Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Electing a President

We face one of the most crucial elections in American history. Many issues are at stake, not least of which is our stance toward war and peace (which influences many other issues). We will either go into further decline as a nation or we will restore some hope of renewed national character.

We have two principle candidates before us. One candidate will hold the same line of confrontational diplomacy, preemptive strike against terrorism et al, with all the consequences globally and at home economically and otherwise. The other candidate opposed the war in Iraq from day one, but does not oppose war as a last resort.

I would support Rick Warren in his sermon commentary on the kind of leadership our nation needs in the next president, as reported by Assist News Service. He charged that "Today, most leaders are interested in image - what people think they are; but true leadership involves integrity, based on character and confidence, which is the number one need for leaders in America."
He said, "Integrity doesn't mean perfection - no one is perfect - but it does mean being honest, which leads to credibility and trust." According to Warren, the second biblical quality for leadership is humility, which is marked by service to others. "True leaders are known by how they serve, not how many serve them," he said. "Too many leaders start out in service that quickly evolves into 'serve us.' Humility doesn't mean denying one's strengths, but rather being honest about one's weaknesses. Humility is not thinking less of oneself, it is thinking less about oneself, and the way to do that is to think of other people.

"The worst sin one can have is pride, which makes us enemies of God," Warren added. "Humility is a declaration of dependence. Our president needs to be humble, and we should look for leaders who admit their dependence on God." According to Warren, the third needed characteristic for an influential leader is generosity. "Generosity is love in action," he said. "You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving; it is important that a leader give both his time and his money for others."

It may be that this election is more of a referendum on the American people than it is upon the two candidates. One thing is certain: our choice of candidates will certainly say a great deal about the American people and how we view ourselves.
I would hope in this election that the Christian Church would shake itself from its lethargy and become a new moral majority involved in issues of war and peace, of economic justice, and the issues or myths of things like global warming. I quite agree with Jim Wallis that “The Christianity of private piety, affluent conformity, and God Bless (only) America” has compromised the witness of the church while putting a new generation of Christians to sleep” (The Great Awakening/59).

I want the next president to allow for balance of powers between the Big Three of Congress, the office of President, and the Courts. I want him to pursue better economic equity between the most affluent and the least affluent. I want him to promote a new transparency in the office of the president, less media manipulation, and more integrity. I also want him to remember the statement in the Bill of Rights that says “deriving their powers from the consent of the governed” reminds him of “people sovereignty” and does not extend to him increased monarchial powers to supercede the Bicameral government--the English version of King George was quite enough!).
I will take particular note of how the presidential candidates approach the issues involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would hope he would recall the words of JFK, when the Berlin wall went up, spoken 6-22-1963. President Kennedy asked West Berliners “to lift up your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin. . .to the advance of freedom every where, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.” I want him to lift up that kind of vision for everyone, but with the qualities of leadership reaffirmed by Rick Warren’s sermon.
Meanwhile, I will advocate for peace! CNN reported on Cpl Joshua Bleill who lost both legs from an Iraq IED. Technology can be destructive, but it is also wonderful. Blue Tooth, shortrange wireless technology, helps transform hopelessness into hope. Bleill has 32 pins in his hip and a 6 inch screw holding his pelvis together. He is now learning to walk on prosthetic legs and aided by Blue Tooth technology will be able to have his hands free to use a cell phone.

I look at Bleill and thank God for technological progress; his life is not totally ruined. I also look at the collateral damages in war (many are less fortunate than Bleill), damage to our economy, damage to our reputation and diplomatic character among the nations of the world, the terrible losses of Iraqi civilians, not to mention the people of Afghanistan, or the excessive profits of companies slurping up the blood money profiteering from armaments, ammunition, and a host of subsidiary activities.

How will we vote? How should I as a Christian pray? Martin Luther said “Let us pray in the church with the church for the church, for there are three things that preserve the church and belong to the church. First, to teach faithfully; then, to pray diligently; and third, to suffer with earnestness.” Has the world not suffered enough already from the constancy of wars?

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