Obama

How to vote.

Tomorrow is the day when Americans will decide who will become our next President.  It is an important choice and one that should not be made flippantly.  Here are six points to consider when voting for president.  Once I scraped away all the bias and punditry, these six issues formed the core of how I made my choice.  I hope they are helpful to you.

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1.  The character of the candidate.  This may be the most important and yet difficult issue to nail down.  A person’s character is the map they use to navigate every decision-making intersection they will encounter.  Here is a question that may hit home the weight of this issue, “Which candidate would you feel most comfortable entrusting the raising of your children in the event of your death?”  As extreme as this question may seem, it cuts to the heart of the issue of character.  I do not agree with every decision my brother makes, but my wife and I trust his character enough to place the future well being of our children in his hands if we die.  Which candidate gives you greater peace regarding this question?  Most likely then, his is the character you trust.

2.  Global awareness.  We live in an unbelievably connected world.  Whomever we choose as president can no longer afford to place the wants of America singularly atop the pedestal of decision-making.  America casts an enormous shadow across the world and is therefore more responsible than ever for the choices it makes.  Incredible, persistent and wise leadership will be needed in the years to come.  In many instances, the right choice may not be the choice that is best for America in the short term.  Those sort of hard decisions must be weighed beyond the scales of national politics and rather be made with the understanding of America’s enormous potential for redemptive leadership within a global context.

3.  The sanctity of life.  Whether that life is enveloped in a woman’s uterus or clothed in the fatigues of a soldier on the battlefield, all human life is sacred.  The President of the United States is charged with protecting both.  This is not an either or issue.  Too often those who stand against abortion are all too ready to see military engagement as a first option.  Like wise, those opposed to war and its inherent loss of life seem capable of enormous philosophical backflips when accepting the obvious loss of life at the hands of abortion.  Life is sacred, whether in the womb or on the front lines.  A President can ill afford to consider one as more important than another.

4. The responsibility of government.  At the core, the difference between our current two-party system is whether or not the national government is charged with protecting you from yourself.  You must decide if personal responsibility trumps government decision making, or if federal oversight is needed to protect us from ourselves.  Certainly it is not an easy decision.  It is not as cut and dried as the pundits would have us believe.  Are our circumstances most often the result of our personal choices?  Yes.  Are there however many people living in situations not of their own choosing?  Yes.  How you meet the needs of those situations reveals your view on the responsibility of government.

5.  Personal faith. Our faith is the filter by which we determine our worldviews.  Life, death, love, sacrifice, service and our views of family all turn on the fulcrum of our individual faith journeys.  To choose a President without considering their personal faith is like ordering Escargot without knowing you’ll be eating snails.

6. Leadership.  This is the ability to translate a vision into reality.  Anyone can have a vision for the future, but unless that person can lead well, such a vision will never be realized.  Unrealized visions are dreams and we need a president that will do more than dream.  A leader will be able to work backward from the vision and create specific strategies for implementation.  The President must be able to lead people from differing ideologies toward the realization and implementation of specific goals.  If he cannot, then he has no business holding that position.

Though this election season has been contentious and stressful, let us not forget that true power lies in the hands of the King.  We must not place our trust and peace of mind in the hands of a fallible earthly candidate.  Our peace, our joy, our future and hope rest in the nail scarred hands of the One alone who is worthy.

I offer you then this beautiful hymn written in the early 1800s by Edward Mote.

“On Christ the Solid Rock I stand”

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

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Occasionally when my four year old doesn’t want to acknowledge the truth of a certain situation, he will cover his ears while loudly proclaiming his “rightness”.  Its a solid tactic.  Even a successful one on some occasions.  Though it “protects” him from disagreeable ideas, it also delays his development.  His bias toward his own viewpoint ends up limiting his growth.  That is why when I watched the debate this week I was so disappointed to see each campaign had adopted a modified version of my four year old’s strategy. The best minds on both sides of the aisle agreed that the strategy for the evening would be five simple words.

“Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

The loudest pundits in America would have us believe that this is the strategy that will unite us.  Baloney. We all know that we are biased toward our own opinions.  What is wrong with admitting it?

Yesterday I had two intense and polarizing conversations regarding the upcoming presidential election that illustrate this idea.  What follows is a quick synopsis of each conversation with a little “food for thought” thrown in at the end.

Conversation One

At lunch yesterday I had the opportunity to chat with a gentleman who has been involved in Middle-Eastern and Muslim affairs for over 20 years.  You also need to know that this person is widely recognized theologically as an Evangelical Christian.  During his time connected with the State Department he has been present during several White House sanctioned prayer breakfasts.  He explained that these breakfasts were very ecumenical; with Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Christians all present.  They would not appear particularly “evangelical” in any overt way.  Yet the organizers behind the events were primarily evangelical Christians.

At these events this person has heard Bush Sr., W., and Obama each speak regarding their personal faith.  What continues to be interesting to him is that neither Bush Sr. nor W. ever mentioned the name of Jesus in relation to their personal faith experiences, while Obama has been (from this person’s perspective) open and forthright about Jesus residing at the center of his faith.  My friend wasn’t sharing this as a way of possibly manipulating my vote.  He shared it as an example of “personal bias”.  Based on his personal experience–what pundits now label “bias”–he gives the edge to Obama on the issue of a personal Christian faith.

Conversation Two

A family friend of ours came charging into my house, and without saying, “Hi” or “How is everyone?”, shoves a DVD in my face and proclaims, “You have to watch this!”  “Obama is a Muslim!  They caught him on tape saying it!”  To which I tried calmly to reply, “What are you talking about?”  “Who caught him?”  “Where did you get this?”  My questions seemed to physically unsettle this individual.  With a scrunched up face they replied, “I got it in the mail.”  “Did you order it?”, I asked.  “No, it just came in my mailbox.”  To which I responded, “So, you don’t know who sent it, why they sent it, or what their reputation may be, but you are ready to believe what they told you?”  As my seventh grade teach would have said, “That went over like a pregnant pole-vaulter.”  This dear family friend of mine looked at me with a pained expression, shook their head and said, “Well, whatever.  They still caught him saying it.”, then they walked back out of my house without saying another word.

Bottom Line

You and I form our beliefs and opinions from personal bias.  We can not help it.  We are all subjective creatures.  My experience with a person, place or thing could be (and most likely is) entirely different from yours.  And yet the differing conclusions we make are not inherently right or wrong.  What is important is that we recognize and acknowledge our biases from the beginning.  Then we have a chance at true dialogue.  Let’s be honest with ourselves and others.  Only then can any of us finally get on the path toward objective truth.

To be clear, putting our fingers in our ears while shouting, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!!” doesn’t make us right.  It makes us ridiculous.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4:1-3