November 04, 2004
It was a dark and stormy night

Of all the post-election posts I've seen, I think my favorite is from Rilina:

I began to consider something Tavis Smiley mentioned during the ABC election night process. He suggested that the American people voted their fears, not their hopes, during this election. They voted for Bush because they were afraid of terrorism and worried about the war in Iraq, and they concluded (however wrongfully or rightfully) that Bush should be better at dealing with it. The exit polls are pretty clear on this. Other people voted their fears about the state of the economy. Most of these voters, though not all, went to Kerry. Again, the exit polls are pretty clear on this.

There there are those Americans voted on other kinds of fears--the ones that we're less likely to admit that we have. They voted their fears of people who are different--whether in sexual orientation, religious background, race, or class. They voted their fears of change. I'll certainly admit that homophobia is alive and well in the Christian church. There are some otherwise wonderful people in my church--the sort of people who would go way beyond the call of friendship to help me out in most any situation--who are simply homophobic. What they say about gays and lesbians makes it pretty clear that their opinions on those people are not purely driven by theological concerns--they don't like them, and they're scared of them. I'm by no means wanting to suggest that all or even most Bush voters (or evangelical voters) were driven by such fears. But it was certainly a factor for some. What fraction? I suppose that's a number we'll never have.

I don't think it's wrong to vote in response to genuine concerns/fears that one has about the state of the country or the world. My fears about the economy, about America's foreign policy, about my civil liberties--all these were behind my vote for Kerry, a candidate about whom I was generally lukewarm.

Anyway, I was thinking about this as I prayed. And I began to pray for our country, for the voters who are so angry and disillusioned right now, for the people who can only dole out blame and hate and gloating at a moment when we need to move forward (whether to organize or to compromise or whatever). It occurred to me how very un-Christian it is to vote in response to those darker fears. Shouldn't our faith give us the strength not to be ruled by that sort of terror (the domestic culture of terror or the terror that threatens us from abroad)? Perhaps this was the message that Kerry supporters needed to (and failed to) give evangelicals this election cycle. Fear not. Don't trust those who tell you to be afraid (of people with brown skin, or people with unconventional lifestyles). Especially don't trust those who tell you to be afraid in God's name. God's message has always been, "Fear not. I am here. Trust me." Not "Trust the Republican Party." And for that matter, not "Trust the Democratic Party."

And maybe "Fear not" has to be God's message to disappointed Kerry supporters today. We can't vote our hatred and fear of Those Midwest/Bible-Belt Evangelicals (can't you hear the capital letters?) in 2006 or 2008 just because they are (gasp!) different from us. That's not going fix things here. We can't ask them to understand our voting decisions, if we're not willing to extend them the same courtesy.

Don't misunderstand me--I still wish Kerry had won. And I still feel that my fellow evangelicals need to answer for participating in the politics of fear and hate. But this disappointed political progressive evangelical Christian woman on November 3, 2004 is tired of being afraid. I didn't vote for Bush in part because I feel he's tried to use America's fear for his own partisan purposes. I'm not going to let him use my fear of him for his own political gains now. I'm not going to let my fear of a second Bush presidency turn into angry words that drive yesterday's Bush supporters deeper into the arms of the those clever hate-mongers that make up certain parts of the Republican Party's leadership.

Posted by Camassia at November 04, 2004 02:14 PM | TrackBack

Angry words? No. But I think the religious left needs to learn from our mistakes, and find ways to talk about values in terms that can be heard by the nation. We cannot continue to allow the right to identify the issues and frame the questions.

Posted by: Jake on November 4, 2004 04:36 PM

You seem to be saying that the religious left--to the extent that such a group exists in any coherent sense--should talk of values and frame questions in such a way that more of the folks who voted for Bush and his ilk this season would be enticed to vote for candidates on the "left" next time around. How would you propose to do that, without becoming even more like Bush than Kerry already is? To the limited extent that the left has spoken the truth in these elections, that truth has been rejected. I find nothing in the gospels to suggest that *the majority* will not always reject the truth in favor of that which speaks to each individual's greed, jealousy, fear, and the rest of the sorry list. If politics could advance men toward the Kingdom, Jesus would have been a politician.

