248. on turning "liberal"
A few weeks ago, someone made a joking comment* on one of my previous posts, asking me if I was becoming liberal. I had made reference to my shifting political views in a couple other blogs (see blog 156 and 198) but never really tackled the topic in depth.
As with most things in my life, this shift is a work in progress, but here’s where I’m at for the moment.
By way of background, I’ve leaned rightward ever since my early twenties. It started when I read The Way Things Ought To Be by Rush Limbaugh. And I suppose it’s strange that I began my conservative streak in college (The University of Hawaii at Manoa) which is a time most people drift towards the Left, but that’s how it happened for me.
A friend introduced me to Rush’s book and it was the first political book I had ever read. Before that, I didn’t know anything about politics. I had no idea what an entitlement was, didn’t know the first thing about affirmative action or gun control, I didn’t even know the difference between Democrats and Republicans.
And now, I don’t know if it’s just because that book served as my introduction to the issues or if something in my upbringing predisposed me to it, but the ideas in the book resonated with me and I was captivated. I went on to read other conservative books by people like Cal Thomas, Dennis Prager, and later Bill O’Reilly. I also started tuning to broadcasts by conservative talk show hosts.
Now I never went so far as to actually join the Republican party or write my congressperson or hand out leaflets (or anything else real or practical), but I did start paying more attention to the news around me and like any good conservative, I lamented the liberal slant to the coverage. I also started voting (I guess there was one real and practical I started doing).
Years went by and I’d say I was solidly conservative throughout my twenties. But at some point, something started to shift.
There isn’t any one thing that got me to start changing my views, but I know one of the early frustrations I had was the lack of real dialogue and debate on both sides. I began to notice how so many conservative talk shows were all about name calling and ridiculing the Left and that wasn’t doing anything good for the country. Now, commentators on the Left were doing the same thing, but two wrongs don’t make a right – they make things twice as wrong.
Another thing that never sat well with me about most conservatives is their general disregard for environmental issues. And I suppose it was seeing how many conservatives seemed more than willing to trade a sustainable environmental policy for economic growth that led me to the next step which had to do with questioning the insatiable consumeristic culture that pours out of America and saturates every corner of the globe.
Now I still believe in the value of the free market. I believe that the competitive nature of capitalism fuels innovation. I even still believe in the American Dream – that with enough ingenuity and lots of hard work, everyone (yes, everyone) has a chance (but not a guarantee) to succeed and thrive. But I also believe that there have to be limits on how large companies can get, and unfortunately, the US government seems to have sold itself out to the interests of multi-national corporations because it seems like every other week you hear about another approval of yet another company merger or buyout.
I won’t go into detail here about why this trend is bad for business, bad for us as consumers, bad for the world (especially the Third World), and ultimately bad for America, but head over to the Frontline website. Poke around the archives and you can watch a report on the retail behemoth that is Wal-Mart.
Lastly, I suppose reading books by Christians like Anne Lamott, Donald Miller, and Lauren F. Winner had something to do with my “shift” in political views, because I really do believe they’re on to something when they say that many of the policies of the Republican party and the Religious Right are NOT in line with the kingdom of God. And I won’t site specifics issues here because that would just take too long, but I will say that while I believe that issues regarding the separation of church and state are currently way outside what the framers intended**, I believe there is far too cosy a relationship between evangelicals and the Republican party.
And I know there are some Christians out there who will point to this entry as an example of why Lamott, Miller, and Winner are Christian authors to avoid – because they are voices for the Christian Left, but with all due respect, the religious Right is sometimes neither religious nor right, and Jesus didn’t die on the cross to endorse the platform of a political party. Christians (Left, Right, Up, Down, and Sideways) should be modeling unity and reconciliation for an increasingly divided world. Instead, we keep partitioning our ever shrinking numbers into smaller subdivisions and then wondering why we don’t see more of God at work in the world.
Okay, I’ve been purposely vague about my views. I laid down blanket statements and painted them with a broad brush (how’s that for mixing metaphors), but I did that because I merely wanted to outline a bit of why and how my political views are changing. If I could sum the whole thing up in a couple of sentences, I’d just say that I refuse to align myself with any party or persuasion. In particular, I no longer care if some Christians think I’m losing my religion because of the way I vote – and for the record, I am praying (hard) for Barack Obama to be our next president.
**The term itself, “separation of church and state” doesn’t exist in the constitution and as I understand the first amendment, the establishment clause was meant to protect churches from the government, not the other way around. The framers came from England and did not want to see a government established church like the Church of England. Seen in that way, it’s hard to justify the current religio-phobic interpretation common today.