In honor of our most recent Election Day in the U.S. I decided to republish this post from the archives:
I am somewhat frequently interviewed by students here at MVNU for Research Writing projects, Public Speaking presentations, or Christian Life and Ministry papers. Tonight I was interviewed by Daniel Coutz. It was one of the more thoughtful interviews that I have experienced and I appreciated the approach. The conversation went something like this:
Daniel: “Respond to this statement: The United States is a Christian Nation.”
Travis: “No earthly empire is distinctively in keeping with the way of Jesus. Those who claim the United States to be a Christian nation need to enroll in a post-reformation church history course that discusses the period of American colonization. Also helpful would be a study in theology and philosophy to explore the definitions of theism, deism, and idolatry.
Daniel: “Do you feel the American flag should be displayed in churches? Why or why not?”
Travis: “No. The church is laced with a history of symbol and icon for visual engagement in worship and when one considers what the American flag represents I would have to question what one is worshiping. I would have no problem with displaying a flag in a church if it was displayed beside every other flag of every other nation so long as the symbol is understood to represent equality and unity.
Daniel: “Respond to this statement: The loyalty of a person belongs first to his country.”
Travis: “Why would one view an earthly empire as something to which giving loyalty is necessary or a priority? My suggestion is that most would give said loyalty due to an enculturation that promotes a sense of loyalty as nessecary. I would also suggest it has something to do with the supposed ‘safety’ provided by the military branch of a certain country’s government. Fear would be that which fuels loyalty to an earthly empire.”
Daniel: “Respond to this statement. Christians living in the United States should be patriotic about the United States.”
Travis: “One’s definition of patriotism would be primary. I find it problematic for a follower of Jesus to pledge his allegiance to an earthly nation. So in the sense that the recitation of the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ is patriotic, then patriotism may be considered contrary to ‘worshipping no other gods.’”
Sarah and I were talking about all the hype surrounding the inauguration event for the 44th president of the United States. It is, indeed, fascinating to observe the opinions and thoughts of a people who all-too-typically refuse to recognize the limited power of a supposed leader of a national empire governed by hopes and aspirations to prove its greatness over-and-above all other empires. Though Barack Obama’s position is historic and formative with globally astounding implications, a new man in office is just that: a new man in office.
The monetary salary for the presidential office is approximately 400,000 U.S. dollars (I’m not quite sure what that is in Pounds or Japanese Yen). Sarah was amazed that the elected "leader" of a nation is paid a mere $400,000 compared to the multi-millions "earned" by athletic competitors in the same nation.^ Though the inauguration events fascinate and entertain me, I am more astounded when I consider that citizens complain about taxes that provide public services and government salaries yet "happily" spend great amounts of money on their favorite team jerseys or tickets to "the big game" which supply the salaries of professional athletes.
If one worships an empire, are gladiator-type events entertaining enough to ease one’s consciousness when the empire cannot sufficiently live up to its imposed messianic expectations?
^ Quotations indicate a term frequently used that may or may not be an adequate and/or correct descriptor.
The 2008 election is just over a month passed. Barack Obama has yet to be inaugurated (coming to an unfair and unbalanced new station piping through an overpriced plasma/LCD screen near you on January 20, 2009). During October and the first couple days of November many people had changed their Facebook profile pictures to images of campaign propaganda or the smiling face of one’s preferred presidential candidate. Conversation about political issues was a seeming constant. Debate. Argument. Bantering. Battering.
Does anyone even care anymore? I have been trying to keep on the president elect’s office appointments. There is a life altering "economic crisis" going on. Yet I don’t hear all the conversation and political engagment. Is our reality determined by the media attention given to any certain issue at any certain time? Does anyone even care anymore? Where have all the politicians gone?
