I do want to elaborate on one thing from my previous blog post.
I don’t think I made it clear, but I do not have a “faith” litmus test in picking candidates. There are many people of different faiths than mine own, or not of faith, who I would love to see in office some day.
However, I would say that in elected officials I would like to know that not only do they have intelligence, but also a compassionate heart and the ability to hear and respond to their conscience. And if that conscience is shaped by a faith tradition, that’s great, but it doesn’t have to be.
In the case of Obama, I knew that he publicly expressed the fact that he is person of faith. That’s great, but it doesn’t answer all of my questions. Bush also was very open about his faith journey (which early on, as in pre-2000, I really admired, even though I didn’t agree with his politics), but it was hard to take his seriously, as his decisions did’t seem rooted in the faith tradition that he claimed to believe in.
So, when Obama started backing away from Rev. Wright, that was a big red flag to me. While some of Wright’s statements seemed unnecessarily caustic, for the most part they seemed true and certainly within the Judeo-Christian prophetic tradition. So, if Obama would back away from him, it made me wonder if his faith journey was genuine and if he was in fact open to hearing even harsh criticism that is rooted in the language of faith and conscience.
Since then, I have come to understand why Obama felt he had to distance himself from his church (even if I think he was dead-wrong), particularly after the sermon by Rev. Pfleger that was over the top in its mockery of Hillary Clinton (and again seemed to confirm the rampant sexism she faced in her campaign. I should also note that Rev. Pfleger said that his remarks weren’t made out of a sexist intent and I believe him (because of his history of publicly attacking sexist speech in rap music), but his choice of words was still awfully reckless and unfortunate. And given the controvery going on, I can see why Obama felt he had to make the break.
Then after that, I heard Dobson’s assinine remarks. Since I generally think Dobson is full of it, I decided to read the Obama speech that set Dobson on such a tirade. Wow! In reading it, I realized that Obama’s faith journey was for real. I also was struck by the fact that Obama (unlike Bush) was willing to engage with his faith and conscience, not just with simplistic emotions but with his mind too, and that he was the kind of person who would use his mind to find ways to bridge the gap with people who are from other faith and philosophical traditions.
And, I should also say that to the extent faith and politics do connect, I think Obama has heard clearly the ways that the teachings of Christ truly touch on politics – namely on the issues of poverty relief, social justice and non-violence. I know that Obama is ready yet to take the radical approach of the Anabaptists (Mennonites, Amish, Brethern and related denominations) who say that “Yes, the Sermon on the Mount means what it says, and yes, the department of defense should be abolished,” but at least Obama understands that the idea of war is contrary to the teachings of Christ, which is light years away from Bush’s view or Dobson’s view.
So, imperfect as he is, I feel comfortable supporting Obama. I’m not quite sure yet if I’ll get involved in his campaign, but I definitely plan to vote for him and I feel good about being public about it.
And lastly, with regards to the Green Party, I am and remain a Green Party member. If the Democrats had put out a candidate as lousy as Kerry again, I would have left my ballot blank in 2008. But this time it’s different.
Here’s another way of putting it — on a scale of 0-100 (with zero being George Bush, and 100 being Eugene Debs come back from the dead), I would say Kerry would have got a 25 while I would rank Obama as a 70. Still very far from perfect, but good enough to do some good.
I’m ok with the Greens having a candidate (who it looks like will be Cynthia McKinney, not Nader as folks seem to think. Nader is running again as an indy), but I hope that she would be open to running a “safe states” strategy, or better yet negotiate at the last minute to support Obama, if Obama came out in favor of a national standard on ballot access reform and/or appointed her to his cabinent.
I might try to start a Greens for Obama group. If that happens, you’ll hear about it on the blog in the near future.