David Freddoso, a political reporter for the National Review Online, has written what seems to me to be the best book against the election of Barack Obama. The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favorite Candidate came out in July and became an immediate best-seller. I have mentioned several times before that I have followed Obama's political rise in Illinois for some years. But even I didn't know a number of the things that Freddoso includes in this well-written critique. What separates Freddoso's book from other similarly critical works about Senator Obama is that he does not use the silly charges that have been thrown against Obama by far right critics. Freddoso dismisses, for example, the idea that Obama is really a Muslim, that he was sworn into office on the Koran, that he hates the American flag and the national anthem. He avoids character assassination and thereby sticks to the central claim of the Obama campaign: Barack Obama is a great reformer who will introduce an era of non-partisan political government that will help the nation rise above the red state/blue state divide and the present impasse in Washington.
Freddoso shows, beyond reasonable doubt to my mind, that Barack Obama has major ties to the Chicago political machine and thus the Daley family. For those who live in my region and who read the daily papers and listen to the news day-in and day-out, this is no sudden flash of insight for us. The one thing about Barack Obama that you should be disabused of if you know politics at all is this—he is most definitely not a post-partisan candidate who has avoided the taint of corruption and machine-based decision making. His allies are a major problem if you simply follow the trails.
Second, Obama clearly has the most liberal voting record of any candidate for the office of president – ever. I am not sure how anyone can argue against this obvious fact. Every non-partisan watchdog group has concluded the same. Even the liberal groups that assign ratings to legislators regarding their own positions on issues all agree with this statement as well. This is not an unfair attack on this man's character. What is amazing to me is that so few of us seem to know how he has actually voted, when he did vote, on major issues. And Senator Biden so misrepresented Obama's voting record in the VP debate that it was almost beyond belief. (But then who counts the errors that both sides make in these debates?) Biden made a number of these strong charges (on Obama's voting record) himself when he was running against the much more liberal Obama!
Third, Freddoso demonstrates that Obama not only supports full abortion rights, but his position is to the left of every major pro-choice group in America. When you hear people say that Obama supported infanticide, this is not far from the truth at all. It would be more accurate, to keep this completely truthful, to say that he openly endorsed and voted for infanticide. Not even Senator Barbara Boxer, the most liberal member of the senate on this issue, gets close to Senator Obama's record.
Fourth, Obama's association with former terrorists, several racist ministers and other similar sorts of individuals are all simple facts. The far right has over-dramatized these connections, to some extent, but the smoke is there for a real reason, there is fire to be found behind the smoke. If you like Obama, or if you don't, I strongly urge you to read David Freddoso's well-researched and fair-minded book. It would appear that David is a serious Christian. He has done his homework and has given us a solid critique. And he refuses to engage in the wild charges and silly myths that have often plagued Christian responses to very liberal political figures.
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Thank you for writing this. I respect you for the way that you have given Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt. You have read his books and defended him against accusations that were unfair. But now, on the basis of level headed facts, you have explained very lucidly why you think an Obama presidency would be troubling. I hope that supporters of Obama who read this blog will also weigh this evidence. If they can still in good conscience support Obama, I would really like to hear why.
What really troubles me about Obama are his close ties to radical activist groups like ACORN. Obama has successfully kept these ties out of the public view, but the fact is that he has not only worked with ACORN but funded them at every turn. He funneled money to ACORN and other activist groups through the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, giving them direct access to children in public schools for projects that were supposedly “educational” but in reality were teaching kids left-wing political views. At this very moment, Obama’s campaign is funneling money to ACORN for its voter registration work with widespread fraud. Once elected, Obama has promised not only to work closely with these groups, but to rely on them to help set the agenda for his presidency (12/1/2007). It’s a sure bet that if Obama gets elected, huge amounts of federal money will flow to these activist groups, funding them for activities that are supposedly nonpartisan but in reality are thinly veiled left-wing politics. In all likelihood, these activities will be enshrined in federal agencies who will then hire the activists directly or subcontract the work out to activist groups under the guise of “privatization.”
During the Carter administration, a relative of mine worked for the federal government as an employee of Vista. Vista was touted as “the domestic version of the Peace Corps,” and Americans who didn’t know better thought it was a noble idea. But this is what Vista paid her to do: organize low-income people to lobby their state governemnt to impose price controls on local utility companies. I am telling the truth here. Federal employees were engaging in left-wing activism at the state level on the taxpayer’s dime, under the auspices of our openly Christian president Jimmy Carter. How quickly people have forgotten these things. Now Obama has repeatedly promised to bring these kinds of federal programs back and to even expand them.
