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Treatise

A dear friend of mine has recently posed the question, “Why are evangelical Christians supporting Barack Obama with such enthusiasm?” This friend has waited too long for an answer, and I am afraid the one I have to offer will not satisfy him much.

I certainly do not have my finger on the pulse of the evangelical Church, I do see that Obama has electrified the electorate, and however people chose to align themselves, many groups are enthusiastically supporting Obama. Though I cannot explain why evangelicals are flocking to Obama, if indeed they are, I can attempt to give an inadequate explanation of why I am voting for Obama.

I am voting for Barack Obama because I believe he is providing the leadership America needs right now as we work through the significant problems that are the by products of the modern era, as we close a few chapters of our American history, and as we stand, poised on the cusp of a new epoch in the American story.

I admire Barack Obama because he draws people together. He does this, not by clinging to his party affiliation, but by calling to people of every persuasion and including them in the larger conversation. Rather than divide, as American politics (and faith) have done for so long, he wants to unite by including everyone, and he believes that government is the place where persons who are splintered into myriad groups can come together as one people. E pluribus Unum. From many, one.

Hope has been a major theme of Obama’s candidacy and of his public life, and it is a hope that insprires. As he has continued to sound the ringing bell of hope, he inspires hope in others, and in me. I think people want to have hope in a better future, but in the face of so much negative news, fatalistic threats, and personal economic uncertainty, hope can be chased away. I believe Obama has reassured many through his personal, optimistic belief in the simple yet powerful idea of hope.

In Barack Obama we see the current embodiment of our American ideals. We have always carried in our imaginations images of what is quintessentially American. As America has changed, however, those images have remained static: a mother at home on the farm in Kansas, apple pie cooling on the table, her soldier-son coming home from the war. But in Obama we see a new embodiment. He is racially diverse, ethnically plural, grounded in a faith discovered in adulthood, inclusive, progressive, raised by a single mother and grandparents, intelligent, hard working, devoted husband and father. A volunteer, a senator, a president. He is an American success story. He is diverse without being divisive. He is America.

I think his candidacy and presidency is a salve to the wounds of our American history. By electing an African-American man to the highest position in the nation, we can perhaps dispel some of the demons that continue to haunt our collective conscience. This alone is not reason to vote for Obama. This is not an affirmative action vote, but this an opportunity to vote for the better candidate and take another step toward racial healing. Our struggles with race are not over, but the historic and important role of Obama’s presidency is another turning point in the story of race in America. 

Barack Obama will improve the US’s standing in the world. The US is such a powerful influence around the world that what happens in the US matters to the world, and the world is watching. While Americans may be largely ignorant of the global community (one need only listen to a country and western song to confirm this), the global community is watching the US closely. Due in no small measure to events of the past eight years, the US as a whole is experiencing a dearth of goodwill around the world. It is encouraging then to learn that Barack Obama has a huge amount of support and popularity around the world. An Obama presidency would move towards repairing the image of the US abroad. In Barack Obama the world sees not only an American but a global citizen. Too few Americans, much less American presidents, have been such global citizens.

Whatever else can be said about Obama, it cannot be denied that he has run a hugely successful campaign that has eclipsed all records. Many have observed that we can get glimpse of how a candidate would run the nation by looking at how they run their campaign. It is a telling comparison. He obviously has strong organizational leadership qualities. His campaign has stayed on course, they have inspired those who have never voted before to vote now, and voter turnout for this election will be larger than any other election on record. He had accrued more volunteers, and more donations of $80 or less from private individuals than any other campaign. People are motivated to become involved, and involvement is what our nation requires. 

Lest anyone think I am naively imbuing Barack Obama with godlike qualities and creating an object of idolatry, let me dispel that idea now. I am not placing my hope in Barack Obama. He is just a man, and will undoubtedly disappoint. I am placing my hope in us as American people. Obama has simply reminded us that together, yes, we can.

In contrast, I will not be voting for John McCain, which is somewhat surprising to me, because I have always thought positively about McCain and expected to support him in a presidential election. I have liked his conservative positions mixed with his common sense, straight-talk ideas. His legislative record is strong, as he has partnered with legislators from across the isle and he has tackled issues the Republican base has opposed. His friendship with Joe Lieberman and his lukewarm embrace from the right wing of his party speak to his ability to be his own man.  However, McCain seems to have undergone a significant shift in his persona during this presidential contest.

He has abandoned himself in order to please the right wing of his party in order to get the nomination. Rather than unite the country, McCain seems only to want to divide. He has counted on a strategy that clearly delineated the “us versus them” in an attempt to curry as much support from those who did not previously count him among the “us” of the Republican base.

McCain’s seeming comfort with using military action is not what our world needs now. McCain joked about bombing Iran to the tune of a Beach Boys song. Perhaps it was a joke, but I think it was an honest glimpse into his way of thinking. Just like a surgeon believes the answer to every medical condition is surgery, it seems that John McCain believes the answer to every international challenge is military force. We don’t need another military man right now. I am fearful and weary of the next military campaign in the next outpost, where American might is diluted, where American character is questioned, where the American economy is poured into desert sands, and where goodwill towards America is dries up and dies.

