The Common Good

Election Day - Five Simple Things You Can Do

Sojomail - November 2, 2004

Quote of the Day Voting as prayer
Batteries Not Included David Batstone: It's Election Day - five simple things you can do
Politically Connect Seven considerations I make when voting
Religion and Politics We are not single-issue voters
Warning: Satire Episode 2004 - Attack of the clones
Boomerang Readers write
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Get a free issue of Sojourners


"This should be the rallying cry of every church, synagogue, and mosque in America: God have mercy on us and our nation and help us out of our need! But he will do this only if we become active. Even if we vote for the wrong party, may every vote this November be seen as a prayer to God for his intervention and his will to be done. If we see our vote in this way, then we will be united as a nation as never before."

- Johann Christoph Arnold, author, social critic, and senior pastor of the Bruderhof - an international communal movement dedicated to a life of simplicity, service, sharing, and nonviolence.



It's Election Day - five simple things you can do
by David Batstone

Over the past six months events have often drawn my memories back to the third grade. My teacher, Ms. Paulson, often instructed our class that if we worked hard and applied our skills, we could make a difference. She stressed that the opportunity to do something great was in all of us. "ANYONE can be president of the United States," Ms. Paulson would often say to us.

Now, over six months, I have listened to countless political speeches by both presidential candidates, and sat through three debates. And I can see that Ms. Paulson was absolutely right. ANYONE can be president of America. These two candidates of unexceptional talent prove it!

Okay, on a serious note, the candidates are what they are, and we will choose today the one we feel will best lead the United States. Of course, the ballots are full of important local races and initiatives as well.

I always like lists that help me figure out how to make the most of my day. So let me share with our American readers (our overseas readers can do one thing: PRAY that wisdom prevails) five simple things you can do today to leave your mark on this election.

1) A vote is a terrible thing to waste. Don't put off going to the polls to the last minute. Stuff happens, and you may lose your opportunity to cast a ballot. Once you are in the privacy of your booth, vote with ALL your values. Vote not how you "should" - because someone told you that was the only way to vote if you are a true Sneetch (think Dr. Seuss), or whatever other creature you are supposed to be - but vote how you "must," led by your conscience.

2) Ask at least 10 people (count 'em out until you're done!) during the course of the day whether they have voted. Remind them that people before us have taken on remarkable personal risk, and even death, to give us this right. Many of our SojoMail readers will be going one step further, and walking door to door to remind people to vote, or even driving those with limited mobility to the polls.

3) Be an advocate for anyone who is denied the right to vote. The fact that more than a few political operatives have set out to suppress the vote in hotly contested electoral districts is appalling. If you witness such an undemocratic act, report it immediately to election officials.

4) Start planning how you will stay engaged in the political process on Wednesday morning, moving forward. No matter who wins. Politics do not happen once every four years. Politicians like to see which way the wind blows. So, as Jim Wallis is so fond of saying, let's change the wind.

5) Pray for common ground with your political opponents, then walk on that fertile soil. Too many important political issues in America today are polarized, and the inevitable result is paralysis. Jim Forest visited my class at the University of San Francisco this past week and shared with the students a profound insight: "The opposite of love is not hate, but fear." We fear sliding down a slope from the height of our own self-right-ness. We fear our adversary. We fear losing control. And we cease to love.

Do these five things today and you will have "let freedom ring" in your community. What sweet music it would be if we could hear those tones across the land.

+ Read more commentary by David Batstone

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Seven considerations I make when voting
by John Hay Jr.

John Hay Jr. serves the West Morris Street Free Methodist Church of Indianapolis, Indiana, as senior pastor. He has directed Horizon House, the city's homeless day center, and worked extensively with urban neighborhood revitalization. He offers these seven principles to consider when voting:

1. I ask of any candidate's or administration's positions and proposals, "What does it do to the poor?"

2. I do not expect the American president to be a Christian or my brand of Christian.

3. I recognize that the priorities of the kingdom of God and the agendas of American presidents and governments are not the same.

4. I look for a candidate who I think will lead compassionately, not just talk about compassion.

5. I recognize that most "all-or-nothing" issues cast during election campaigns are NOT "all-or-nothing."

6. I ask, "How has a candidate responded to violence or used violence? And how does he or she plan to respond to and use it in the future?"