Posted by: Rob on November 5, 2004 04:58 AM

There are plenty of people voting for the wrong reasons on both sides of the party fence. And thus has it always been. In a close election they simply receive greater scrutiny. Obviously if Bush had lost we'd find a large group who voted for Kerry because they believed Michael Moore's agitprop.

But I don't see anything necessarily wrong with voting your fears. Caution around the edge of a cliff is life-preserving and good. Many progressives voted against Bush out of reasonable fears (in the sense that they could happen): fear of more foreign entanglements creating even more terrorists, fear that he would appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v Wade.

Posted by: TSO on November 5, 2004 10:59 AM

Let's assume that Tavis Smiley is right when he says "that the American people voted their fears, not their hopes, during this election." Is this any cause for anxiety?

I would say yes, especially if this fear means that we are able to react only with suspicion towards "people who are different--whether in sexual orientation, religious background, race, or class." This fear would then be symptomatic of our larger societal inability to trust one another.

A public lack of trust is, I think, more than just a political problem. In his New Year's Day Message for this year, Archbishop Rowan Williams said:

"One of the things that religious belief tells us is that we are trusted – by God; a God who trusts us to speak for him and about him, to act for his sake, who gives us liberty to make mistakes and still gives himself into our hands for us to share his love and promise with others.

"We talk about religious ‘faith’ – but what we mean in plain English is of course trust. A real person of faith isn’t necessarily a person full of a particular kind of religious certainty; it’s a person who has become trustworthy because they know that God is to be trusted and that God has trusted, loved and forgiven them."

A society in which people cannot trust, in which they immediately react with fear and suspicion, is one in which the church will find it difficult to manifest the trustworthiness that witnesses to the God in whom we can put our trust, "for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee" (Ps 9.10). Unbelievers, of course, will not be able to believe the church's testimony, but those in the body of Christ will also find it more difficult to recognize the witness of their brother and sisters who initially strike them as being different.

Thank you.


Posted by: Neil on November 5, 2004 12:22 PM

There was a beautiful letter in the Fort Myers (FL) News-Press today. I'm going to copy it on my blog as well as here:


"We all lost the election because we voted from fear, and fear always distorts the truth. In fact, you can't get to truth from fear. Many votes were influenced by a literal interpretation of the Bible, but many contributors to the Bible were motivated by fear -- fear of God, fear of women and their God-given power and their God-given sexuality, fear of anyone who seems different.

"Really primal stuff, folks. Yet I bet none of those tough guys and gals who voted from fear have the nerve to interpret Christ literally when he says, 'They know not what they do." Christ challenged us to live beyond fight or flight, to insist on innocence. [oohh! - a.] But now I think he sits on the doorsteps of many a Catholic or Christian church, wondering when, if ever, he will be invited in."

- Gretchen van Lenta
Cape Coral, FL

Posted by: amba on November 5, 2004 06:22 PM

It's not about politics; it's about not backing down when things are done that are just plain wrong.

100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, men women and children who were noncombatants are dead, because of an unnecessary invasion. That is wrong.

People are being held in concentration camps; Gitmo among others, without access to due process. That is wrong.

People are being denied their right to marriage based on "icky feelings" of the majority. That is wrong.

The planet is being trashed to make a buck. That is wrong.

The poor are being denied a living wage so the corporations can get a tax break. That is wrong.

Laws are being passed that deny women the ability to protect their own health. That is wrong.

I could go on, but probably have said enough.

Yes, I believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ does call us all to stand up against such immorality, and to do everything we can to stop it. If that means using the political process, so be it.

As Cass Sustein recently said;

......This is not a time to yield to a radical agenda for our nation's future or its Constitution. Nor is it time to heal our divisions. It is time to shout them from the rooftops.

Posted by: Jake on November 5, 2004 06:35 PM

It would be nice if "using politics" could accomplish the abolition of any of the atrocities you list above. But politics doesn't. We don't use politics, politics uses us. The only thing that moves the movers is direct action. Direct action means sticking your own neck out and taking the consequences.

Posted by: Rob on November 6, 2004 06:05 AM
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