This recent post at The Moderate Voice easily summed up my thinking during this election season. A conservative friend who I trust and respect asked me to share with him some of my thoughts about why I’m a moderate. So here is my response:

I think I’m moderate about a variety of issues, but also moderate in that on some issues I’m conservative while others I may be a bit more liberal. In theory I like the idea of a small government and local control and as a Christian ideally having the church do much of the work that the government is doing. But I don’t think that the idea of a free market works anywhere close to 100%. I’m sure you’d agree to some extent that the true laissez faire approach won’t work. I think that our Biblical worldview shows us that humans are naturally self-centered and want what is best for ourselves. It is only after we have been redeemed that we can understand unconditional love and sacrifice for others in the purest sense. Therefore I think that if there were no regulations on the marketplace/country in general then all hell would break loose.

I think a pretty easy example of this would be health care. Letting the health insurance companies dictate the rules and regulations has left a lot people un- or under-insured. And like back in the old days when they would just deny all claims as SOP. Insurance companies want to increase their bottom line and will do whatever it takes to make sure their CEO gets a nice little bonus. I won’t dive into specific policy details, but simply put everyone should have access to some type of affordable health-care. We are currently paying insurance premiums that go up in part because our neighbors can’t afford a doctors visit and go to the local ER instead. This is expensive, partly because ER visits are generally more expensive, but also because many times the illness or injury has taken a severe turn for the worse. A close relative went to several urgent care facilities with stomach pains because she didn’t have health insurance. This is a little bit cheaper and more responsible than an ER, but because she was seeing different doctors no one really thought there was a real problem. I think ultimately she caught a good doctor and he realized something bigger was wrong and they found her cancers. But if she hadn’t got a good doc? who knows.. At the time she was being treated at Wishard hospital (which is a pretty decent place) but now that she has insurance she can go to IU Med Center (one of the top research facilities in the country). Why the disparity and double standard? Getting the cold or flu treated early can be a lot cheaper than treating pneumonia or something worse. Another major health related issue is prevention. Diabetes is a huge drain on the health-care system and can be prevented or at least have the affects stunted by proper preventative health-care. I could go on but the last point I’ll make about health care (I think) is that much $ is spent on CYA testing and procedures because everyone is afraid of getting sued. To an extent this is healthy but what is wrong with some type of tort-reform to prevent frivolous law suits??

I’m a moderate because I think abortion is a heinous act, but should a small government interfere? Or why not actually do something to prevent abortions from occurring?? We’ve had a pro-life government for at least 4-6 years and what changed? Yes, Chief Justice Roberts is a stalwart pro-life choice, but he also doesn’t believe in legislating from the bench so he isn’t going to overturn Roe v Wade anytime soon.

I’m moderate because I think peace is a great idea, but sometimes we need to project and act out our power and military might just to remind people that peace takes some work. And maybe we should occasionally live up to our promises and really be a leader (Darfur).

I’m a moderate because I think each individual person has inherent worth and dignity as a child of God and each person should have the equal opportunity to succeed in life. Just because I grew up in a screwed up family doesn’t mean I should be forced to live a screwed up life. I was blessed to have people around me who cared and supported me – not everyone has that. A family living in the ghetto struggling to make ends meet needs more than a free lunch at school to ensure educational success. Why can’t inner-city schools have the same gorgeous/opulent facilities of a suburban school? Why must the school I work at scrape together every possible resource to make sure our students can pass a test? One of our students saw his mom stab her boyfriend in the eye with a screwdriver and another student saw a man gunned down on the street and those are just two instances that I know of. We have an amazing staff but kids still get lost because of their home and surrounding environment. Why should they pay for their parent’s sin?

I’m a moderate because I believe the US is a nation of immigrants, founded and prospered through illegal immigration. Yes we need to do something to insure the physical safety of our country, but immigration is a part of our history and the global economy in which we are a part. If we want to insure national security we need to do more than kick out immigrants and build fences, we need to make sure that our trade policies are a little fairer, we need to make sure that people around the world have a chance at education and maybe a real meal or two a day. Did you know there is enough money in the US alone to (on paper at least) end world hunger? Why should we spend millions of dollars to ship food to Africa on an American flagged vessel, when African farmers produce the same product? If we spent our food aid money on food in Africa, we could help African farmers and their entire country pull themselves out of poverty – which makes our country a little safer.

