I quit talking when I lost hope of Utopia

I used to be a soapbox grassroots political passionate, from days spent longing for my 18th birthday as I watched a Presidential election pass me by in 1996 to fighting unionization in my 20's at my place of employment. I've always been an "issues" voter: worried more about the morality of government than anything else, I had a short list of issues that determined which candidate got my support. Through the years, those issues remained almost unchanged: women's rights; abortion; and issues of personal freedom and choice such as those defined by the Constitution and it's amendments. When I was 18, I was for the death penalty. Now I'm opposed to it. At 18, I would have voted against gay rights, raised in a Bible-banging fundamentalist cult and still a talking head for what I'd been taught in my formative years. Now I'm much less sure of myself: I'll vote for the rights of gay spouses in healthcare every time, and I don't know how I'd vote on gay marriage.

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But this political season has me silenced. I think mostly because I still desperately dream, somewhat delusionally, of a political arena that encourages balanced, although passionate, debate. Discord? Certainly. But with chivalry, respect, and a chance for everyone to get a word in edge-wise. I've never voted for a candidate I agreed with 100%, nor have I voted against a candidate I disagreed with 100%. Isn't it that way for every voter? Because there is no duplicate of the unique and wonderful YOU in the universe?

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It seems like politics are more polarized than ever this year. Maybe it's that I've never been through a Presidential election on Facebook. Maybe it's that I've finally made enough friends who disagree with me that I'm bombarded with more and more ideas very much other than my own. When we're not facing a major political decision, I love the back-and-forth that is now part of my daily conversations: many of these friends have gently and respectfully helped me expand my horizons and have even helped me work out whether or not my ideas are based on Scripture or just the pipe-dream pulpit-banging of a mouthy pastor.

I'm going to let the cat out of the bag: I won't be voting Democrat this election. But I won't be happy about voting Republican either. Because I am not a party-line voter. I no longer consider myself a "Republican", history in the Young Republicans notwithstanding. What I really believe in is freedom. Personal responsibility. Reaching down to help someone else rise up. Grassroots aid coming from the very communities needy people live in. I don't want to live in a socialist nation. I want to live in a free nation.

There's a big reason I feel this way: my faith. Not only am I commanded to love my neighbor as myself (Mark 12:31), I am told that "religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows" - and perhaps the uninsured? - "in their distress." (James 1:27) Call me a passivist hippie commune love-glazed freak, but what a country we would live in if we could somehow encapsulate Galatians 3:23-28 in a government!
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
I can't make that kind of change happen no matter how I vote in 2012. Maybe that's why I sigh every time I think of the election. Unfortunately, the main issue I'll be voting on this Presidential election will be economics. Our country is in serious money trouble. Someone has to find a way out of it. Our current administration has proven that it doesn't have an answer to balancing the budget, plugging the holes that money is leaking out of, and still accomplishing what the Federal government needs to do. One major reason? It has kept adding to the ever-longer laundry list of what the Federal government "needs" to do. What needs to happen - hopefully before we become the next Spain, Portugal, or Greece - is a long, hard look at that list, and some serious prioritization and budgeting. We've got to quit borrowing to accomplish our goals. We have to make our goals fit into our budget, somehow.

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The Constitution states that we shouldn't overthrow Government lightly, lest we all suffer even greater than we currently do. Yet when a "long train of abuses" and "Despotism" are evident in our Federal system, it is our "right...duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for [our] future security."
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. (from the Declaration of Independence, signed by 56 supporters of Freedom on July 4, 1776)
If we are to continue to exist as a free nation, we cannot print money like it is mere paper. We cannot borrow what we cannot repay. We cannot vote individual mandates into law, as we did with the Healthcare Reform Act, penalizing people for inactivity, which is unconstitutional. We cannot be ruled by fear and propaganda, such as the misinformation regarding the uninsured population statistics - which did not take into account illegal aliens and other non-citizens nor those who choose to live without insurance due to youthful ignorance, stupidity, or lifestyle - used to push the Healthcare Reform Act through the House and Congress in 2012.

We have been, historically, a creative breed. We've worn our "melting pot" brand proudly. We've been known to work together enormously successfully on occasion - think World Wars and the Great Depression. We've survived horrible rifts such as the Civil War, Prohibition, and the Civil Rights Movement. Great changes have been effected by large groups of people - women and children, minorities, religious groups, and even political organizations. We've transformed our nation over and over again. Today we look nothing like we did in 1776. If we survive another 200+ years, I imagine it will be a totally different patchwork quilt of people and ideas. Will there be more harmony? The pessimist in me doubts it. But I want to believe it is possible. 

I am more than willing to reach a hand across the aisle and grasp yours in brotherhood. I promise not to be a bad sport if my side loses. I won't quit speaking up for what I think is right - because that is what makes our nation great. But I love you just the same. I love atheists, lesbians, Muslims, liberals, humanists, drug addicts, commune-living hippies, researchers who wear hideous business suits. All kinds of people who don't look anything like me.

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Whatever your political stripes, I encourage you to remember that the world will not end on November 6, 2012. We must maintain our relationships as we struggle through these great debates that are coming in the next few months. Because when the dust settles, and a new or returning President claims victory late that night, WE will be what's left of this nation. WE will determine which senators and congressmen get elected in the wake of the Presidential election. We will vote our opinions over and over again. We will spend our money on what we value. We will speak freely as long as we are able. We will build the bridges and come up with the solutions and make amazing suggestions that politicians will grab from Twitter and Facebook and your blog and mine and call their own.

Don't stop talking. But for heaven's sake, don't stop loving either! Perhaps our founding fathers said it best, as they concluded the Declaration of Independence: And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Part of the Faith and Politics synchroblog hosted by Andi Cumbo