Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reflections on Election Day

We're electing a president today in this country. It's a daunting task, one for which we must trust that the Lord is sovereign and He will work for our good. So my mind is occupied with these worldly events. I'm an old woman and no one really cares about my opinions on politics and social happenings. But I’m writing this to try to boil down my thoughts so that I can explain myself to people who ask me to explain. I need to develop a 15-second “elevator speech” but I’m afraid it may defy condensation.

Our founding fathers set up this country with a firm conviction of separation of church and state. People who live in this country and call themselves Americans have to accept that as a given. It’s at the intersection of faith and politics that things get dicey. Look at nations that mandate Islam as the official religion of the state. These nations often have a horrible history of denying basic freedoms and imposing harsh punishment on those who don’t espouse their view of theology. We don’t want a nation like that and we can’t accept a nation like that, even if the nation uses law to enforce our understanding of God.

I’m really not “political” in the way I understand the term. I would actually prefer not to label myself either a Democrat or a Republican, but if pushed I would admit that I usually fall on the Democratic side. I’m definitely not a conservative and I consider myself more of a progressive than a liberal, but in a black-and-white, either/or situation I’d have to squeeze in with the liberals, even when “liberal” can be considered a dirty word. Okay, push came to shove and I’m calling myself a liberal Democrat. I’m walking into dangerous territory.

Now let me make a statement that may seem contradictory: I am a liberal because I am a Christian. I know that statement flies in the face of the image that Christians, especially “evangelical” Christians, hold in our popular culture. I suppose I’ve long been steeped in the tradition of Catholic social justice—all those crazy nuns working with the poor, even when they get in trouble with their pope. If we take the teachings of Jesus to heart, we see that Jesus loved and cared about those were poor and sick, those who couldn’t take care of themselves. Just read the beatitudes . . . blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, those who hunger and thirst. Jesus was into radical poverty. He had no possessions other than the clothes on his back. He didn’t aspire to wealth or political power. He didn’t advocate overthrowing the government. He taught us that we show our love for God through our love for one another

And why is it presumed that faith requires Christians to hold very conservative views on some socio-political issues? Now I’m really walking into the lion’s den. Take same-sex marriage. After a lot of reflection, I now view same-sex marriage as a civil right. We’re not talking morality, no definition of sin in the eyes of God, no questions about whether God designed some people to be homosexual. They are human beings who live in our country and who are subject to the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. If, by law, I am permitted to marry anyone I want, regardless of age or race or political preference or butt-ugliness, then homosexuals should be able to legally marry. Yet no church should ever be forced to accept or perform a homosexual marriage if it is against the church’s beliefs. For the record, it is against the beliefs in my church. It’s simply the fair thing to do in a free secular society. We’re not God, we’re not called to decide what is sinful—let God be the judge, thankfully not me.

Okay—now the totally incendiary topic—abortion. I absolutely, positively believe that abortion is wrong, an incredibly horrible sin. I wish I could live in a country where abortion never took place. That said, I don’t think we’ll ever realistically be able to change public policy to make it illegal again. We need to work on the hearts of the women who have abortions. We need to teach them about God's love while we help them find alternatives. And we need to work to support those babies—from conception, through childhood and into old age. We need to respect life from beginning to end.

In my little world I believe that the people of a nation should support a government that helps the neediest of its people—the unborn, the sick, the mentally disabled, and the elderly. I think that’s what Jesus taught us to do.

Luke 6: 31 and 36.   And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. . . . Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

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