I’m a moderate because I don’t think drilling off-shore is going to produce any long-term benefits to our energy issues. Drilling off-shore will only allow us to keep the status quo a little bit longer. How can all the major auto manufacturers make cars that meet California emission standards or cars that are much more fuel efficient but get shipped overseas – yet claim they can’t produce the same car for the US? Did you know for awhile that Honda produced the most fuel efficient vehicle on the market – but it was gas powered? At the time according to Consumer Reports the Honda gas-engine car was overall more fuel efficient than the hybrids being produced? The market dictated more horsepower and said hell to fuel economy, until energy costs sky-rocketed. When I worked at Honda’s Accord and Acura plant they switched all kinds of parts around for a European or Asian and even Californian bound car to make them meet the stricter standards. Why shouldn’t the government step in and make some minor requests for the long-term benefit of our country.

I guess those are few reasons why I am a moderate… no one party has all the right answers for me.

I look forward to your thoughtful responses…

In this heated election season it is important that all Christ followers act in accordance with Scripture and love everyone for who they are. As a unique creation of God, each person holds the image of God within them. Everyone from the most right-wing to the most left, black, white, elite, poor, old, and young should be treated with dignity and respect.

With that said, each of us will make the best decision we think possible on November 4. As American’s we should go to the voting booth and vote within the best of our knowledge and conscience.

In that vain, Jim Wallis of Sojourner’s wrote this about Christian Civility:

So maybe we should have some rules of civility for this election. Let me suggest “Five Rules of Christian Civility.”

  1. We Christians should be in the pocket of no political party, but should evaluate both candidates and parties by our biblically-based moral compass.
  2. We don’t vote on only one issue, but see biblical foundations for our concerns over many issues.
  3. We advocate for a consistent ethic of life from womb to tomb, and one that challenges the selective moralities of both the left and the right.
  4. We will respect the integrity of our Christian brothers and sisters in their sincere efforts to apply Christian commitments to the important decisions of this election, knowing that people of faith and conscience will be voting both ways in this election year.
  5. We will not attack our fellow Christians as Democratic or Republican partisans, but rather will expect and respect the practice of putting our faith first in this election year, even if we reach different conclusions.

On Nov. 4, Christians will not be able to vote for the kingdom of God. It is not on the ballot. Yet there are very important choices to make that will significantly impact the common good and the health of this nation — and of the world. So we urge our Christian brothers and sisters to exercise their crucial right to vote and to apply their Christian conscience to those decisions. And in the finite and imperfect political decisions of this and any election, we promise to respect the Christian political conscience of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I think we can all live within these 5 “rules” of discussion and life. What do you think of these?

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Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani both mocked Barack Obama’s career as a community organizer. Palin made the most blatant mockery of the profession by comparing her experience as mayor to his as an organizer by saying “a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”

As I’ve thought about the comments they have made me a little upset, in some ways my job and experience is tied very closely to that of an organizer. As to be expected the community of organizers are very upset, no doubt organizing against McCain & Palin!

The joke played well to the party faithful, but in my opinion, mockery may be the best form of flattery, but its not a good way to get votes. Okay, so maybe we shouldn’t make fun of her experience as a mayor of a small town.

Christianity Today
wrote that

Obama was incensed by the mockery, asking, “Why would that kind of work be ridiculous? Who are they (Republicans) fighting for… They think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day, that working with them to try to improve their lives is somehow not relevant to the presidency?”

I’m not sure how any one could say that there is no responsibilities in community organizing. Essentially organizing is the most basic form of democracy – working at the grassroots level gathering support for community change. I don’t know much about Obama’s work in Chicago, but in general organizing is tireless work, often calling for long hours and at times small, incremental successes.

The Wikipedia definition of community organizing may shed some light on the situation:

Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America’s promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. From winning living wages to expanding affordable housing to improving the quality of public schools to getting health coverage for the poor and elderly, community organizers have made and will continue to make our communities and our country better for all of us.

