The Common Good

McLaren and Claiborne on Voting

Sojomail - July 17, 2008


We cannot kill or capture our way to victory.

- U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, issuing a stark warning against U.S. overreliance on military responses, to the detriment of diplomacy: "America's civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and underfunded for far too long -- relative to what we traditionally spend on the military, and more importantly, relative to the responsibilities and challenges our nation has around the world." (Source: The Washington Post)

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Brian McLaren and Shane Claiborne on Voting

Editor's note: How -- or even if -- Christians will vote is a hot topic in churches and in the media this election year. Two of our God's Politics bloggers wrote about this question this week, with important insights as to where our ultimate allegiance and hope must always lie. Of parallel importance to how we approach this election is how we talk about it. These posts join a dialogue we plan to continue among our bloggers and readers in the weeks and months to come.

Voting is Never Uncritical, Unqualified, nor Unconditional (by Brian McLaren)

I've been blogging lately about faith, politics, and voting. In a recent post, I reflected that this election season will require us to have thousands of conversations, millions even -- around dinner tables, sitting at the beach, during hikes and boat rides, online, in church fellowship halls, and parking lots -- about truly important issues for us as Americans and as Christians. We'll need to talk about race, war, poverty, sustainable prosperity, the environment, energy, national unity and fragmentation, torture, what it means to be a moral leader in the family of nations, and even the meaning of voting itself. I then expressed my prayerful hope that through these conversations:

... our nation will become a little wiser, a little less racist, a little more humble, a little more good-hearted and unified and respectful, one conversation at a time, one person at a time.

That prayerful hope came back to me the other day when I read a post by a good friend. He suggested we should advise everybody and endorse nobody. I'm quite certain that my friend meant, by the word endorse, "blindly, uncritically, and without reservation express support for." And, of course, with that I would fully agree. + Click to continue reading the full article

Advise Everyone ... Endorse No One (by Shane Claiborne)

We've been courted by candidates who want an endorsement ... or who at least would like us to be "advisers." At first I thought advising a candidate was a subtle euphemism for endorsing them, but I have come to think that there is an important distinction to make between "endorsing" and "advising."

I want to be an adviser to every politico that asks, and an endorser of no one but Jesus. Chris and I just joked that he could become an official advisor for Obama, and I'd take McCain just to make sure folks know that we are not partisan. We do take seriously the opportunity to dialogue with political candidates, or anyone else for that matter, especially as many people seem to be rethinking politics as usual. As for the presidential candidates, we're not sure how our counsel will go over, since it may begin with advising those seeking office to melt down the weapons of our arsenal and transform them into things that bring life to the suffering masses of this planet -- "beating swords into plows" as the prophets say. But we'll see if anyone takes us up on the offer. + Click to continue reading the full article


+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

Making Sense of Zimbabwe's Violence (by Nontando Hadebe)

My friends and I were discussing the ongoing violence in Zimbabwe -- it seems senseless. Or is it? The explanation given for the violence prior to the recent elections was that it was part of "Operation: Who Did You Vote For?" -- also referred to as electoral cleansing. The goal was to ensure that the ruling party would win the elections, which they did. But then why is the violence continuing? When the negotiations began last week between the political parties, cessation of violence was one of the key issues raised, and we all hoped the violence would eventually stop. But it has not, and the negotiations are currently at a standstill.

To Vote or Not to Vote (by Brian McLaren)

Some folks I've talked to are not going to vote in the 2008 elections. Some are disillusioned. Some don't like either candidate enough to vote. For some, not voting is an act of protest against the whole system, which they believe is hopelessly corrupt. Some believe that their citizenship in God's kingdom means they shouldn't become involved in "earthly" citizenship. While I respect my friends who aren't going to vote -- especially those who have prayerfully thought the decision through from multiple vantage points -- I will vote in this election for several reasons.

New Yorker Obama Cartoon Controversy (by Becky Garrison)

When one places the July 2008 issue of The New Yorker cover into its historical context, one sees that the magazine has a long history of running covers that can be deemed controversial and at times crass, depending on one's political perspective. As a writer, I tend to side with those who wish to exert their first amendment rights, as long as they are not committing slander, plagiarism, or other illegal offenses. Such are the benefits of living in a democracy. (Let us not forget that no one has called for the execution of anyone associated with this drawing.) But when editor David Remnick and artist Barry Blitt began defending as "satire" the depiction of the Obamas as a radical Muslim and Black Panther intent on invading the White House, sorry, but I beg to differ. If this particular piece was intended to parody the racist thoughts that people harbor toward Obama, it fell well short of its mark. For starters, if you have to explain repeatedly that "it was just a joke," then you need to refine your material.

