Thursday, November 04, 2004


I'm making an effort to look towards the future, and try to see where we go from here. The only conclusion I've come to so far is that progressives are failing to communicate their message. Once we've learned how to do this more effectively, we are going to have to engage those with whom we disagree in conversation. Personally, I'm not there yet. I can't talk to Republicans or Roman Catholics right now. I won't be going to ministerial association meetings, which are dominated by evangelicals, for awhile. Not only does their glee in electing a "good, God-fearing man" make me sick, most likely I'd give them a piece of my mind, and that is not the kind of conversation that's going to help right now.

So, I've been looking around on the web for some good communication. Here is a statement from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank T. Griswold;

Having come through one of the most vitriolic and divisive election campaigns any of us has ever experienced, we now look ahead to the next four years and the continuing leadership of President Bush. For many of our fellow citizens this is a cause for rejoicing. For others it is an occasion for despair. Given the polarizing rhetoric that has been employed throughout the campaign, it may be very difficult to find our way forward. Therefore, what is needed now on all sides is a genuine effort to move beyond entrenched positions and to seek common ground. What is needed now is a unifying vision, clearly articulated, of our great nation as a servant of all the world's peoples in their yearning after justice and peace.

Our President has consistently named his religious faith as the guiding force of his decisions, and our nation proclaims in the "Pledge of Allegiance" that we are one nation "under God." Such obedience to God obliges us to look always to the well-being of a world broken and bleeding, which God loves so much that he came among us in the person of Jesus to reconcile to himself and to save. Such obedience obliges us to ground our national policies in much more than self-interest and self-protection.

Let us pray that in the difficult and challenging days ahead we together, regardless of our several points of view, along with our President, may be faithful to what the Lord requires. And, as the prophet Micah tells us, what the Lord requires is "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."
I love Frank, and support his efforts during an extremely difficult time in the Episcopal Church. But I don't think he's always the best communicator. He is too subtle. Time Magazine is written at the reading level of a fourteen year old for a reason; plain speaking, as Bush just proved, is the only way to effectively communicate to the people. I'm not sure Frank knows how to speak plainly. I'm not sure I do either, but I am willing to learn.

The Witness offers a piece that gets closer to plain speaking; Domination of Belief by Daniel Webster;

...The United States now has voted to join the rest of world in the war for the domination of beliefs - Israelis over Palestinians (who are both Muslim and Christian), radical Muslims over Christians, Buddhists or Hindus.

If the vote was indeed about values then it was a vote about only those values that serve some in our country.

Bush presented himself as the 'pro-life' candidate opposing abortion and stem-cell research. He will fight for an unborn child but cut the programs that help single mothers or hungry children.

He will claim to be 'pro-life' and yet start a war that has killed more than a thousand U.S. and other allied soldiers, and may have caused the death of 100,000 Iraqi men, women and children.

He claims to be 'pro-life' but presided over more executions than any governor in Texas history.

He has brought the "Don't Mess with Texas" attitude to the rest of the country and the world. "Don't Mess with the U.S." seems to have resonated with voters who feels George W. Bush will support their values.

That kind of an attitude cannot heal a nation, or a world, divided. We are not split between "blue and red states." We are split ideologically - those who are tolerant and embrace diversity and those who wish to impose their values on others...
There's more to this piece that is worth reading. In the end, it is a reflection; one person's expression of where they are today. It resonated, but I'm not sure it clarified anything, other than a barometer reading of where some of us are right now.

Here is what Jim Wallis of Sojourners has to say;

...We've now begun a real debate in this country over what the most important "religious issues" are in politics, and that discussion will continue far beyond this election. The Religious Right fought to keep the focus on gay marriage and abortion and even said that good Christians and Jews could only vote for the president. But many moderate and progressive Christians disagreed. We insisted that poverty is also a religious issue, pointing to thousands of verses in the Bible on the poor. The environment - protection of God's creation - is also one of our religious concerns. And millions of Christians in America believe the war in Iraq was not a "just war."

So in this election, one side talked about the number of unborn lives lost each year, while the other pointed to the 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq. But both are life issues - according to the Pope, for example, who opposes both John Kerry's views on abortion and George Bush's war policy. Some church leaders challenged both candidates on whether just killing terrorists would really end terrorism and called for a deeper approach. And 200 theologians, many from leading evangelical institutions, warned that a "theology of war emanating from the highest circles of government is also seeping into our churches."

Clearly, God is not a Republican or a Democrat, as we sought to point out, and the best contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable or loyally partisan but to maintain the moral independence to critique both the left and the right.

