Monday, March 03, 2008

Why I am voting for Barack Obama

"How can an Evangelical Christian vote for Barack Obama?" I've been asked.

How can an Evangelical Christian vote for anyone else? That is my honest response. While I will not, as some in the Christian Right have done, attempt to manipulate by suggesting that a vote for any candidate but my own is "sin," I will say that it is less than sensible or visionary in my opinion to fail to vote for Barack Obama.

Barack Obama is a self-professed life-long Christian (despite the hateful emails lying about his involvement with Islam and slandering his real Christian beliefs). He offers something we have not seen before in my lifetime, and perhaps in American history. In fact, he offers a number of somethings.

* He is liberal, but in a maverick, populist vein. That is, he views governing as a common task between the American People and those they elect. Rather than a "let me do that for you" approach, he over and over again has said that this election is not about him -- it is about us regaining control of and responsibility for our nation's direction.

* He expects to make mistakes. Unlike his Democratic opponent, and certainly unlike the current disastrous administration, Barack Obama is a realist about the complexity of governing and of human limitations. This makes him vulnerable to critique among some camps, but from a Christian point of view smells a lot like humility. God knows the White House needs some of that!

* He has energized an entire generation of young people in a way so unique and unprecedented the full implications of it are yet to be felt, even though they already have effectively assured him of the Democratic nomination and quite likely the Presidency. This "movement" quality to his campaign should not be lost on observers. While movements are, historically speaking, fragile, they also are often huge catalysts for change. Which brings up...

* Change. Change, admittedly, is a slippery word. George Bush and Karl Rove brought change... and it just about has wrecked us, economically, militarily, reputation-wise in the world, and spiritually/emotionally at home. That's one kind of change. But Barack Obama's campaign -- and only his campaign -- discovered the tremendous tension caused by the political split in America engineered by (more than anyone else) the previously-mentioned Karl Rove. Obama's message? We can move past that divide, finding a new center, a place where in this pluralistic democracy we can still become one people.

* Obama as a pastor / inspiration / fire-bringer has revealed in himself a type of leader we have not had often in this nation. Hillary Clinton's sturdy yet predictable "fighting" stance alienates, even though I like her personally and (had not Obama appeared) have backed her. But she has none of Obama's hope, choosing instead to cynically mock him and it as "words." We Christians are people of the Word, and know well just how far-reaching and life-changing words can be and have been to us.

* Obama's specific platform is one which many Christians, esp. those influenced greatly by Matthew 25:36-41, will resonate with. The afore-mentioned passage ends this way: "And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'"

* Barack Obama's optimism will be tested, has been already in fact. But his faith in Christ, to which he has borne explicit allegiance repeatedly, is built on a firm foundation.

* Oh, and yes, Barack is a man of darker persuasion, skin-tone wise. As a biracial individual, he is also more aware of what it takes to function in a pluralist world than many of us are. The fact that he will make history as the first non-Caucasian President is intriguing, but on its own meaningless. Why it has meaning is because of who he, the individual, is. A man of uncommon wisdom, unusual discernment (witnessed to by his persistent resistance to the Iraq War when others in his own party okayed that disaster), and singular skills both as a vision-bringer and as a grassroots organizer, he may be as close to a great leader as we'll ever find in these usually visionless times.

* But what about... oh, yes, there are issues we will disagree with Barack and with most Democrats on. But I suggest those issues have been treated cynically to get votes by Karl Rove and company. And it may be time to craft a whole different approach to such issues which consists less of attempting a legislative solution and more of bridge-building to find common ways to resolve them.

* Finally, Hope... this is the issue that Hillary and others mock. Yet it is precisely what we want from a candidate. Barack calls it "the audacity of hope." Again, isn't that a biblical theme? As long as we don't mistake this present world for a future Kingdom, can we really go wrong by exercising hope in a world with so little of it?

Conclusion: Change happens not just with one man, but rather with many women and men working together, infused with a sense of hope and of purpose, and guided by principles which are mutually respectful and even self-sacrificing. Barack Obama has promised us all that in order to move America ahead as well as to provide for the weakest and least among us, we will all have to sacrifice. If that is not something deeply reflective of the Christian love (agape), I'm not sure what Christianity is.

Jon's facebook group "Evangelicals for Obama" (hunt for it/me when you're in your facebook pages) also has a donation page -- goes directly to Barack's campaign, not through our fingers even!