New Nukes Trounced (by Frida Berrigan)

Last week, Congress refused -- for a second time -- to fund the Bush administration's demand for a new nuclear weapons system, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). However, cutting funding for the RRW is one of those big moves destined to generate little fanfare. It is a little too technical and incremental to be heralded as a decisive step toward nuclear abolition, and yet the RRW program -- which over the next decade or so would have upgraded the core workings of all U.S. nuclear warheads -- was a lifeline for the nuclear weapons complex at a time when President George W. Bush was one of the few holdouts on the global consensus on disarmament.

Court Interpreter Exposes Immigration Raid Flaws (by Allison Johnson)

Catholic social teaching tells us the dignity of the human person is the foundation and measure of a moral society. If the U.S. were put to this test based on our treatment of immigrants, how would we fare? If the recently released evidence from the heartland of Postville, Iowa, is any indicator, I'd venture to say we're in danger of flunking. In an exclusive New York Times interview and 14-page essay, federal court interpreter Erik Camayd-Freixas recounts the ICE raid at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville this past May in disturbing detail.

Loosely Involved (Part 1, by Russell Rathbun)

I'm standing in this big line outside Charles Colson Junior High waiting for the doors to open. I say "big line" instead of "long line" because it is more mobbish, more wide than long. Our senior pastor was right. At a staff meeting he told us, "Get there early. I predict unprecedented involvement in Tuesday's caucus." His political insight as to the large turn-out comes, I am sure, from reading the front page of USA Today, which reported huge turnouts for all the recent caucuses and primaries. "Unprecedented involvement," he continued, "and I want us to be involved in that involvement."

The Great Experiment and the Great Commandment (by Phyllis Tickle)

Tomorrow is Bastille Day. We Americans don't take much notice of that these days, but once there was a time when we did. Once was the time, especially as the storm clouds of World War II were gathering over us, when schoolchildren and working folk alike stopped to acknowledge a deep and compelling affinity between America and France. Not only had France, historically speaking, always been our most faithful and dependable ally, but she was also seen, politically speaking, as the other half of the Great Experiment.

Patience Can Cook a Stone (by Nontando Hadebe)

This Fulfulde proverb is often quoted when somebody is losing his or her patience, when somebody is about to make a quick decision without thinking seriously and considering carefully all the consequences of his or her actions, when a trial seems to last forever, when there is a risk of revenge, when there is a risk of conflict, or when people are tempted to react violently to a provocation. The African proverb from the Fulbe people aptly describes the situation in Zimbabwe. Its advice to be patient is tough for many Zimbabweans who have had to endure so much suffering politically and economically. Yet it is advice that may prove beneficial especially when it is supported by efforts designed to bring a just solution to the crisis.

Four Iraqi Evangelicals (by Mark Russell)

Recently, I had the unique opportunity to meet with four Iraqi evangelicals at a conference in a country near Iraq. They were young church leaders. Despite the circumstances in their country, they were upbeat and gracious. Having never been to Iraq, nor having personally met an Iraqi, I was eager to hear their perspectives on current events. My conversations with them helped me understand to a greater degree the true complexity of war. One of them was a church planter in a large city in Iraq. When he spoke about his people, he was enthusiastic. He talked about how Iraqis were responsive to the gospel in times of peace. But when I pointedly asked him about the war and made it clear he could be honest with me, his response was a mixture of anger and depression, saying, "It has been a disaster. My church has been destroyed. Christians had more safety and security under Hussein than we do now."

Bless the Hands that Prepare Our Food (by Onleilove Alston)

During this BBQ season we have to carefully consider what products are a part of our seasonal celebrations. Recently I attended the D.C. campaign kickoff for the Justice at Smithfield Campaign. Smithfield Foods is the largest pork processor and producer in the world, the fourth-largest turkey processor, and fifth-largest beef processor in the U.S. In the early 1990s, Smithfield opened its Tar Heel, North Carolina, plant, with 5,500 workers who slaughter and process 32,000 hogs per day. The Tar Heel plant is not unionized and overall only about 56 percent of Smithfield pork processing plant employees are unionized. Though I was raised in Brooklyn, New York, my family hails from North Carolina, which makes this campaign personally important to me. ... If my grandparents remained in North Carolina instead of migrating to Brooklyn, I could have easily been one of the Smithfield workers. What separates me from the workers at Smithfield?


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Learning and Service Adventure, Aug 31-Sept 6, 2008: NATURAL, PREVENTIVE HEALTH CARE IN NICARAGUA. $725 + AIRFARE. Homestays, classes/tours of medicinal herb farm, health care and reforestation project in rural northern Nicaragua.

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