by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
Yesterday I read the Kansas City Star’s article that President Obama endorses gay marriage. I thought to myself, “That’s it. I will never vote for Obama.” The knee-jerk reaction echoed of my past single-issue voting record. I was always against abortion as a constitutional right (Roe v Wade). I was against it until I realized I was a political pawn. The conservative Republican and religious right have not been able to repeal Roe v Wade since 1973. And they never will, nor do they really want to do so. Repealing Roe v Wade is just power politics. What a goof I am – I was a single-issue voter. Am I still?
This gay marriage thing is cast out there and I bite – at first. Of course states determine marriage laws so Obama’s opinion is cultural ideology. While very important, it lacks any force. And by the way, my thoughts about homosexuality these days are sourced out of John Milton’s Paradise Lost,and the modern philosophical split between symbol and the thing signified, nomena and phenomena when we talk about love. For “love” these days is only thought of in subjective terms – this also goes for heterosexuality, and marriage between two genders as well. I question if “love” is really “love” without the objectivity of procreation? Not even parenting is objectified – but the nomena of love is the ability and action of “love.” We live in a phenomenal worldview only. I don’t think we know what love is (sorry Forest).
Back to the blog’s point: single-issue voting. This week I wondered ‘so if I was a single-issue voter now, what would be my single issue?’ It is no longer anything to do with abortion and it never was anything to do with this parody of love in today’s culture (I also mean pornography, divorce, lust – all the favorite sins of the modernist religious moralism today – those sins “within the skin.”) If forced to be a single-issue voter today I might choose to vote against Arizona’s SB 1070, which allows Arizona law enforcement officers to question anyone regarding their alien/citizen status. Upon reading law it seems especially focused on people hiring aliens (illegal immigrants), everybody’s cars, and employers. My thought is despite the civil rights intrusion SB 1070 just sounds like a big hassle for employers.
SB 1070 is indicative of our present culture’s FEAR. We American’s fear everything. If FDR once said in 1933 that ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ then I say these affluent unipolar super-power days “the only thing we have fear is EVERYTHING!” And fear we do. When you’re at the top the only way is down. Our current politics-as-theater political system is driving America further into fear and hopelessness. Unless we make some critical changes to our out-of-date political system, we will become an insulary mean-spirited people – nothing like the core value of America, and nothing like Jesus.
We lack confidence even though our economy is still solid. That’s weird. Apparently our politics are not so solid. And our cultural identity is ambiguous. Fear. SB 1070 is about fear. Our foreign policy is driven by fear. Take our responses to terrorism. Terrorism only works if we FEAR. What a strange military strategy – terrorism only works if your target is terrorized. Fear. We bit. We continue to bite. Stranger yet, we think the way out of fear is through unilateral military actions. That is not what we did in the past. We didn’t fear in the past Great Depression. These days we act more like the 1950’s McCarthy-ism than that confident inspiring FDR during the Great Depression.
There was day when America’s strength was its openness to the next wave of immigrants. Our openness makes our economy work. After all, who – Californians and Arizonians – is going to do your yard work for $6/hour if you kick out the illegals? Entitled Americans? Ha. We have lost our identity as a nation. Fear is killing our spirit.
We must regain our Americanism as an open society. This is not just a some squishy sentimentality. Nor does it come from a Christian perspective, which I will put forth in a moment. Openness is the core of American strength. Like John McCain once told the country: “Get on the damn elevator. Get on the damn plane.” Instead we fear – everything. How un-American.
Loving gays is a part of this openness. Not just tolerating or looking away but embracing. Under my philosophical position if we judge gays then we must judge divorce. Why be indifferent to the sin of divorce but not gays? We either love everyone the same or judge everyone the same. Let’s at least be consistent.
Back to illegals… and the Bible. Leviticus 19 (You knew this was coming, right?) says,
33 “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. 34 Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
The whole 19th chapter is about fairness, openness, justice and doing the right thing. If we can apply a hermeneutic for today, then Americans must remember that ‘once we were slaves in Egypt.’ We we once immigrants, maybe slaves. My colonial ancestor was an indentured servant in Jamestown. A kid who illegally ran off to the Ohio River basin. So if today’s fear-mongers had their way they’d throw me out because of what happened almost 300 years ago. Yeah, and they’d probably have to throw their selves out as well.
If I was a single-issue voter these days (and I might still be), my single issue might be illegal immigration- against things like AZ’s SB 1070 or in favor of The Dream Act, which provides higher education for the children of illegals – children who have never lived any where but America. Aside from the biblical mandate to love your neighbor, The Dream Act benefits America economically. Educate the illegals and it is an investment in our economy – not a drain. Don’t educate the illegals – that’s an economic drain in the long run.
All this is driven by fear. These days Americans react to threat with fear and then anger and then violence. This has nothing to do with Jesus and being Christian. It is anti-Christian. Let us remember that Jesus’ most famous parable is about “an illegal” Samaritan who acts more Jewish than the elite Jews of Jesus’ time. Who kept the law? The Samaritan. The Samaritan acted “legally” according to the law of the Almighty Just One, YHWH, our g-d.
This election year I am going to choose my candidate based on who looks the most like Jesus. That’s my new single issue. In the past I separated my politics from my faith. I separated my Americanism from my soul. But through the last decade of contemplative prayer and refusing to listen to pop Christian culture, I believe I have been actually sitting at the feet of Jesus – doing the “one necessary thing.” And out of this priority of prayer my compassion and tolerance for others has grown to become my single issue. Sure, my friend the Rev. Dr. Craig Babb will say ‘aw that’s just an age thing.’ And that might be true in part. But I cannot ignore the Voice’s role in shaping me these days. It is counter-cultural. I am fighting against the hegemony, principalities and powers of fear and compulsion. It is a spiritual battle that plays out each day in the newspaper I read and the choices I make to either “trim the edges of my fields” or leave them for the aliens in my land.