Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Honest Prayer to my Lord for my President

Almighty Father in Heaven,

You are Lord. Help me be still. And know, that you are God! You are God! I come to you still a bit perplexed and disturbed. I know that you are sovereign and that you are good, and in your arms I rest. I desire so much not to be "ye with little faith". I know, as John Quincy Adams said, that "duty is ours, but victory is the Lord's". But I also know that you know my heart, my cares, my anxieties, and my sin. And you know my confusion and my frustration, and you can handle hearing about it, even though you already know. I appreciate that you desire that I ask of you, and you will provide in your perfect will and timing. You can even handle a little anger and questioning. You are God! And you are good, all the time.

So I come to you kinda broken, kinda mad, kinda confused, and kinda scared. I couldn't sleep after the election was called. I was emotional about politics! What in the world? I know that we were not voting for a savior. I wrote about that and was convicted about that 4 years ago. I know my Savior is Jesus Christ, and him alone. I know that your kingdom, the everlasting kingdom, is not of this world, not to mention this country. Yet, I am fighting to believe it a little. Not fighting for my life, say, or for my salvation, but fighting to believe it in every context of every part of life, namely, this week, in the outcome of the American elections.

Lord, you convicted my wife and I to have carry out Indian food and pray for the unreached Tanti Hindu people in Northeast India as we watched the election coverage. And it was awesome! But I feel convicted that I allowed the distraction of the election results to reduce the impact of that experience. I was not just a casual observer to a remarkable historic process, or even a trusted follower of you watching history unfold. I was an invested participant, with much at stake, who was legitimately worried that your will would be thwarted. I confess, and ask that you would forgive me! I know you have. Thank you Jesus.

But I know you didn't want me to be just a casual observer. You wanted me to participate, and then deal with the result. And so I'm dealing. And it's not easy. Lord, you know my most intimate thought, and so you know why it's not easy, but I want to tell you anyway, because I delight in union with you in prayer, and I know you delight in it also.

It is not easy because I am nine years into my family's business, and have increased responsibility and increased stake all the time. And we are in a transition season of our company, and it is hard. The stats for success for third generation small businesses are not good. We have our work cut out for us, and many people's livelihoods are at stake. And Gracious Father, I sincerely do not believe that my President remotely understands what we are up against, even before the burdens we have from his approach to governing. I don't believe this because, although he mentions support for "job creators" and "small businesses", his policies and philosophy bumps up against our efforts, and decreases our incentives and abilities to grow and to hire at almost every turn. I don't think he does this intentionally, just naively. And he doesn't seem to listen to those who know what they are talking about in business. I personally know of no businessperson in my network that believes he is helping business. I am sure they are out there, but I do not know them. Father, please help the President understand and see the big picture of small business, job creation, and economic growth in our country. Give him ears to hear, and humility. And help me and my company and my industry be patient, work hard, be outspoken, but also gracious, as we pray for and follow the leadership you have ordained. May the President's lack of experience in business not hinder his success any more, and may he surround himself with wise advisers to support him in leading our country to prosperity and our people to opportunity. I trust you Father.

It is not easy because I myself am at a much different life stage than I was in 2008. I was concerned then, but it was just me. Now I have a wonderful wife, and God willing, before Barack Obama's second term is over, I might have a child. That raises all the stakes. And I am concerned. Lord, things that I didn't think about practically, but only theoretically, are now real to me. Things like the national debt are real, in the context of a family, and raising another generation. The cost of health care is more significant when its not just you. Lord, of course I want as many people to have health care as possible, and the least of these without it is not your will, but why is an unpopular, government-mandated option with no regard for costs the right course of action? Is that not a reasonable concern? Lord, search my heart. May there be no offensive way in me. Also, things like financial investment are more real when you're in your 30s. Thoughts about investment for kids, for education, for retirement, are no longer hypothetical. And I am concerned investing in an environment that depends on a government that is highly in debt. Is that not shrewd? I am concerned investing in an environment that would punish gains and wealth. Would I not use wealth ultimately for your glory? Am I off base here Lord? I pray that President Obama would have humility and confidence as he explains and implements his heart for these things. And open our ears to listen, our mouths to discourse respectfully, and our hands to action, lest we be hypocrites.