It is my understanding that the Republican Party doesn’t really like these issues. I am a moderate who tends to lean conservative on many issues, but these are issues that are important to really discuss and actually act on during the 4 years between presidential campaigns.

Less Controversial – A Christian Perspective

Surprisingly Christianity Today quietly chastised Giuliani and Palin for their remarks.

for a party still trying to shake off the stereotype that Republicans are out of touch concerning the plight of the poor and care only for the rich. Certainly pro-lifers and others who help the poor do their own brands of community organizing in dysfunctional pockets of society. Whether community organizing is the best way to help the poor is one thing, but to dismiss out of hand the work of someone willing at least to try to help is another entirely.

Jim Wallis of Sojourners was offended by these comments, but more importantly he provided comments from a variety of faith-based community organizers, some of which are or were Republicans.

When people come together in my church hall to improve our community, they’re building the Kingdom of God in San Diego. We see the fruits of community organizing in safer streets, new parks, and new affordable housing. It’s the spirit of democracy for people to have a say and we need more of it,” said Bishop Roy Dixon, prelate of the Southern California 4th ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, member of the San Diego Organizing Project and former board chair of PICO National Network.

I should also note this paragraph about what community organizers have been doing since Hurricane Katrina to help prepare for Hurricane Gustav. So community organizers were doing a ton of work to help evacuate and prepare people for a potential disaster:

“Perk,” as we used to call him, reported on the enormous consequences of 2 million people being evacuated because of Hurricane Gustav, much of the state now being without power, how hard cities like Baton Rouge were hit, the tens of thousands of people in shelters and churches, and the continuing problems caused by heavy rains and flooding. Then he talked about how their community organizers were responding to all of this — responding to hundreds of service calls, assisting local officials in evacuation plans, aiding evacuees without transportation, coordinating shelters and opening new ones, providing food, essential services, and financial aid to those in most need. Since Katrina, Perry’s Louisiana interfaith organizations have played a lead role in securing millions of dollars to help thousands of families return to New Orleans and rebuild their homes and their lives.

Another blogger from Sojourners, Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah had this to say:

Community organizing attempts to give voice to the voiceless in our society (not just the powerful and the elite) and attempts to build influence based on relationships, rather than positions. Community organizing provides a prophetic voice because it arises from outside the system of power from the local community. Those feel to me like very biblical values.

Sojourners has published some great articles in the past about faith-based community organizing – Organizing Hope and Saul Alinsky goes to Church.

Elana Wolowitz responded at the Wellstone Action Blog with a post entitled: Responsibilities of an Organizer. She had this to say:

Being an organizer means putting the needs of the community above yourself and your ego. Your task is to influence the powerful with little more than the common will, and do so while developing the leadership of those around you. A good organizer is always working to put themselves out of a job, because many others should be prepared to step up and take their place. You listen and learn, coordinate and plan, arrive early and stay late, and do the real work that improves people’s lives.

I guess this means putting people first – not country first.

A local paper, Minn Post interviewed several organizers around the Twin Cities including

Elana Wolowitz, communications director for Wellstone Action!, is quick to point out that the nonprofit organization she works for is bipartisan. She’s just as quick to note that Palin’s “remarks were insulting and inappropriate to a field of work that is made up of people who are really sacrificing of themselves to give back to the community.”
Chuck Repke, longtime executive director of the District 2 Community Council in St. Paul, said “Clearly [Palin] doesn’t have much understanding of what community organizers do in a larger city.”

The District 2 Community Council facilitates communication between 10 neighborhoods in northeast St. Paul. It also offers English classes, carries out recycling efforts and crime prevention measures, and holds school supply drives, among other programs.

“The big thing of a community organizer is empowering the citizens to be able to take control of their communities, to give a voice to people who normally are voiceless, to empower those people who tend not to have much power and to facilitate the development of leadership in the community. It’s about making other people have power, not power for yourself,” Repke explained.

Yes the Democrats need to be thick skinned and should expect some harsh words and criticism about their lives. But in their remarks, Giuliani and Palin attacked a profession, not a person. I would venture to say that Republicans don’t really like Community Organizers too much because they are the opposite of big business and oil. Organizers are often organizing against “the establishment”, it is the nature of the beast.

