God's Heart for the Poor and the Needy
A New American President

Obama or McCain - who would you vote for?

US ElectionOn Tuesday, November 4th, Americans will vote for a new president as their presidential election takes place.

Who will win - Barack Obama or John McCain? Who would you vote for?

Some people tend to vote more 'conservative' while others vote on the 'liberal side'.

Here is an article on the election by American political commentator, Jim Wallis (author of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It). You may not agree with everything he says but his comments are very thought-provoking ...

"In 2004, several conservative Catholic Bishops and a few megachurch pastors like Rick Warren issued their list of 'non-negotiables' which were intended to be a voter guide for their followers. All of them were relatively the same list of issues: abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc. None of them even included the word 'poverty', only one example of the missing issues which are found quite clearly in the Bible. All of them were also relatively the same as official Republican Party Web sites of 'non-negotiables'. The political connections and commitments of the religious non-negotiable writers were quite clear.

I want to suggest a different approach this year and share my personal list of 'faith priorities' that will guide me in making the imperfect choices that always confront us in any election year -- and suggest that each of you come up with your own list of 'faith' or 'moral' priorities for this election year and take them into the polling place with you.

After the last election, I wrote a book titled God's Politics.  I was criticized by some for presuming to speak for God, but that wasn't the point.  I was trying to explore what issues might be closest to the heart of God and how they may be quite different from what many strident religious voices were then saying.  I was also saying that 'God's Politics' will often turn our partisan politics upside down, transcend our ideological categories of Left and Right, and challenge the core values and priorities of our political culture. I was also trying to say that there is certainly no easy jump from God's politics to either the Republicans or Democrats. God is neither. In any election, we face imperfect choices, but our choices should reflect the things we believe God cares about if we are people of faith, and our own moral sensibilities if we are not people of faith. Therefore, people of faith, and all of us, should be 'values voters' but vote all our values, not just a few that can be easily manipulated for the benefit of one party or another.

In 2008, the kingdom of God is not on the ballot in any of the 50 states as far as I can see. So we can't vote for that this year. But there are important choices in this year's election -- very important choices -- which will dramatically impact what many in the religious community and outside of it call 'the common good', and the outcome could be very important, perhaps even more so than in many recent electoral contests.

I am in no position to tell anyone what is 'non-negotiable', and neither is any Bishop or megachurch pastor, but let me tell you the 'faith priorities' and values I will be voting on this year:

  1. With more than 2,000 verses in the Bible about how we treat the poor and oppressed, I will examine the record, plans, policies, and promises made by the candidates on what they will do to overcome the scandal of extreme global poverty and the shame of such unnecessary domestic poverty in the richest nation in the world. Such a central theme of the Bible simply cannot be ignored at election time, as too many Christians have done for years. And any solution to the economic crisis that simply bails out the rich, and even the middle class, but ignores those at the bottom should simply be unacceptable to people of faith.

  2. From the biblical prophets to Jesus, there is, at least, a biblical presumption against war and the hope of beating our swords into instruments of peace. So I will choose the candidates who will be least likely to lead us into more disastrous wars and find better ways to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world and make us all safer. I will choose the candidates who seem to best understand that our security depends upon other people's security (everyone having "their own vine and fig tree, so no one can make them afraid," as the prophets say) more than upon how high we can build walls or a stockpile of weapons. Christians should never expect a pacifist president, but we can insist on one who views military force only as a very last resort, when all other diplomatic and economic measures have failed, and never as a preferred or habitual response to conflict.

  3. 'Choosing life' is a constant biblical theme, so I will choose candidates who have the most consistent ethic of life, addressing all the threats to human life and dignity that we face -- not just one. 30,000 children dying globally each day of preventable hunger and disease is a life issue. The genocide in Darfur is a life issue. Health care is a life issue. War is a life issue. The death penalty is a life issue. And on abortion, I will choose candidates who have the best chance to pursue the practical and proven policies which could dramatically reduce the number of abortions in America and therefore save precious unborn lives, rather than those who simply repeat the polarized legal debates and 'pro-choice' and 'pro-life' mantras from either side. 