Then, of course, there's the Barack Obama site, which the above photo if clicked also leads to...

Christianity Today also did an interview w/ Barack Obama a while back. The comments section is fairly vile in spots. (Ohmygawd Barack's middle name is Hussein! THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!)

A 2006 Washington Post article discussing a speech by Obama on why Democrats could not, and should not, ignore evangelicals. is a place where old fans of the Chicago Post-American can flaunt their bald spots. Hahaha! But really this is Sojourners magazine's site, a place where progressive evangelical voices -- some of them, anyway -- can be clearly heard and where a candidate roundtable featuring Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards offers views into their respective positions on faith, politics, and the intersection between the two.


Of course I expect a bit of flaming for posting this... this is BlueChristian! This post has been long in coming. I've procrastinated long enough. Who knows, maybe I'll be the single difference in Ohio and Texas and Vermont and Rhode Island tomorrow! (HA! Not likely, Trott... verrrrrry not likely.) Anyway...

Jon "Hussein" Trott

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dave said...

Great post...

Just a note - it should be Karl Rove, not Carl Rove.

Jon Trott said...

ACK! Thanks. Fixed.

Jon Clayton said...

I am not sure I agree. Nor am I sure I disagree. However, I do respect the candor...

@bdul muHib said...

Thanks Jon. Great thoughts, as always. Si se puede!

One correction I'd add too, which I think you'll appreciate the importance of- Obama's not a life-long Christian. Rather, he's a professed Christian who actually made a decision to follow Christ as an adult- when he was younger, he certainly wasn't Muslim, but he also denies that he was Christian. As with most evangelicals, he sees following Christ as not something you're born into, but rather as someone you make a conscious commitment to.

Jon Trott said...

Hehehe... how unevangelical of me! I suppose I mean in his adult life. He has belonged to one church here in Chicago for the past 20 years. Today this issue popped up again, thanks in part to some VERY ambiguous sounding comments by Hillary Clinton. That despite the facts -- clearly explored by various news agencies -- that neither his past nor his present has involved any adherence to Islam. Period. Further, he has been involved with Christian faith. I am annoyed not at you, of course... rather, I'm venting my frustration at Clinton's thrice-repeated comments that "Barack Obama's not a Muslim... as far as I know."

The Clintons are King and Queen of word-parsing. Absolutely, and there never will be others like them...


@bdul muHib said...

She repeated that quasi-denial three times? Now, where have I heard a similar story?...

For all these conservative Christians spreading the rumors of Obama as a Muslim or an ex-Muslim, I ask them, "Which would you prefer? A man who has grown up in the Church, or one who converted from Islam?" I mean, seriously, isn't that like, the exciting story- the conversion from another religion- for evangelicals? And though Obama wasn't Muslim, he did do the adult conversion deal, from more atheism. Conservative Christians are totally missing an opportunity to hype that up- this is Good News. Or so I was raised to believe. Stupid Jesus Freaks screwing my values up...

otto said...

Good stuff Jon.

How do we get around the abortion issue in light "the least of these?"

I tend not to be a single issue voter, commonly voting for 3rd party candidates, but the abortion issue is no doubt a huge issue for the church.

Personally I had hoped it would have been Gulianni running against Clinton for the presidency. Then the church would have been totally flustered and deadlocked on who they could vote for. I can just hear Jimmy Dobson now.

It could still turn out in my favor this way. McCain is no good guy as far as the church is concerned and maybe he will pick Gulianni to be his running mate. It would be a fun year to watch the church short circuit!

RC said...

i appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

i'm glad you even are able to find hope in any of the possible candidates.

Anonymous said...

Trott -

You are the most consistent ass on the planet.

I think it's your bisexual leanings that are attracting you to Borat Osama.

Your poor, stupid wife. She must be so disappointed that she fell for a fool like you.

Wishing you nothing but the worst.


@bdul muHib said...

Jon, I'm so sorry! I know from personal experience that words online like that can really hurt, despite their completely obvious lack of truth. One would wish that an attacker would have the courage to name themselves, or at the very least be able to come up with clever word play rather than stooping to rather troglodyte insults. But truly, I know you know the best thing to do is simply pray for Joy for all the Anons out there.

Anonymous said...

