Ted Grimsrud—November 7, 2016
My post on Friday, “Why, in the end, I can’t vote for Hillary Clinton,” elicited quite a bit of discussion both here on the blog, on Facebook, and on the Mennonite World Review site where it was reblogged, as well as the MWR Facebook page. I found most of the conversation to be discouraging. The Clinton supporters who responded, mostly personal friends, mostly Mennonites, mostly political progressives, mostly inclined toward pacifism, rarely if ever addressed the heart of my argument.
Problems with Clinton
My argument was not about Trump vs. Clinton but it was about the concerns posed by a potential Clinton presidency, most importantly (I suggest) in the areas of militarism and imperialism. I didn’t imply anything less than a deeply negative view of Trump. I stated that the question about voting for Clinton or not was for me a question that depended on being in a state where Clinton is almost certain to win (or, even more, in a state where Trump is certain to win)—not a truly contested state. Given that dynamic, I suggested that for me a vote for Jill Stein has the virtue of affirming a vision that actually affirms peace as a core commitment.
However, almost all of the negative comments turned it back to Clinton vs. Trump. There was hardly a hint that anyone is deeply troubled by Clinton’s warism—and interestingly, no one felt the need to challenge my assumptions about this warism. So, the basic sense is that yes, indeed, Clinton is committed to greater militarism and imperialism, but this is nothing to be worried about.
Now, my argument did rest on the premise that Clinton almost certainly would win Virginia. One of the ways I supported this premise was to point out that neither Trump nor Clinton was campaigning here, with the implication that both campaigns were accepting that Clinton would win Virginia. Well, since I wrote that, it turns out that Trump is coming here. As I said I would under those circumstance, I am reconsidering my vote. Continue reading
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.
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