Obama has claimed working as a community organizer as one of his formative experiences and accomplishments. But few people know what a community organizer actually does. One could say–and this comment is admittedly cynical but not far from the truth–that a community organizer is someone who assembles poor people, reminds them of how miserable they are, fills them with indignation and leads them to demand more stuff from the government. Anyone who claims that “Jesus was a community organizer” simply hasn’t read the gospels or doesn’t know what a community organizer really is.
There is this faulty idea that politics can be non-partisan. Politics by nature are partisan and divisive.
My grown children (3) and my wife and I are decided Democrats who will vote for Obama. The Republicans lost us when they decided to tie themselves to James Dobson and the extreme religious right. They lost us when they promoted Christianity and Americanism as being one and the same.
We still circulate among conservative, Republican people. We attend a conservative Methodist Church. Two son’s attend a Missionary Church and one son has been visiting various local evangelical Churches. Without exception………it is made very clear that McCain/Palin is God’s preferred choice. Lies continue to be told about Obama, both in the fellowship hall, from the pulpit, and in Church related emails/newsletters. It is clear………vote for Obama and your Christianity is questionable. Or in one case, I was told it showed that I was unconverted.
Obama’s associations with ________ are anything but simple. John, you hate being judged by those you know/associate with but yet you seem to think it is OK to judge Obama, a fellow Christian, by whom he knows or associates with. You well know that politics make for strange bedfellows.
I examined the Ayers issue very carefully. I really don’t get what the problem is. (unless it is nothing more than an attempt to label Obama a terrorist) Certainly Obama’s associations raise some questions…..but no more so than McCain’s association with Keating.
As for ACORN, as I noted on my blog, McCain has his own ACORN association issue.
I wonder……….have you ever been poor. I mean really poor? No money. No power. No influence.
The rich have plenty of representation in Washington. Every Congressman is a rich man,many of them millionaires.
Who speaks for the poor? Who stands up for them? I commend all those, including ACORN, who are willing to stand up for “the least of these.”
There are many of us who are Christians and who hold to what you call left-wing politics. Some of us even see the “gospel” in some of our left wing views. I wonder if you have spent much time critiquing the last eight years where right-wing politics and right wing religious views have dominated the Federal government? Or is it only when the ship lists to the left that there is a problem.
I am encouraged by what men like Jim Wallis,Brian McClaren, Ron Sider, Tony Campolo and others have brought to the Evangelical table, They challenge the status-quo and challenge our theological assumptions about political and social issues. They are a breath of fresh air and they have forced me to adopt a more holistic approach to the gospel. Change is coming………and it can’t come soon enough.
I have been evolved in politics my entire life. (literally) My parents were John Bircher’s, later Goldwater Republicans, worked for George Wallace in Ohio, and were ,all in all,right wing extremists 🙂
Politics are in my blood. I enjoy a good political discussion but I must always remember that, at the end of the day, as a Christian I must love my fellow man regardless of political affiliation. While I disagree with you John on Obama and the upcoming election I do respect you and your views. You rooting for the Cubs is a whole other issue 🙂
I was raised in the inner city in a household of 13 children with an annual income of less than $30,000 per year. By many standards, my upbringing would be regarded as poor. Yes, there were times in my life that I have had to do without. But never once have I thought of myself as poor. Godly parents and the church instilled in me a rich sense of belonging, identity and community. They taught me to be grateful for what I have and to pray to God for what I need. I’m not sure what you mean by having “no power, no influence.” I cast one vote in every election, just as you do. To my knowledge, no one in Washington has ever lobbied on my behalf. I don’t buy the idea that I cannot empathize with the downtrodden because I haven’t been there. Nor do I buy the idea that the gospel and God’s kingdom will be advanced by politicians either on the left or on the right. Yes, the Bush administration and the right have failed in many respects. Given the high hopes that many are placing in an Obama-Reid-Pelosi government, I guarantee that they will fail too. But when that time comes, I doubt that their ardent supporters will admit it.
If one would have told me four years ago, I would be voting for a Democrat for president this year, I would have had a serious laugh. But alas, four years later, I find myself more closer to Bruce’s observations and I will be voting for Obama with eyes wide open.
