I write as a woman in a very Republican family. The Thanksgiving after the last election I was the only one who voted for President Obama of 30 people around the table -- and I suspect that will be the case again, this year. Most of my neighbors will vote for Romney, as will my best friend of 25 years. My sister has volunteered for the Republican Party for years, and family friends are Republican members of Congress.
As you make your decision, I offer to you what I know -- because it may help you make your decision . . . and because for some of you, to vote for President Obama will cost you. So this is why I will vote for President Obama -- again.
I have a unique perspective on who President Obama is. More than 20 years ago as we were both in our twenties and both asking the Big Questions we both went to Jeremiah Wright. I have held off on writing this until the last day because I question if this piece will matter --and because of my desire to not lose friends or family. But in the midst of a very close election, in the hopes that it helps explain, I offer this.
When then-Senator Obama and I spoke about Rev. Wright at a party honoring him in his retirement we both spoke of how we didn't know how we would have made it without him, even though we wish he would sometimes change how he says things.
Why bring this up the day before the election? Because I want to live in a world guided by the principles that I've learned from the Bible that Rev. Wright has preached for decades. These are some of the things that I've learned:
- God's passion for the poor is throughout the Scriptures -- from the Levitical Code to the Prophets to Jesus' words to the warnings we find in the book of James. I am called to be an American Christian -- not a Christian American. There is a big difference. If I live in a nation where policies are punitive toward the poor, I am called to decry them.
- God creates different people differently and on purpose -- and all of us are God's children. As a woman in ministry when there weren't many of us, it was Dr. Wright who encouraged me to be who and what I was created to be -- just as he has championed all those he has pastored.
- Sometimes bad things happen -- and we need to support and encourage each other. Sometimes AIDS happens. Sometimes people use money unwisely. Sometimes people make bad choices. One time when I asked Dr. Wright why he was so patient with my youthfulness a decade previously he smiled and asked me to turn to the Bible where he pointed out John 8 and the woman caught in adultery -- "and they went away, one by one, beginning with the oldest first." Hopefully those of us who have lived a few decades can offer grace and welcome all people at our table.
- Sometimes other peoples' bad choices affect innocent people -- and we are called to care for each other. And to name injustice as injustice. Many recent polls have addressed the subtle racism that is present in our nation. As Dr. Wright pointed out, "You can't repent of something you haven't confessed" -- and our nation has yet to confess of the sin of racism. Racism has affected this election.
- For any of us who have given birth, we know that life is sacred. The enormity of feeling that little one inside of you. The hopes and fears that cocoon our children as we seek to protect them--and yet give them wings. But I also know as a woman that, as one nun expressed, "You can't outlaw abortion -- you have to outlove it."
As a pastor I have seen so many who have endured the pain of the challenges that have sadly become campaign slogans--from abortion to homosexuality to healthcare issues to immigration issues. We have a lot of hard work to do in the next four years. And regardless of who wins, God is still God and we are still called to love our neighbors as ourselves.
In these past four years I have pondered more than a few times on one of my favorite sermons of Dr. Wright's entitled, "When You Forget Who You Are" about Esther. In this story she almost forgot who she was. I have grieved when our President has forgotten who he is in the midst of the political battles that have become the norm. When this election is done our nation will need a lot of people who will seek to be peace-makers. Not sweeping issues under the rug and saying "Peace, Peace -- when there is no peace" as the ancient prophet Jeremiah referred to. But really saying -- what can we agree on? Not politically fueled "compromises" that are paid for by deep pockets who expect something--but where and how can we agree?
I went to hear Ann Romney speak a couple of weeks ago. She passionately believes that her husband is the best choice for America. I am certain that she believed everything she said--but I grieve when she uses words like "we want to take our country back." Back to what? My husband wants to believe that it refers to when the Republicans ran the nation--but I suspect that it refers to something else. When I see red lawn signs where we live proclaiming, "Take Our Country Back in November" I can't help but wonder--Back to What? To when African-Americans couldn't vote? To when women couldn't vote? To when we pretended that people aren't gay?
Our nation is changing -- for the better. Our multiplicity of cultures and religions is a strength -- not a deficit. We didn't see Sikhs, Muslims, gays, African-Americans, or tattooed people in "Leave It to Beaver" but we do in Milwaukee and Minneapolis and Mid-America.
When the rhetoric dies down we will need to decide what comes next as a nation. My hope is that President Obama will be elected. My hope is that those whose chief goal has been to be on the "Stop Obama Express" will be open to bi-partisanship. And my hope is that, if you're undecided, that you will realize that, though imperfect, President Obama has sought to be President of all the people.