Two late posts about organizing from The Moderate Voice and Daily Kos (don’t think about them as a liberal blog, take a second and look at their photo diary of organizing).

What do you think?

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Laura Bush Speaking

In case you missed it the Republican National Convention was in my new town this week. Before you click away, this isn’t really about the RNC. Only partly. We did our part and let a sister-in-law of a friend spend the night with us – always glad to be gracious hosts! My penchant for politics made me want to be involved someone, but Christy said if I volunteered, she would go protest. Well I’m glad I didn’t because she might have been a little anarchist (not really but did you see the news?).

Cindy McCain Speaking

Ok, now for the main point of this post: World Vision and the ONE Campaign wanted to do something productive with the thousands of people hanging out and taking part in democracy. Sp they took the opportunity to get delegates, friends of the Party, and regular people like us to spend a few hours one afternoon so that we could impact thousands of lives – thousands of miles away.

We joined a few hundred other people on Tuesday at the Minneapolis Convention Center to put together Caregiver Kits. We were standing next to a lot of delegates, somebody important from the State Department’s Eurasia division, and I’m sure other “important” people I didn’t know, like the crippled woman or students from Bethany House of Prayer. We heard from Senator Bill Frist, Laura Bush, Cindy McCain, and Princess Zulu of Zambia. I will say that of all the “celebrities” in attendance Janet Huckabee actually stayed until the end and did a lot of work putting together the kits.

Enough Hype
What did we actually do? We put together Caregiver Kits that included basic medical supplies that a trained Caregiver in a developing co

Laura Bush hugging
Princess Zulu of Zambia

untry can use to “bring dignity and comfort to those living with AIDS.” Please read more about the kits and what they can do. It was a lot of fun to be involved in something that would make a tangible difference in someone’s life. Christy and I probably made at least 40 kits out of the 2,500 total from the event. Simple items such as latex gloves, antibacterial soap, antifungal cream, washcloths, and more can help a person live a better life.

I took a video putting together a kit:

Laura Bush & Princess
Zulu making a Caregiver Kit

A very simple project that has a lasting and powerful impact. The last item placed in each kit was a handwritten note to the caregiver – offering encouragement and thanks for their hard work. The ONE Campaign has a great write-up and video’s from the event. They did this same event in Denver at the Democratic National Convention, write-up here.

Updated: ONE now has a full video of the speaking part of the event and the “celebrities” creating caregiver kits.

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Congratulations to Barack Obama for finally clinching the Democratic primary. Let the fun of the general election cycle begin!! I’m sure this fall’s Olympics will provide a needed respite from the political talk.

Throughout the primary season it has been interesting to watch Obama electrify crowds and become the first black presidential candidate. Throughout the last six months I’ve had conversations with a variety of people, from a spectrum of backgrounds about Obama and the primaries in general.

Often in these conversations someone would say something about the fact that Obama’s candidacy shows that we have overcome racism and all the hard work of the civil rights movement is finally over. I would sadly inform them that while the vast majority of America has moved beyond overt racism there are still large pockets of downright hostility towards black individuals.

Until moving to Minneapolis I would say that much of my life has been spent in places where racism is fairly common, except for my year in New Jersey. (I would broadly define places as counties or areas, not specific towns) I was raised to see all people as equal but there were pockets around my county where racism was still prevalent. My time in central Indiana was surrounded by racism, even in my generation and those younger than me. It is a different type of racism, though.

I think sadly all of this is highlighted in a series of attacks against Obama staffers and offices throughout Indiana. Now maybe these types of attacks happened throughout the country and my ear (or eye) was peeked because of the mention of Indiana, but who knows. The Obama campaign I think rightly tried to downplay the incidents to prevent a national media storm, but we can’t deny the reality – racism still exists in this country. I would say that it still occurs both covertly and overtly.

I’ll let you read the Washington Post article yourself, but I spent several years working in Muncie and a total of 7 years living and interacting with the broader East-Central Indiana area. Nothing in the article really surprised me – which is sad.

