Tag Archives: US Constitution

The Powerful Witness of Not Voting in National Elections #JesusPolitics

Today, I want to take part in the #JesusPolitics Synchroblog hosted by American Jesus. I want to clear the air about a couple of things, especially being said about and by people who choose not to vote. First, to fellow Christians who attempt to shame non-voters by bringing up the fact that people died for our right to vote. This argument is inherently nationalistic and bound up in giving homage to the nation-state’s sacrificial system. The point of Christianity, and why I believe it to be unique among the world religions is that the goal of the Messiah was to end all sacrificial systems. As the author to the Letter of Hebrews tells us, Jesus’ death is the one to end all ritual deaths once and for all, human and animal. These rituals include scapegoating mechanisms set up by the state to make martyrs of the oppressed, including those who were denied the right to vote barely half a century ago. Rather than glorifying violence and empire, the deaths of those political martyrs like those of U.S. American soldiers should be seen as human tragedies to be remembered, that we may reflect on their suffering and let that critical reflection impact our ethical decision making for the better.

Let me make a delineation between my position I am advocating here, and those arguments advanced by other non-voters. First of all, I do not believe that my position is the morally pure way to go by any stretch. Many may claim to be doing this “Anabaptist” thing, but the fact is, if you participate in the economy, buying goods, the latest Apple products or music CD’s, you are still part of the system because how you spend is a very political act. That’s why the threat of boycotts makes companies get all jittery. They don’t want another Civil Rights Movement on their hand. Furthermore, I do side with Tim about Stanley Hauerwas’ comments, that elections are inherently coercive, that the 51% choose the destiny of the 49%. This is an opinion born out of a privileged place, for Hauerwas himself, as a member of a private school’s faculty is indeed in a place of power because of coercion along the tobacco road, tobacco once grown and cut by slaves of African descent. At this point in history, we have to ask, what relationship has not started with coercion and violence? The last disclaimer I would like to put out there is that my argument does not come today from cynicism, but out of hope that there is a better way forward, like this third party proposed by the folks at Daily Theology.

Now, my official position this year is: I am voting. I am voting for the local elections, state, city, and county races. At the top of my ballot, I plan to leave it blank. I am forgoing this abhorrent season of national politics for a couple of reasons. First of all, I am not a fan of President Obama or Mitt Romney. Their policies are too much alike, and I disagree with them so much, I do not wish to affirm either man’s campaign. Voting for a third party candidate (again as I did in 2004) would be nice but not this year. Why? In early January of 2009, President Obama was inaugarated. On that day, there was a lot of joy as well as outrage. The following day, without fail, all of the major cable news outlets began picking and choosing the Republican challenger to the President. We were already talking about 2012 three years ago. The national election is the center of U.S. American life. In short, it has become a weak idol, something we do not like to talk about, but we do talk about it all of the time. Everyone has bought into the myth that we are soooo divided right now more than at anytime during our history, but the fact is, that is not true, we are not willing to take up arms against our fellow Americans, unless of course, you’re part of the Tea Party. Drew is right, “we should not depend on the outcome of elections” but it is not the outcome (the winner and the loser) that concerns me. My concern is how much national politics and topics dominates the conversation, that there is far more apathy to local elections, and that the “culture” wars are struggles for one party to determine the hegemonic nature of U.S. national culture. Yes, we are one nation under God, but let us also work for liberty and justice for all for those citizens living right across the street from us!

Brief Comment on Entitlements


‘Libertarianism’ (Photo credit: Toban Black)

I am still working out what I think about publically funded healthcare, etc., but I just wanted to restate the reason why I left Libertarianism all those months ago. First, yes, Scripture does have a narrative of freedom and justice, but one should not forget that there are themes of social responsibility and duty throughout the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Oddly, one conservative icon from Scripture shared all of his winnings and spoils with the poor. Sounds like a redistributionist! But his name was King David. History tells us that throughout human history, there are eras of great apathy and “libertarian triumphs” like the Gilded Age/Manifest DEstiny. When we have presidential candidates like Ron Paul see: Ron Paul: FEMA not necessary celebrating the fact that another President/politician refused to save human life, where 6,000 souls were lost during a deadly hurricane in Galveston in 1900. Talk about someone who claims to be pro-life! What an anachronistic and medieval way of looking at the world, and anti-Christian too. As if God cares if its the federal government or local people rescue those who suffer from disaster! This shows Paul’s legalism in the name of “liberty.”

Libertarianism overemphasizes freedom over duty, and this is why conservative/libertarian commitments to charity ring hollow, because charity makes notions of duty necessary. A friend shared this post recently with me on facebook: Are You entitled to Food, Housing, and Healthcare? at Political Theology.com by Meghan Clark. She argues,

Catholic social teaching has long held that human persons are valued and have dignity simply because they are created in the image and likeness of God and not for their utility. This same principle of human dignity is legally enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And it is primarily the responsibility of the government to defend and protect those human rights. We all have a responsibility to respect the human rights of others; however, we claim those rights against the government – which in safeguarding the public order, is responsible for their protection.”

