All this talking and thinking about voting (this post is part three: #1—Should a pacifist vote for a warmonger?; #2 —More thoughts about voting (or not) for a “warmonger”) has pushed me to think about what I understand politics to be about and what this has to do with my faith convictions. These are some thoughts.
I find the Bible enormously helpful for thinking about politics. Not that it gives us a blueprint or an explicit political philosophy or even a list of principles for godly politics. Just that it tells a story (a complicated story, with many subplots) that we can share in—a story, ultimately, of people trying to join together to make the world more peaceable in light of their understanding of God’s will for their lives.
In a nutshell, I would define “biblical politics” as people working together for peace. “Peace” I would understand as “biblical shalom”—the wholeness of the community, all people living harmoniously with one another and with the rest of creation. The operative sense of “politics,” then, is people working together in community for the sake of shalom.
The Bible, thus, is intensely political as it tells both of how communities can operate in peaceable ways and of how communities violate shalom (and suffer the consequences). From Genesis’s account of the communal problems that emerge when people turn from shalom to Revelation’s account of a great city of peace (the New Jerusalem) being established on earth, the Bible focuses on politics done (or not) in light of the peaceable will of the creating and sustaining God of the universe.
Peace Theology Books, 2012. 188 pages.
[To purchase ($15) go here]
For thirty years, Mennonite pastor and theologian Ted Grimsrud has sought to present the call to peacemaking in a series of short articles published in various settings. When read together, they convey a powerful and practical vision for biblically-based pacifism.
The first section of the book collects articles on various topics related to Christian peace convictions published in church periodicals.
The second section contains short meditations on a variety of biblical texts originally published in Mennonite Weekly Review. These meditations present the Bible as a book of peace.
The third and final section contains devotional articles written for Purpose magazine that reflect on how peace concerns are relevant for various aspects of the Christian life.
Though prepared for various settings over three decades, when collected together and read as a whole, the articles in Writing Piece present a coherent message about the viability of Christian pacifism.
As we draw closer to election day, 2012, I continue to reflect on the voting issue. My October 1, 2012, post asked the question “Should a pacifist vote for a warmonger?” [UPDATE: I posted a third installment on October 28: “Faith and Politics (Including Voting)”] I concluded that though indeed I believe that President Obama’s four years in office have been a time of increasingly distressing militarism, I still will vote for him. I posed this choice not so much as voting for a lesser evil but as voting against a greater evil. That is, I do not understand my vote to be an expression of support for Obama but to be an expression of opposition to the far more distressingly militaristic and destructive-in-many-more-areas policies I would expect from a Romney administration.
The original posts received many thoughtful and perceptive comments. Within the comments section, several other fascinating conversations that went beyond my own contribution emerged. With these responses and numerous conversations with friends and more reading and thinking, I want to take some time to say a bit more—mainly to try to restate and clarify the argument I am trying to develop. Continue reading
This election season is (or should be) an agonizing time for pacifists and other people in the United States who care deeply for peace on earth. Perhaps as much as any time in the history of this country, an uncritical embrace of militarism as a way of life is on display. We have a president running for re-election proudly trumpeting his success in one military intervention after another (including direct assassination of “national enemies”)—and being harshly criticized by his main opponent for being a wuss on national security issues.
Except for people like us on the fringes, Obama’s militarism is not seen as a problem in the national discussion. The country faces extreme economic difficulties and the two main options in this election are giving the military either a somewhat greater share of the national treasure or a much greater share.
Peace advocates’ discouragement with Obama
American peace advocates’ discouragement is heightened by the reality that we thought we might be getting something better four years ago. And we weren’t alone in the world—how else to explain Obama’s clearly premature Nobel Peace Prize (now a distant memory) other than as a statement of hope from the selectors that he truly would provide a new direction in American foreign policy? Yet, when all is said and done, what we see over the past four years is a slight decrease in the bellicose posturing that characterized the Bush administration, but overall a continuation of the trajectory of empire as a way of life.
So, it is understandable that many peace advocates who supported Obama in 2008 (with admittedly varying degrees of enthusiasm—no one I know or know of expected Obama to tack very far toward a truly new, peace-oriented national security agenda; but we did hope for some major positive shifts) are now asserting that they will not vote for him this time. None of these folks, of course, are remotely interesting in voting for Mitt Romney—they talk either of voting for a third (or fourth or fifth) party candidate or of abstaining. Continue reading