Suppossed citizens of the United States cast their ballots to elect new "leaders" for an earthly empire. I would argue that we are global citizens and neighborhood communities (or pseudo-communities) rather than national citizens (that is another post for another time such as soon). I did end up "voting" (whether or not a vote matters is yet again another post for another time). I was one of the voters in Knox County , Ohio that selected Barack Obama on my computerized touch screen. John McCain won Knox Co. 59%-39% (16,207 to 10,702) yet the state of Ohio favored Barack Obama 51%-47% (2,683,043-2,483,805). The Obama campaign used language such "The New Hope" and "Change We Need." My questions I must consider are these: "Is Barack Obama ‘The New Hope?’" "Is Barack Obama the ‘Change We Need?’" What is hope? From where does hope come? What is change?
I have heard that there are a number of people who are unfortunately voting for John McCain because Barack Obama is an African-American. I am tempted to vote for Obama simply to counter a racist’s vote against him. Is that a valid reason to vote Obama?
A theme throughout the comments on my last post centered around the concept of action being of greater importance than dialogue. I think that most of us could say that Shane Claiborne of the Simple Way (link in right column) is quite socially active and intent on being the person of Jesus for those who are otherwise overlooked by many supposed of followers of Jesus. I was sitting with Shane at the Envision Conference at Princeton just before he gave a portion of his presentation on Jesus and the Church. Here is a clip:
While at the conference I met one of Shane’s friends, Jamie Moffett . Jaime was in the process of producing a documentary called "The Ordinary Radicals. " The documentary was finalized earlier in September. Shane contributed to the video along with Jim Wallis , Brian McLaren , Tony Campolo, Rob Bell , and John Perkins (I also hung out a little with Jim, Brian, and John at the conference). Here is a portion of what Shane said for "The Ordinary Radicals "which pertains the the previous topics of engagement with the empire.
The Ordinary Radicals – Trailer from Jamie Moffett on Vimeo.
I found the amount of comments on my previous "Bantering and Battering" post much more intriguing than the content of the posts. I am not demeaning the value of anyone’s thoughts and contribution to the dialogue (they were quite insightful) but rather am expressing my observation that there are many and various opinions and stances that have generated much attention and use of time. Such popularity indicates that a post with political, governmental, and empire-ical themes unveils the value of Christian (or unChristian) involvement and engagment in the public square. Thank you for your thoughts and comments. I hope the virtual discussion will continue.
One question that I posed in the original post was, "Does my vote even really matter?" A comment indicated that the issues and implications contained within the decision of whether or not to vote "carry with them enormous weight and responsibility." Am I held responsible for the decisions of another person if I voted for that person? Since I (regretably) voted for George W. Bush am I guilty of killing thousands of people in a vengeance-initiated war? Am I responsible for irresponsibly spending billions of dollars that could have otherwise been used to feed and clothe people and provide education and clean water for our national enemies and/or neighbors? Did my vote provoke terrorism? If my vote really mattered then am I really an enactor of love representing the kingdom of God?
I have been perusing some random blogs and reading all the different viewpoints on the U.S. presidential candidates and their running mates (when I say "their running mates" it seems as if they are possessions). There are people from all types of religious and socioeconomic backgrounds that adamantly support either Barack Obama or John McCain . I have several problems not necessarily with either candidate but rather with the election process itself. The first problem is that the candidates, those in the campaigning process, and supporters spend so much of their time bashing the "opposition." What is especially troubling is that a self-proclaimed follower of Jesus will point out everything that is suppossedly wrong and unchristian about Barack Obama and then another self-proclaimed follower of Jesus will point out everything that is suppossedly wrong and unchristian about John McCain. Is such language really reflective of the love of Jesus? Should so much time be spent degraging a human and attempting to unveil the wrongdoing of another? And for what? Power? Political gain? Kicks and giggles? Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the fun that comes with a new political season. I laughed out loud for quite some time after watching Saturday Night Live’s skit featuring "A Nonpartisan Message from Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. " We would go crazy if there was not some humor to distract us and interupt the bantering and battering that defines a U.S. election. But what does a follower of Jesus do when real hatred and degradation characterizes the core of each candidates’ campaign?
Should I vote?
Should I choose the lesser of the two evils, thereby still choosing evil?
Should I fill in John Ballenger as a write-in candidate ?
Does my vote even really matter?
What decision best reflects a life that exists for the kingdom of God?