I myself feel we are lacking in a choice of decent canidates. I def do not want Mc Cain at all (who also believes in abortion and stem cell research)
At least Obama is real to earth on medical care needs. I like many are uninsured and can;'t afford health insurance. Obama I feel would bring this to light. So I am 90% sure im voting for obama, I cant imagine voting for hillary or mc cain...... He is so liberal he might as well be a democrat

AmericanCitizenUSA said...

A Christian cannot vote for Barack Obama. He supports tax payer funded abortion. In partial birth abortion, a baby is pulled out of the birth canal until its neck is exposed and then a scapel is shoved into its neck until its brain stem is severed. I don't want my tax dollars going for abortion. This issue alone is enough reason to know the morals of the man.

Jon Trott said...

AmericanCitizenusa wrote:

"A Christian cannot vote for Barack Obama."

Actually, a Christian can vote for whomever she or he pleases. In fact, most of us try pretty hard to vote as we think we should vote when informed by Scripture, discernment, and a whole way of seeing which is not unduly affected by preconceptions which are rooted more in culture than truth. Note, I say this even as I hold a very strong opinion who the "right" person is this election. Unlike many on the Right and a few on the Left, I refuse to proclaim God as having rubber-stamped any candidate as "his" or "not his."

Re abortion, partial-birth or otherwise, I have probably written more pro-life articles than you've read. Further, I participated in Operation Rescue (before Randall Terry and others destroyed the movement by aligning it with Dubya's dad's campaign). The Church failed to use non-violence as a weapon to battle abortion, and instead want to put more and more right-wing justices on the Supreme Court. All we've managed to do in that regard is create a court more open to reactionary interpretations of law. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court since 1980 (when the Repubs took over and -- except for the Clinton era -- kept the White House, has not made any significant change to Roe v. Wade.

Further, if Roe were "flipped," what we'd have then is a state by state ruling on abortion. Likely outcome, not radically different than what we have now, except for a few states whom would outlaw it.

Further yet, the term "Pro-life" is one which only has staying power if as a culture we make as extravagant an effort on behalf of born children and their single mothers as we're making for the unborn children. Republicans are astonishingly obtuse on this point, as are many Evangelicals. "Don't use my tax money to help that mother financially!" Oh, but do make sure she has the baby, despite having no support structure around her to even care for herself, much less raise the child? Hypocrisy.

Finally, until Evangelicals take on the burden of Life overall -- and that includes the killing of mothers and wives, children (born and unborn), as well as husbands and fathers in Iraq and around the world -- their words ring hollow when whining about abortion.

I am pro-life, and will always be pro-life. But I refuse to be held captive by mis-definitions which hold "pro-life" to be merely the protection of the unborn. Community -- loving one's neighbor -- is in the Christian sense something that has no boundaries. I am responsible for my neighbor, whomever that neighbor may be. And while I will not say "a Christian cannot vote for Candidate X", I will say that to fail to think through some of these issues very, very carefully before repeating as biblical the boilerplate of Carl Rove / John McBush is singularly non-discerning. And I think that I, too, have the Spirit of God.

@bdul muHib said...

American Citizen- It sounds like, however, you are okay with tax funded dollars going to killing people on death row, murdering civilians and soldiers in war, killing animals in the environment and thereby encouraging our ultimate destruction, and supporting an increase in poverty here in your own country and around the world, leading to increased starvation and death from lack of access to medical care and insurance.

I'm sure you can come up with good arguments for justifying all of those positions that McCain would support. But you have that choice to make those decisions. You choose those options, and support a candidate who supports those options. As for me, I'm not Pro-Choice. I'm Pro-Life, and in a Seamless Tapestry.

Jon Trott said...

Argh. Said "Carl" instead of "Karl" again re Karl Rove. Sorry.

Aoede said...

[Quoting from the Christian Matthew 25 Network at]

Sen. Obama does not support Partial Birth Abortion. He has stated this repeatedly over his long legislative career. Senator Obama told Relevant Magazine,

“I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term.” [3]

Some will cite Senator Obama’s ‘present’ votes on Illinois Senate Bills SB203, SB 1093, SB 1094, SB 1095 as evidence of support for partial-birth abortion. [4] However, Sen. Obama did not believe the legislation would pass constitutional muster. He has supported legislation which bans partial birth abortion as long is there is an exception for the health of the mother." [5]

Jon Trott said...

I've since this post covered much more on the abortion front; check my links bar for the newest (lengthy) stuff. Thank you.