[Here is the substance of an email I received last week. My responses are in the boxed blockquotes.]

First, as I say at the end, I appreciate the courage and courtesy it takes to write an email such as you have written.

Hello. I am probably what would be considered a … conservative, Christian Republican.

I am for marriage between one woman and one man,

The fact that I am “for” it does not mean I believe the state should enforce my (and your) definition of marriage on people’s desire to make commitments to each other, or interfere with their personal lives in this area. This starts to me to look a lot like the church ruling the state, which, you remember, was the whole problem with the Taliban. While some may argue that’s a good idea, it is not really what America has been about, nor do I think it’s a good or safe idea. It leads to oppressive statism, and sometimes to the most bloody kinds of tyranny and/or (un-)civil warfare.

I got an email yesterday from a woman here in town who was quite offended by a survey a Senate candidate’s campaign called her with. To her it reeked of intrusiveness and religious self-righteousness. She is very concerned about the obvious Big Brother tendencies in the Republican party as it is now operating. She is not alone, I promise you!

We have the frustration of checks and balances built into our Constitutional system for a very good reason – the Christian theological truth that no one man or group can be trusted with absolute power. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Therefore we need a lot of watching of those who hold the power of government. Bush (with many others on the extreme right) has energetically resisted and undermined that watching function at every opportunity.

I am pro-life, I believe that pure capatalism and competition among businesses within America creates a better economy for the people of America, I believe that the roles of government and people have been turned upside down. I believe that we shouldn’t have to rely on the Federal government to bail us out of every financial problem we get into.

I also am pro-life. And the Democratic candidates I know and work with are men I can trust to do a LOT more toward actually reducing abortions in this state and nation than the Republicans I long to see them replace. Although, I have to admit, those Republicans make a lot of noise about it.

“bail us out of every financial problem we get into” is certainly NOT what is happening for the average working person or small entrepreneur in this country. Even less so for the working poor, of whom there are millions. The ‘bail-outs’ come for the wealthy or the huge corporations – and even then not predictably or fairly. That “bail us out” line is classic Limbaugh-type talk and should be seen as the insult it is to the large majority of Americans. We’re not being bailed out. We’re being abandoned unheeded and unaided by our jobs going offshore, by unjust tax policy, by health-care coverage shrinking and disappearing, etc.

Its a government for the people by the people. Although I don’t necessarily believe in a theocratic government, I do believe that we should follow more closely the mandates of scripture.

“The mandates of Scripture” eh? Scripture mentions homosexuality specifically around half a dozen times. But it mentions greed, exploitation, improper accumulation and misuse of wealth etc. almost ad nauseum. Prophet after prophet gets harsh about it. Jesus brings it up repeatedly. And it was Paul who wrote “greed, which is idolatry.”

Why do we hear so much about homosexuality from our church leaders and so very little about economic injustice and “greed, which is idolatry“? I am sure the answer is largely a matter of classic conflict of interest. You don’t preach against what you live by, and what your key supporters live by. You don’t preach against the undergirding theological – philosophical commitment of the whole society – the so-called “free market”.

The “free market” is not free, but is very much a tool of the wealthy for the greater accumulation of wealth. If the market were the place of the common people (“by the people, for the people”) would so many American jobs be going offshore? Would we still be forcing people into bankruptcy over medical crises – and then making it ever more difficult to even opt for bandruptcy? Would credit card interest rates be passing 30%?

The reason I am writing you is because I am truly looking for direction. I am trying to find where I fit in.

I truly appreciate that; it’s a very serious statement. And even if I get a bit worked up I very much understand the tension and confusion that all this brings to those of us who are trying to pay attention and figure things out.

I am still tyring to figure out the whole Iraq pre-emptive strike thing. Do I think we should help people who are being abused by their government? Yes. Do I think, if we have the means, that we should “liberate” such people from a dictator whos sons rape and kill elementary school girls for their own pleasure? Yes. Do I think war is a long-term solution to bringing peace to a nation? ?????? Not sure. It worked with Japan.