But in historical retrospect it isn’t surprising since in 1924 a KKK member was elected governor of Indiana and the midwest actually had a larger KKK presence than the South. Indeed Marion, IN is home to the last known lynching in America and resides between Muncie and Kokomo – both mentioned in the WP article. Kokomo also hosted the largest ever rally of the KKK.

What do you think about the current state of racism?

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This has been an interesting presidential primary season. Our new home holds caucuses which is a new and different concept, we aren’t registered voters here (although I think we could have done it day of). Stories I heard included people parking their cars on the Cross-Town Highway and walking to their Caucus site to make sure their voice was heard.

What has people so riled up about the election this year? Well their are plenty of reasons depending on what you value and believe to be true. The Barna Group released a report recently that highlighted some of them. The Barna snapshot was published January 21, which seems like a century ago in primary terms, but I’m sure the data will still hold up.

In their own words:

A new study from The Barna Group provides a data-driven snapshot of the U.S. population, providing a dose of objectivity to some much-debated, often-misunderstood issues. The Barna research explores matters beyond “who-will-Christians-vote-for” questions – for now – in favor of examining the perceived importance of 10 diverse issues. Those include a pair of elements (abortion and homosexuality) often linked to so-called values voters, as well as other issues that relate to morality, justice, and social concern.

What are the 10 major issues facing the country? Below is a list of them in ranked order:

  1. Poverty (78%),
  2. The personal debt of individual Americans (78%),
  3. HIV/AIDS (76%),
  4. Illegal immigration (60%),
  5. Global warming (57%),
  6. Abortion (50%),
  7. Content of television and movies (45%),
  8. Homosexual political “activists” (35%),
  9. Homosexual “lifestyles” (35%),
  10. “The political efforts of conservative Christians” (23%).

So what makes me sad? Barna segmented their data into Born-Again Christians and then even further down to see what Evangelicals thought. The rankings changed significantly, and sadly in my opinion.

Born again Christians still think poverty is a major issue (78%), but personal indebtedness is of higher concern (79%). That is ok, I think you could easily make a case that personal indebtedness is a concern ranking up there with poverty. The Born-Again group is pretty close to in line with where I would place priorities. It is the Evangelical voters that I am most saddened with.

94% of Evangelical voters think abortion is the most important issue facing America today. Poverty doesn’t even make the top 5. That angers me beyond belief. What do you think a major cause of abortion is? Yup, poverty! We should focus more on reducing poverty and not legislating morality. Why is it like this?? Why have the Evangelicals lost sight of what the Bible so clearly states? We are so focused on “saving the unborn” we don’t care how the born actually live. It makes me irate to think that we spend millions of dollars on preventing an abortion and then sit back and do nothing when the “teenage mom” isn’t able to adequately support her child. Where is the love in that? Did Jesus say, “Save the babies so they can squalor and face starvation and general lack”? No, Jesus and the Bible talk a lot about caring for the poor. Here are a few examples:

To the Rich Young Ruler Jesus said: “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

James says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

We have the power to change the world – it is through loving Christ and loving those He loves.

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A very intriguing look at what really happens during the presidential primary.  Written in 1996 by “Anonymous” this is a “fictional” story about a presidential candidate and some of the behind the scenes practices during the campaign.

It is a gripping story that sounds similar to the Bill Clinton campaign, but is supposedly all fiction and a recreation by the author. It is interesting to read, in the light of another Clinton presidential primary.

Not a book for the light-hearted or young person, this #1 Bestseller on every major book lists full of vulgar language, sexual content, and other similar adult content.  If it was a movie it would be rated R.  But if you have an interest in politics this is a good place to gain knowledge and understanding about what it takes to “play in the arena.”

We can only hope that politics doesn’t really have dustbusters (to take care of tabloid stories), but we do know that there is plenty of spinmeisters on each campaign who are either helping their candidate or trashing the other.

I enjoyed the read and some of the sense of history that comes with it.  A quick web search shows that Joe Klein is the author of the book, not quite the insider everyone expected, Joe was still very familiar with the campaign since he covered it in 1992 for New York Magazine.


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