It is not easy because the reaction to the outcome of this election from friends is all over the map, and in some cases Lord, it is deeply concerning. Some seem apathetic to what is very important. Like many Christians throughout history, they would sooner disengage than bring their perspective and ideas to the table. Some seem despondent, as if hope is lost. Some seem elated, and almost giddy, as if their hope is in something other than Jesus. Some seem proud, and hardhearted to things I know you care about, even while they support and speak for other things you also care about. Some seem angry. Some seem unwilling to make, or listen to, a reasonable argument. Help all of us be more like Jesus. Father, I pray that you would help the President maintain and apply his desire to unite and not to divide. May it not just be rhetoric. I pray that I would be patient and kind, and assume the best in those who seem to not know what they are talking about, or care. I know they might just disagree. Help me be humble. But help me be bold, and informed, and my words be gospel-shaped and God-glorifying.

It is not easy because I know...I know!... that you care about the unborn and to be pro-life does not mean to not care about women's rights. O Father, help us articulate our compassion for women as we defend the unborn. Is it not there? Search my heart, and give me your words. Help me discern and engage with those who automatically believe that I lack support for women in need just because I would defend the unborn, half of whom will one day be a woman themselves, if we would allow. Give me self-control to communicate my passion and what I know...I know!.. to be your heart, in light of stories that are just so ignorant to the pro-life cause and what it is really about. Stories like that promoted by "Daughters for Obama", about a 50 year-old woman who always wanted a little girl, but at her age did not desire to be pregnant, and when she was, and her long-awaited little girl was born with down-syndrome and only lived to age 6, she was in deep despair, and presumably would have rather her little girl not have been born, but aborted. O Lord, the foolishness and the tragedy of this! Help me show compassion for women in these situations while defending the preciousness of the life of those like little Felice. Lord, give us wisdom and humility to do the right thing to all involved in these situations. And give the President, and those in Congress, compassion and a listening ear to govern in a way that protects women and the least of these, who have no voice, and will never have a voice, if we don't let them live. Is "Unborn for Obama" not just as significant a cause as "Daughters for Obama"? O, that you would make that happen even within four short years. You know the names of the numerous daughters who were never born.

And lastly, it is not easy because in retrospect, the result of the election was not only predictable and unsurprising, but also in some ways it is not all bad. And I don't like to admit that. In 2008 I supported John McCain in large part because he represented a candidate who would not promote himself as much as he would work hard to help the country, whereas Barack Obama seemed to promote himself, almost as a savior, in his efforts to help the country. I believed then, and I believe now, that such an approach confuses who is truly our savior, and would not only distract Christians from your global glory and purpose, but also be a hindrance to communicating the gospel to those who don't believe. And in some ways, Mitt Romney was perhaps a similar candidate with a similar approach. His continuing remarks about America being the "hope of the earth" is confusing and dangerous savior language. Perhaps this focus was outside your will, and therefore an explanation for the result. Thank you for your graciousness in giving us clarity and access to the gospel of Jesus Christ. May we honor it and proclaim it! Some day Lord, we know, it will be less accessible and welcomed. It already is in many places. Father, give the President humility to see himself and the government not as the solution to our problems, but as a helper, and an institution that can promote great good, and restrain great evil, through the structures that you ultimately have established and held together.