1. If we’re going to take down every rapist tyrant in other countries, there is a HUGE agenda awaiting our troops. Personally I don’t want to invest my sons and grandsons (and grand-daughters) in such an unending and unachievable mission.

2. If we’re going to take down every rapist tyrant, there are no doubt quite a few American business-people and politicians who need taking down – and I promise you they are not all Democrats. But we tend to call them “great men”, and are eager to have them come speak in our churches (and write checks).

3. As to “rape and kill elementary school girls for their own pleasure” – well, American troops have done the same. And that does matter.

4. Pre-emptive warfare is a war crime. It is immoral. And in this case it was clearly done on false pretenses.

5. “It worked with Japan.” No, war is not what worked. For example, war didn’t “work” with Germany after WWI. What “worked with Japan” was not war; what worked was the way the peace was managed after a war that we did not start. We encouraged democracy AND poured rivers of money into Japan and especially Germany after WWII.

We won the peace. And that is a big, big difference. (And that’s very different from pouring rivers of un-bid, unaccounted for money into Halliburton and Blackwater.) We are not at all doing the same things in Iraq that we did in Japan and Germany after WWII.

What are the mandates of scripture….. to care for orphans and widows. “My peace I bring to you. My peace I give to you… ” Do I believe in a lofty pie in the sky peace movement when dealing with people who want to kill you and anyone who doesn’t believe the way they do? No. But, what do you do? What do we as Christians do? What are we supposed to do?

That “pie in the sky peace movement” is another offensive line to Christians, another line that sounds very Limbaugh-ish or O’Reilly-ish. (Those guys are false prophets, and you know what happens to false prophets and their followers.) Jesus DID say, did He not, “Blessed are the peace MAKERS.” I know we can name our giant bombs “Peacemaker.” But that is a lie. We can say and hope that making war is making peace. But then we have robbed Jesus’ words of any meaning. I have a hunch Jesus intended his words to carry some explicit meaning.

Making peace is hard work. There’s seldom any pie involved. History makes clear that powerful nations are often just not willing to do the work. It’s much easier (in the short run) to pull out the guns. That’s a major theme of history. But Jesus said, in a land under Roman occupation and soon to suffer most brutal massacres of perhaps millions of people, “Blessed are the PEACE makers.”

As a Christian, I desperately want to help the innocent bystanders and familes who have been tragically affected by the war in Iraq. As an American, I want to take out those who pose any threat to me, my family and my country.

Yes. What a mixture of wants, eh? “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “love your enemies; pray for those who mistreat you” sound sweet and maybe even mushy, but it is a very hard thing.

The irony of it all is that the very government that so many protest is the very government that gives them the right to protest. Try protesting in Iraq or Iran.

But it is also ironic that this argument – that we have the right of protest and they don’t – is used to imply we should stop protesting what we whole-heartedly believe are dishonest and wicked patterns of behavior. If we have the right of protest, it is precisely because situations like the present will arise – times when many do not want to listen to any protests.

I was recently having a conversation with my brother-in-law about the whole “liberal/conservative” debate. One question I posed was, “How can you as a christian, support a party that takes the life of the unborn on one hand yet is pacifist on the other ?” Then I asked myself, “How can I be “pro-war” on one hand yet pro-life on the other?”

EXCELLENT questions! Here’s where Catholics (I’m not Catholic) have an interesting argument. They (some of them) talk about the “seamless garment” of pro-life concerns, and therefore take positions against abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, nuclear weapons, and in some cases against all war. You have to admit there is a certain logic to that (a logic I personally do not follow all the way).

Please note that being against this particular war does not make one a pacifist. War-making – even for those of us who deeply believe in the occasional moral necessity of war – is often obviously the wrong strategy, or is pursued in ways that are utterly counter-productive. Many, many Americans who are not at all pacifist believe that this particular war (with others that Bush wants to start) is radically unjust and unwise. Again it is not wise to follow the right-wing talking point that being against this particular war means one is a mushy-headed pie-in-the-sky idealist pacifist.