I would just like to add a couple of thoughts. First, if you read Jimmy Carter’s interview I linked to in yesterday’s post, Democrat and President Carter implemented the Women, Infant, and Children’s program as part of the Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutrition because he is pro-life, and disagreed with Roe V. Wade. Studies have also shown that those “47%” of the population who depend on the government, for the most part, are the working poor who need help to get by. Republicans, who once embraced compassionate, duty-driven conservativism, now show spite towards those poor while claiming to be Christian in most cases. Scripture warns us over and over again not to be mean those in need (Proverbs, Psalms, James) but it is libertarian legalism that leads our society turning a blind eye to injustice. In conclusion, I would also like to remark that since the USA is part of the United Nations by way of treaty, and since we are under the Geneva convention, the USA must learn to be more respectful of international law. Perhaps this explains reactionary dismissal of international institutions to begin with. This is rather surprising since Articles 16, 17, and 18 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
speak to conservative causes today. Living in the U.S. with the most workers who get the fewest hours of leisure, we overlook Sabbath as a human right itself per Article 24.

In Scripture, the widows, the orphans, and the poor are entitled (rather, the wealthy owe and are commanded to give) food and sustenance. The best science and medicine were made available to the people, both Jews and Gentiles (insiders and outsiders, thank you very much Teabagging Dominionists)by the prophets like with the story of Elisha and Naaman. Naaman was not charged for healthcare, but the man who did want Naaman to pay Elisha, Gehazi, E’s assistant was punished for doing so.

Maybe we ought to take a closer look at international law and religious ideas. Perhaps.

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Fear Of A White Mormon President

The Fears of A White Mormon Presidential Candidate

Mitt Romney presidential campaign, 2008

You were probably hoping to read a contrarian post in response to Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ latest artice for the Atlantic, Fear of a Black President. While I did not find Coates’ article perfect, he did a nice job of doing a geneaology of racial discrimination in U.S.American political practices. The article became timely and relevant because the very next day, GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney came out of the closet as a birther. No one ever had to question where his birth certificate, and why would that be Mitt? Could it be the color of your skin? Perhaps being raised in an affluent background and privilege? The “joke” obviously aimed at President Obama (of whom I am not a supporter) was rather beneath Romney who’s struggling with his identity as a Yankee elitist by trying to play to the worst of conservative populism. Republicans and Democrats claim to be color-blind and accepting of people of other creeds, but can we really be color-blind when race is the very creed of U.S. American politics?

Take for example this post on Romney’s Mormon roots and race: Origins of a Race-Baiting Birther: How Did Mitt Rommey’s Upbringing in a Racist Religion Impact His Attitudes Towards People of Color?:Chauncey DeVega; has the American public grappled with this history, which only 34 years ago declared blacks to be evil and unworthy of the priesthood? What are the implications of voting for a man who follows a religion that once believed that blacks would remain 2nd class citizens even in the after-life? The answer is that we have not even grasped the impact of African enslavement and Jim & Jane Crow legalized segregation (along with lynching), and so really, until we do, we have no right to ask that question of LDS Christians. I know of a friend who brought up slavery during a Bible study, and there were moments of awkward silent. Now, while I do say that the Church of Latter-Day Saints errs in several of its teachings, as Ben Witherington III points out, I am not not voting for Mitt Romney on the basis of his religious preference. No, its policy that matters, and I am not voting for the President either.

What I am saying is this: Romney only had to make one speech about his religion to do away with his critics, and that was during the primary season in 2007. Of course, for such a “ground-breaking speech” about religious tolerance/freedom, Romney first posits Muslims and the Chinese as the Oriental Wild-Men Others: “America faces a new generation of challenges. Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us. An emerging China endeavors to surpass our economic leadership.” Why not start with our history of freedom? Why the “threats” to us all? No, I am not saying there is no such thing as “radical violent islam”; what I am saying is that I am sick and tired of Sino-phobia in the name of our other religion, not-so-free market, corporate driven capitalism. I am saying that I am sick and tired of Muslims, Sikhs, and other groups from the “Middle-East,” heck, people of color, being labelled as the angry, violent threats lurking behind America’s decline.

Even in Romney’s speech on religion, the rhetoric is racialized because race is the religion of our electoral politics. President Obama on the otherhand, because he is recognized as African-American/black, he will always have to be utterly aware of his particularity. Romney speaks to the general public, his Mormon supporters are called patriots, while blacks who vote for BHO are called racist. The double-standard nature of identity politics when it comes to electoral politics: whites have the privilege to vote for people who look like them on city, state, and national levels, but when blacks get a chance, their patriotism, their self-hood is always put into question. The Romney campaign‘s worst nightmare is having Mitt’s whiteness challenged, based on his Mormonism: Is Mitt white enough? Mormonism violated one of the fruits of Western civilization (monogamy) from its very conception, but it also baptized modernity’s racist belief systems that was constructed by Christians that came before them. Romney has nothing to worry about today though, it’s not 1830, where New Yorkers once said, “LOOK! A WHITE PERSON!”

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