Obama, Christianity and Compassion
The weeks leading up to the presidential election, and the response to President-elect Obama's victory, were particularly interesting to me in observing how people I know of the Christian faith were leaning.
During the past few general elections, and during the past couple of decades in general, I seemed to run into few churchgoers who supported the Democratic nominee or the Democratic Party itself. But this time around there were plenty. The whole notion that the Republican Party and Christian believers were hopelessly intertwined has finally dissipated and--whether one is pleased with the election results or not--that is a good thing because the life and message of Jesus were and are too perfect to ever be fully identified with a party platform or a piece of legislation.
There's no need for me to attempt to articulate the various root causes for Obama's election, as plenty of political writers, pundits and others have given us more than our fill. I am intrigued by the shifting nature of organized Christianity, however, as the rising generations of those who profess the faith get involved in churches and communities and become active in the political process.
Younger believers are less beholden to particular denominations, church hierarchy and institutions in general, embracing more raw, organic faith that attempts to make a pragmatic difference. They are about community rather than division, and I have observed these attributes at play not just in how they function at the workplace (I'm immersed in Gen X and Y at T-Mobile USA) but in how they have engaged the political process.
Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christian and the guy viewed as a key champion of what has been called the "emerging" or "emergent" church movement, offers this in his book A Generous Orthodoxy:
"As we've seen, much of the polarization between liberals and conservatives has come from comparing 'our' best with 'their' worst ('our' worst often accurately critiqued by 'them' and 'their' worst by 'us'). But neither of us understood 'their' best very well, and thus both we and they violated Jesus' dictum about not judging."
The truth is, no political party has a lock on WWJD. Observe the life and ministry of Jesus as told in the scriptures, and you see a counter-cultural outpouring of compassion teeming with the spiritual power to transform a life. He didn't let wedge issues get in the way of seeking to relate to people and certainly didn't try to merge ecclesiastical power with political power. He came, he saw, he loved, he died, he rose--and thus gives this spiritual power to all open to receiving him, making them available to serve others under any banner or vocation.
It's time for people of faith--any faith, not just Christianity--of any particular political persuasions, to start trusting in the positive intent of their brothers and sisters. And those who would look at Obama, a professing Christian, and doubt the veracity of his faith because of wedge issues, certain political views or even his late father's religious heritage, would be better-served shifting that energy into figuring out how to make a compassionate difference in a real person's life right now. That's WWJD for you.