It is now key to remember that our vision - a progressive and prophetic vision of faith and politics - was not running in this election. John Kerry was, and he lost. Kerry did not strongly champion the poor as a religious issue and "moral value," or make the war in Iraq a clearly religious matter. In his debates with George Bush, Kerry should have challenged the war in Iraq as an unjust war, as many religious leaders did - including Evangelicals and Catholics. And John Kerry certainly did not advocate a consistent ethic of human life as we do - opposing all the ways that life is threatened in our violent world.

We didn't lose the election, John Kerry did, and the ways in which both his vision and the Democratic Party's are morally and politically incomplete should continue to be taken up by progressive people of faith.

In a deeply polarized country, commentators reported that either political outcome would "crush" the hopes of almost half the population. So perhaps the most important role for the religious community will come now, when the need for some kind of political healing and reconciliation has become painfully clear. In the spirit of America's greatest religious leader, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the religious community could help a divided nation find common ground by moving to higher ground. And we should hold ourselves and both political parties accountable to the challenge of the biblical prophet Micah to "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God."
Now in this message, there's some good communication going on, it seems to me. Let me repeat the critical line that I think has been begging to be uttered; "We didn't lose the election, John Kerry did, and the ways in which both his vision and the Democratic Party's are morally and politically incomplete should continue to be taken up by progressive people of faith." Yes. That's the thing.

Did Kerry say why he voted against the partial birth abortion ban? No. And there is a very "Christian" explanation for why he did. The ban made very little allowance for situations in which the mother's health was threatened. There is clause allowing for a hearing after the charges have been made, in situations where it is clear the mother's life is threatened, but it is so limited that it offers very little protection to mothers who are at risk. (Note: this is edited in response to a comment which pointed out false information I had previously posted. Mea culpa.)

Did Kerry support gay marriage? No. He supported unions, but not marriage. He encouraged the belief that gay and lesbian marriages are somehow less than the ideal. He fueled the homophobic frenzy that is claiming that it is "Christian" to deny committed relationships, unless those relationships meet a litmus test set up by the heterosexual majority. The bible is used as a crutch for this, of course, as it was used by the south to support slavery, and is used by angry parents to justify child abuse, and is used by African Anglicans to justify polygamy. Part of the result of Kerry not communicating clearly is that eleven states have passed homophobic laws. But I'm not communicating anymore; I'm venting. So it might be time to move on.

Did Kerry say clearly that this war in Iraq is evil? No. He tried to have it both ways, playing the macho man and trying to draw a distinction between the way we conducted this war and the need for us to "kill the terrorists." 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians are dead. There is nothing "Christian" about this war. These bystanders are not expendable. We have already failed morally, and to continue the killing is evil. It must stop.

Did Kerry speak out on the behalf of the poor? Edwards tried to, at first. But Kerry spent most of his energy addressing the middle class, as that was whom he saw as the majority of voters. Who is going to suffer the most at the hands of a Bush administration? Those struggling just to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. Once again, just as during the Reagan era, we, the private sector, are going to have to take up the slack in offering a hand up to those in need within our communities, while the corporations get more tax cuts.

Yes, I'm being harsh towards Kerry. But I really don't think it's totally his fault. He is a professional politician. He did what the Democratic Party, as articulated by his handlers, told him to do. The goal was to win the election. The message was secondary. Kerry is a good party man. And there is the problem; the Democratic Party.

Is what I've written here an example of good communication? Absolutely not. Too wordy. Too negative. Too angry. I recognize this. And, I'm going to do something about it. For starters, I've ordered two books by George Lakoff (thanks John), Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives (with a foreword by Howard Dean), and Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think.

We've got a lot of work to do. But I am hesitant to embrace the term "reconciliation" in the way it is being used today; as a fuzzy form of pleading, "Can't we just get along?" No, not as long as immorality is being baptized as "Christian" and claimed as the high ground.

So here is where I am right now; the pro-life position is wrong, as long as it refuses to adequately protect the health of mothers (Note: another edit; mea culpa once again).

The anti-gay position is wrong, as it denies faithful relationships to a minority.

An economic position that gives more to corporations and refuses a living wage for every citizen is wrong, and is driven by nothing but greed.

A pre-emptive war that has killed 100,000 innocent civilian men, women and children for no valid reason is wrong, and must be stopped.

Those are my moral values, spoken as plainly as I am able today. Now I need to do some studying, and figure out how to take away the heat, while retaining the values, and so begin communicating instead of just pontificating.


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