Politics

Election 2008: Voting All Your Values

"Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” — PROVERBS 31:9

Christians have a moral and civic responsibility to participate in the political life of society by prayerfully measuring the proposed policies of all candidates against Christian ethics and values. Our broad set of Christian values should inform our political decisions. While we must be careful about translating scripture directly into public policy positions, the following principles and suggested approaches on a range of issues provide a critical framework to shape our perspective on public policy and political leadership. We encourage you to use this guide to educate yourself on these issues. This can inform you as you write letters to candidates or to your local newspaper, call radio talk shows, and ask candidates at forums or town hall meetings questions based on these principles. Think and pray about whom you would entrust with the responsibility to lead your community, state, and nation. We pray that this provides a moral compass to inform prudential political judgments.

For a downloadable pdf version of the 2008 Voter Issues Guide, click here.

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Sojourners Magazine November 2008
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Decision 2008

Editor’s Note: Okay, Ed, the lawyer has finished looking through your column to make sure it’s totally nonpartisan and that it doesn’t favor or oppose either candidate. With a few minor deletions, he says it’s good to go.

As Election Day approaches, more Americans are anxious about the nnnn future. With the world economy in nnnn—for example, Afghanistan’s opium crop is down by almost 19 percent—America’s nnnnn has never been more needed. And yet, after a grueling nominating process, no nnn candidate has emerged that could reassure the world that Washington, D.C., can be anything more than a big nnn pile of scheming nnnn.

But enough about Dick Cheney’s small group.

On the nnnnnnnn side, the candidate is nnnn nnnn, except for the fact that he’s nnnn and was born in Indonesia, or possibly Illinois, and that he fathered two children with a woman in Chicago. His campaign is promising a quick, bipartisan nnnn to every nnnn problem facing this nation, except for the problem of creating false expectations for bipartisan nnnn.

And let’s be honest, he’s a little more nnnnnn than the rest of us.

Obama: You mean, because I’m nnnn.

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Tall Tales and Tiny Revolutions

Tall Tales and Tiny Revolutions: Politics and fiction have much in common. Imagine that!

The upcoming presidential election wraps up months of campaigning, in which each political party has tried to outdo the other in its public storytelling. The narratives follow familiar terrain: “We are the party of change,” says one. “We will keep America strong,” says another. Each party has spent millions to present its candidate as the true “outsider” to Wash­ington politics, the honest crusader who can fix what’s broken in America. These storylines are carefully crafted to appeal to our ideals and our frustrations—in short, they tell us what we want to hear.

Leaders the world over use their power to shape narratives—to good and bad effect. Under repressive governments, such as in China or under South Africa’s apartheid regime, storytellers of a different kind—writers—are among those who suffer when their work doesn’t conform to prevailing social, political, religious, or cultural narratives. Their work is banned, they are silenced, put in prison, exiled—or worse. Unlike politicians, writers often tell their governments, and us, what we don’t want to hear.

The death of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn earlier this year reminds us of the powerful impact of his One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. This slim volume penetrated the silence of the Stalin-era Soviet Union by telling the story of Ivan Denisovich Shukov, a peasant imprisoned in a Siberian concentration camp. Solzhenitsyn—who spent eight years in similar camps himself—describes Ivan’s day, from morning reveille to evening bedtime, as he follows the petty, arcane rules of staying alive. This tiny revolution of words allowed the world to see what happened to those on the wrong side of Soviet power. For his efforts Solzhenitsyn was exiled, but not stopped; his three-volume indictment of the Gulag system, The Gulag Archipelago, was published about 10 years later.

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What's at Stake

With perhaps the most consequential election of any of our lifetimes only a few weeks away, it’s time to take a step back and reflect on what is at stake. We’ve heard a lot about personalities, seen far too many negative ads, and been spun so many times our heads are swimming. But none of that should determine our vote.

As Christians, we know that we will not be able to vote for the kingdom of God. It is not on the ballot. Yet there are very important choices to make that will significantly impact the common good and the health of this nation—and of the world. So let us all exercise our crucial right to vote and to apply our Christian conscience to those decisions. And in the finite and imperfect political decisions of this and any election, let us each promise to respect the political conscience of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here are 10 issues to consider in casting a ballot.

1. The economy is in grave danger. This fall, the financial systems of the nation and the world nearly collapsed. Three out of the nation’s top five investment banks were not able to weather the financial storms triggered by the subprime lending crisis, and the squalls shook the stock market as well. And now a massive government bailout of private debt is reshaping the system. Ordinary Americans are worried about their jobs, their homes, college and retirement funds, and, much worse, a downward economic spiral that affects all of us.

2. “Poverty is now our next door neighbor.” That’s what a hospital administrator said to me during my annual physical. More and more people are feeling the effects of foreclosures, declining housing equity and opportunity, job losses, stagnant wages, and the lack of affordable health care. Those at the bottom, of course, are in the worse shape of all.

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Sojourners Magazine November 2008
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