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Essay

Politics: Where’s the Outrage?

By August 4, 2012 4 Comments
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A few weeks  back I was part of a friendly argument while partaking of some good food and cold beer. The argument was political – which around here means the argument was religious. Living in smack dab in the middle of Republican country means that most “thinking” people in the community vote democrat.  George W. Bush?  The enemy. The Republican party? A bunch of cold hearted, greedy, warmongers. So when a friend suggested that the Republicans are much more nasty and corrupt than the Democrats I couldn’t hold back.  Look, I’m no Republican – I voted for President Obama in 2008 and Ralph Nader the two elections before.  Let’s just say I’m sadly disappointed.  Gittmo?  Still open.  The war in Afghanistan?  Still happening.  Drone attacks?  They’ve increased during the Obama presidency.  And are we really going to pretend that one party has the “in” with millionaires and billionaires, while the other represents the poor and working class? Right… George Clooney (smug alert) represents the experience of the working class.  Wait, you say, what about health care?  It’s a human right – and now we have health care reform.  Do we?  I might be way off but it seems this new health care policy isn’t really about “health care” – it’s about insurance.  It does nothing to curb the cost of health care, it does everything to make sure everybody has insurance.  I wonder… do you think there will be any insurance executives giving money to the Obama campaign?

So what’s my problem you say?  My problem: Where’s the outrage?  Where’s the protest?  Where’s the same condemnation that was constantly being thrown at George W. Bush?  There is this strange silence from the same segment of the Christian community that thought Bush was the anti-christ.  Oh some will tell you they’re disappointed – but only in a whisper. A Christian engagement of politics, it seems to me, should be less concerned about party affiliation or the charisma of the person in office, and more concerned about the actual issues.  The Christian community was right to question the foreign policy of the Bush administration, but it should also then question the foreign policy of the Obama administration.  The Christian community is right to challenge the influence of money and corporate power in political elections, but then let’s not pick and choose which money or which corporate power. 

I know, I know… there’s no perfect candidate.  Politics is a messy process.  Fine – but then let’s stop pretending that one party has cornered the market on corruption.  Let’s be equal opportunity protesters.  Let’s vote for a candidate and then hold that candidate, as much as we can, responsible for the decisions they make.  Romney or Obama?  How about we all try to make a well informed decision, and then hold them accountable for the policies they enact.  It’s just too bad Nader isn’t running again.

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

4 Comments

  • Keith says:

    Would love to know exactly what you mean by 'most thinking people vote Republican'.

    As for why there isn't any outrage–I'd suggest that it's because there isn't a lot of hope for the political system. Where does outrage get us? The level of confidence in Congress is around 17% last I checked. Where is the hope for change? Congress is in a gridlock, and neither Romney nor Obama are willing to risk votes by suggesting anything risky. Bold leadership is instantly attacked by those who will lose anything, and politics becomes about protecting whatever privileges have been given. As MLK said, people with privileges don't give them up easily. I know that Paul Ryan's budget plan is a very, very long way from perfect, but look at the way he has been attacked and his ideas have been buried under negative publicity for proposing something truly different. Where is the motive for others to propose such different ideas when all they get is special interests constantly attacking and pigeon-holing them?

    So why not outrage? I'm outraged, but I don't see much good in spending time expressing it. What might I change? Or would I just raise my blood pressure for no good reason? Show me some hope.

  • Steve MVW says:

    Jason, as a former Nader voter myself, I share some sense of what you're talking about. I guess when I finally decided to vote for a major party candidate–Obama–it felt like I also gave up my right to outrage. Electoral politics isn't a place for prophets or pietists, purity or absolutes. If people are outraged by Obama's compromises and realism it might be because they thought they were electing a Messiah, not a president. Did the '08 Obama campaign cultivate these messianic overtones? No doubt. And might that be coming back to bite them now? My own sense is that many Democrats are pleased with Obama's toughness and realism on foreign affairs (Gittmo, drones, getting bin Laden, etc.). It has been a long time since Republicans haven't been able to accuse Democrats of being naive, soft appeasers. So, outrage? Not really. When I think back to 2001-2009, I'll give Obama that ultimately effusive Dutch compliment. "It could be way worse!"

  • Jason Lief says:

    Keith and Steve,

    The comment about "thinking" people refers to the tendency of the academics (people like me!) in my community to try and distance themselves politically from the "common folk" by voting democrat. In the end both sides end up caught in ideology and rhetoric – neither side willing to examine the issues and concede that often the real solutions to social problems cannot be reduced to mere party lines.

    Should the Christian community follow the path of the "lesser of two evils" or it's ugly step cousin "It could be worse?" Is Niebuhrian realism all we're left with with regard to social and political issues? I have no illusions of utopian progress (although my students accuse me of it all the time…) but I do believe the Christian community is called to testify to the promise and hope of the resurrection (new creation) that serves as the basis for a critique of the powers that be. It's been chic for the Christian community to lambast the republican party, much of it well deserved – my point is to say we should be equal opportunity critics.

  • Keith says:

    Interesting that you say the Christian community lambasts the republican party–where I come from, the Christian community lambasts the democratic party! As a moderate republican, I encourage them to examine the republicans with the same intensity they do the democrats.

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