finally, some political conclusions

“Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead).
Foreword:  I wish I had the time and energy to respond to each of you separately, but again, I can only thank you for the time and thought you put into your responses to my last post.  It all was food for thought.  Some of it angered me; some of it challenged and changed my convictions; all of it was appreciated.  I believe such candid discussions bless and refine our communities.
Thanks to Jill‘s link to Jim Wallis’s article on listing one’s own “faith priorities,” I have made my own list of non-negotiables — issues of faith that I believe should not be compromised in politics.  It’s this list that’s guiding me as I go into the voting booth tomorrow.  I come at most of my faith priorities from an obviously Christian viewpoint, but I have realized that no candidate can fulfill all of the items on my wishlist.  Jesus could, I think, or at least He could change my mind to see where I’ve misread His priorities.  I foolishly maintain that Jesus is the answer for everybody everywhere, and the only reason we can’t figure out how to run a nation with perfection is because we don’t have enough of Him and His philosophy.  (Speaking of Jesus, I really want to read Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw’s book Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals as soon as possible!)
My Non-Negotiables

1. A pro-life perspective.  On war, abortion, and life-threatening diseases, I will support a presidential candidate who not only protects the life of the unborn without reservation, but also protects the lives of its citizens, even those in the military.  While military troops may be willing to give their life, I believe a President should only risk those lives if absolutely necessary, and furthermore will not abuse his power by choosing to go to war without the proper support of the other branches of government.  Life threatening diseases are of particular concern in third-world countries, and I will support a presidential candidate who makes foreign aid (either through the government or through the American people) a priority.  I also believe that the death penalty should be abolished because I believe in forgiveness and redemption.

2. Care for the weak.  Based on many verses scattered throughout Deuteronomy, the Psalms and verses like Luke 3.11 (“[Jesus] answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.”), it’s obvious God cares for the widow, the orphan, and the poor.  He asks me to care for these groups of people regardless of how much they deserve it.  They do not supersede His importance (see Mark 14.7), but especially now that Christ is not with us in flesh, we are called to represent Him to the poor, the widows and orphans, and to all the world.  God cares about those with little strength, and I can support a candidate who respects God’s perspective in this.

3. Freedom.  As a Christian, I find true freedom through Christ, but insofar as the Constitution claims to protect its citizens’ “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (as well as some other freedoms), I will support a candidate who will uphold these rights.  Specific freedoms on my mind (by no means exhaustive) are the freedom of speech (so that I may spread the gospel) and the freedom of homosexuals to marry.  American freedoms should only be limited when they endanger another person’s freedom (as in the needful arrest of a criminal).

4.  Environmental care.  The earth is the Lord’s; we are its stewards.  I will support a candidate who does not promote further tearing down of God’s Creation, but allows it to be sustained and nurtured.

5. Inclusiveness.  This concept mainly deals with immigration.  If our nation is to live by moral, just principles, we should embrace those who wish to join our social experiment.  Deuteronomy 10.18 says, “[God]… shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”  We need a nation that will allow this type of open door philosophy.

6. Cultural regeneration.  Political officials should applaud healthy family values and the necessity of quality education over economics.  I will support a candidate who does this.

Choosing a Candidate
I’ve come to a conclusion whom to vote for, by the way.  Want to know who it is?  Well, my friend Tami sent me a few notes after my original political post, assuring me that a vote cast for a third-party candidate would not be wasted.  She gently introduced me to Chuck Baldwin, a Constitutional party presidential candidate endorsed by my old favorite, Ron Paul.  Baldwin is a little unrefined, his website unpolished, and has held no government office.  He fails to mention poverty or the environment on his site, which bothered (bothers) me.

But he has some interesting things to say about abortion:

“Republicans tout themselves as being “pro-life.” Yet, the GOP controlled both houses of Congress and the White House for six years and did absolutely nothing to overturn Roe or end abortion-on-demand. If the Republicans were really serious about being pro-life they could have already ended legal abortion in America. Obviously the Republican Party and most GOP politicians are not serious about ending abortion, but are, regrettably, simply content to perpetuate the issue to manipulate pro-life voters.

Under my administration, we could end legal abortion in a matter of days, not decades. And if Congress refuses to pass Dr. Paul’s bill, I will use the constitutional power of the Presidency to deny funds to protect abortion clinics. Either way, legalized abortion ends when I take office.”

Having read that, I was wondering: What exactly is the saving grace for the Republican party, if, as Baldwin claims, the pro-life agenda is only a campaign point for them? If McCain will cut my taxes, won’t Baldwin, as a small-government, unbending Constitutionalist, cut them more?

