Tuesday, January 29, 2008

An Email to a Concerned Friend...

My friend emailed me, asking me why I support Barack Obama. Here's my reply:

Dear "Marmiduke,"

Obama is a representative of the newer generation; OUR generation. More specifically, he represents the "emerging"/"postmodern"/"global community" in which we now live. (please don't get hung up on any of those imperfect terms) I think Obama voices more clearly the mindset which younger (30 and below) Americans have: we're tired of the old, white-male-dominated government, we're tired of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and we're tired of a divided America that continues to spew on about "red/blue, liberal/conservative, left/right, etc." We want, you guessed it, "change." (i'm fully aware that that word has become the cliche of his campaign, but it still means HOPE for the future)

(if you're interested in this "emerging" culture check out books by: Brian Mclaren, Dan Kimball, Thomas L. Friedman, or David Kinnaman's "UnChristian")

While all of the above thoughts are generic, ideological ones, I believe they sum up the majority of the upcoming generations' views in a broad stroke. The mere lack of political involvement by young Americans is evidence that we're all too jaded by the way things go in this country. It's time for something new. I think we do want change and I'm hoping people come out to vote for it this year.

I believe Obama represents these views due to his unique background. Personally, I love hearing a political candidate speak so openly about his/her past, i.e.: drug-use, religious wandering, self-searching, personal joys/sorrows, etc. He comes off as genuinely intelligent. He's a self-made lawyer, author, state senator. That's impressive. He's the definition of liberal arts educated. He is a gifted man in whom I see character, integrity, and wisdom.

These qualities in his character resemble those of Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, and JFK. I like that because I like those guys too (I don't know many who hate MLK or Ghandi!). Barack Obama understands that their can be such thing as an "economy of Justice" or and "economy of Love" (I'll explain below).

When it come to his policies I'm extremely concerned with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Healthcare, and Education.

Education: Obama realizes the failed policy of the "No Child Left Behind." If you think it's great just talk to Chuck Massy, the guy knows his stuff! Obama wants to instead reform NCLB by putting the necessary funding into and make it less about standardized testing. He also wants to get rid of federally mandated curricula that merely make profit for Washington lobbyists. He also wants to provide childcare for families whose parents work (this is in my opinion the hardest part about reforming education: poor families' parents are never home to help the children because they must work to pay the bills)

Healthcare: There is no reason whatsoever that American shouldn't have socialized medicine. We CAN afford it. If we reduced defense spending we could easily afford it. And it's not a crazy "socialist" idea: we have socialized police, firefighters, postal services. Why not a minimum level, universal healthcare? (I just recently watched Michael Moore's "SICKO." It made me want to cry, you should check it out) Nonetheless, if you want a detailed description of his healthcare plan, go here:

War: I have never been for the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere. I believe we as a race have outgrown our use for war. It simply does NOT work anymore. Our weaponry has far surpassed our judgement. Our recollection of history persuades us that war works, when in reality it does not anymore (i.e. When war was successful was when one "side" of the battle had superior weaponry, like when white men dominated native peoples through the use of guns) However, nowadays this tactic is useless. This is partly why we refuse to let others have nuclear weapons: because it allows us to have the upper-hand. The quid pro quo war does not work, it merely increases death and in the long run creates more enemies than friends. So how is it serving our "security?"

In October 2002, Obama led an Anit-War rally and called Bush's invasion(s) "dumb war." Obama was fervently against the war(s) from the beginning. This was when I was drawn to him back in 2004; especially after his speech at the 2004 DNC. But, having to play politics in the race for the whitehouse he has lessened his anti-war rhetoric in order to win the votes of many. I don't like this, but I understand that he must do it to have a shot to win. And still, I believe him to be the most anti-war candidate (aside from Ron Paul, whom I like a lot).

Obama has openly expressed his willingness to talk with leaders of other nations, even the "axes of evil." At this point in history we MUST learn to dialogue and work out problems peacefully through compromise. Not just label other countries as enemies - that is dehumanizing. In Obama I see man with the friendliness and sincerity to do so.

So I think that with Obama's ideals it would be possible to begin an "economy of love," a term that I get from Brian Mclaren's new book (and I think he may have taken it from Martin Luther King Jr.). What is meant by an Economy of Love is this: a status quo that is constantly working for Justice and Peace, not war and domination. But what is particularly important about this Economy of Love is that it finds ways to "profit" off of the quest for Justice and Peace. In simple terms it means that instead of making money off of war and defense spending, we would be able to find ways to employ people with jobs that HELP people, work for Justice, make Peace, etc. The problem with times of peace in history is that humans usually get bored with it, they have no purpose, no enemies, no reason to pursue systems of security, etc. What MAY be possible in the future is a global community of social action that pursues Peace and Justice for all.

However, this can never happen if we continue to think in the same paradigm that we currently do. We cannot see the world in terms of enemies and terrorists, we must find a common ground to unite the world together. Even through economy, but no war. I believe Barack Obama can get us on that path. Of all the candidates, he has the ability to break down walls and unite people, and then lead us in a direction of community.