  4. God's fragile creation is clearly under assault, and I will choose the candidates who will likely be most faithful in our care of the environment. In particular, I will choose the candidates who will most clearly take on the growing threat of climate change, and who have the strongest commitment to the conversion of our economy and way of life to a cleaner, safer, and more renewable energy future. And that choice could accomplish other key moral priorities like the redemption of a dangerous foreign policy built on Middle East oil dependence, and the great prospects of job creation and economic renewal from a new 'green' economy built on more spiritual values of conservation, stewardship, sustainability, respect, responsibility, co-dependence, modesty, and even humility.

  5. Every human being is made in the image of God, so I will choose the candidates who are most likely to protect human rights and human dignity. Sexual and economic slavery is on the rise around the world, and an end to human trafficking must become a top priority. As many religious leaders have now said, torture  is completely morally unacceptable, under any circumstances, and I will choose the candidates who are most committed to reversing American policy on the treatment of prisoners. And I will choose the candidates who understand that the immigration system is totally broken and needs comprehensive reform, but must be changed in ways that are compassionate, fair, just, and consistent with the biblical command to "welcome the stranger."

  6. Healthy families are the foundation of our community life, and nothing is more important than how we are raising up the next generation. As the father of two young boys, I am deeply concerned about the values our leaders model in the midst of the cultural degeneracy assaulting our children. Which candidates will best exemplify and articulate strong family values, using the White House and other offices as bully pulpits to speak of sexual restraint and integrity, marital fidelity, strong parenting, and putting family values over economic values? And I will choose the candidates who promise to really deal with the enormous economic and cultural pressures that have made parenting such a 'counter-cultural activity' in America today, rather than those who merely scapegoat gay people for the serious problems of heterosexual family breakdown.

That is my list of personal 'faith priorities' for the election year of 2008, but they are not 'non-negotiables' for anyone else. It's time for each of us to make up our own list in these next 12 days. Make your list and send this on to your friends and family members, inviting them to do the same thing." [Jim Wallis - October 28th, 2008]

Also, see my previous post for further details about the election, including an interview of the two candidates by Rick Warren. May God's will be done!

Click here for a recent article by Pastor Rick Warren on "The Leadership America Needs".

Comments

Mark this is some of the best christian writings on political issues I've read. Thank you

Hi Mark, I have just finished reading all the comments on the poor and needy and found it fascinating that it received so many comments! I am praying for the election and I pray that God's will be done! America needs a leader who loves God. But back to your message on the poor and needy. I believe this message has had huge reverberations through City Life and I sense God doing a major shift in our hearts. I spoke to someone in the afternoon, after hearing your message, someone who is struggling to survive in the midst of terribly sad circumstances, so I took the need to my Life Group mid week. I told them of the financial plight of this young single mum I mentor/mother and their response was immediate, unanimous and generous. Not once did they ask if she was part of our church or indeed even if she was a Christian or a Seeker. There was no hidden agenda, they just wanted to bless her without even knowing her. I was able to transfer the needed funds to her account the next day. She is praising God for his provision and I am so thankful for your sermon and the impact it had on all our hearts. Thank you for listening to the heart of God and for leading us to listen too. I love our church.

Great stuff Mark, a pargadigm shift for me,It is so easy to see the black and white of politics but you have laid bare the priority closer to Gods heart as demonstrated with the amount of times God talks about it in his word, compassion and mercy for the hungry, poor, afflicted and down trodden.

This post is very thought provoking. Thanks!

Hi Mark,

I saw your post and couldn't help myself from commenting. Im not sure if people realize that the Huffington Post would be the ultra liberal equivalent of the ultra conservatives Rush Limbaugh. So the fact that they would publish it shows a slant from one side and definitely not a "balanced" perspective. judging from its history the huffington post published this article because it clearly promotes their partisan aganda. The huffington post was one the first to attack Gov Palin for going to a Pentecostal church and expressing concerns about her "christian" worldview. thats not even the worst...They actively promoted a vicious rumor that Gov Palin was not Trigg's mother but was in fact her daughters child. this is just a point to show how hateful that site can be.

As an American, I congratulate Barack Obama for winning the office of president. And at the same time I am very proud of my country for being color-blind and not letting race b a factor in this election. truly, that is something every American can be proud of... there is much i disagree with Barack Obama on, but as a christian he has my prayers and support.

