Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Fun, Firearms, and Faith

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a member of the East Coast Liberal Elite. Fine. When do I get my free hair shirt?

However, I think that the Democrats have gotten this whole national-election thing wrong in some fundamental ways. Perhaps it's my rural New Hampshire roots or my frequent contact with red-staters, but I got me some idears about how to build a Presidential candidate who will play in the less-elite provinces of this great land of ours.

1. The Associative Property: Please, I beg of you, can we find a candidate who is even remotely likable? Don't get me wrong: Kerry is a damn good man. But you know who else was a good man—nay, an even better man? Mike Dukakis. And look where that got him. Let's agree right now not to put forth a candidate who inspires a person to create a Web site like this one. Our candidate needn't be over-the-top regular-guyish, like our Dobie Gillis-like president. But he also shouldn't be straight out of an episode of "Dynasty" or an Ivy League supper club.

2. Blood Work: If, as the sage Peggy Noonan avers, this election came down to "God, gays, and guns," it is the last of this trio that offers us the best chance of peeling votes away from Team Jesusland. You see, despite my hard-earned Ted Kennedy School of Government credentials, I own guns and enjoy shooting some of God's creatures and then eating them. And I ain't alone. But the average Nebraska hunter does not really believe that people like me exist. In his mind, the words "Democrats" and "guns" are always separated by "want to take away my." That's why Kerry's little goose hunt was the object of much derision. And that's why a lot of voters who would agree with Democrats on many issues—the environment, the economy, etc.—still vote Republican. If we had a candidate who enjoyed killing both beasts and fowl—and if we had the blood-soaked, tongue-lolling photos to prove it—you'd start to see the Dem's environmental agenda gaining some currency out there amongst the peeps. A huge population votes Republican on pro-hunting issues alone. They don't care about abortion, homosexuals, or prayer in schools. We can talk to those people. Look what happened in Montana.

3. God on OUR Side: Democrats have allowed the Christian Right to boil an entire belief system down to the twin pillars of anti-choice and defense of marriage. How many times did Jesus mention abortion and homosexuality in the New Testament? You guessed it: zero. To paraphrase that great philosopher Bono, The Christian Right stole this religion from Jesus; we’re stealing it back. The new pastor at a local Congregationalist church here in blueville wrote this in the local paper:
According to many exit polls in largely Republican states, voters apparently rated concerns over "moral values" as an overriding concern. This appears to center on the defense of marriage (about which both candidates shared a nearly equal position) with the legality of abortion and stem cell research in tow. As a Christian, I readily affirm that these topics demand faithful reflection and debate. But how, I wonder, did these particular values float to the top? Why aren't Christian supporters of the president equally passionate, at the very least, about the explicit values of Jesus as they are about heterosexual marriage?

Jesus consistently stands in solidarity with the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed. Shouldn't all who follow Jesus similarly advocate for the needs of low-income people and those who have historically been denied a fair shake in our society? Shouldn't we support leaders who seek to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots?…

God has no national preferences. The body of Christ is worldwide. Do we look for leaders who reach out to global partners to confront the struggles that affect all of God's children? Do we commit the heresy of imagining God wrapped in an American flag, protecting American interests? Could it be that the above are not understood or vigorously defended as "traditional values" because the Christian majority has no real tradition to speak of in pursuing them? I hope not, and yet I fear that this is the case. In the end, this is has nothing to do with words like conservative or liberal and everything to do with how faithfully and fully we follow the values of Jesus.

How about our candidate talks explicitly about this version of Jesus on the campaign trail? Perhaps we ought to throw up revival tents all across Red America and preach this version of the gospel. Sure, the hardliners won’t listen, but at least more-thoughtful Christians will have something to consider.

These three things would go a long way toward opening the eyes and ears of many who voted Republican this time around.


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