Now, I know that this all sounds extremely idealistic. But what else do we have? Are we not sick of the same old same old? We need a completely new way of thinking about the world crises. We certainly don't need more of the same, look where that has gotten us.

Not only am I FOR Obama, but I don't like any of the other candidates because I think they're all the SAME. They all think within the same paradigm, the "old" paradigm. Even though I like John McCain the most of the Rep., I think he's an old-school defense hawk who will only keep things the same. Spending billions of dollars on our military will only keep our economy dependent on war. It is pathetic to think that war has become an industry in America. It is pathetic to think our self-proclaimed "Christian" president would ever initiate war and violence for the purpose of generating economic growth. (We produce 53.4% of the world's weapons - usinfo.state.gov/infousa/politics/pres/fpolicy.htm)

But what if money was redirected to constructive matters? Healthcare? Clean water? Foreign aide?

I think Hillary is very intelligent and could do good things for America, but I don't think she'd ever win in a general election against a John McCain or Mitt Romney. People either love her or hate her. She can't get independent voters or swing voters. Obama can.

And please note that I've said nothing about Christianity because I couldn't give two shits about which candidate is "Christian" and which isn't. Don't get me started on Mike Huckabee who said "The Bible doesn't say there's anything wrong with being rich." and "If they [Iranians] come one step closer again [to our boats] then they'd better be prepared to see the gates of hell." Anyone who has to run on a "Christian" platform obviously has no clue what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Now, I realize that I have thrown in heaps of visionary, Utopian ideals, and I don't believe Obama can bring them all to be reality. But I hope he can get us started. I hope he can get us on the right track. Unfortunately that's up to the voters to determine.

Lastly and MOST importantly:

In the end, what else is there to have than hope??? 1 Cor. 13:7 - Love always Hopes. I refuse to think within the current paradigm. I refuse to think that we've exhausted all our possible options and solutions. We can do better. I believe in the Kingdom of God working here and now. And that just might take a little faith in the unseen. In the words of Mclaren: "By 'seeing the invisible' I don't mean practicing make-believe where you try to see things that aren't there. Instead of delusion, I mean vision: a way of seeing things that aren't there YET."

So... these are some of the reasons why I believe Barack Obama should be president of the US.

If you're curious, take a look here: http://www.barackobama.com/index.php

or here: http://www.ontheissues.org/default.htm

or here: http://www.selectsmart.com/president/2008.html



Thursday, January 24, 2008

Jesus Claus!

My parents never tried lying to me about Santa Claus. I think they just wisely avoided the topic altogether and let me figure it out on my own. I have to admit, I haven't found any suppressed childhood damage... yet. But I have always found the folk tale of Santa Claus to be a bit strange anyway, so hopefully I will never one day feel incomplete about not having given much thought about the jolly old saint.

Having just passed the Christmas holiday the effects of Santa Claus are still lingering a bit. And recently I was pondering some different takes on Atonement Theology so, naturally, one may see how the two are so closely related. Actually, I was just recently discussing some thoughts with a friend when it occurred to me that the average American Christian views God much like our favorite North Pole resident. Maybe in trying to refocus the Christmas celebration on Jesus we accidentally copied the Santa story.

When it comes to Santa Claus it all comes down to one thing: the reward-the gift that sits under the $75 Douglas Fur on Christmas morning. That is what it's all about. For the Santa fanatic the end is the gift. For many Christians it is the same. When it comes to God it all comes down to one thing: the reward of "eternal" life. For the God fanatic the end is the gift.

But of course not everyone receives Santa's gifts. Only those who make Santa's Nice List will receive gifts. Those who are on Santa's Naughty List receive nothing, or perhaps coal as the tale suggests. This pattern of thought implies that Santa's gift may be earned by good behavior. Similarly, many Christians view God's gift in the same regard: to earn God's gift one must act accordingly.

The Santa Claus style of considering God is a very clean-cut way to view things. It provides conditions, standards, and just rewards. However, I cannot convince myself that it is anywhere near the Truth of God nor His Purpose for our lives. It just isn't that easy. I thought we were all on the Naughty List ?(Rom. 3:23) I thought that Jesus died to sin once and for all of creation? (Rom. 6:10) And I thought that nothing we did made us good (Mk 7:1-13) or bad (Mk 7:14-23, Rom 8:38)? I thought that our reward was immediate, and developing, and alive in us, not something that came after we died (Mt 5:1-12, 6:25-33, Rom 6).

What struck me most while thinking about this Santa Claus view is that, for me, my favorite parts of Christmas experiences were never the gifts that waited for my greedy hands to tear open. In reality the best parts of Christmas are always the fellowship, the family, the community, the friends, the traditions that overflow with meaning, the food, the conversations, the fights, the laughter, and all the other parts of the journey along the way. Those are the True gifts and the Good things about Christmas. Perhaps those are the True gifts and Good things about a life that pursues God as Father, Lord, and King.