McCain has acquired an appalling position on energy development. During the Rep. convention, the chant “Drill, Baby, Drill” revealed a recklessly cavalier attitude that boggles the mind. There is no hint of humbly making the difficult choice, picking the most hopeful way through a dark path. There is only the sentiment of “fuck it, you only live once. Let’s burn ‘er down.” Drilling may be necessary in the final days of the petroleum age as we continue to develop alternatives, but such an easy resort to an unsustainable and destructive resource is irresponsible.

Although I’ll give him points for boldness, McCain showed colossally poor judgment in his selection of a vice president. Yes, I think she is a good governor of Alaska. But Alaska is a unique place. As I have written before, it is a place where you can be whatever you want to be, mostly because there aren’t that many other people who also want to be what you want to be. You can be a radio personality, a pastor, a school principal, or mayor without much trouble. Sarah Palin does not have the experience, preparation, or the intellectual heft to fulfill the duties of the presidency. It is simply a rock too heavy for her to lift. And her acceptance of McCain’s offer shows either her blind ambition or her complete lack of self awareness.

While waging one of the most negative campaigns in presidential election history, I believe McCain has made statements about and accusations of Obama that he does not seriously believe. McCain has vaguely accused Obama of being a socialist and a terrorist. Not only do I not believe these accusations are true, I do not believe McCain thinks they are true. And if I am right, then McCain is selling his integrity and his credibility, and the sale price will still not be enough to win him the election.

McCain has also been a poor manager of his personal organization, the McCain campaign. He botched Palin’s roll out, solidifying her image as a punch-line while insulting her at the same time. His behavior was often erratic, such as during the first days of the economic crisis when he suspended his campaign, got in the way of real work being done, threatened not to participate in that week’s debate, and then debated after all. His campaign has often been adrift.

McCain clearly has more experience in government than Obama. But it is not experience alone that qualifies a person for the presidency. It is intellect, an appreciation for the complexity of the issues, the ability to inspire confidence, the ability to bring people of different groups and backgrounds together, to be able to bridge divides, to inspire what is greatest in ourselves.

At this time, I think we need a new generation of leadership. It is time to allow a new generation of voices the opportunity to address the pressing issues of our time. I think Barack Obama is the right man, at the right time, for the right job. 

Posted on Monday, November 3, 2008 at 10:44PM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell | Comments9 Comments

Reader Comments (9)

Hear, hear!!! Thanks, Brian, for sharing! And thanks for voting for Barack Obama!!!

Reading this made me excited again for what today is all about! Also, it made me home-sick for you and Stephanie--because I can imagine the four of us sitting around talking about all of this over coffee and home-made popcorn. We miss you guys!!!
November 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Kudos...

Very nicely written. I, too, will be supporting Obama with my vote.
November 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteralisha
Brian,

I love reading your daily blogs. I am glad that you and Stephanie got a date night.

Love Mom (Kathy)
November 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMom
Remarkable! I share your entire view as if I wrote it. We are probably as diverse as the classic american stereo-type would yield, yet I agree with you on every single point. I'm black-american, yet I have moderate views on politics and don't arbitrarily side with the 'left'. I've respected McCain for his courage and 'maverick' stance throughout his political career. I lived in Arizona and lived some of the good works of such a fine servant of the American people. I have been very disappointed since the beginning of the general election race with the way the Republican (McCain/Palin) party have represented themselves. I don't know much of Palin before the nomination, but looking through the campaign politics, she would seem to be a sincere, pragmatic, and positive person. Most Alaskans, that I have met, albeit independent are durable and inclusive people. They are hopeful and uniters in the face of disparaging times. I imagine that is who Palin is and who I have always believed McCain to be. I have not seen that in this election race. He adopted the strategy of a loser right out the gate – rather than selling his hope and promise to the American people, he spent far too much time trying to scare us on what Obama is not. Risky strategy, because in this time of extreme social-political fears, complacent or bad ideology appears to be scarier than who is running for president. Kudos to you! Your blog is very well said, and I appreciate your poignant perspective on this historical event.
November 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGreg R.
Wonderful post. Intesting that you address this to an evangelical, and include in your reasoning that faith has often been divisive in this country. So true.

