Public Service Announcement: Presidential Election

I know that most of us have pretty strong ideas about whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama would be the worse leader for this country. It seems to me that a lot of people are casting votes not so much for a candidate as against their opponent.

So for my friends living in swing states: I get it. It is a tough decision. Stick with your gut.

But – for my friends who do not live in swing states: perhaps you would consider voting for Jill Stein (Green Party) or Gary Johnson (Libertarian)?

With the crazy electoral college system, you might not think your vote makes much of a difference unless you live in NC or Ohio or Florida, etc — but 5% of the popular vote for a third party is all it would take to get them equal ballot access and access to federal funding. Not to mention that it would make it harder to justify shutting them out of the presidential debates. The Green Party and the Libertarian Party each have a good shot at hitting that 5% figure this year.
That could make a tremendous difference. No matter who ends up in the Oval Office come January.
For sources, see:
The Free Independent-Sun – “Will the Green and Libertarian Party win 5% of the Popular Vote in the 2012 Presidential Election?”

Learning to forgive – and to be forgiven

In Tales of Wonder, Huston Smith offers this definition of Christianity:

What is the minimum requirement to be a Christian? If you think Jesus Christ is special, in his own category of specialness, and you feel an affinity to him, and you do not harm others consciously, you may consider yourself a Christian.

I have immense respect for Huston Smith – he is a man who has sought after God with great passion, and in chronicling his search he blazed trails in post-modernism and in religious studies. Nevertheless, I believe that his definition of Christianity has a couple of problems with it. I will focus here on one: “… and you do not harm others consciously…” with special attention to the word “consciously.”

There is a great variation amongst consciences. Some give little thought to others, and so are unconsciously hurting others constantly in ways that most persons would consider obvious. One of the aims of Christianity is to broaden the consciousness of Christians: we learn to see ourselves more deeply, as well as to see a broader number of people more deeply than we have before – until we grow into an embodiment of God’s love for all people. So for some Christians, it becomes very hard to hurt another person without consciousness of it – because consciousness becomes so deep and broad.

When I turn on a light switch, I am conscious of hurting my sisters and brothers in West Virginia whose streams are choked with debris from mountaintop removal mining. When I get into my car and drive it, I am conscious of the Pacific Islanders already being impacted by rising sea levels, conscious of the animals whose habitats have been chopped into tiny parcels by asphalt roads, conscious of the benefits of the once good autoworking jobs disappearing. And so on. In the 21st century, we are so globally connected that there is little I can do without being tied to another in some way. And as a member of the ever dwindling American middle class, I am often tied to others in a way that benefits me to their detriment.

I am trying to lessen the instances in which I am consciously harming others. But at the same time, I am continuing to broaden and deepen in consciousness – and so more continues to be demanded of me in order to meet the standard of not harming others consciously. Christianity by Huston Smith’s definition is for me a moving target – if he is correct then I have never been a Christian, and can never hope to be one.

Instead, I take refuge in the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray: “… forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…” We are ever in debt to God – and to many others. In teaching me to pray for forgiveness, Jesus teaches me that he expects I will continue to stand in need of forgiveness – and that it is always available to me. In teaching me that God’s forgiveness for me is linked to my forgiveness of others, Jesus teaches me that my judgment is what stands most in the way of my own healing. How readily do I model forgiveness when others fail me? When I fail myself?

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered himself to be sacrificed for us to the Father, forgives your sins by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Afterthoughts

I spent a good part of my afternoon becoming increasingly unhinged about U.S. foreign policy.  Publicly.  On Facebook and Twitter both.

I could write a lot here about unmanned drones and war in general and the painfulness of underwriting Empire.  But I’ve already written enough soundbites about that today.  And I could write more about how violence isn’t so much an American thing as a human thing, and about how the world as a whole is an unfriendly place in which to try to commit oneself to non-violence.  But I have already written and re-tweeted the same.  And I could spiral down into self-recriminations about my complicity in violence and my own selfishness, but my depression this evening is evidence that that too is old ground, already covered.  As I said, I was busy on the internets today.

I have an inner voice that condemns myself for not doing more, an inner voice that insists that I am deceiving myself that I am doing all that I can – that I already push myself to the limits of what I can take without unspooling to the point of utter uselessness.  It is a demon in the guise of an angel – because this voice would make it my job to save the world.  This voice overwhelms me until I am paralyzed, eyes drawing me forward into an abyss from which my own voice would reach no ears.

Tonight, as my family sat in the living room singing hymns, it occurred to me that I had neglected the two things I am most bound to do as a Christian:  I had not prayed for Barack Obama.  And I had not written to him, my brother in Christ, to share with him my concern about his foreign policy decisions*.  Both of these actions are commanded by Jesus.  Both of these ought to have been first steps, not afterthoughts.

My prayer for Barack Obama this evening

(For more on this kind of prayer, see my earlier post on Praying in Color.)

Lord, forgive me for how easily I forget that those who are in power are as much your beloved children as those vulnerable ones who suffer from the decisions of the powerful.  Remind me always to pray for those who would prioritize some lives over others.  And deliver me from my own self-righteous tweeting, that I might more clearly reflect your love in the world.  Amen.

* To be clear, I am no more enamored of Romney when it comes to foreign policy – I cannot imagine he would be any better.  But for the next few months – and perhaps for the next few years, it is Obama who is actually making those decisions, and hence who is accountable for them.