Religion and Politics (continued)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In my last 2 posts, I referred to myself as a liberal, evangelical Christian and explained what “evangelical” and “Christian” mean to me. According to my definitions, both are fairly black and white. Either you are or you aren’t.

“Liberal” is more gray. What I mean is that I find myself increasingly tilting toward the liberal view on more issues than not. This was percolating within me long before Obama’s election. Likewise, the timing of this post does not relate to Ted Kennedy’s death. My brother-in-law claims I was brainwashed by reading the New York Times every day for 12 years. That’s probably the best explanation for my political shift. That and my travels around the world, which I believe moderates conservative thinking. I use liberal and conservative rather than Democrat and Republican. Hyper-partisan politics has spoiled my appetite for either party, although we do know that Jesus was a Republican. (See II Hezekiah 7:13)

(Back to the New York Times. It has at least 2 things going for it. The paper covers the world like no other and as an institution, it is aggressively compassionate with regard to the neediest, both locally and around the world, and I love that.)

There are too many issues for one post, so I’ll start off with foreign affairs, which I’m more passionate about (as opposed to domestic policy issues).

Foreign Policy

Yes to engagement - There’s nothing to be lost by dialogue, by making the effort to bring rogue nations into the world community. You don’t have to trust them; just talk to them.

Yes to building real coalitions – Like the first Gulf War; that worked

Yes to the United Nations – Although flawed, we should try and work within its framework. What’s the alternative – isolation or go form our own UN-equivalent. Nobody would join.

Defense Budget

I’m as American as they come. This last 4th of July, I kept switching channels so I could hear “America, the Beautiful” and “Stars and Stripes Forever” again and again. My dad had a bad singing voice, but he always sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” before every sporting event. Therefore, I always sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before every sporting event. I get choked up when I return home from traveling overseas and see “Welcome to the United States of America” at the airports.

BUT, I question the need for a $600 billion defense budget. What about, say, $400 billion. That would still be 6 TIMES the budget of China, the next largest on the list. There’s a lot of good we could do here and abroad with that extra $200 billion. And while I’m at it, why is this never debated ??? Congress just rubber-stamps this budget year in and year out. Debate exists only at the margin, if at all.

Foreign Aid

There are several different definitions of foreign aid. Using the most common, the US distributes about $30 billion / year, or roughly 5% of our defense budget. Measuring foreign aid as a percentage of GDP, the US is one of the stingiest developed nations. It wasn’t always the case. Recall the Marshall Plan, where the US played a huge role in rebuilding post-WWII Europe. Some historians say this was our country’s finest hour.

I don’t claim to have the answers. I would just like to see a civilized debate on these issues, absent the name-calling and abrasive behavior that has become the norm in politics and in the media.

What I find really draining and counter-productive are so many TV and radio newspersons (loosely defined) screaming at each other. Whoever stops screaming first or whoever actually shows the grace to let the other side finish a sentence, whether liberal or conservative, I’ll choose your side.

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