Thursday, January 3, 2008

More hands than I could ever shake...

"I reach into my pocket just so I can make some change, and I find more hands than I could ever shake..."

~John Gorka, "Campaign Trail"

The Iowa Caucus is today-- which is a big deal, and it's not. It's a big deal because it signals the beginning of the Presidential Primary elections-- where the various parties select which nominee will represent the party in the general election. It's not a big deal (or at least, not the big deal that the media makes it out to be) because the Iowa Caucus is just one state, and historically the winner of the Iowa Caucus has won the party nomination less than 50% of the time.

Of course, it does mark the beginning of the official election year-- which is a big deal in itself, on a larger scale than just one state. There are some twists in this year's election: those who seemed early on to be sure-things are now showing that they are anything but, while otherwise low-level contenders have emerged in prominence; former party loyalties are being tested in both parties; and this also seems to be the year of the "anyone but" election.

By that I mean even candidates are suggesting that others should not get the nomination at any cost. Dennis Kucinich announced something on the order of, "if you don't vote for me, then vote for Barack Obama" (suggesting that Hilary Clinton or John Edwards are not worthy of the nomination). Evangelicals seem to be against certain candidates more than they are for any one in particular. The endorsements seem to be more "vote against" than "vote for" statements.

To me, this signals a troubling time. Christians in particular ought to be more about asserting what we do believe, what we are for, and what we will support; we ought NOT stand so firmly about what we are against.

Historically, Christians have identified themselves by a credo, a creed. The word credo means, "I believe" and it always has a consequent-- a statement that follows asserting what the belief is. "I believe in God, the Father Almighty..." When we move away from this form and begin to argue what we don't believe, we often divide unnecessarily. In my brief studies of church history, I have seen how this is the case.

There are times when we must divide. Certainly, there have been ecclesiastical divisions that were necessary and important, even vital to the health of the church. Likewise, there are political perspectives that prevent the wholesale unity of all voters (though there have been times when this has at least not appeared to be so: Ronald Reagan was elected by landslide victories in both elections, with 49 states voting for him in 1984).

When a Christian identifies themselves to me more by what they don't believe than what they do, I wonder whether they really understand the Gospel; it is, after all, fundamentally about reconciliation and bridging division. My experience has taught me that, almost universally, Christians who are more about being against something will not have a pattern of healthy relationships with other Christians.

I wonder if a similar standard could apply to political candidates? As we enter into the 2008 election season, who is asserting firmly what they DO stand for? Who is spending more time telling you what (or who) they disagree with? I suggest to you that the candidates that spend their time, energy, and campaign dollars talking about what they won't do (or about how other candidates will be trouble) are not leaders who offer hope of a healthy presidency.

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