Obama, Palin and the 2008 Election

During the last election seasons (Fall 2004 and Fall 2006), I was living in Vienna as I taught in Lipscomb’s study abroad program.  I wish I were there now and blissfully ignorant of all the rancor, sniping, and despicable comments. And not so much from the candidates themselves (though they cross some lines) but from their supporters, bloggers, and media outlets.

It is particularly distressing to see Christians taking snipes at Palin during her speech and it is equally distressing to see Christians using insulting language towards Obama. It is almost as if loving our neighbors is not applicable to the political arena.  The kingdom of this world–and its political brawls–in such cases trumps the kingdom of God.  The language of Ashdod–the political rancour of attack–replaces the kingdom invitation to mutual forbearance and the search for mutual understanding.

The election cycle deChristianizes us, I fear. It puts the kingdom of the United States at the center rather than the kingdom of God. 

I recognize the need and value of policy debates, just as I recognize the need and value of Christians wrestling with how to be Christ-followers in a broken world and even disagreeing about how to do that.  But the debates and disagreements do not undermine the kingdom call to season our speech with salt and speak lovingly with each other.

Despite all the unpleasantness, I celebrate that both parties have broken ethnic and gender barriers in their own respective parties.  I celebrate that an African American can run for President on a Democratic ticket (which is quite a change from Democrats sanctioning slavery and passing Jim Crow laws in the 19th century).  I celebrate that a woman can run for Vice President on a Republican ticket (which is quite a change from Republican opposition to women’s suffrage in the 19th century).  These are historic moments. 

I celebrate them for what they represent to my mind. I celebrate them because it reflects a movement toward something greater than the United States of America.  It is a movement toward the embrace of the values of the kingdom of God where ethnicity and gender are no longer barriers to full participation in community. This is a positive moment in our history as a nation. It represents something better and greater than who will actually become President or Vice President.

Our nation, of course, is not the kingdom of God…far from it.  But it is redemptive for our nation to embrace the kind of diversity that welcomes women and African Americans to our nation’s highest offices. The election of Palin or Obama will be progress on that count.  If there is any “joy” in this Presidential season, this is the joy I experience.

Unfortuantely, for me, this joy is overshadowed by the malicious attitudes and words that fill the political air.  Even in this moment when our nominees point us to the kingdom of God in terms I have just described, at the same time kingdom people are so emeshed in the kingdoms of this world that their speech is more like Ashdod than it is Jesus. 

I find myself even more entrenched in Lipscomb’s worldview as I hear the sounds of hatred, insult, and personal vendettas rather than of peace, love, and mutuality.  Perhaps Lipscomb was right….people cannot involve themselves in the kingdoms of this world without at the same time losing something of the kingdom of God in their lives.  Maybe he was right…I certainly see empirical evidence of that in this election season.

15 Responses to “Obama, Palin and the 2008 Election”

  1.   John Pyle Says:

    I am new to your blog, However I must say that this election season has sickened me the attacks on both Obama and McCain have been anything but Christian as you have so wonderfully pointed out. But my commit is this at what cost are we willing to argue for or against something that in my mind has little to no purpose when it come to OUR ETERNITY? Why as Christians do we feel obligated to judge the character of anyone other then our own selves especially when we clam to be “Christians?”

  2.   Gardner Says:

    Amen and amen! I too have found myself distancing myself more and more from all the political hype, and taking refuge in the fact that I am of a greater kingdom than this country. Though I love the USA, I have to acknowledge that it is in spiritual and moral decline, but that my greater allegiance is to a greater kingdom. Maybe Lipscomb did have it right.

  3.   benwiles Says:

    Politics in 2008 is not so much ideological engagement as it is spectator sport. Republican vs. Democrat has become just another Yankees vs. Red Sox, Auburn vs. Alabama, or Right-Thinking-Human-Being vs. Tennessee.

    See there? Even I am not immune.

    You’re right about what this means in an election year. As game day approaches the volume and intensity of the rooting parties is ratcheted up several degrees. And just like during Michigan-Ohio State week, even Christians are not immune to the fever.

    It’s not about the ideas but the rivalry. And that’s what is simultaneously fun and maddening about fans. They scream. They yell. They assume that anybody who says or does something that hurts their team’s chances of winning is either blind, an idiot, or has bad intentions.

    BTW, has anybody ever had the courage to stand in a pulpit and say that 1 Peter 2:13-14 applies to how we treat basketball referees?

    The good news is, when the game is over only the most die-hard partisans will wake up the next morning excited about another match down the road. The rest will put on our “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos” shirts and go on with our lives.

  4.   rogueminister Says:

    John Mark, I do believe that this is the best post about the political season I have read in any venue. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts brother. It was a real blessing to read and convicted me to be more careful with my thoughts and language. Even a Christian Anarchist like myself gets caught up in the ill-will and negativity. So thanks again for bringing some positive light during this time.