Yes, I know Obama’s record. I also know McCain’s and I lived in the Chicago area knowing Obama’s associations. But I definitely see from a moral viewpoint, we need a change in leadership.
I feel afraid for my young adult children who are enmeshed in a culture so heavily influenced by the lingering spirit of the 60s and 70s that it largely confuses physical and metaphysical goals. Christians may share some social goals with the liberal left, but that is where the agreement ends. Many liberal Democrats do not want a United States founded on Judeo-Christian values, morals, ethics, and purposes. It seems that too many Christians are beguiled by some similar social values with liberals while ignoring the vastly different worldview fueling the liberal left agenda: a radical postmodernism rooted in naturalism, relativism, humanism, scientism, and materialism. The UNITED States of America cannot remain united under the naive pluralism that the left promotes. Alexis de Tocqueville warned of that more than 100 years ago.
While I protest the failures of the political right to promote Christian values more consistently, it does seem to me to be committed to “conserving” the United States of America rather than remaking it according to radical, postmodern liberal standards.
When I want to discern how to vote, I consider how my spiritual “enemies” (not my friends) are voting (2 Cor. 6:14-16). That is more insightful.
Hi John and everyone,
As a long time social and fiscal conservative, I believe both political parties have sold out their Evangelical birthright. Many Democratic conservatives knew this in the 70’s and 80’s. Some Republican conservatives have sensed this in the 90’s and new millenium but for many people it’s politics as usual.
Here are some things to consider:
1. The unquestioned acceptance of the “state-as-savior” reinforces how voting is a sacred ritual involving a “confession of faith.” How many times do we have to hear the mantra that it’s your Christian duty to vote! You must vote or you are not a good citizen!
But does God need our political machinery to establish the heavenly kingdom on earth? Elections within the nation-state deceive us into thinking that we control the world.
2. The differences among Presidential candidates is often illusionary or smaller than the greater difference between us. Self-interest, America first, and style over substance are the calling cards of today’s politicians.
How much divisive and polarized politics must go on for Christians to say “enough is enough?” How much sloganering, half-truths, and simplified versions of reality? How much mud-slinging, negative campaigning, and outright fabrications on both sides of the race? When will Christians wake up from our political slumber and realize how we have been seduced by the principalities and powers of the world system and the idols of nationalism and sheer raw political power?
3. If voting is so important, then why shouldn’t the church’s voice in this moral decision be more foundational to our choice than the political demagogues who currently dominate the radio and TV airwaves? If the church wants to be political then break this Constantinian private consumer approach and let churches cast their votes together? Most Christians would not only be allergic to this more communal approach but you can bet the IRS would not be very happy either!
When society conceives of itself as individuals contracting their own self-interest, no way exists to even account for the common good. Individuals are simply consumers in an electoral shopping spree.
4. How many times are we simply going to be coerced into opting for voting for the lesser of two evils approach? Is not a vote for a lesser evil still evil? Do we really believe in the sovereignty of God or is it the rule of the people that really wins in the end?
Here is my theological question to fellow Christians? “At what point in the political course of history would you be compelled by your own conscience not to vote?”
Corrupt candidates? Corrupt electoral process? Corrupt government policies? My point is that once you concede the legitimacy of not voting in certain situations, you have opened yourself up to a larger discussion about having sound reasons for voting or not voting in any situation.
Let the discussion begin . . .
I simply cannot agree with Chris more. Sounds to me like he’s been thinking. More people should try it. The results are not only provocative and scary, they are refreshing and freeing.
If I hear one more Christian say that me not voting for JMc or voting for a third party is simply a vote for BO, I’ll say, “So be it. If BO wins, it won’t be because of my vote, though, it’ll be because God wanted it that way. If you disagree, pick up your Bible and read it for once. You tell me what it says in regards to He who chooses who rules.”
I can’t think of a single presidential election in my lifetime when, at that moment, it did not seem to be a choice between the lesser of two evils. Jesus is never on the ballot. Neither is Satan. But in hindsight, after the heated emotions of politics cool off a bit, the results of the choices we’ve made as a nation have been significant, usually in ways that we didn’t expect. Yes, God is sovereign over human affairs. But he has given us stewardship over the earth and freedom to muck things up really bad if we so choose. If your conscience compels you not to vote, then don’t. But I don’t see how it could ever be a good thing for sincere and thoughtful Christians to opt out of the political process en masse.
