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one man's dilemma

what follows is an open letter to a new friend, a christian who can't seem to figure out what in the world's wrong w/ me in that i continue to lean toward voting for kerry/edwards. the friend, we'll call him "monty," graciously gave me permission to post this so you guys would have an equal opportunity to take shots @ my reasoning or otherwise urge a correction of my position. in fact, monty's already written me back (i emailed this to him last night) and given me much to think about. i'll warn you -- this post is pretty long, and it involves politics, two factors which don't serve it well as readership goes. nevertheless, w/o further ado, i give you a description of this man's dilemma:
dear monty -- thanks for the forward (of "r.i.p. free speech" by paul weyrich of cybercast news service), and thanks for checking out my scribblings on my weblog, too. i appreciate what mr. weyrich has to say in his article, but it's not quite enough for me to oppose kerry and edwards in this election, especially with bush and cheney on the other side. however, i don't know whether my posts adequately express my ambivalence w/ government (both national and ecclesiastical, as i am an episcopalian) right now. i confess i voted for gore in 2000, primarily b/c i thought he was more qualified to be president. to tell the truth, i still think he's more qualified, if only b/c he's far more intelligent than president bush, and i'm afraid the latter has allowed himself to get into a situation militarily from which it has now become almost impossible to extricate himself or the country. that being said, i pray for the president @ least weekly, usually more often, and i get fairly well pissed when some of my friends (trial lawyers, all) "bush bash" just b/c they don't like the guy. i'm an attorney working for the government (not a very important employee, i assure you), and most of the people w/ whom i come into contact (the staffs of mississippi's senators notwithstanding) are rabidly anti-bush. i, however, am not. and yet i still intend, @ this writing, to vote for the challenger.

i'm sorry, but you probably shouldn't expect a convincing defense of my decision, even if you're open to the arguments. this decision is one about which my wife and i are praying fervently; it's also one that is giving me ulcers. in short, the arguments on behalf of the democratic nominee are several. first, i never have supported the use of military force in iraq, and to date no one has been able to convince me that i was wrong. if the government had publicly stated that it intended to act solely to remove a despotic ruler; if the government had publicly stated that access to petroleum is of vital national importance (it is, btw), and military intervention was in furtherance of that interest; if the government had touted iraq's value as a buffer of sorts b/tw iran and israel; if there had been credible evidence linking iraq and 9/11; if, if, if . . . but that's not what they said. indeed, it's my understanding that the neo-cons hammered out the doctrine of preemption well in advance of the election or september 2001. my friend, dennis (who desperately needs a new post on his weblog), and i discussed this topic for hours a couple weeks ago, and it appears that there's no convincing him that war was wrong, just as i don't think there's any convincing me it was right. moreover, i've never heard a compelling argument for cutting taxes, running deficits, oligarchy by and for the wealthier americans, smaller but not smarter government, et cetera. dude, i almost can't think of a single reason to vote for these republicans over these democrats.

except one.

i'm so conflicted about the "culture of death" (to purloin a papal turn of phrase), and what my vote for the dems does to further that culture, that i'm almost ready to stay @ home in november. no kidding. maybe i'll write in my wife or margie or dennis (or you, monty, if you're up for it). everything inside me revolts against a policy of abortion on demand, although i argued for such a policy throughout law school. so, therein lies the rub. do i vote for the people that i legitimately think are smarter, far more caring, less prone toward militaristic nationalism, less cabalistic, more open to public debate, generally supportive of reasonable gun control, civil liberties and health insurance for every american, and opposed to advocating any religion or capital punishment? or do i vote for the people who, in theory @ least, oppose abortion on demand? (even if we had a conservative republican executive, congress and majority on the supreme court, i'm not convinced we could ever roll back what roe v. wade and the last 30 years have done to our national mindset, anyway)

finally, i can only say a little bit about mr. weyrich's primary argument, which i understand to be that the liberals will marginalize the religious right and make orthodox teaching about homosexuality punishable. as a lawyer, i don't believe that the existing supreme court jurisprudence would allow such a development; i really don't. moreover, as a priest-in-training, i don't think i have the right to demand that my views be embraced by the majority (or the minority), nor should it matter whether what i preach -- centrally the christian gospel -- is legal or not. my friend tom mentioned a few months back, perhaps offhandedly, that "it is entirely conceivable that w/in a generation, orthodox christians will be the enemies of the american progressive liberal democracy." he even cited some bigwig author or intellectual to support the premise. but to me -- it doesn't matter. the gospel should marginalize us, yet we should preach it. if we're hated by the world or the united states majority, well, the 1st century world hated christ first. if my allegiance to the lord demands conduct that the democracy deems criminal, then i should conduct myself as a christian and damn the consequences. maybe i'm naive; maybe i'm a little too "bleeding-heart"; maybe i don't think the religious right should dictate governmental policy to a nation that is effectively post-christian and disagrees w/ most of the religious right's doctrine; maybe i don't even think there should be a religious right -- but i can't vote republican just to protect my pocketbook. that's not to say i won't vote for bush/cheney or even abstain in november, but i'll lie awake tonight praying that god will give me wisdom and direct our leaders, republican or democrat, to make decisions that are more complex than anyone of my limited intellect could hope to solve.

but that's just me.

thanks again for reading, and i hope i haven't said anything personally offensive. i learned quite a bit about myself in typing the last few paragraphs, and i pray for you as you read them (if you read them!).

christ's peace, brother --

~ sam


  • At 4:43 PM, Blogger seth said…

    I'm with you on the conundrum Sam. I cannot accept abortion at any level, and yet if I hold that line my choice is an administration that I believe is dishonest, corrupt, arrogant and one that doesn't IMHO value life either. How many Afghanis and Iraqis have we killed? How many Americans were killed on 9/11? What's that ratio? If the Iraqi's were guilty, then we've shed more than enough blood to compensate on the 'eye for an eye' principle. I fail to see the "Godly" side of our current administration; I only hear the claims.

