Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Why I am not voting for George W. Bush

As Jim Wallis says, "Faith is personal, but never private." I will not be voting for George W. Bush in the fall for a number of reasons, and some of those are influenced by my faith. I'm not suggesting that a "proper" Christian wouldn't vote for Bush. Rather, my faith has led me to think about the election this way. Hopefully it will stir up some debate and make me and others think more carefully about why we vote the way we do.

Disclaimer #1: I'm not an enthusiastic fan of John Kerry. I think he will do a fine job as President, but he's not quite my top choice.

Reasons I'm not voting for Bush/Cheney:
1.) I disagree strongly with how they have handled the war on terror. I get the feeling that they are strongly motivated by revenge. Remember Bush's comment regarding Osama bin Laden - he wanted him "dead or alive" like they did in the Old West. As Christians, Jesus implores us to turn the other cheek, to not seek revenge. Jesus puts it this way:

Matthew 5:38-45 (MSG)
Love Your Enemies
"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: "Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously."You're familiar with the old written law, "Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, "Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best--the sun to warm and the rain to nourish--to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.

Further, I believe the Bush/Cheney approach to the war has made us less safe. The emphasis on killing the men involved in 9/11 and the war in Iraq has distracted us from dealing with global terrorism generally. With the quote above I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't defend ourselves. But I would argue that the Bush/Cheney approach does nothing to change the underlying forces that drive terrorism. Here is a quote from Benjamin Barber, a political scientist at the University of Maryland:

And the 9/11 Report says, Bill, very clearly that unless we deal not just with al-Qaeda and with terrorism and the radical sect Wahhabi Islam that gives them their ideology, but that we also deal with the millions and millions of young Muslim men around the world who are angry, who feel left out of the new world markets, who feel engaged in defensive ways by the aggressive American consumer mentality and materialist economy being pushed around the world that I called McWorld. Unless we deal with that, even if we excise the tumor of al-Qaeda, we will find new tumors growing on this same immune defective system.

(Read more from my earlier post, More on Enemies)

So I believe Bush/Cheney are engaged in an un-Christian-like quest for revenge that will likely result in more terrorist activity against the US, not less.

2.) I don't believe that Bush/Cheney exhibit a consistent ethic of life. They oppose abortion, yes. However, Bush is also an enthusiastic supporter of the death penalty. There are also more than 40 million people in this country without health insurance. Almost a quarter of them are children. Bush has had almost four years to do something about that - he hasn't. I wish Bush/Cheney and the GOP cared as much about children out of the womb as they do in the womb.

I'm personally opposed to abortion. But I don't believe banning it will actually change anything. I believe we need to embrace a consistent ethic of life that cares for all men, women, children, and families. If we are successful, then abortion will become unnecessary. Bush/Cheney have also made life tougher for working families. One of the consequences of the Bush tax cuts and overall tax policy is that the tax burden is being shifted primarily to "earned" income (i.e. wages, salaries, tips). The result is that even though we've experienced small decreases in our marginal income tax rates, we're still paying the same in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Working Americans will pay a greater proportion of their income in taxes (because of those payroll taxes) than wealthy Americans. For a President that claims to support working families, that's shameful.

3.) The Bush/Cheney campaign is misusing its ties to Christianity. The most egregious example is the campaign organization requesting church members give their directories to the campaign. Either Bush/Cheney doesn't realize or doesn't care that the church and God's Kingdom are bigger than any one candidate or country. We are not God's chosen people. America is not held in greater esteem by God than the other people in the world. I believe God mourns the death of an Iraqi child as much as the death of an American child.

I wish Kerry would talk about his faith more. But I will not vote for a candidate that tries to tell me what my faith means. I will not associate with a political party that assumes my faith means support of their positions.

Disclaimer #2: I don't believe George Bush is evil, the Anti-Christ, or out to destroy America. (But I wonder sometimes...) I do believe that he is dangerously unreflective and unwilling to admit his mistakes. I believe those traits make him a poor president, but not evil.

So I will vote for Kerry/Edwards in November. I pray that the months leading up to the election are a time of national self-reflection, courtesy, honesty, and truth.



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