7. I consider how candidates envision America's place and role in the world.

+ Read the full explanation of Pastor Hay's principles for voting


We are not single-issue voters

Sojourners certainly wasn't the first group to encourage Christians to think beyond single-issue voting - we've got plenty of company. Religious groups from across the theological spectrum have acknowledged that a balanced approach to politics is the path for responsible citizenship. This is both an important fact on election day, and in our political involvement regardless of who is elected.

"We believe all candidates should be examined by measuring their policies against the complete range of Christian ethics and values.

We will measure the candidates by whether they enhance human life, human dignity, and human rights; whether they strengthen family life and protect children; whether they promote racial reconciliation and support gender equality; whether they serve peace and social justice; and whether they advance the common good rather than only individual, national, and special interests."

- Sojourners, "God is not a Republican...or a Democrat"

"In recent decades, a variety of evangelical political voices have emerged. Yet evangelicals have failed to engage with the breadth, depth, and consistency to which we are called....

The Bible makes it clear that God cares a great deal about the well-being of marriage, the family, the sanctity of human life, justice for the poor, care for creation, peace, freedom, and racial justice. While individual persons and organizations are at times called by God to concentrate on one or two issues, faithful evangelical civic engagement must champion a biblically balanced agenda."

- National Association of Evangelicals, "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility"

"A Catholic moral framework does not easily fit the ideologies of "right" or "left," nor the platforms of any party.... Our responsibility is to measure all candidates, policies, parties, and platforms by how they protect or undermine the life, dignity, and rights of the human person, whether they protect the poor and vulnerable and advance the common good....

We hope that voters will examine the position of candidates on the full range of issues, as well as on their personal integrity, philosophy, and performance. We are convinced that a consistent ethic of life should be the moral framework from which to address issues in the political arena."

- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Faithful Citizenship"

"By thinking in terms of single issues, we marginalize ourselves, whether we are Republicans or Democrats, pro-life or pro-choice. A better approach is to think of dominant issues. For most Christians seeking to honor God with their votes, the sanctity of human life is a given....

The dark side of single-issue politics is that it has forced evangelicals to become ever more shrill and ever less imaginative. Dominant-issue politics shows greater promise in addressing our society amid all the pressing issues our society faces, including terrorism, economic justice, church-state relations, gay marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, and so on."

- Christianity Today, "For Whom Would Jesus Vote? Single-issue politics is neither necessary nor wise."


SATIRE: Episode 2004 - Attack of the clones
by Ryan Beiler

*Actual image from Bush campaign commerical. Click to learn more.
At the center of a growing controversy, the Bush administration has admitted that it employed human cloning to create an untold number of genetically enhanced super soldiers. Developed under strict secrecy in the tool shed behind Dick Cheney's undisclosed location, the program was exposed when reporters noticed clusters of identical servicemen padding the crowd of a recent Bush campaign rally. Apparently, not enough regular soldiers had been willing to sign the loyalty oath required of all attendees.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry reacted forcefully to the shocking revelations. "I was an altar boy, so personally I'm against playing God and using genetic technology to create an unholy race of soulless killing machines," said Kerry. "But in a pluralistic democracy, that's not a belief I can force on others. I support the president's authority to create lab-spawned robo-soldiers to hunt down and kill terrorists. But using human cloning to bolster attendance at campaign events should always be a last resort."

Kerry overcame his usual reticence to speak about his war experience as he further attacked Bush's fitness for clone-soldier leadership. In one of his most impassioned speeches of the campaign, his voice rose to a dull, unmodulated drone: "I've been in combat. The president has not. What does he know about government-controlled automatons that, according to the Internet, have tiny computers implanted on their backs that dictate their every thought and act? I believe that only I have the personal understanding of war necessary to order legions of psychologically-conditioned cannon fodder to their deaths."

A defensive Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put his own trademark spin on the debacle: "This should send a clear message to those who've used the threat of a draft as a fear tactic in this campaign: Our advanced technology will preserve the all-volunteer army by generating an inexaustable supply of obedient recruits. They're genetically programmed to enlist, and won't leave behind families that will appear in Michael Moore films and make us look bad."