Um.... Mike, did you actually read Jim Wallis's article. Huffington Post or no Huffington Post - his article is both thought provoking and a welcome relief to some of the one sided paradigm of certain Christian groups. Jim Wallis brings biblical perspetive that has been grossly neglected in so many of the conversations. Huffington Post? You don't need to eat the raven - just consider eating the bread it brings!

Charlie,

I did read it. I love the raven quote by the way..I never hear that before. I hope I came across right. Im not saying what Jim said wasnt good.One of the problems I have with the article is I think it sends a subtle signal to people to mistrust leaders in their church- like Rick Warren. The shot, all be it subtle, is offensive to me. In essence, Jim is saying... Rick & Catholic church, how can you be so stupid, but let me enlighten you a little.... Naming a church or a specific pastor is not necessary, he could have sad those things and never mentioned them. The reason why I mentioned the huffington post is while I cant judge why they published the article, but the fact that what was included in the article was subtle slam on Warren and the Catholics, fits there agenda perfectly... So you're right, I do take the bread from the Raven, but have to point out the poison the raven is also trying to bring.

Mike,
Really no offence intended - but I did not find his article (or his book by the way, which is fantastic, "God's Politics") slamming anyone. I don't know how he could go about it any better - basically there's a large, grinning elephant in the living room that everyone is ignoring. All Jim is doing is standing on it and saying "Are we going to consider this beast at all?" Especially since the issue of the poor and marginalised happens to be a central theme throughout the Bible? Oh, and if you're reading Wallis's book, there's another guy you should consider reading - Shane Clairborne: "Jesus for President!"
Thanks.
Charlie

Charlie...

No offense taken... I have not read Jim wallis' book, but Ill be sure to pick it up along with Jesus for President. Let me explain myself a little further.

"I am in no position to tell anyone what is 'non-negotiable', and neither is any Bishop or megachurch pastor, but let me tell you the 'faith priorities' and values I will be voting on this year:"

the way I read this is...dont listen to Rick or catholic bishops...I know better and let me educate you.

"In 2004, several conservative Catholic Bishops and a few megachurch pastors like Rick Warren issued their list of 'non-negotiables' which were intended to be a voter guide for their followers...All of them were also relatively the same as official Republican Party Web sites of 'non-negotiables'. The political connections and commitments of the religious non-negotiable writers were quite clear."

So the catholic church and Rick warren are conspiring to turn all of their people into Republicans? OR does Rick and the Catholics think Abortion or the sanctity of marriage is more important of an issue of whether someone drives a hybrid or not.

I guess as an American I am very familiar with the huffington post and have reason to doubt the sincerity of their motives. I would bet with 100% certainty that when the published this articles they published it with glee knowing that people would begin to be suspect of key evangelical leaders and a moral voice like the catholic church who represent a lot of voters. What is interesting is, again in practicality, if you look at the news from the recent election is that because of voices like Jim Wallis and Matthew25.org that took away alarge block of voters from people who represent Rick & the Catholics non-negotiables, they are actually making an entire political party, while Jim may be right- incomplete in their biblical perspective, to think about abandoning the things in their party that Rick and the catholic church supported and become more moderate... Let me say it another way, While everybody is worried about Christians being "imbalanced" in their voting what they dont realize is if they abandon the things that rick and the Catholics call non negotiables we will not be balanced as a nation we will actually swing left. But hey...thats my opinion and thats what i see on the ground.

I don't think that really has anything to do with Wallis's writings - he is raising issues others have not raised in all their concerns about justice. If you are going to be pro-life - then be it in every aspect of society. But in all honesty, your comment about swinging to the left and not being balanced?? Two wars, zillion dollars in debt, medical crisis, homelessness, poverty escalating, .... if the right is balanced then I'm King Arthur.

Bob Barr for mine. There were at least 4 other candidates who always pick up less than 1% of the vote, Barr being one of them and the man who would have collected my vote.

Refreshing position. Definatly not the religous right that those on the left often talk to with condescending tone.

I"m concerned that so much of what the world, or at least the US, knows about Christians comes from Fox News and other loud right wing preachers and Christians.

I'm browsing around looking for ideas on writing on my left leaning blog that are pro Christian but not what we mostly hear.

At the ame time, not putting down those on the right, een when I don't agree with them. I guess I want to make the point that you don't have to be on the right to be Christian.

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