    PS - Throw capital punishment in there to muddy the waters even more. Holding CP in one hand and abortion in the other - neither party seems to be consistant. What gives?

  • At 9:42 AM, Blogger mj said…

    Have you considered perhaps that your view of the war is too short-sighted? I heard the other day that Al-jazeera was suspended for 30 days in Iraq. I also heard that 9 million people signed up to vote in Afghanistan. I do agree that having zero bloodshed would be the perfect way but is that really realistic? Do you think Christianity had any chance to spread in Iraq or Afghanistan prior to 9/11? Do you think that perhaps in the long run this is happening in order to provide the opportunity at a minimum?

    With politicians I have always been a believer that you have to vote for the guy who will not give up what you're passionate about in order to achieve what they're passionate about which is hard to do in politics. I feel that the best thing my family taught me growing up was that life is not fair. No matter what the situation my father always took the teacher's side in school. I think that is the 100% right way to do things too because it teaches kids that teachers are to be respected and that they're the ones kids should always learn from. Now I don't think teachers are always perfect but in kids' eyes they should never be viewed in a negative matter. My purpose for saying this is that I worry that in 20 years when I actually might have kids that I'll be forced to tell my kids that the teacher is simply wrong according to the Bible.

    Two of the most critical developing issues that threaten this situation in today's society are clearly abortion and homosexuality. What do you want your kids to be taught in school concerning these issues? Which politician do you think is least likely to surrender in order to achieve their own personal agendas?

  • At 12:09 PM, Blogger seth said…

    Perhaps my view is too short sighted, but I have a hard time thinking that the end justifies the means as you seem to suggest. Where does that logic stop? Who do we attack next in the name of advancing Christ? I don't mean to be offensive, but I just cannot see war as a viable way to spread the gospel. This doesn't even get into my opinions that this war is a fraud and ill-conceived.

    I don't feel that Bush is out for my best interests. Of course I see the pressing issues a bit differently than you see them. Some time ago Sam posted an interview with NT Wright regarding his stance on refusing communion b/c of someone's stance on abortion, etc and his conslusion to that interview resonated with me. Abortion is a sad and terrible thing, but it is not the most pressing issue. He sees the staggering inequity in the world as the uber issue, esp as it is furthered by 'developed' countries, and I agree. So many are killed and suffer b/c of our arrogance and selfishness - thought we barely notice it.

    As to homosexuality, I think God can handle this one himself. We are called to love and serve, not condem. I see no reason why gays should not receive gov't benefits. I don't see gov't recognition as something Christians need to feel obligated to protect and defend.

  • At 3:23 PM, Blogger mj said…

    Oh I totally wasn't using that as a reason to go to war. I was just saying perhaps we don't know all is to hold for the future. My view of going into Iraq is totally more based on the flourishing of terrorism in the region prior to us entering the area. It is a much more detailed and longer point of view than the simple suggestion. Basically though, it based upon the momentum the idea of terrorism has built in the area starting with the bombing of our embassy in Lebanon in the 80s up to the attack on our own land. I am definitely happier that we decided to go into a weak Iraq than someone more powerful like Iran or Syria. I am no fool though, I also totally believe that oil played a huge deciding factor but in the end I think that it was time we show a little force rather than continue to allow ourselves to be attacked.

  • At 3:43 PM, Blogger mj said…

    Also, I think all three of the issues above that you listed are equally important. I am not talking about condemning or beating people who sin. I am simply saying that we cannot sit back and allow the world to accept things as ok when clearly the Bible states them to be sinful. it's not that i don't have homosexual friends just like i have friends who are alcoholics. i am simply saying that clarification does matter. it matters what your kids learn is right or wrong. it matters that they should learn to treat everyone with respect. but for us to sit back and not standup for what the Bible says is not right is equally as bad. now by no means does that mean that we have to look down upon individuals or torture them because they sinned. if that were the case i would probably be in for a world of pain. i am just saying that if a man wants to go out and get drunk every day then that's fine with me but when he steps behind the wheel of a car and forces his actions deemed to be sinful perhaps upon society then a restriction might be in order.

    obviously we have two totally different viewpoints which is great, but i think everyone would agree that it would be great if everyone on the planet lived a comfortable lifestyle. the question then is how in the world is that attained. Do you simply give everyone a comfortable lifestyle or do you provide opportunity for them to attain a comfortable lifestyle? If the best way is to provide the opportunity then what is the best way to accomplish that? I am not sure that we differ in opinion on how we would like the world to be. There probably is though a drastic difference on how to make utopia.


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