a gospel that simply hopes to get people 'saved' so we can go to heaven when we die. In reality as described in the biblical text, God will recreate the heavens and the earth. Either we subcribe to an escapism theology or we believe that we are caring for God's creation as described in the creation account in Genesis.

It is my responsibility to look at every decision I make through the lens of justice and mercy as I am responsible for everything within my reach - including things like minimum wage.

Randy said...


Reading something from Sojourners, I noticed that a bunch of pastor types are again standing against the war and our Cuban torture base.

While some people may not agree, I am excited that people, pastors included, have a passion to speak and act against the status quo.

What if the church cared about human suffering that our govt. inflicts as much as we care about abortion? What an amazing witness that would become.