I see now that the result may have not been all bad because the country is changing, and certain trends are better in the open than underground, so we can have the opportunity to discern and respond to them. It is clear now that the demographics of our great nation have gone through a transformation, and any political party that ignores the scope of minority groups or issues that matter to them, will not likely be in governing power. It is good that this is clear. Father, remind me daily that I am a Christian before a Republican, a citizen of heaven before a citizen of this world, or this country. But as a Republican, and a citizen of this world and this country also, help me communicate priorities and adapt to changes, without compromising convictions. Lord, in your mysterious will, you have provided an opportunity for those who believe strongly about life and family to reevaluate the way we articulate convictions, so as not to mislead or turn away those who disagree. Help us be clear, and bold, and compassionate. Father, give us your words so that we always have a reason for the hope that is in us, and a reason for why we defend the unborn but still support women, and a reason for why we defend the traditional view of marriage and family yet still support equal rights. As Christians, help us clarify, and rethink, if necessary, our views on immigration, foreign policy, climate change, and care for the poor, so that we are in line completely with the truth of Scripture, and convincing in our efforts. Give us a clear conscience, Lord, and a winsome spirit, as we engage in these issues. I pray that the President and all our elected officials would not consider "conservatives" to be out of touch, but still a relevant and helpful voice for the common good. And may we take advantage of that openness to hear us out by being clear, bold, and compassionate in defending what we know is non-negotiable, and being humble to what still requires healthy discourse and disagreement.

I love you Lord, and I trust you. Give me discernment to speak and act in a manner worthy of you, even as it applies to politics. Give those who disagree soft hearts and open minds to hear reasonable arguments, and in disagreement help me be patient, gracious, and understanding, and help common ground be gained for the common good of all people, and ultimately, for exposure to your great gospel so many may hear and believe, and you may be glorified. Please help the President and elected officials work for the common good in a selfless way. Help your church be a light not just to this nation, but unto all the nations, with eager anticipation of your coming.

I pray in the name of Jesus Christ; Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Biblical Political Philosophy

So, I have officially read every article on the Internet about the election. Most of them are saved on my jump drive. I am told they are finished writing them now, so I have adequately caught up. Someone informed me today, though, that I should not believe everything I read online, because some people are either crazy or stupid, or both. I was glad to be informed of that, otherwise this post could have been a lot different. Crisis averted.

I assure you I am neither crazy nor stupid. However, it is hard to imagine that any contribution of mine would have any affect at this juncture. Yet, I proceed nonetheless. Someone out there has to care? Otherwise why would all these people be writing and talking about it all so much?

Let me start by making a few things clear. I do not believe Barack Obama is a Muslim or born in another country. I do not believe Mitt Romney is a rich snob who doesn’t care about the poor. I do not believe Barack Obama desires to ruin the moral foundations of our country. I do not believe that Mitt Romney is going to impose a Mormon worldview on the country. I do not believe Barack Obama desires to appease our enemies and leave us in great danger. I do not believe Mitt Romney is a liar or a fool. I do not believe Barack Obama is a Socialist. I do not believe that Mitt Romney is a man of questionable or inconsistent character. I do not believe Barack Obama is corrupt. I do not believe Mitt Romney hates women or is indifferent to their rights.

Imagine how much time and silliness could have been saved if more people just agreed with my previous paragraph and continued on with serious and intelligent discourse? My goodness. Instead, irrelevant and unintelligent conversation has dominated the “stump”. Oh, what could have been.

But with that as introduction, hopefully people of all political affiliations can now hear me out. Especially Christians, as ultimately, this post is a plea to Evangelical Christians. They are, in the end, the only segment of the electorate to which I would claim even partial influence. Why? Because I is one. What follows is how I have approached this election, and God willing, will approach every election going forward. I hope it can be challenge and encouragement.

First, I establish prerequisites for the candidates. By this I mean, of course, that in order for me to consider a candidate at all, a few criteria have to be met. Let me warn you that it is impossible to hide my ultimate thoughts until the end, and even at this juncture, my “vote” will be revealed. I truly expect to lose many with my choice of criteria to use as “prerequisites”. Please don’t let me lose you! Even if you disagree, I am extremely serious about these, and as long as I have breath I will contend that they are not only relevant, but logical and non-negotiable to the Evangelical Christian.