  5.   Richard constant Says:

    Let’s see how does this go, was a long time ago that I used to think about politics

    I triy to explain things to my kids like this,

    Were taught that we live in a democracy, although it’s really a representative republic
    Representatives get their money from generally special-interest groups to finance their campaigns.
    That makes Representatives obligated in principal to special-interest groups
    special interest groups by definition have an agenda, and by helping a candidate they expect their agenda to be expedited.
    Political parties have the platform which is another word for agenda, they will do the same expedite their agenda.

    So when it comes to the character of a politician and he is said to be a principled man of high moral standing.
    These inner workings of our political process tends to corrupt a principled man, which is necessary, because of the continual state of compromising principles because of expediting an agenda to be part of the great machine which has been corrupted by the political process that’s in play
    to meet this leads to principled men compromising their principles because they have to expedite an agenda, that’s either based on a political platform by a party, or because of pressure put on the individual by the special interest groups, that he took money for that will help him with an election the next time that he needs to be.
    What this leads to over a period of time are unprincipled on ethical men because when you compromise principles because of an agenda and your compulsed to do something that goes against your principal you start dealing with situation ethics and situation ethics by definition are unprincipled

    So as far as I’m concerned harding is absolutely right
    and when ever we say anything concerning this area, outside of the kingdom of God outside of where we are to live in our hearts and minds we become unprincipled to that degree also.

    Politics ba humbug

    I’d rather talk about God’s sovereignty, and his Christ sitting on his throne ruling the nations for the church

    Blessings rich on the left coast
    maybe the shame of the United States, is that maybe in God’s eyes this country is no longer fit to live

  6.   richard constant Says:


    i live with one of those.

    those old boy’s have no idea of the meaning of the words….
    and just what did you mean, when you said that!

    if elected.
    those old boy’s are going to be in a world of hurt.
    i pray.

    as am i MOST of the time. boy oh boy 🙂

    i can’t wait.

    blessings rich in ca

  7.   Frank Bellizzi Says:

    Thank you for this fine post.

  8.   Steve Kenney Says:

    “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

    Titus 2:1,2 (English Standard Version)

    When was the last time you heard political speech from ANY party in ANY nation that met this standard?

    Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Politics is about the distribution of power. Nations align and define themselves according to power structures, but God’s kingdom does not seek coercive power. hmmmm. So how would a Christian step into that system and yet maintain kingdom values? I think success would begin, at a minimum, with an awareness of how difficult the challenge actually is. That awareness would mute, if not eliminate, the current demands that Christians engage the world politically.

  9.   bkeithb Says:

    Amen, John Mark!

    I’m a modern day Lipscomb when it comes to politics and politicians!

    And, I’m constantly amazed at how quickly some of my brothers become “unChristian” when an election year rears its ugly head!

    My bumper sticker says it all – “Nobody ’08”


  10.   Ray Patton Says:

    Thanks for the post, John Mark – B.U. Watkins would be proud!

    On a side note, if McCain/Palin win the election, I’d be curious to see how (or even if) this affects our discussion of women’s roles in the church (I realize women have held political offices for some time, but I’m not alone in understanding that this seems to set a new precedent for women’s leadership in our culture).

  11.   preacherman Says:

    I think if he really had power in pick a VP it would have been Joe Lieberman. I think some higher ups in the GOP chose Palin again because she is a women and they thought women would vote simply because he chose a women. I think it is a political ploy. It is a hail mary for the republicans.

  12.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    It amazes me that we can sometimes read other people’s minds. Many others read it quite differently. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and we can all be supicious of stated reasons candidates give, but it seems to me that we cannot be certain about what we think when it comes to the real motives.

    We take it as it is, and make our own judgments about how to vote. I find it unproductive and unChristian to judge the motives of others.

    I found the comment to be out of character for your “preacherman.” Did someone steal your address and website to speak in your place? I suspect such.

    I have edited the post above to remove a body part.

  13.   angus Says:

    Dr. Hicks,

    I totally agree with everything thing you have said. I must say that I do not like politics, but it seems that it rears it ugly head every where and when it does it seems to cause another fracture in the fragmented American church. It causes set backs in unity of spirit and people, and the “New Humanity” that the apostle Paul speaks of in Ephesians seems but a distant dream. But I pray Godspeed the day that these things take a back seat to the Great Kingdom of God and that we can all be ONE in the Lord Jesus despite political affiliations. Thats why I simply align myself with Jesus. I am a Christian and that is it and all I ever want and need to be. May God’s great will be done on earth and in this election, as it is done in heaven.

  14.   Joe Woodfin Says:

    Amen, and thank you, John Mark. I used to think that Lipscomb was unrealistic…that there was no way to solve “real problems” without getting involved in “real solutions,” i.e., government solutions. What I have come to believe, however, is that Lipscomb recognized something that many never do: that splitting allegiances between God and the world, no matter how tempting, is impossible. (As a matter of fact, I think the Lord said something like this himself).
    But praise be to God that even in something as divisive as this election, God is redeeming the world by breaking down barriers of race and gender toward a time when all is at peace.
    Thanks again!

  15.   Bruce Says:

    “Christus Victor”

    Loved your take brother

    “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Tim 2:2-5


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