Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Litmus-Test Political Issues and Barack Obama

I enjoyed living through the transition from the government of Chilean right-wing dictator, August Pinochet, to the democratic process. There was almost nothing in the process that I did not enjoy. As the air waves, and printing presses moved from censorship to the free expression of ideas, I followed the political process with eagerness. My kids remember countless trips across the city of Santiago, practically begging me to turn on an FM station with music. I usually responded with a terse answer: "I bought the car. I bought the radio. I decide what we listen to."

The political process in the U.S. is getting into high gear. Though my beloved wife tires of the issues and mud-slinging, I rather enjoy following it. I count it a privilege to cast a vote, and while I wonder how much difference my vote can make, I continue to exercise that privilege.

Pinochet's followers in Chile assured that unless his followers were elected, there would be chaos. Chile has elected four presidents (all from an anti-Pinochet coalition) since that time, and though there are challenges, life in Chile is pretty good these days.

Since returning to the U.S., I will confess that there has been one issue that has been a litmus-test issue for me: the sanctity of human life. That one issue, more than any other, has informed my vote. I recognize there are problems with being a single-issue voter. My good friend, Dave Schultz, wrote an excellent column on that a few weeks back for the Huntington (IN) Herald-Press. He referenced Timothy Hesburgh, long-time president of the University of Notre Dame, who certainly is on the same side of this issue that I am on. Hesburgh expressed concern, however, that "many of the candidates that were pro-life were 'anti' many of the social issues that he cared about."

Along that vein, the words of Jesus are haunting, "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:13, ESV) In Matthew 23:23, he calls mercy one of the weightier matters of the law. It is ironic that politicians that show the greatest concern for the rights on the unborn, have little regard for the social issues of poverty. I have read both Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of World Hunger and Chilton's Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators. The golden mean of Biblical tension (to use a phrase often used by Robertson McQuilkin) is somewhere between those two extremes.

But let's get back to the litmus-test issue. Jill Stanek is a member at Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, IL, where Ozark graduate Tim Harlow ministers. Parkview is a megachurch, which may cause some to think they may have watered down the gospel message. Mrs. Stanek was a nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL, when she discovered that babies were being aborted alive, and then were abandoned to die. She was instrumental in what has become known as the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which passed both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and which President Bush signed into law in 2002. Stanek detailed much of that story in a WorldNetDaily.com column dated July 19, 2006, titled "Why Jesus Would Not Vote for Barack Obama." The cartoon originally appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, and later in Stanek's column linked above.

Barack is the charismatic candidate. Hillary is much maligned. But while Barack was doing everything possible to impede similar legislation in Illinois, the U.S. Senate, of which Mrs. Clinton was a member, passed the bill with unanimous consent.

It makes me wonder . . .