Friday, September 12, 2008

Brian McLaren--Why I Am Voting For Obama (Reason 1).

Oftentimes, all Christians are branded as the right wing bigots that dominate the media discourse. As a liberal Christian I have major problems with that, as my reading of the words of Jesus is that Christianity is one of inclusiveness, love and grace. And, our mission as Christians is to express that inclusiveness, love and grace toward others (especially the least of these).

So, it is good to read Brian McLaren, a thinker, activist and leader of the emergent church, and his reasons (he's posted his first one) for supporting Barack Obama. Here are a few highlights but you can read it all here.
My top reason for supporting Barack Obama for president centers in the narrative I believe he frames his life and work by, in contrast to the narrative John McCain frames his life and work by. To me, this issue of narrative (or framing story, for readers of my book Everything Must Change) means far more in a president than whether he claims to be liberal or conservative, religious or nonreligious, Christian or otherwise, Democrat or Republican.


Senator Obama certainly believes in a strong national defense. But I believe he leans toward a profoundly different narrative. It is a reconciliation narrative, a peace-building narrative, a collaboration narrative. He made it clear when he said he would change President Bush’s policy of not talking to our enemies. McCain and others tried to portray this alternative approach as cowardice and appeasement, but they were wrong. Instead of dividing the world into “us” and “them,” Obama’s narrative seeks to bring people together in a expanding us. While McCain’s narrative only offers enemies surrender and defeat, Obama’s offers them the possibility of reconciliation.

I favor Obama’s narrative or framing story because of two convictions I hold very deeply and passionately.
First, I am a committed Christian, and I believe a narrative of reconciliation is in harmony with the teachings of Jesus. Conversely, a narrative of domination and defeat is not: it is the way of Caesar, or what Jesus called “the kingdoms of this world.” I believe that at the core of Jesus’ teaching is the world's truly transcendent challenge and call – to rise above the old narrative of “love your brother and hate your enemy.” In other words, rather than to “transcendent war,” I believe God’s call to all people is toward transcendent reconciliation. I am convinced that war is inherently non-transcendent. It is, in fact, anti-transcendent. I feel the God-given call to love enemies and seek reconciliation and eventual collaboration rather than domination and defeat and extermination. I know that many Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, and atheists would feel a similar revulsion to voting an energetic promoter of a warrior narrative into office for another four years (or more).

Second, I believe we have crossed a threshold in my lifetime. Senator McCain, because of his age and his viewpoint, lives on the older side of that threshold. This doesn’t mean he is evil, but it means he is responding in ways that are no longer appropriate to a world that no longer exists, and in that way, his viewpoint is no longer helpful.


I believe McCain’s old warrior narrative is simply too dangerous to live by any more. That’s the first reason I am voting for Barack Obama. He would be the first to say that he’s not the Messiah, and he isn’t perfect, but he represents a turning … a turning away from the fear-based Bush-Rove-Cheney-McCain warrior narrative, and a turning toward a narrative that seeks peace through reconciliation and creative collaboration rather than through domination and a go-it-alone cowboy/bomber mentality. We’re not just voting for a president this year: we’re voting for a framing story our nation will live by, or kill by.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i'm just lil ole me, so you probably wouldn't be interested in my thoughts... personally i'm tired of both right AND left telling me that i have to vote like they do to be a "christian". so, i'll let one of your own who i deeply respect speak for me:

Yeast of the Pharisees (Room for Grace)
by Shane Claiborne

Christianity can be built around isolating ourselves from evildoers and sinners, creating a community of religious piety and moral purity. Christianity can also be built around joining with the broken sinners and evildoers of our world crying out to God, groaning for grace. Bath are magnetic and contagious.

In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable of two men praying in the temple. The Pharisee boasts of his religious devotion and moral obedience, thanking God he is not like other sinners. The tax collector, on the other hand, stands at a distance and dares not even look up to heaven. He beats his chest and pleads, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." It is he, not the Pharisee, who goes home justified before God (vv. 9-14).

The righteous "yeast of the Pharisees" is still infectious today, it attacks "liberal" and "conservative" Christians alike. Conservatives stand up and thank God they are not like the homosexuals, the Muslims, the liberals. Liberals stand up and thank God they are not like the war-makers, the yuppies, the conservatives. The causes are different, but the self-righteousness is the same.

Jesus did not came simply to make bad people good. Jesus came to bring dead people to life. We can be morally "pure" but devoid of any life, joy, or celebration. I have seen this in myself and in many people I know. For some, purity means that they not touch anything "secular." For others, it means eating only "organic" food. But if our commitments are not born out of relationship, if they are not liberating for bath oppressed and oppressor, and if they are not marked by raw, passionate love, then we do little more than flaunt out own purity by showing everyone else how dirty they are.

The infection of Pharisaic self-righteousness can lead us to think it our duty to rid the world of evildoers. But history shows that the more voraciously we try to root out evil by force, the more it escalates. The more passionately we love those who do violence, the more evil will diminish. This was true of the Christian martyrs, whose self-sacrificial love for their enemies converted many to the church.

Christianity has spread most rapidly when believers have suffered persecution without retaliating. Today, as out Christian nation claims to be rooting out evil with violence, it is no surprise that terrorist activity is escalating, and Muslims are less open to Christianity than they were a year ago. For every Muslim extremist killed, another is created.

The tax collector teaches us, as does Jesus, that his is a gospel for sick people, not righteous people. When we become aware of our own brokenness, we begin to see God's image in every human being, be they soldier or centurion, tax collector or stockbroker, zealot or anarchist. We judge less. We leave room for grace. We understand that no one is beyond redemption, including ourselves.

This article was first published in the July 1, 2004 issue of The Other Side,