I am interrupting my 4-fold post on 44 lessons of church leadership to write about why I have chosen to vote for Barack Obama…
The foundational reason that I am voting for Obama is leadership style. While it is true that we are taking a chance on Obama’s leadership capacity, I see the primary difference between our two choices as a warrior narrative vs. a community narrative. From my perspective McCain is representative of a warrior narrative that includes the perspective of leadership that essentially seeks to fulfill the notion that what is good for America should be imposed on the rest of the world. A few years ago I wrote a paper investigating the reasons why America is increasingly hated around the world – even after the initial outpouring of worldwide sympathy following the 9/11 attacks. My research concluded that there are four primary and overlapping reasons.
1. Our practice of double standards
2. Our practice of economic unilateralism
3. Our practice of military unilateralism
4. Our practice of an egocentric viewpoint
The Practice of Double Standards
America is perceived by much of the rest of the world to practice double standards in three primary areas:
- As the most powerful nation in the world and one that often invokes the moral high road. The actions of our military and the exports of our popular culture oftentimes are viewed to be exceedingly hypocritical.
- American support for Israel, even in the face of harsh treatment of the Palestinians.
- Washington’s support of authoritarian or corrupt regimes over the years when they could serve America’s interests.
The Practice of Economic Unilateralism
The interlocking trends of globalization, neoliberalism, capitalist legitimacy, and overproduction provide the context for understanding our unilateralist thrust. The policies of the Clinton administration put primary emphasis on the expansion of the world economy as the basis of the prosperity of the global capitalist class. For instance, in the mid-1990s, a strong dollar policy meant to stimulate the recovery of the Japanese and German economies was pushed, so they could serve as markets for US goods and services. However, the current administration has employed a weak dollar policy to regain competitiveness at the expense of the other economies. The weak dollar policy is meant to revive the US economy and primarily push the interests of the US corporate elite instead of that of the global capitalist class under conditions of a global downturn. This practice has failed miserably for the majority of working class Americans, not to mention the affects around the world.
The Practice of Military Unilateralism
War, as opposed to diplomacy and sanctions, has once again been placed on the international agenda. The current administration has declared that there will be a series of military actions against terrorism, of which the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are only the first. Moreover, the US withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) arms control treaty raises the possibility of a new arms race centering on ballistic missiles and anti-missile systems. These trends indicate that America is committed to military unilateralism — when it serves our interests. The all too frequent preference for militaristic solutions without a resolution of approval from the United Nations and with minimal consultation and the cooperation of other nations has created a reservoir of resentment and is regarded around the world as blatant imperialism.
The Practice of an Egocentric Viewpoint
America’s idealized view of the future of humanity permits a sometimes perverse, dangerous, and often brutally destructive disconnection between ends and means. To define the idea of America as the global future preference is viewed as an egocentric and arrogant denial of the freedom and sovereign choices of other nations. We have seemingly been hypnotized by a quest for the acquisition of globally marketed goods and competition and we seem fearful of not getting ahead fast enough. We have been perceived as acting like elitist and self-absorbed children, believing that our way is the best way to make progress — even though global poverty and environmental degradation grow worse rather than better.
In my view McCain’s warrior narrative would continue to push the double standards, economic and military unilateralism, and egocentric viewpoint that has driven us into the current economic and cultural crises. My own personal opinion is that McCain is angry and reactive and while that may be permissible as a senator, it could have disastrous effects as the President. Finally, McCain’s choice of Palin was downright scary to me. While she has personal charisma and the potential to be a force in Republican politics in the years ahead, she seems wholly unprepared to be a heartbeat away from the presidency – especially one in his early seventies on inauguration day.
Obama’s community narrative seems to me to be the more appropriate choice. It is a different kind of leadership for the new era in which we live. What is a “community narrative”? My use of the term suggests that Obama is more willing to engage the rest of the world as representing one of many nations that seek the highest good for our increasingly global village. Obama has also demonstrated a proclivity to seek the input of the best and the brightest to help shape the future of America. And I like his wife, Michelle. She seems down to earth and my perception is that she will keep him grounded. She also has the intellectual capacity (and background) to engage a host of issues in a complimentary way.
As an active, intentional follower of Christ – what about the sacred issues that have driven the evangelical agenda? My basic view is that the western Church has fallen under (basically) the same spell as our (western) cultural and political tendencies – we, the (western) Church, have also practiced double standards, unilateralism, and the practice of an egocentric viewpoint. I believe that over the last several decades (if not centuries) that leadership and evangelism in the (western) Church has been more about talking (and reacting) than listening (and responding). We are entering into a (postmodern) season where leadership and evangelism will be much more about listening than talking. There is a huge difference between discussion and dialogue (think about it).
Finally, I am firmly pro-life. I also believe that we – as a nation and as a Church have never really talked about the underlying issue. Women don’t trust men to tell them what to do with their bodies. In a normative backlash to millennia of male domination and abject sexism, women are asserting themselves. Women want, and deserve, to be wholeheartedly regarded as equal to men. That means equal pay for equal work and equal opportunities – both in society and in the Church. As this relates to the Church, each one will need to engage Scripture with fresh eyes and a humble, repentant attitude. Wherever our well thought and prayerful theologies lead us, we can certainly admit that women have been unfairly treated and disrespected since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. Repentance, honor, authenticity, dialogue, and action will save more lives than our previous attempts to legislate morality. The message of Jesus is radical — and subversive. It captures one heart at a time. Jesus, and the writers of the New Testament, prayed for, lived for, and ministered to the hearts and longings of lost and broken people. If the Church can recover the pastoral heart of servant-influence (leadership), we can make great headway in the plethora of causes that fill our hearts – no matter who the next President of the United States is.