I justify my position by the innocence of the unborn being unable to protect themselves versus the choices of free thinking people make to try and take over the world. I honestly don’t believe that Bush is trying to make a bigger America unlike the radical Muslims who are tyring to make the world completlely Muslim. I do believe in Democracy in every country. Muslim, Christian or Atheist.

I found your site very interesting. I did find it to be a bit more “anti-Bush” than what I would align myself as but I didn’t find a whole lot for “Pro-Peace Republican”. I did, on the other hand, find quite a bit for “Pro-life Democrats”

“anti-Bush” – Yes, that is true.

We watched the movie “Crash” the other night, on the recommendation of a former student of mine. At one point Connie said, “That would never happen!” Wrong. It (gross power-plays, injustice, rampant greed and self-indulgence) happens all the time. That’s why Jesus was such a problem to the powers that be in His day – he would not bow or buy in.

Later one character in the movie says to another, a stranger (two blacks talking), “You are an embarrassment to me. You are an embarrassment to yourself.” And the second character actually experiences at least a little bit of a reformation.

I fear, and believe, that this President and his administration are coming to be very much “an embarrassment” to Christians of all kinds in this country and around the world. They are doing great damage to the long-term influence of the Gospel and the Bible. It’s going to be a very unpleasant experience for you and many others to come to realize just how much this has been and is so. But it is a responsibility we have to not hide from the realities of his behavior. He and they, after all, are doing these things in the public eye (although they are trying to hide much of it, plenty is still public). It is appropriate to call him on it in public.

I guess the bottom line is, I’m caught somewhere in the middle. I truly want to do what God has called us as Christians to do. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. I disagree too much with the Democratic party and don’t entirely agree with the Republican party.

Welcome, maybe, to “the Radical Center.”

There are a few Republicans changing their registrations to Democrat or Independent even out here in deep red Nebraska – not always an easy step to take. There are many more who are going to vote against Bush clones in the voting booth even though still registered as Republicans.

We attended the Nebraska State Democratic Convention recently. As our candidate for Governor said to us once, “Democrats are good, sensible people! It’s a good party to be associated with.” True, and we really enjoyed getting to know a lot of our fellow Nebraska Democrats. But we also experienced this fact: if you get actively involved with politics you will find people in any and every party who will make your head hurt and your stomach feel funny, and some who will make you quite angry. If we are going to be partisan at all, with whatever party, we need to accept that fact.

But, Republicans or Democrats, we do have an obligation to speak up. I personally feel an obligation to take sides in terms of party identification. Others do not. But we do have to take a stand for truth and for justice, against public fraud and lying and against brutality and rapaciousness. If that means a whole lot of Republicans have to hold their noses and vote for Democrats this time around, we encourage that voting-booth testimony. That is a true values-voter. And hopefully those who cannot vote Democratic will still vote – or abstain – on the basis of their deepest and highest values – and if they are Christians, vote or abstain on the basis of true Biblical priorities.

I thought maybe you could be of some help to me. I don’t want any Michael Moore or Cindy Shehan rhetoric. I would like a straight forward biblical approach to politics if you could. I really am struggling. I think that’s one reason, this email seems so scattered and I apologize for that.

Please write back. I would really like to hear your opinion.

__, I very much appreciate the courage and courtesy it takes to write an email like you have written. I was afraid I would write too much, and maybe I have. I hope it has been worth your while. These are not small matters. They reach deep into our guts. And they affect and alter our sense of what the world really looks like and what our place in it really is. May you find wisdom and some peace in your explorations!

And, thanks again for asking!

Sincerely,
__


I (admin) also should respond to the line about “radical Muslims who are tyring to make the world completely Muslim.” (That was written in a discussion of our occupation of Iraq.)

Iraq was a secular state, not a religiously controlled one. It was not at all Iraq’s or Sadaam’s agenda to “make the world completely Muslim.” Another right-wing straw man bites the dust. But it does seem to be the agenda of some in America to “make the world completely Christian” – as if it were possible to do that with guns!

Cross-posted at StreetProphets