March 6, 2007
Gordon MacDonald's 2008 Questions
A bumper sticker I saw the other day asked, "Is it 2008 yet?" From the other stickers on the car, I surmised the political change the driver wanted - and soon. My reaction, after the chuckle, was the desire to skip a year of pointless arguing and name-calling. Can we simply hit fast-forward, and cut out the campaigning and haranguing by 12 or 14 months? Umm, no.
Gordon MacDonald's desire for the next year would appear to be the commitment by Christians to true scrutiny of the candidates, a year of asking hard questions about what really matters. His insight is below.
The other day I read this headline in our newspaper: "Christian Right Leaders Struggle to Find a Strong Candidate for President in '08."
It turns out that, a few weeks ago, there was an unpublicized meeting in Florida at a five-star hotel during which "Christian leaders" discussed who they would support in the upcoming presidential race. I worry about a situation in which a few people who are very adroit at seizing the microphone presume to make a movement out of all of us and then speak on our behalf.
I was not raised (by parents or mentors) to think politically or to participate in public political dialogue. My generation of men and women who felt called to the Christian ministry were told that our task was to develop deeply rooted Christians who would transform our discipleship into action items such as work ethics, family strength, financial responsibility, moral choices in entertainment, and responsible political decisions. It was not "ours," we were taught, to form or join political organizations and use our privilege as Christian influencers to pick and tout candidates from our pulpits or TV/radio shows or print publications.
But the rules seem to have changed.
And people like myself who are a bit unhappy about this may have to speak up a bit more. Thus, in an idle moment I imagined myself invited to the Florida meetings, and I began writing down issues and questions I would like to have raised had I been there. I am somewhat confident I know what others who did go would have talked about. So on my list I went in other directions.
As the various names would have been raised at the table in Florida (Clinton, Romney, Obama, McCain, Edwards, Giuliani - please note the randomized sample offered without prejudice), these are the questions I would have raised:
1. Can he/she give us a government that will recoup our reputation in the world as a generous and compassionate nation? And could he/she take more seriously the fact that a large part of this world now finds our country distasteful? And this goes for Christians in other lands also. (I'm embarrassed every time I go abroad.)
2. Is there a candidate brave enough to influence the formulation of bold new initiatives regarding energy-consumption, health-care, and Social Security? (If there isn't, the year 2030 isn't going to be a good year.)
3. Does he/she think they could stop putting our grandchildren in hock with hideous deficits? (Isn't being debt-free a Christian value?)
4. Would he/she take the issue of climate change and environmental care seriously? (It is God's creation, and some more generations may have to share it.)
5. Would he/she pledge to be so truthful with the American people that no reasonable person would question their integrity? Let's describe this as being Lincoln-esque. (I'm tired of spin.)
6. Would he/she renounce all forms of torture in the treatment of prisoners? (I'm ashamed that this is even an issue in America.)
7. Is he/she concerned about the growing social crisis of the separation between the rich and the poor? (It's becoming a gated world out there and one day there may be a new kind of homegrown terrorism.)
8. Does he/she think they might rethink the exporting of billions upon billions of dollars to places like Iraq when a few billion would make a lot of difference in the education of American children and the absurdly rising costs of college education? (I can't believe we are so silent on matters like this.)
9. Might he/she intend to offer any form of moral influence that would raise the tastes of our nation in its choices of entertainment, the spending of its money, and its growing addiction to sports? (Or does Rome live again?)
10. If there is ever again a justifiable reason to take this nation to war, could he/she make sure that everyone becomes involved in the sacrifice that war requires? To date the burden or war seems to be on a relatively small percentage of Americans while everyone else goes on living the so-called "good life?" (You destroy a nation by doing it the way we've been doing it. How did we forget Viet Nam so easily?)
11. Could he/she see themselves being as turned on by the dream of alleviating diseases, suppressing genocide, and rescuing the dying nations (debt forgiveness comes to mind) as America once was about getting someone to the moon?
These are all questions with an admitted political ring to them. But each arises from my convictions as a biblical person.
If I'd been invited to Florida to ask my questions, I would liked to have described an experience I had the other day while waiting at an airport gate for a plane. I found myself seated across the aisle from a young couple in their early twenties. He was suited up in army fatigues, a duffle bag in front of him. It was clear that he was headed for Iraq or Afghanistan. Next to him was his girlfriend or his wife (I couldn't tell).
I watched as she virtually connected herself to him from head to toe, trying every other minute to get even closer. The look of anguish on her face as she came nearer and nearer to the moment of their final goodbye was the look of one facing death. And I said to myself - as I watched youth in all of its idealism and romance about to be wrenched apart by forces over which they had no control - this isn't the way it was suppose to be. Somebody please change this!
Thus my final question for candidate: are they willing to do so?
Author and pastor Gordon MacDonald is chair of World Relief and editor at large for Leadership.