Whether it’s a good thing or not is irrelevant. Unless you are equating this good with the Will of God. Is that what you’re saying, jls? That it is the Will of God for American Christians to minimally vote and even better to engage “in the political process.”
If you are, Ok. I think that’s provocative. Can you please support that feeling/belief with Christian scripture, tradition, or reason? I’m not challenging it to be a jerk. I think it’s valid for you to feel that, but I need convincing. The fact is, I used to vehemently believe it, too. Then something changed about my scripture study as well as my view of the federal government.
I remain open to the idea. Should you feel it necessary to counter my request with a similar one directed at Chris or I, I will gladly provide supportive material.
I fear that I have already written way too much and become a blowhard on John’s blog. Because you asked, I will try to give my best thoughtful answer, but then I will stop.
You used a capitalized expression “Will of God” in way that I never would. The overarching will of God is to bring this world back to his kingdom (Mt 6:10) and to grant eternal life through his Son (Jn 6:39). The main processes by which he does this are not political. Jesus rejected the opportunity to be made a king (Jn 6:15). But that does not imply that Christians are never called to
vote, serve in public office or lobby on behalf of deeply held values and beliefs. God sometimes uses those efforts in wonderful ways (think: slavery, Wilberforce). At other times, efforts by Christians in the public arena have displayed human folly (think: Prohibition). I don’t believe that God speaks from above to Christians as a voting bloc, telling us when to vote and for whom. As we seek to apply our Christian faith to our own situations, we need to think, pray, repent, and follow the leading of Scripture and the Holy Spirit. At the end of the day, Christians will exercise their free will and judgment and do as they wish. Sometimes our decisions prove wise; sometimes they prove foolish. But God still works through us and despite us to advance the Will of God. How he does this is a glorious mystery.
I believe that we can and should shine the light of Christ
as we participate and serve in the economy, the government, the military and in all legitimate and necessary spheres of human activity. The specifics of how to actually do this will vary from one person to another. Sometimes a system becomes so corrupt that our consciences may require us to opt out, but I don’t think that our democracy and government have come close to that.
I thank God for the chance to vote and to engage in lively discussion with you and with other Christians, which is a very important part of the political process. I understand that you may feel frustrated by our country’s two-party system. The process by which candidates come up has so many flaws. But the person for whom you vote for president (if you choose to do so) is not just an appendage of a party; he is a flesh-and-blood human being who will have considerable leeway to exercise his own judgment and affect the course of our nation. I hope and pray that Americans will look carefully at the candidates themselves and vote for (or against) the man, not just for (or against) the party.
Thank you, jls, for your thoughtful and gracious response. It reflects a Christian Spirit that in discussions like this I often fail to likewise reflect. I appreciate your perspective.
A couple of notes:
1) The United States is not a two party system. That is a myth propagated by THE two parties and their supporters. On national, state, and local levels many other parties exist. The constant drum beat of those who decry the validity of these third parties only brings harm to true democratic process.
In a limited two party system, where topics are discussed in terms of Right/Left or Conservative/Liberal, the two parties need only be inches from the right or left of each other to maintain their positions and support. There is no need to fully and logically work out truth regarding a topic when only two parties (both consumed with staying in power) need only sit apart separated by inches. I can explain this more if need be.
The bottom line is, there are other choices to invest in besides THE two parties, and it is simply power politics to claim not being either Republican or Democrat is somehow opting out of the system. For both president and senate, from the state of Illinois, I am voting with clear conscious FOR the Constitution Party candidates – Chuck Baldwin (pres) and Chad Coppie (sen). I encourage everyone to investigate all voting alternatives and vote FOR candidates and platforms you wish successful – not against those you oppose.
2) I also thank God for the freedom to engage in political activity and discourse as you do. It is a great privilege. There are many things I am blessed with I thank God for, many of which are not essential to good life but still gifts I should be grateful for. I also agree that I have a responsibility to shine the light of Christ in all I engage as you stated.
I, as result, exclaim the way I do re: politics because of that responsibility. I may fail to maintain a gracious tone when discussing these issues, but I’m trying to work on that. A desire to see truth shine and the people of God engage with that truth and Spirit is why I passionately declare what I do. Politics and corporate/self government are human constructs. They are not part of the image of God nor His creation. It is important to acknowledge this should we engage in them.
