Thursday, February 09, 2006

The last political rant

I had been sitting on a blog titled Cold War Letters for awhile, not using it but wanting to reserve the title. Finally I decided that now was the time. I wrote a long introduction, and then attempted to slide into that smarmy, obnoxious, arrogant tone that most bloggers who cover political content have in their repertoire. I tried, but I failed. The harder I tried, the more uncomfortable I became. I am just not cut out to blog on politics- but commenting on others blogs is another story :)

Anyway, I wrote this piece as an introduction, and I liked it so much that before I deleted the other blog I saved it for presentation here. This is absolutely the last time I am covering politics in length here.

And so it begins

I've been sitting on this blog for a few months, not sure if or when I would ever write, but I really liked the title I chose and wanted to reserve it. The title "Cold War Letters" refers to a book of letters on political subjects Thomas Merton circulated in mimeograph form, when he was ordered by his monastic superiors to stay silent on such matters. I chose it as a symbol of how I feel as a Christian who holds to few, if any, of the "acceptable" Christian opinions on the political subjects of the day; if you aren't professing the wonders of God, guns and George, your relationship with God is called into question, as if Jesus died to make us all short-haired, tie-wearing, flag-waving Republicans.
I am a Christian. I became a born-again Christian in 1982 and have been on a roller coaster journey ever since. As I grew more familiar with American evangelical Christian culture I began to take on many of its trappings, including the political worldview they espoused. In 1984 I voted for Ronald Reagan, and couldn't believe it when a Christian friend of mine didn't share my affection for the Great Communicator. Oh well, she was a Lutheran, and they're liberal anyway, right? (wink, wink) 1988- George H.W. Bush. 1992- Ross Perot; I didn't like the elder Bush anymore, and Clinton was a sleaze. 1996- Bob Dole; we certainly didn't need another four years of President Clinton and her husband, did we?
And then there was the year 2000. I proudly cast my vote for George W. Bush, and waited with baited breath as voters in Florida couldn't read a simple ballot and the results of the election were put on hold. Oh, God help us if Al Gore became President! It didn't matter to me that he won the popular vote, it wasn't the popular vote that won elections, so I was very happy when the Supreme Court ordered a stop to the vote counting, effectively handing the presidency to Dubya.
September 11th, 2001. The date that has become a buzzword, a symbol wraught with different meanings depending on the crowd in which you hang. The date that patriotism became commercialized and shoved down our throat. Buy now! Collections of patriotic CDs were sold at the drug store. T-shirts that Abbie Hoffman was figuratively crucified for wearing were now being sold next to the wrestling t-shirts at Giant Eagle. You can buy your “official” God Bless America car decal through this special TV offer, and patriotic panties were prominently displayed in the circular for the local department store. The country was engulfed in a mob mentality, where verbal stones were thrown at anyone daring to disagree with the President. But I digress.
We invaded Afghanistan. OK, that was justified. I'm not against war outright; we do need to defend ourselves. What I'm against is the celebratory attitude many Christians take towards war. So let's go ahead and hang Osama Bin Laden by his stones. (Are we even still looking for him?) Then, in 2003, we declared war on Iraq. And the attitude of Christians, who were absolutely gleeful, who prayed in church services that bombs would fall on the right targets, who prayed that Hussein's sons would be found and killed, began to bother me. It didn't bother me that people supported the president and his decisions. It did bother me that the conservative worldview was being pushed as the only acceptable one for Christians to follow.
This was the chink in the armor for me, the hole in the wall in which the water began to pour through. I have always been one to ask the questions that no one wanted to hear, and I turned my sights toward the relationship between evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity and American culture. How can the church speak prophetically to a nation when they have become so wedded to the culture of that nation that they can no longer provide a prophetic voice to it? Did patriotic songs have any place in a church service, when St. Paul exhorted us to sing "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 3:19)"? How could a believer born in China, for instance, come into a church service in America and say "Amen" to our prayers of patriotic praise?
These thoughts swirled around in my mind as the calendar turned and the 2004 presidential race was in full swing. I only had one thought as I investigated the potential candidates- there was no way in hell that I was voting for George W. Bush. It was actually a tough decision to arrive at. I am against abortion, but I am also against the war in Iraq. One party supported death, the other party supported death. Bush was pro-life but endorsed the killing of Iraqis. Hardly a pro-life worldview to me. I finally settled on Howard Dean. He was an outsider to the process and seemed like he could be the man to effect change. And I wasn't the only one- Dean was the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
Until the "Dean scream." The supposedly liberal media (liberal media bias, my a**) mocked him in the same way Dan Quayle was mocked for mispelling potato. The Democratic party threw him under the bus. John Kerry rose up the ladder and eventually was chosen as the Democratic nominee. I wasn't real excited about him, but I really wasn't excited about four more years of the Bush regime and a war which should rightfully be called "Bush's folly." No WMDs were found, no connection was found between Sadaam Hussein and Al-Quaeda (and don't write me, you don't know how to spell it either), and the Downing Street memo later suggested that the intelligence had been fudged to advance Bush's agenda for war, but the American people didn't give a crap. "America- love it or leave it!" "United we stand!" "We support the troops!" Sound bites replaced intelligent political discourse as the order of the day. And Christians were at the head of the pack. Yellow ribbons replaced WWJD bracelets in the bookstores and the National Anthem replaced "Amazing Grace" (both literally and symbolically). My feelings towards church and Christians began to change (as discussed in "It's starting to get ugly in here" and "Hitting the fan").
One of the coolest days of my life happened on November 1st, 2004. A buddy of mine and I stood in downtown Cleveland for 7 hours with 50,000 other people to see Dennis Kucinich jump around, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones wave a pink slip in the air, John Glenn speak articulately (for a l-o-n-g time), Bruce Springsteen sing, and the next President of the United States John Kerry exhort the throng. All from about 20 feet away. The next day was Election Day. I would vote for a Democratic candidate for the first time in my life. I couldn't wait.
Well... we all know how it turned out. Voters in minority-dominated areas had to wait for hours to exercise their right and duty, while white dudes like me sailed through their lines in about 15 minutes. Bitter? Hell, yeah. I cried when John Kerry conceded. I didn't even cry when my children were born. And the Christians I conversed with online and in person stuck their thumb to their nose, waved their fingers and said "na-na, boo-boo." Or the editorial equivalent at least.
The last year and a half has seen popular opinion turn on President Bush. (Where were you people on Election Day?) The war is a quagmire. Bush himself has said that the war on terror can't be won. And indeed it can't be won. "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5) Doesn't matter to Dubya, though- God is on his side. Sure. Whatever you say.


Blogger Daniel Partin said...

As Christians we sometimes forget we are citizens of another country.

9:25 AM  

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