And so my thinking spiraled into a series of what if questions:

  • What if I had more money to give to the world’s poor, or to give to the perpetuation of the gospel message, or to give to the building of a more environmentally just future?  Would my dollar — and the dollars of those who care for social justice — stretch further than if it were in the hands of the government in the form of taxes?
  • What if there were more competition in the health sector?  Would natural health remedies be more common and celebrated?  Would necessary prescription drugs be more fairly priced?
  • What if “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for?   What if “we are the change that we seek?”  If volunteerism and “every man for his neighbor” were philosophies that began to blossom throughout our country, would we need the government to do the jobs of poverty-fighting and carbon-taxing?

And then on the flip side, I wondered:

  • Isn’t Constitutionalism a bit ruthless?  Without the regulation of the government, won’t Americans all the more seek their plastic castles at the lowest price possible?  Won’t they cease to care about how their food is produced, or from whom their oil comes?

But it turns out I believe in the triumph of good over evil (I know, I know, that’s a big, assuming statement!).  I really do believe in grassroots movements to spread messages of love and change.  I believe that by picking trash up in the park, I have done my part in reducing the need for government (and I’ve taught my son something about caring for the gift of nature).  I have hope that our nation’s financial struggles and health crises and embarrassment of an educational system will be recognized through the voices of the passionate.  New remedies can be sought be more easily when freedom is at its height.

So, in the end, Chuck Baldwin will get my vote tomorrow, for a few reasons:

1.  I like the idea of voting for a third-party candidate.  If we look toward the future, hoping for a party that conforms more accurately to our political priorities, one of the best ways to make that happen is to stop voting for the Big Elephant or the Big Donkey, and vote for a human instead.  (Please don’t take offense at my facetiousness!)

2. I believe in the power of average citizens (and especially those powered by Christ) to bring about change.

3. I can vote for Baldwin with the least guilt, given my “faith priorities.”
How Baldwin Meets My Priorities

It is a little difficult to go into depth on how Baldwin specifically fulfills all of these (or even most of them), since many of these “faith priorities” have been placed under my responsibility because his Constitutional ideals.  Protection of life (priority 1) and freedom (priority 3) are two cases over which I have little to no control as a citizen, and Baldwin’s presidential plan takes these into consideration.  As for the others, I will try to create a picture of how most of these priorities can be played out under his presidency.

1. A pro-life perspective.  Baldwin is unapologetically against abortion, protecting the life of the unborn baby.  He also firmly stands against engaging in wars that do not directly endanger the rights of the American people.  He says, “‘Supporting the troops’ means putting their interests and America’s interests first and not in needlessly endangering them by engaging in ‘policeman of the world’ military adventures all over the world.”  I believe this is an important “pro-life” stance to hold.  As for exercising a pro-life stand in regard to life-threatening diseases here and around the world, I believe that Constitutionalism has the potential to make the greatest impact on eradicating HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, starvation, and other life-threatening conditions.  Try this on for size:  Barack Obama pledges to double foreign aid from $25 billion to $50 billion dollars by 2012 — a commendable goal.  But for the 300 million Americans to meet the same financial goal without the government as the go-between, each citizen would have to give only $166 per year.  A pipe dream?  Not if taxes were significantly relieved.  Not if this modest goal were perpetuated by a small group of committed people.

2. Care for the weak.  Again, Baldwin’s plans calls for the citizens to tend to these issues, rather than the government.  So, in a way, I’m voting for myself to get this done.  But with Darrell Castle (the vice-presidential candidate) as the founder of an organization which ministers to homeless gypsy children in Romania, I’m hopeful that care for the weak is a priority that will be supported by a Baldwin presidency.

3. Freedom.  Chuck Baldwin’s Constitutionalism sounds like the best plan I’ve heard to protect an individual’s right to freedom –for protection against slavery, for protection of rights for homosexuals, for choice and competition in education, the right to eat as one desires, etc.  His plan gives no special rights to anyone, but protects each citizen equally.

4. Environmental care.  While I think a carbon tax like Obama proposes could reduce the negative impact Americans have on the environment, it may not teach them to care about nature or understand its role in our lives.  Baldwin doesn’t address the environment specifically, but my hope is that his Constitutionalist message would increase competition for farmers, stop the subsidizing of single-crop farming (read: corn!), and promote organic, sustainable agriculture.

5. Inclusiveness.  On immigration reform, Baldwin is a bit tough on illegals, as my friend Tami warned me.  While I agree that there have to be restrictions and laws in place to protect American citizens, to ship all illegals back to their respective countries (as Baldwin wants to do) would be unnecessary if they are willing to go through the proper procedures.  Baldwin welcomes legal immigrants.  I admit Baldwin comes short of the mark on this priority.

