Check out this picture of a dog with a punny caption:
Good stuff, eh?
What’s that? My thoughts on the election? No, these good people only came here to see a funny picture of a dog; I could never betray them like that.
Oh you insist? Well if you insist, I guess I could jot down a few brief impressions (or post something I started writing over a week ago but only just finished) …
As I sit in this McDonalds, exploiting their public WiFi, and waiting for my live stream of the presidential debate to buffer (I told you I started this a while ago), a lot of thoughts cross my mind. There has been a lot to take in through this campaign cycle, and as a young adult with that strangely dissonant combination of cynicism and optimism mostly found in recent graduates, I feel like I have a lot to say about all of it, whether or not that is entirely true.
These many thoughts and interpretations come from a perspective rooted, admittedly, in meager political experience. My understanding of politics stems from a DeKalb Country public school education, complimented by the biases of my own life experiences, and the many conversations I have had with others to try to mitigate those biases. It is a valid and reasonable perspective, but not without limitations. Ultimately, I feel unqualified to submit a blog post centered only around politics to the public eye. All this is aside from the fact that posting a politically flagrant blog post while representing a larger organization (such as the YAV program and the PCUSA, the views of which are not necessarily to be taken as the same as those held by myself, as presented here or elsewhere) can sometimes be somewhat problematic.
However, the political realm is not without its still all-too-murky areas of Jonathan-response-elicitation. This perceived invitation to discourse comes to me lately in the form of something I will begrudgingly call “political theology.” Politicians, particularly Republican politicians, have a penchant for citing theological grounds for their policies, as a sort of overbearing license for what would otherwise be misplaced zeal. Sometimes even more noteworthy, though, are the more vociferous of the supporters of such candidates, who also claim to be acting out of theological conviction. In slight contrast to my understanding of politics, my understanding of theology stems from a lifetime of discipleship, complemented by a Bachelor’s degree in Christian Education, and (again) the many conversations I have had to try to mitigate my biases. This perspective is just as riddled with limitations as my political perspective is. However, it is (for no clear reason) a perspective about which I feel more compelled and qualified to speak at this moment. So here we are.
Because my understanding is largely a result of my experiences, this post will be centered around a recent experience I had in the world of theology and politics; namely, the time I went to one of Franklin Graham’s “Decision America” rallies with a friend from work.
Let me preface this by saying I did not go into this rally thinking, “I hope I can write an angry blog post about this later, detailing all the ways I think Franklin is wrong,” and I hope that that is not what any of you will see this as. Honestly, I barely went into it with any prepossessions at all, having no clue until about an hour beforehand that it was happening or that I would be extended the opportunity to attend it. My friend and I went there with only the desire to be able to “continue the conversation,” to borrow his phrase. It was an effort to be able to understand better the ideas of those with whom we disagreed, and to be able to further productive discourse on such topics, apart from the anger and resentment which derives from an inability to relate to others ideologically.
So here is my continuation of the conversation Franklin Graham is having with the United States:
I do not agree with the part where he said not to trust progressives, and tried to back it up with the claim that “progressive is a code word for atheist.”
Instead, I see no reason not to trust an atheist merely on account of their atheism, and I know many people from a variety of faith backgrounds, such as myself, who would claim the title “progressive.”
I do not agree with the part where he said secularism and communism are the same thing, “because they are both Godless,” or the part where he connected that into the idea that after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we “let down our defenses,” and ruined America with secularism.
Instead, I see nothing as “Godless,” because I believe God is omnipresent, even in “unholy secularism,” or any possible governmental system, whether or not we acknowledge or react to that fact.
I do not agree with the part where he insisted that, as Christians, “We’re not gonna change our mind!”
Instead, I see the tradition of reformed theology as the constant reevaluating of our own understanding of how we relate to God and one another, and cherish the reality that, if I should grow to understand something that contradicts that which I previously believed, I should move into that more mature understanding faithfully, and allow God to use that to make me the man I am meant to be.
I do not agree with these, and many of the other things Franklin said during his speech. However, I do still agree with his message, which boiled down to this one particular sentence of his:
“America needs the Christian vote!”
To be unhaltingly clear, America needs the Christian vote because it needs votes from every demographic, because Democracy- though I doubt that was what Franklin was getting at. But as a fellow Christian (even though some people claim I’m an atheist), the Christian vote is particularly meaningful to me. Here’s why:
As a Christian, I believe that it is our duty to love our neighbors around the world, and provide haven for refugees.
As a Christian, I believe that it is our duty to treat the impoverished and under-resourced peoples in our communities with the utmost grace, support, and understanding, because amongst “the least of these,” we will come to know and serve God.
As a Christian, I believe that it is our duty to play a part in revealing God’s Empire on Earth, by promoting the equality of all human beings, be they straight or gay, rich or poor, strong or weak, male or female, white or black, or anywhere on any of the spectrums between those two ends, because none of them are simple binary outcomes. In every one of these humans is the Image of God, and that Image can only begin to become clear when we are together and equal.
And as a Christian, these beliefs will impact the way I vote.
I assume and respect that Franklin Graham said all the things with which I disagreed because he legitimately believes in them, and wishes to live faithfully into his religious convictions. More cannot be asked of anyone in that sense, and less should not be asked of anyone in that sense. However, I cannot do the same for my own beliefs while letting his words go unanswered as an authoritative Christian perspective.
Franklin said he would not endorse any candidate as part of his Decision America tour, which was not entirely a lie. Though he never did say the words, “I endorse _____ for president,” he spent the entire time attacking liberal ideology, and making it painfully clear whom he supported. I admit that though I, too, avoided the words “I endorse ______ for president,” I have probably also made it painfully clear at this point whom I support. However, all it truly comes down to is this one meaningless line, which renders the preceding paragraphs entirely feckless:
I will take my most faithful mentality to the polls, and I can only ask that you do the same with yours.