Ever since my days of riding in a little red wagon in small town parades and campaigning for my grandpa's re-election to Randolph County Commissioner (an office he held for 19 years), I can remember being interested in politics. If anyone in the family was going to be a future political leader, it would have been my brother (my Dad still asks about how many years until Matthew will be President). Even so, I have been a political junkie to a degree, following Bill during my years in junior high and then Bush during high school and college.
But, I have never been as glued to the presidential race, or political process, as I have been during the course of the past few years, leading up to the 2008 race. When Bush claimed that we had victory in Iraq and I subsequently embarked on a six month study abroad excursion in South Africa, I had no idea how my views on politics, civil rights, peace, government, warfare and poverty (to name a few) would be challenged. As we unfortunately remember, the war raged on in Iraq and only grew more gruesome as time marched on. Before leaving for South Africa, I remember defending Bush and the Iraq efforts. Before Bush, I remember the Slick Willy scandal. Before Clinton's moral failures, I remember defending Bill and genuinely liking this young Governor from Arkansas. What a diverse, political feast of ideologies and philosophies I have dined at. And I just turned 25.
As the 2008 race heated up already in 2006, I distinctly remember a very real desire to make better choices and stances in the political arena as a man trying to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ (talk about a "politically" controversial figure when he walked the earth - don't numb yourself in the false reality of Pax Romana, the Mighty Roman Empire and compromised religious leaders). I wanted to widen my understanding of how I could be faithful to the just, loving and compassionate way of Jesus in ways other than my views on abortion and gay marriage (I am completely opposed to terminating human life through abortion, but these two issues as a platform alone are a narrow bandwidth for loving God's creation). Having been more and more exposed to life from out under the umbrella of the American dream and the college bubble, I wanted to think more honestly about issues such as poverty, racism, corporate nationalism, militarism, slave trafficking, the environment, taxes, civil liberties...I was starting to be interested in stuff that only "those other guys" seemed to be interested in.
So, now I find myself thinking more like a liberal and sometimes scaring myself because of it. Remember, I grew up in rural, conservative America (although, believe it or not, there are many Democrats down in Southern Illinois and my grandpa was a Democrat, albeit on a local level). I wonder how much of a liberal Jesus looked like in his day...hanging out with Samaritan women and tax collectors, lepers and prostitutes. But, I do not want to make this a conservative or liberal thing. It is this andthat. I am both. I am neither. I am starting to sound like a meta-physical, existentialist or something now...
So, as the race heated up, I became interested in this Obama guy. I started reading his speeches and listening to mp3s of his thoughts on faith and politics that were sometimes discussed by Red Letter Christians. I genuinely liked the guy and have never once doubted his integrity or genuineness or ability to be a change-bringing leader. I like that he cares about the poor and the environment and the marginalized and that he wants to change things up. I liked that he was a community organizer and honestly admits that he is a Christian. But, I also don't want to put my hope in Obama. But, that's his message, right? Hope...Change. That's the Obama ticket. As much as I want to see the tides change in Washington and in our nation's policies, I can't put my hope in Obama or any other presidential candidate. As much as I want to believe that the American government can bring true justice and hope and peace, I have chosen to live in a reality that only Christ and his kingdom will bring true justice, hope and peace...and forgiveness and reconciliation and salvation.
As I have wrestled with these tensions, I have engaged in conversations, digging into other's thoughts and philosophies on the role of the Church and the role of the government and how we can have honest God-centered faith and hope as a political participant.
So, when I read these two blog pieces today, I had to smile. The tension is real.
Oh, and by the way, I'm still voting.