I can also explain this more, but consider college football. It is a sport created by man that for some can have great and deep implications (there are economics and realities behind football that go much deeper than who wins on Saturday). I have begun to view (at least at the senate/pres level) government and politics as no different than a sport. AND, much like how all good sports live and die by passionate competition and those who incite that competition – the principalities of politics LOVE how we engage in government. Left, Right, Conservative, Liberal – just the fact that every 4 years this country engages in this (two) team sport as opposed to all the other things we could engage in to advance the Kingdom brings great joy to those principalities. [As a result, I agree with you. This will be my last post on politics for a long time. I’m convicted by my own words.]
3) This statement, “As we seek to apply our Christian faith to our own situations, we need to think, pray, repent, and follow the leading of Scripture and the Holy Spirit,” is incredibly true, but jls, it can’t be true if this statement, “I don’t believe that God speaks from above to Christians as a voting bloc, telling us when to vote and for whom,” unless you are saying that God would lead one Christian to vote for BO, another to vote for JMc, and still another to vote third party or simply not vote. If that’s what you’re saying, I think you could make a case for that seeming incongruity, but it implies something about how God relates to His creation that I think most people would disagree with, or at least take umbrage with. I suppose you might be speaking to how fallen people engage Scripture and the Spirit as best they can and that genuine engagement is what’s most important – not the revelation itself, but again, I think most people would also take umbrage with that view of revelation.
4) No one has implied here that, “Christians are never called to vote, serve in public office or lobby on behalf of deeply held values and beliefs.” What has been implied, but perhaps not fully explained, is that in light of the subversive and scandalous nature of the Cross and Christ, Christians must also occasionally engage in subversive and scandalous acts – as Christ did – if they can ever hope to advance the Kingdom on earth. You said it yourself, “The main processes by which he (Christ) does this are not political. Jesus rejected the opportunity to be made a king.” Why? Why did he disengage from the political arena He so easily could have dominated? Why did MLK engage in peaceful protest and not light the revolt he most certainly could have done? Why did Brother Yun go on a hunger strike in prison?
I believe, in light of a corrupt system more about oligarchial power rather than sevice to the people, Chistians of good conscious can make a strong case of protest by not voting or otherwise engaging in the system. When the most known among us declare from high that the system is broken, does not serve the people, is full of corruption and lies, and as a result they no longer will participate until the oligarchy acknowledges them and commits to change – maybe real change will come…as long as the protest is full of prayer, repentance, Scripture, and the Holy Spirit as you pointed out.
Finally, I don’t think we disagree much with our perceptions of the Will of God. I think, and it sounds like you do to, that God’s Will isn’t (necessarily) that we engage in the realm of politics and government, but that instead we pursue God’s Will in whatever it is we engage in. Should we choose to engage on any level in the realm of politics, we must do so putting God first, devoting ourselves wholly to Him and not politics or any particular political issue. Where I disagree with you completely is your implication that a Christian who opts out of the political process isn’t being sincere or thoughtful. That accusation simply has no support in Scripture or the Great Tradition of Christianity. I will gladly point to a dozen Christian figures throughout history and presently who don’t/didn’t engage in political structures whatsoever, nor even vote, and we’d all agree they are sincere and genuine followers of Christ. We’d also agree that their work advaced greatly the kingdom of God on earth.
Your accusation on who is sincere and thoughtful and who is not was ill worded at best and down right divisive at worst.
Blessing and Good Counsel in All Things,
One commenter above made the statement that if I cast my ballot and Obama is elected it is God’s will.
Don’t know about that.
If I throw a Molotov Cocktail into a crowded theater and people are killed, even if I didn’t intend for the collateral damage to take place, is that a manifestation of God’s will? How is that different from a thoughtless vote cast?
I can find chapter and verse to support such action if I’m a bad theologian. Jesus and the Tower of Siloam.
A vote cast carelessly with the idea that God will somehow nullify the negative effects of our vote decision to accomplish his will is as damaging as a misdirected Molotov Cocktail carelessly cast.
We have a responsibility to in all our ability to uphold righteousness as we understand it to be. To do less voting for a man who supports the murder of Unborn babies without apology (among other things )appears to me to be irresponsible if we name the Name of Jesus. Please help me understand the other opinion a Christan could hold. I certainly don’t. I mean that in all humility. I don’t get it, at any level. If I were standing before the “bema” seat of Jesus and explaining my actions in a vote for Obama I would not find my defense vigorous. I think this would be a case of 1 Corinthians 3 where I would suffer loss.
How about you?