Thursday, November 09, 2006

Election Results

The nice thing about a democratic republic is that, after every election, about half or more of the people are happy, for a time. The prognosticators portend great changes and a new era of politics in America. Maybe, maybe not.

This week’s election is reminiscent of the mid-90s surge for the Republicans. After decades of Democratic dominance there would be, it was said, a sea-change for our country. Instead we got just the tides we’ve always had—some a little higher or lower than the past, but only tides nonetheless.

The new Democratic congress will certainly push forward issues ignored during the Republican ascendancy. Committee chairs will shift from Republican to Democrat so that different faces will be on center-screen when we watch CNN or Fox. I don’t think, though, that there will be as much change as people think.

This isn’t cynicism on my part, but an observation of what might be the greatest strength of our political system. While the country does change under different political leadership, the change is minute in comparison with other countries. Regardless of political affiliation, we are more united politically than other countries I've observed.

Chrissie, Audrey, and I lived in Scotland for a year and witnessed a different system, especially in local government. Nationally, the difference between the Tories and Labor in Great Britain was tremendous. The ascendancy of one party or another literally changed the face of labor and corporation ownership, with companies nationalized or privatized, based upon the party in power.

In local government, where you literally see the results take place around you, the change is greater. Edinburgh voted in a city government of one of the leftist parties around at that time. One result of that vote was the reworking of public transportation routes and times on Sundays, making it harder for people to get to church.

The difference in the USA is that the two parties are much more evenly matched in power and philosophy than is the case in other countries. The greatest change that is likely to come about in this term change—a truly great one—is the way in which the Iraq war is prosecuted. It will be interesting to see just how much difference there will be on this one, huge issue.

Christians witness includes being good citizens. This means being informed, faithful voters. It also means that we should be contributing our voice and resources to the body politic. What it doesn’t mean is that we put our trust in the political system. Those who do will always end up disappointed. The kingdom of God will not come about through a political process. It is, instead, made up of hearts changed by Jesus. In Him is our only hope.

There is a corollary between what I’ve written above and the condition of mainline Christian denominations. In the latter there has been a huge gulf of difference in belief between the orthodox and progressive side. Progressives took power in the churches decades ago and have exercised that power sometimes in responsibility, but more often in a ham-fisted and arrogant way. Progressives tend to see the kingdom of God in political change while orthodox believers emphasize spiritual transformation.

The divisions in mainline denomination, in which we at the Kirk have participated, are the logical result of a power-based system insensitive toward dissent. While our national government still hears and responds to two sides (hence the 90s Republican ascension and this week’s Democratic one), the churches do not. This is why there is schism.

I’m in the process of changing my denominational affiliation because of this. It hasn’t been about win/lose so much as about finding a place where I can openly practice my faith and, yes, even be a dissenting voice, without fear of reprisal.

I’m thinking about doing the same kind of change with my political affiliation. My Whig candidates haven’t won an election in ages.

Keep praying—keep the faith,


mark hildebrand said...

Don't despair, Tom. You know that it has always been said about the W(h)ig party, "Hair today, and gone tomorrow!" Oops! Sorry about that bald-faced lie!


Pamela Cook said...

I have a sincere question about this. It is something that I have struggled with for quite a while. How do Christians that are elected really do their God given duties and not compromise their beliefs?

Many Christians believe that our elected officials are to 'represent Christ' and vote and/or legislate according to those principles. Others sincerely believe that they should represent their consituents, which is what they swore they would do, without regard to their own convictions. Needless to say either view will cause conflict somewhere.

I ask this because of how there is a serious debate on whether you should 'legislate morality' or not. You are legislating some type of moral base if you have any laws at all. Laws in their very nature set up a standard of what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not.

You have those that feel that having laws on the books that regulate personal areas, especially sexual issues, will not change behavior and should not be a part of the political arena. You have others that probably think of verses like "when the righteous rule the people rejoice and when the wicked rule the people groan". I believe these people are concerned about judgment coming to America because of sanctioning sin by passing laws that accomodate behavior that the Bible says is sinful, for example abortion, homosexuality, common law relationships and the like.

There is also the issue of who to vote for. I would say that many believers will consider issues that the Bible is clear on and vote in people that agree with what the Bible says without regard for maybe how skilled they are for the office. You have others that feel they don't want stupid people running our country and will look at skill more than the Biblical issues. You have some preachers saying that if you do not vote you are responsible for anything bad that happens in either party. I really struggle. I have had times where out of conscience I could not vote for either candidate because of certain convictions that I have had.

