Thursday, September 11, 2008

The (non)Partisan Truth has fairly analyzed all of the popular claims by both major parties in this election and recent elections. Is Obama really against nuclear energy as McCain boldly proclaimed? Find out. Is the picture of Sarah Palin in a bikini holding a rifle real? No.

Some partisan fun: vet McCain and vet Palin I suspect does a better job of getting the full story.

Faith in the Election

While there is something to admire about each of the candidates in the Presidential race, and I am sure all four of them believe they are doing the right things for the right reasons since only comic book villains commit evil for its own sake1. I cannot find myself supporting a position based primarily on fear of our enemies and how we can overpower them. All of the candidates should subscribe to the notion that we should not repay evil with evil but overcome evil with good. I assume this because they all report to be Christians, and Romans 12:21 is not controversial to my knowledge. It is not in the Gospels, but it does corroborate the admonitions against the use of power. I am pretty certain that "good" does not mean "good bombs", and if we want to be a shining beacon of goodness and power in the world, we have to give up our tendency to abuse that power. Our purpose is not the redemption of just ourselves but of those with whom we live, and our nation's purpose is not just the redemption of those fortunate to be protected as citizens but of those who despise us as well. This is the hallmark of the non-violent opposition. Evil must be overcome with good, and if the means are not good, the evil we fight will not be overcome but simply displaced. The result of that is either a never ending fight against ever more enemies or the conversion of ourselves into our own enemies.

How can we overcome evil with good? First we have to know that good does not come from fear. Concern is not fear. Preparedness is not fear. Fear is the animal response that we must hold onto those things that are precious to us. As Frank Herbert writes, "Fear is the mind-killer." What I call faith is the alternative to fear. The only certitude needed for this faith is this: Be not afraid. The good comes from faith, hope, and charity. At first this looks like the fear<------->love continuum ridiculed in "Donnie Darko", but I am not talking about a solution to bed wetting. I am talking about the basic position from which we approach other people. What about power? If I relate to others by means of my power versus their power, is that not something other than fear or love? Maybe. What is the purpose of relating by my power against their power? Is it desire to hold onto what is precious to me? Does it let me love that person? Charitable love is giving rather than taking, but only to the extent that it is not done intentionally to build up my own power in some version of "enlightened self-interest." If faith, hope, and charity are to govern our relationships, then the use of power, which takes from others, is contrary to our ability to love---not just those like us, but also those of the wrong religion and those we consider our enemies.

Overcoming evil with good requires us to give to our enemies, but what can we give them? We could give them money, but that is likely only to worsen the situation if we have not gotten past violence. What we must give them first is dignity. As human beings we are obligated to do that much. Calling them evil does as much good as flipping off a thunderstorm, and it does a lot of harm. They call us evil, too, and both of us get an ego boost of righteous indignation since we can each point to the horrible things that they have done to us, and they have, or at least somebody has, and we naturally like to reinforce our stereotypes, so we just stick to a simple "they". This indignation is the worst possible thing. I used to live on it though. I would think, "If only so-and-so would do this-and-that, we would not have this problem." "Thank goodness I am not like that wretch." Indignation leads to righteous anger, which I am told is the worst poison of the soul, and I believe that. Once I succumb to righteous anger, I can scapegoat anyone I want because everyone has done something wrong. I can cause trouble to anyone to "raise awareness" for my cause while saying "look what those people made me do (to you)". It is a huge self-deception, but we fall for it when we succumb. In order to give our enemies dignity, we have to give up our righteous anger and indignation. We have to act out of love rather than fear. To be the shining example, we act not because we expect them to repay us in kind(for even the tax collectors do that), but because it is the right thing to do.

We have to give them faith, hope, and charity because that is the only way we can redeem them and redeem ourselves.

1. Richard Mitchell, The Gift of Fire. A wonderful book available free online though I much prefer reading it in book form.