Go Obama-Biden '08. A change I believe in.
November 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarissa
Very eloquent indeed, and I am certainly will not able to articulate my points for selecting McCain/Palin as well as you have done. However, have you asked yourself the question: are you and your family better off 8 years ago then today? Also, issues you didn't reflect are the pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage stance, and non-acceptance of key biblical principals such as Sermon on the Mount stance of Mr. Obama. If he profess to be a christian, then by definition christians are Christ followers. How can you justify that with your own faith and the biblical truth, if you believe it to be God's word? If that is not the basis of your life principals, then I stand corrected with my arguments. It won't apply to those who do not accept the Bible as God's word and truth.
November 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDad
This is not related to this post -but I <i>really</i> like that picture at the top of your blog! Is it new or am I just now noticing it? You're really a great photographer!
November 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBarry
wow...i don't know what to say. i lovingly disagree with you. you sound just like the media. when i see obama, i see someone who is a gifted speaker and a tool for the democratic party agenda. what is his occupational background? what has he actually done that shows his leadership as a senator, yet alone as president. he spent the majority of his time as senator, running for president. did nothing to make a name for himself or support anything that made him stand out as being bi-partisan. blamed the bush whitehouse for all of our troubles, not addressing the fact that we have been in a war since the 9/11 attacks, winning that war, protecting our physical selves and our freedoms, our ecomony is in a funk because of war-time, poor oversight by, yes the whitehouse in part, but primarily the democratic congress and senate with pelosi, reed and frank at the helm misrepresenting the state of fannie mae/freddie mac...selling bad mortgages domestically and overseas. when it comes to his financial plan, he is sporting a welfare state by taxing the wealthy and rewarding 40-60% of the population (depending on which financial statistic he is defining wealth on that day $250,000 or $120,000 sliding scale...keeps changing all the time) who don't even pay income tax therefore giving them money they did not earn. taxing the wealthy will only take away jobs, which, by the way, the jobless rate is 6%...lowest since reagan years. then come to his character....he lied about his association with reverend wright saying in the beginning he was just a member of the church and didn't hear his black liberation theological rants. then it came out wright led obama to his faith, was a spiritual mentor to obama, he married he and michelle and baptized their children. then william ayers an unrepentent domestic terrorist, said he was just someone who lived in the neighborhood. later came out they were on an educational advisory board together that gave out millions of dollars to support an extreme leftist view on education reform in chicago, and ayers held a political fundraiser for obama....not just someone who lives in the neighborhood. then the drama with acorn. obama said he has no ties to acorn, yet he gave thousands to their get out the vote effort, and served as an advisor/teacher in their leadership training. then how about his campaign financing. not reporting anything under $250 and receiving foreign campaign financing. these are just the things known....that he lied about. what's amazing is how these people, wright who condemns America, ayers who committed and supported attacks on America then said he not only doesn't regret it, but wishes he'd done more, and barak's own wife who expressed her own disappointment in America....all have benefited financially....live better than the majority of the country, because of the freedoms given by the constitution they condemn, those defending the constitution, capitalism and the freedom they have to speak the way they do.
i am so sad that America seems to have elected someone based on rhetoric, endearing personality and ability to utilize the media to deter anything which would defame his character.
mccain has given his entire life for this country. he's not perfect, but his character stands alone. i want a president who rewards those who work hard, not those who don't work. i want a president who when you strip down everything to the core of who he is, is honest and a man of integrity.
i am scared that now we have a democratic whitehouse, majority house and senate who supports more government intervention in financial matters, media, medical care, welfare...list goes on.
when it comes down to it...without all the pretty words, moving family history (which by the way only highlights his black heritage....only meeting his father twice, raised by his white grandmother and attending predominantly white/upper middle-class schools and universities)...who did America elect?
November 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMindy
I have to agree with Mindy on this one. I love you dear friend and I respect you; and your eloquence is enough to be marveled at, as does Barack Obama's. However, everything written here is based on pure emotion and feelings. There is no factual data here that tells me you think he will do what he says, in fact his record says just the opposite. His career has mostly been campaigning, not running a state as Palin has, but you would know more about Palin than I.

As an addendum to Mindy’s statements, I would like to add this one. Being loved by the rest of the World is not necessarily ideal, in fact I would argue the complete opposite. I know there is much diversity here in the USA, and I am thankful for the freedom we have to be diverse. For the most part, though, we are a Christian nation. Most of the hate for America comes from our Christian roots. God promises us in the Bible that if we are for Him, those that aren't will hate us. I am not arguing that we should try to be more hated and therefore more holy. We are hated, just for being. I am also not saying anyone outside of the US is Godless, or that every citizen or Government leader within our nation is a follower of Christ. But it is the foundation of our nation, and I believe we are loosing that more and more every day. As Christians, we shouldn’t be looking towards man for approval, but rather God. We are not apart of the world to make the world comfortable, but rather to show the world God. I just think if we become more mainstream with the current Global culture, then you are correct, we will be more loved by our Global neighbors. However, I don’t think that we should lessen our values and moral stances as a Nation, just to be loved by others. I am not saying that either candidate was the epitome of a Christian, but knowing Barack Obama is revered by the world, does not give me the warm fuzzies.

Anyway, the decision has been made and I will accept it because "It is he who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings...." Daniel 2:20-21a

As my 5 year old says, "God already knew Barack Obama was going to be President, because God knows everything." I can’t wait to see how His plan unfolds.
November 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKim

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