I think you can see this is a true conundrum to say the least. I know this is a privilege I truly honor, especially after traveling to several foreign nations. However I have felt that our form of government has its challenges for believers for the reasons I have stated. Any discourse would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Although the Presbyterian system is in theory similar to the way the US is governed, there is one significant difference. When the government doesn't respond to the people the opposition has little choice but to stay and do it's best to influence the situation. In the Church people just leave when they're ignored.

In someplaces, and at some times when the gov't didn't respond similar things have happened to countries - the highland clearance comes to mind with the 1000's and 1000's of scotch that came to the US.

Because it has ceased to be responsive great masses of the membership, people are 'emigrating' from the PCUSA to other churches. (I'd even bet that more people have left the PCUSA than left have ever left Scotland for the US).

Basically, the Kirk has whole has chosen to 'emigrate' en mass. It's a testament to Tom and Wayne - and all the other leaders of the Kirk and membership- that people to chose to stay as one body long enough to make this decision together. In 100's of PCUSA church members are just slowly melting way.

The only question for us now is who keeps the building. Thats not really a worry to most of members I've spoken with because "all things work together for good to those who are called according to His purposes". We need to be faithful, and things will workout.

As I've said before in this blog, we built he building before and if the Lord so leads we can build it again.

Ford Brett

John West said...

Pamela articulates a question that also bothers me deeply. Particularly in the realm of morality politics. Here are some quotes of interest. In the last presidential election Kerry said in response to the usual question of how he supported his party's stance on abortion vs his religious (Catholic) beliefs, "I do not consider an unborn fetus to be a human in any normal sense of the word". In one of Clinton's campaigns the response to a similar question (which left out religious beliefs),was "I abhor abortion and wish we lived in a society where it was not needed, but until we do it is something the government should not prohibit". And of course Bush has made many statements opposing this murder. Clinton's stance is one many of us could support to some extent but his personal morals were questionable, Kerry's obviously we cannot support. But with Bush we have the situation of a highly moral President who has difficulty making rational decisions. ie. it seems obvious to many that we entered a war to turn a theocracy into a democracy which has not and will not occur. We entered a war based on intelligence which from the top down was to some degree shaped from the top, not from information at the bottom.

So, what is a conservative supposed to do these days. In Kansas we had some very good Democrats running against some questionable Republicans. Since the republicans were at least highly moral men and women I again block voted for them but I am certainly not unhappy with the state democratic results. The important thing we all need to worry about the next time seems to me to be sensible, intelligent leadership. I would personally like to see either a woman like Condie, or a man who has carried a weapon in combat and knows personally the horrors of that choice.

Now when you turn to Church affairs the choice seems simpler to me. A denomination that has left the will of a majority of its people and repeatedly deviates from some of the bassics of the scriptures, should not continue to be supported. There is far more wrong than just the PUP report. Our pastor and her husband have been fighting this for many years and it is time for most of us to pull the plug and do what the Kirk has so courageously tackled. I do not agree that we should so easily give up on the buildings. We need to join together and do what is right. Those who built what they currently have,should have a right to continue to enjoy the facilities they have sacrificed so much for over the years. John West, Hillsdale, Kansas

liberty4u said...

pamela cook wrote:

Many Christians believe that our elected officials are to 'represent Christ' and vote and/or legislate according to those principles. Others sincerely believe that they should represent their consituents, which is what they swore they would do, without regard to their own convictions.

We are supposed to be a representative democracy. A democracy is doomed to failure. To only vote what your constituents want is dangerous to the country. It was seen that the representatives would need to vote according to their principles, not necessarily what was popular.

Our kids and faculty at school recently had this lesson taught when they had a mock election. The bunch of electors decided not to vote for the popular and ended up voting for a third party. This was allowed within the mock election. I reality, electors are bound on the first round of voting, but, if there is no majority, they may change their vote on the second round. This has happened in the past.

I believe that those that are elected and vote the way the constituents they represent want them to vote, have an incorrect view of representative government -- at best. At worst, they are catering to who they think will get them reelected and don't care whether it is right or wrong, only if it will keep them in power.

Pamela Cook said...

I definitely agree with Liberty4u for two reasons:

(1) The majority is not always right. The laws defining blacks as 3/5 of a person is a brutal example. A person must vote for what is right for the country AND for the follower of Christ must vote according to Biblical principles and standards regardless of what the mob wants. He or she must be willing to lose their position in standing for right.

(2) In the Bible when nations were judged in most if not all cases the leaders were at fault in God's eyes. Christians that vote to follow their constituents will not be able to use the excuse "Well I did my job" while disobeying clear directives in the word.

phillip j. owings said...

pamela cook,

i don't know you except for your published comments. because of those i greatly admire your logic and wisdom. please continue to express yourself. you are refreshing. thanks.

phillip j. owings