Why I Voted for Obama

17 10 2008

Some have been asking me who I was voting for or why I favor Obama, so here it is.  This is adopted from email and Facebook exchanges, and could be much longer.  But if anyone wants to know more specifics on matters of policy, just let me know.

I understand the debate social issues has in the evangelical community and I view that community as split between two groups; one whose focus is on abortion and gay rights, and one who is focused on helping the poor, caring for the environment, etc. Mark Noll talks about this breakdown in his book “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” and says that fundamentalists are taking over because evangelicals have stopped thinking intelligently as Christians about issues (not just political). This was always the joke at Wheaton: what is the scandal of the evangelical mind? The fact that their isn’t one (ie the mind).

So what does the above have to do with Obama vs. McCain? Well I don’t doubt that McCain is in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, but both of their policies on gay rights are very similar (e.g. the Biden-Palin debate).  Basically these two social issues comes down to the role nominating judges plays in your decision making process. I understand that rationale and I do think McCain and Obama are both kind of wild cards when it comes down to it (McCain for example because of how much he favors states rights sometimes at the expense of federal ones). However I view their differences in policy enough to sway me towards Obama, even if the judge issue might sway me slightly towards McCain. I like Obama’s plans for health care (not universal like Hillary and even most conservative republicans would admit that McCain’s plan is terrible), environment (which is fairly similar to McCain, but completely different from Palin), economy (I do prefer his tax plan and think it will be beneficial to the economy and it is not a matter of increasing the burden of the rich, i.e. spreading the wealth, but rolling back the tax breaks that Bush gave specifically to the rich), and foreign affairs where Obama has been proven right several times recently (generals in Afghanistan saying we need more troops and must have the ability to enter Pakistan, an exit strategy in Iraq that the government there also favors, diplomatic approach to Iran and N. Korea which the Bush admin has been focusing on recently).

Obama views the role of religious institutions and non-profits as vitally important in helping people, maybe even more so than that of government. He is even the first Democrat in awhile to support setting up a government department to aid in getting these programs money. This is evident in his work in south Chicago and Trinity the church he attends (see fascinating blog posts on TUC by John Hobbins). The point is he really is comitted to helping people and has some good ideas to do so.

So essentially I look at both of their policies and view Obama as the candidate more likely to help the most people. I see his policies as overall more “compassionate” than those of McCain and think that the world in 4 or 8 years will be better off for my baby and family than if McCain was elected.



7 responses

17 10 2008
Tom Humes

Nice Site layout for your blog. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

Tom Humes

18 10 2008
Forest Rittgers

Well stated, Owen. Thank you for sharing your perspective on the candidates. I am concerned that Democrat Executive and Legislative branches will be unable and unwilling to resist the temptation to raise taxes in order to support the plethora of both existing and new social programs which are not only part of the Democratic Party’s DNA but are also demanded by the many special interest pressures that really call the shots in Washington. I call these “stealth” taxes, because they aren’t mentioned until well after the election and are then determined to be needed to maintain essential government services. The ones they will admit to now are ones that will largely affect business and will continue to chase jobs and business investment overseas.

I admire your ability to make your judgment based on the issues and on your understanding of policy differences. Perhaps, it’s a generational thing, but many of us are inclined to make our judgments more on the basis of “chemistry,” personalities, intuition, a sense of trust – all intangibles that either do or do not give us a feeling of well-being about a particular candidate. Millions of people have that positive feeling about Obama. I do not, and I can’t really explain why.

18 10 2008

Thanks for the kind words Forest. I too think that anytime there is huge majority for either party, there is potential for trouble. I think part of the reason for my, and perhaps my generation’s, focus on issues (or just involvement in the political process at this age) is due to the political atmosphere we came of age in. It can be argued that Bush had more personality and exuded more of a folksy aura of trust than most previous candidates. And look at how that turned out for America. So now, when someone like Sarah Palin comes around, I am immediately turned off because it seems like she is trying to out-folksy Bush and doesn’t have a grasp of issues vital to the race.

19 10 2008

You and I have debated and sent information and arguments back and forth for awhile regarding the upcoming election, so I won’t add to the dialogue I hired Forest to initiate (just kidding on the last remark).

I am, however, interested in your comments about the polarization of the evangelical community. As you know, you were raised in a Christian community that integrates helping the poor, as you phrased it, (and being among them) while holding steady in orthodoxy regarding abortion and gay rights. So, it is possible for Christians to live into both poles (and I would argue, the right way to live as a Christian).