First, the candidate must defend the sanctity of human life. What does that mean? Well, I have formed my definition here in large part through the influence of Ronald Sider and his book, The Scandal of Evangelical Politics. It means several things. It means that he or she defends the unborn (in addition to the mother) and supports efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate abortion. It also means that he or she is opposed to the unnatural taking of elderly life because of someone’s definition of whether it is their time. It also means that he or she is opposed to efforts to trifle with human life in the form of genetic engineering, human cloning, or embryonic stem-cell research. It also means that he or she is proactive and vocal in reducing preventable starvation within our country and around the world. On these things, neither candidate for President is a shining star. But it is clear that Mitt Romney meets the prerequisite criteria and Barack Obama does not.

Consider the ever-sensitive abortion issue: Richard Mourdock from Indiana was the subject of much news because of his out spoken defense of unborn life, without exception, which I wrote on in my last post and explained as the coherent, biblical, pro-life worldview. He went as far as to say that even in the unfortunate case of rape, that abortion should not be allowed. And all hell broke loose, and very few who disagreed were willing to hear this simple and coherent argument explained. It is a fair question, and those of us who hold to pro-life without exceptions should be prepared to explain it. So to, though, should those who hold to pro-choice without exceptions be prepared to explain how they could justify killing a baby who is 7 months in the womb, who is perfectly healthy, in a mother who is perfectly healthy, with the husband and father around, and two other children at home. Mitt Romney has explained his stance on the tough and rare issue of abortion in the case of rape. Though I disagree with the exception, he meets my prerequisite criteria because he would support efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate abortion. Barack Obama has never explained and justified his stance on the abortion of a perfectly healthy baby and mother with husband and father, brother and sister at home. This is quite appalling actually.

So it goes. I am NOT a one-issue voter. But applying a simple prerequisite system, using issues that, as a Christian, simply are non-negotiate by any faithful reading of Scripture and awareness of church history, I can’t even get passed the first sub-point of my first prerequisite criteria. The good news is that this means I don’t have to spend a lot of time discussing my second prerequisite criteria, namely, marriage and family. I’ll simply quote Sider: “Through federal and state legislation and constitutional amendments, we should insist on the historical definition of marriage. Vastly more important, however, is the long, tough struggle to persuade heterosexual couples to keep their marriage vows and promises to their children. The right kind of legislation can help some. More vigorous, biblically famous teaching and discipling in our churches can do much more. Somehow, if our grandchildren are to live in good, just, healthy societies, we must find ways to restore wholesome, joyous, faithful marriages and families.” It is fairly obvious that one candidate meets this prerequisite while another does not.

If, someday, neither of the candidates meet these prerequisites, that will be an interesting discussion about whether voting or not voting is the best course of action. Clearly, this time around, voting is the right and necessary thing to do.

If, someday, both of the candidates meet these prerequisites, that will be an interesting and necessary discussion about numerous important issues that I have many thoughts on, such as, foreign policy, the economy, health care, debt, size of government, climate change, immigration, etc. In fact, in my extensive reading I have considered the candidates almost exclusively on these issues before I even finalized my prerequisite system. It is true I knew I was not going to vote for a candidate who did not defend the sanctity life and traditional marriage, for example, as these are issues that go beyond the realm of politics and into the theological realm. But I wanted to be informed and aware of the differences and the nuances of these issues. I think I have done that, but unfortunately, I don’t have the time to break all that down for you. Suffice to say, Governor Mitt Romney comes out as the candidate who fits within my biblical political framework, without a shadow of a doubt.

This is without question one of the quicker blog posts I have ever written. I regret that, as I have so much to say, and there is no way I communicated effectively here. Hopefully I at least communicated a biblical political philosophy, or encouraged you to develop one. Probably just reading Sider’s Scandal of Evangelical Politics would be the more complete way to gather everything I am saying. If you’re like me, you won’t agree on every page. But you will be excited and convicted to immerse yourself in Scripture to find out how to glorify God in your political participation.

No matter the ultimate “winner”, I hope to post a very heartfelt prayer for either Obama or Romney the next morning, for their families, their protection, and wisdom in leading this great country, all the while expressing my trust and dependence on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose kingdom will have no end.

Happy voting!