I asked my neighbor Marge today if she thought a good Christian could vote Republican.
She was just trying to unwind the cord on her electric lawnmower and I think the question took her by surprise. I asked her because she's a good Lutheran, the widow of a career Marine, the mother of four and grandmother of several. Like Sarah Palin, she's had her share of mothering challenges--kids with drug addictions, unmarried pregnancies, grand-daughters gone astray. In the forgiveness department, Marge has come a long way. She's one of the least judgmental people I know.
"I don't know," she said. "You should probably ask someone else. I haven't been keeping up with politics much. I know everyone in my church is going to vote Republican, except maybe me. They hand out a piece of paper that tells us who we ought to vote for, and most people just go with that."
"But what do they base it on, the things Jesus talked about or the things he never mentioned?"
"Well, he never said anything about homosexuality, except love everyone all the time; he never said anything about abortion, but he did say we will be judged according to how we judge others. He never said anything about gay marriage but was fierce in his condemnation of divorce. 'Let no man put asunder...' I think a good Christian is someone who takes a stand for what Jesus took a stand for---peace instead of violence, dignity for everyone, caring for the poor. Don't you think those are the things we should be considering?'
"Well, yeah, that makes sense, but it doesn't work like that. My sister is a Christian in Texas and when I told her I was all for getting out of Iraq fast, she couldn't figure out why I cared about Iraq. 'What's that country got to do with you? Why do you even care about it?' She couldn't even understand why it hurts me that all those people have lost their lives."
"Do you know how she's voting?"
"She'll vote for whoever her husband is for. It always goes like that. Whatever he believes, she believes. So they'll go for McCain. She likes Palin, too. Feels good about having a woman in there."
"Yeah, I'd like a woman in there too, but Sarah Palin kind of scares me. She doesn't believe in global warming, she doesn't want gun control, she's against reproductive rights and sex education. Yesterday I saw a clip of her talking about how the Alaskan pipeline is God's will. And today she's talking about maybe going to war with Russia. That's not the kind of leadership that inspires me."
"Me neither. I have another sister who used to live in Alaska. She likes Alaska so she'll be voting for Palin just because of that."
"Boy, that doesn't make much sense, does it?"
"Nope. But it's true. I think you oughta talk to some more people in the neighborhood. Give 'em something to think about. Like I said, I haven't tuned in yet. I don't know if I'm going to go for Obaman. I know darn well I'm not going to do what the church says, just because they say so. And I've never liked McCain, so who knows?"
"OK, Marge, keep me posted," I say as I head back over to my yard.
"OK," she hollers back, "and keep those questions coming. I'll be thinking about it all day: can a good Christian vote Republican? Let me know if you find out!"
I went back into the house wondering if we'll ever become a nation of original thinkers, or of we'll just keep voting the way our churches tell us, or our spouses, or because we like the state the person came from.
As for being a Christian, I have to vote for the "we" not the "me." I have to care about all of us---the poor, the immigrants, the refugees, the families in Baghdad and Afghanistan and Bosnia. I have to say NO to war, and not just this was, but all wars. Today the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen admitted that "we can't kill our way to victory." Not now, not ever.
War is an obsolete solution, as was slavery, as was child labor. I wonder if Christians really gave some thought to what their wise and holy teacher said about non-violence, about the poor, about what we do to the "least of these..." if they wouldn't cast their vote for the person who took time to remind us at the national convention that "we ARE our brothers and sisters' keepers."