Writers like Noll- and to be fair, I have not read his book- appear to live dissociated from street level Christians, in the same way that most politicians live “inside the Beltway”, or within an elite group of people that hold positions of power. I say this about Noll as an extrapolation from my years as a Christian bookseller, observing at numerous annual and regional bookseller conventions the many authors and publishers. I think also of Willow Creek Church and their leaders’ recent confession of ably building a large church, but of members knowing too little of the Bible and too lukewarm in living out their faith.

This dissociation signals trouble to me, especially at the political and spiritual levels. Why? Because most folks, and leaders of all kinds- from spiritual leaders, academicians, politicians, financial types, et al- are more interested in power than in function, and to me Christian orthodoxy is about redeemed function, not worldly power. Redeemd function is about the absolute worth of each person, grounded in the love that is God, and the belief that each person, regardless of how their gifts and abilities differ, necessarily contributes to the well being of society. From the garbage collector and grocery store clerk to the corporate executive, each is necessary to the whole. Worldly power is diametrically opposed to the power that God exerted in raising his son from the dead and which is at work in each believer. Worldly power is self-centered and about winning, versus seeking and living into the truth.

Living for worldly power causes one to live above others, and look down to them. Living by redeemed function, in the awareness of the inherent gifts and abilities in each person necessary to a healthy society and culture, allows us to RELATE.

Willow Creek seems to be learning this lesson. I hope that Wall Street will get the message, then Congress, all other politicians, and especially our next President.

20 10 2008

hah! I was suspicious at first. I agree with you that we should live in both poles. And ideally as a Christian that is the kind of candidate we would support. However I feel that over the last 8 years the Bush, Rove, Palin’s of the world have played to the more ultra-conservative wing of the fundamentalist/evangelical movement. I’ve seen this effect firsthand in various places. Bush and Rove were able to push a compassionate conservative message to get elected, without actually being compassionate conservatives. It seems in part due to the strength of the economy at the time fundamentalists in the rust belt/appalachia/south who traditionally voted democrat were voting republican merely because of social issues. We now have seen these voters swing back (or apparently swing back based on the polls), because of the economy. It was a deception that Bush and his ilk cared about people. Now maybe they do care and the mistakes they’ve made have all been accidental, but I don’t think so.

BTW, Noll was a professor at Wheaton and now teaches at Notre Dame, he know’s his stuff. I think you are exactly right, we as Christians don’t know the Bible well enough and don’t live out our faith. And I am not attempting to draw a political distinction here, at least not in terms of which candidate is or isn’t doing this. All I’m saying is that I see the policies of Obama more in line OVERALL with living out my faith.
I almost don’t like to be called an evangelical anymore because of the connotations the term draws in peoples minds. And the sad thing is most of what they are thinking is true. I don’t know how many terrible sermons I’ve sat through or listened to people (students, congregants, whomever) who don’t know the Bible and don’t care to learn it. Let alone have any comprehension of science or politics, any detailed knowledge of the core beliefs that they hold. The difference between these people and people like you and Forest is that no matter what, you have never stopped seeking knowledge and seeking after God, and believe that the two must be tied to each other at least in some way.

20 10 2008

Thanks for the fine reply, O.

The evangelical community is highly complex, with the wider Christian community even moreso. So, I understand we’re applying thoughts very broadly. More of what I wanted to say about the elites in the evangelical community is that many are tied to really big, apparently successful churches, while most Christian churches have a Sunday morning attendance under 200 people. Most churches struggle financially, and their pastors with them; and that is before any thought toward or intent to help the poor, or social activism of any kind. These churches can also struggle with orthodoxy (ortho-doxi), or miss it completely. For me, the latter is of most concern. It is like Charles Williams asking through one of his characters in his novel, The Place of the Lion, “Is it more dangerous to hate than to kill?” Which is more dangerous? If we lose our orthodoxy, our activism is self-serving, and will tend toward power. If we seek only a “successful”, highly populated but introverted church, we lose the distinctive quality of the Gospel, which is to “GO!”. We won’t hear the command to go, if we are not inclined by heart and ear to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (which implies a close personal relationship, or at least, a close proximity) That, and a stable, solid Christian community, helps keep us calibrated.

20 10 2008

Yeah, I completely agree with you. That is one of the reasons I like our church so much is its focus on helping all kinds of people even if attendance is low or its not in the budget. I’ve been to some megachurches and I generally hate them. You can almost feel something different in the atmosphere. And say what you will about the Episcopal church, but no matter where you go in the world you are liable to get more orthodoxy and right teaching at an Episcopal or Anglican church (although I might be biased).

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