6. Cultural regeneration.  As far as I have seen, Chuck Baldwin supports and models healthy family values.  Baldwin’s plan for education is to eradicate the Department of Education and do away with public schooling.  Can you imagine that?  He argues that the Constitution doesn’t give the government power over education, and that privatizing education would improve its quality.  I would love to be part of this experiment!
Some Final Thoughts

Some of Chuck Baldwin’s ideas seem far-fetched, and I admit, I can’t imagine living the United States he describes.  But if it happens, I want to be a part of it.  To avoid the ruthlessness of having a smaller government, to prevent the public from destroying itself, I believe Constitutionalism calls on the Christian church and other concerned and caring citizens to promote principles of health and life and love to those who are less fortunate.  In fact, I believe that’s the only way Constitutionalism will work.  We cannot look at Constitutionalism as “every man for himself” but as “every man for his neighbor.”  That’s the kind of nation I want to live in.  And that’s what I’m voting for tomorrow.

But (ding!) let me just wake up to reality and admit that Chuck Baldwin will not win tomorrow.  I still refuse to fear either the Republican or Democrat candidate.  I do not agree enough with either of them to give them my vote, but I will give them my prayers and support.  My sister Rachel posted a blog article called “Religion and Politics”, in which she shared the main points from her pastor’s sermon on Sunday.  For a Christian in this election, her thoughtful post was such good news.  To borrow her pastor’s final questions:

  • Where is your hope?
  • Are you going into Tuesday with fear or faith?
  • Most of all, is this fear or faith stoking your desire to go into the world with the gospel?

Finally, after a lot of stressful reading and pondering, I’m happy with my answers to those questions.

  1. I just cast my vote at 6:55am, and my gut is going around in circles. I’m reminding myself that God knows my heart and He is so supremely sovereign it makes my head spin.

    God bless you and your thoughtfulness Carrie. God Bless you.

    The comments on your previous blog show what blogging was made for, in my opinion. 🙂

    Peace and Love

    • Scott
    • November 4th, 2008

    Good for you for searching things out. If only everyone would do that before they vote.

    A few thoughts on homosexuals’ right to marry. They have that right today. No law prohibits anyone from engaging in homosexual behavior, and nobody prohibits homosexuals from committing their lives to each other.

    The current debate over homosexual marriage is not about whether homosexuals can marry, but whether we, as a society, will recognize it as legitimate. Whether you are a business owner providing health benefits, a church looking for a pastor, or an American citizen who (collectively) offers tax breaks to families, do you want the government forcing you to recognize a homosexual union as legitimate?

    Your observation that “Americans freedoms should be limited only when they endanger another person’s freedom” is right on the money. It’s also precisely the argument against government recognition of homosexual marriage. Forcing Amercians (the overwhelming majority of whom still see homosexuality as the abomination that it is) to recognize two homosexuals as being united in marriage is a fundamental assault on our most basic freedoms. I will not force them to live differently; likewise, I should not (and cannot) be forced to think differently.

    • precisionink
    • November 6th, 2008

    Good for you, finding some peace about this election. I’m also supportive of third parties in our system. However, I am thankful that Chuck Baldwin remained an unknown in this contest. I noticed a yard sign for him on the lawn of the neighborhood crackpot, and an online search (not a thorough one, I grant you), reveals a scary character.

    His view on abortion is clearcut. Yippee for him, but his draconian policy fails to address the reasons a woman would want an abortion in the first place. Abortions will still occur, of course, but as always, the rich will be able to have them performed safely in legal places, while the poor will have to do it themselves or bear unwanted children. Further, with his outrageous tax policies (raise all revenue via a 10% tariff on imports? Wouldn’t this just encourage our out-of-control consumption?), where would the money come to fund our foster care system, which is already shamefully overburdened? That is just one area that would suffer, of course. He also advocates eliminating all aid to foreign nations, and dissolving most major governmental agencies.

    There’s more, and all of it quite predictable, but that was enough to convince me that he is not the right man for the job.

  2. This post made my eyes well up with tears. You said it SO well!

    I also agree with Scott about homosexuality. Which is another reason I am “for” Baldwin.

    About illegal immigrants – I agree with everything but one point. I believe people coming here should do so legally. However, because they are here precisely because they broke an existing law, they should not be rewarded with citizenship for it. They should be sent back and come back in the correct way, the way our laws call for them to. If an immigrant wants Americans to feel safe with their presence here (as a legal immigrant would also become an American), they should be willing to follow laws that are intended for our safety.

    GREAT post! I can’t get over how glad I am that R. sent me to your blog.

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