BY BEN SMITH
Some time ago, pundit Ann Coulter wrote a book entitled Godless: The Church of Liberalism. Among the book’s extremist generalizations and various misstatements, the underlying thesis seems to be that liberal thinkers don’t derive their arguments from the character of God.
Wait a minute. What?
If you’re anything like me, you read that sentence and found it incredibly primitive that in the twenty-first century, a woman would attempt to attach a party flag to the divine. This kind of attitude only leads to selfishness and violence. I don’t believe that any church or political party created by mere mortals can fully understand how to relate and respond to God, but I do know several compelling reasons why Barack Obama makes sense to me as a presidential choice.
- He does not just change the content of his politics; he changes the approach. While his opponents often resorted to personal attacks on his rival and either attempted to associate (or did not attempt to disassociate) him with terrorism and anti-Americanism, Obama pushed for a shift away from divisiveness and negativity and continued to emphasize what he would do for the United States. This is a crucial attitude adjustment for a country that has grown to be so polarized that the past two presidential elections have been two of the closest on record. When Americans cannot bring themselves to work together because of differing perspectives, then the country stops moving forward, because nobody learns and nobody grows. While his political opponents spoke of “I” in their speeches, Obama spoke of “we.” If politics is a college course, Obama is more in favor of discussion sections than lectures.
- The idea that we should sit down and talk with countries that disagree with us should not be a novel idea. Diplomacy, no matter how low the level on which it is accomplished, is the only way that countries and cultures communicate with each other. Imagine a world without the United Nations, or NATO. While having the best military in the world certainly carries some responsibility with it, there has been an unfortunate, vengeful, knee-jerk response to the September 11th attacks that gave terrorism faces and names for much of the world. Rather than thoughtfully and prayerfully consider our actions, a typical American attitude towards the rest of the world has been more “us versus them,” than “us with them.” Though we must never ignore or underestimate the power of evil in this world, we must be sure that we are not in the grip of irrational fear.
- He is a thinking man. Rather than speak rehearsed answers that seem politically expedient, Obama reveals himself to be a Christian who cares enough about his faith to wrestle with the difficult questions about abortion, gay marriage, and the essence of Jesus Christ, instead of settling on cheap answers and dismissing all opposition. Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Forum in July showed the contemplative character of the senator, an intellectual in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and others who knew that the theological and political problems facing them were too big to be solved by quick and easy answers.
- He has made social justice and helping those less fortunate a large part of his life, instead of focusing on issues like gay marriage or abortion. While those issues have their own place in the political discourse, it is neither rational nor loving to condemn someone’s lifestyle while they are dying of hunger or worrying about their budget, something in which too many evangelicals have participated. The Matthew 25 Network, which takes its name from Matthew 25:40 (“whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”), is a group of Christian pastors and laymen that endorsed Obama in 2008.
Now, let us be clear about one crucial fact. Brian McLaren, a pastor in the Matthew 25 network, reminds his friends and associates that “we’re electing a president, not a Messiah.” No man, no matter how hard he tries or how much natural talent he possesses, will ever be a perfect leader. But Senator Obama has inclined his heart in the right direction.
The responsibility, then, falls on us. If Barack Obama is not elected, then continue to fight for what is good and right in this country. If, however, he is elected, be sure to hold him to the principles that he has laid out. Send him emails and letters, raise your voice at rallies, and ensure that he keeps his promises. We may no longer be a Christian nation, but the hope I have in the qualities of Barack Obama is hope in some of the very qualities of Jesus Christ.