Bush also defended charges that he had "flip-flopped" on the issue of human cloning, which his administration had officially sought to ban. "Now look here," said Bush, "I believe we need to foster a culture of life in America. But I'm a war president. And what better way to defend our culture of life from evil-doers than with mind-controlled zombie warriors with night vision. Mr. Cheney said I wasn't supposed to talk about the night vision part, but I think it's awesome."

Meanwhile, reports are emerging that renegade platoons of clone soldiers have joined forces with artificially intelligent computer voting machines to create a bio-electronic life form bent on overthrowing the American goverment by orchestrating a Nader-Kucinich victory, thus opening the door for invasion and occupation by Canada. Voters are encouraged to approach polling places well-armed and with caution.


Readers write

Brian Vosburg writes from Detroit, Michigan:

I'm troubled by the recent portrayals, in letters to Boomerang as well as newspaper articles, of Sojourners and SojoMail being liberal. As an evangelical Christian, I find most of Sojourners and SojoMail to be firmly within the evangelical tradition. Divergent views may be expressed from time to time within the magazine or the e-mail newsletter, but the overall core beliefs and actions of Sojo are well within the evangelical world. As a subscriber to both publications, I find a general understanding within the Sojo community that it practices its faith from a largely centrist, Christian, orthodox viewpoint that includes evangelicals. I find Sojo's theology to be firmly rooted in the orthodox tradition and its social beliefs and actions working as a practical manifestation of those deeply held beliefs. If Sojourners is liberal then so are Evangelicals for Social Action, World Vision, and numerous other organizations that draw from the well of evangelical Christianity.


Rev. Roger A. Lier writes from Andover, Massachusetts:

John Kerry sounds just as belligerent as George Bush regarding seeking out and killing terrorists, and he has not denounced pre-emption as a war strategy. The Democratic platform tells us that John Kerry "will never wait for a green light from abroad when our safety is at stake," just that he will do better at building a war coalition. There is no reason to think the Vatican would approve of John Kerry's war-making any more than they approve of his abortion policy. Jim Wallis, in his commentary today ["Religious 'centrists' may decide the election," SojoMail 11/1/2004], mentions Kerry's religious talk approvingly, but what are we to think of a man who talks about loving his church, but gives a measly amount to its support, despite his riches. Or for that matter gives a measly amount to any charity, considering his great wealth. Is this man serious about ending poverty? When he talks like that and acts like that, do you trust him? Jim, where is your biblical critique of this man's words and actions? Are you sure you don't think God is a Democrat?


Rhonda Jensen writes:

Thank you so much for printing Linda Mele's commentary ["Christian in the middle," SojoMail 11/1/2004]. I feel exactly the same way. It is so hard to be a pro-life supporter and a Christian in the middle. I want to vote for only pro-life politicians, but they all appear to be war hawks, for the death penalty, and unconcerned for the poor. What do you do?

I will vote for Kerry because I, unfortunately, know that President Bush will continue to rule without regard for the common man. Also, I don't believe anymore that we will be able to change abortion laws. As Christians, we need to reach out more to women of childbearing age to educate and support them. Only by offering young women help such as providing education, and, if they are already pregnant, health care, food, shelter, child care, and counseling to decide between adoption or keeping their babies, will we substantially reduce the abortion rate.

I must say that I am ashamed of our churches for not doing more to assist young women and mothers-to-be. I volunteered for a Crisis Pregnancy Center, and the churches could have cared less if we were able to keep our doors open or not. I know that there are a few churches helping, but it is a pitiful amount considering the wealth within Christian organizations. What help there is out there needs to be more visible also.


Emily McConnell writes from St. Olaf College, Minnesota:

I am a devout Christian college student at a liberal Lutheran school in Minnesota. I, too, agree that God has not ordained the Republican party or George W. Bush as his chosen government, but I am disturbed by a trend that I see in these newsletters. Your catchphrase states that God is not a Republican or a Democrat, yet nearly every article I read, at least of the articles that support one party over the other, Republicans are attacked and Democrats praised as flawed but ultimately well-meaning. I do not place myself in either party, and am in fact the epitome of the "swing voter" in this election. Democrats and Republicans equally sin in the eyes of God; true Christianity lies entirely outside of party lines. Faith most certainly applies to issues, but not to political parties. I am concerned that you seem to be taking sides so readily. One can believe that the invasion of Iraq was the right choice and still be as loving and Christ-like as the liberal Catholics who stand up against it.


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