I thought this article was pretty interesting and had some good points (I highlighted some parts in bold). But in the midst of all the presidential stuff, don’t forget to research the local races, b/c our votes count more there!
A CONSCIENCE DECISION: How faith informs the vote – Part 5 of 5 – BUSH VS. KERRY: DOES GOD HAVE A PREFERENCE?
by Ron Sider
DOES God have a preference? Yes, but God has not told anybody what it is. Instead, God has provided a normative framework through biblical revelation and expects us to use our rational minds to ponder wisely over every political decision.
It is clear from the Bible that God is pro-life, pro-poor, pro-family, pro-racial justice, and pro-creation care. So how do Bush and Kerry stack up?
Bush is much better on the sanctity of human life (when it comes to the unborn and the very old), family issues, and the faith-based initiative. Here’s a run-down:
Human life – Whereas Kerry is pro-choice on abortion, Bush promoted and signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Act, the first major legislative restriction on abortion in many years. Whether the issue is abortion, euthanasia, or stem-cell research, the Bush administration seeks to respect the sanctity of human life. (Capital punishment is a tragic exception.)
Family issues – Bush has eliminated the marriage penalty in most tax codes, earmarked TANF funds to strengthen wholesome families among poor folk, earmarked the use of federal funds to promote abstinence programs here and abroad, supported the historic understanding of marriage, and endorsed the proposed constitutional amendment specifying that marriage be defined as between a man and a woman.
Faith-based initiatives – Bush’s vigorous use of executive orders has prompted a significant, perhaps historic, change in the way government relates to faith-based agencies. An earlier bias has been replaced by a wide variety of initiatives affecting billions of dollars in federal funds. Now, when government uses nongovernmental agencies to deliver social services (and it does that in a vast variety of instances) there is a level playing field that enables faith-based organizations to compete fairly.
Closely related to all the above is the fact that the next president will probably nominate one, two, or possibly more new justices for a Supreme Court which is presently sharply divided and often decides key issues with a 5-4 majority. The nominees of the next president may very well decide whether some restrictions on abortion-on-demand become law, whether gay marriage becomes the norm in this country, and whether the First Amendment means a radical wall of separation between religion and public life or equal treatment for all religious viewpoints with no bias toward secularism. It is certainly plausible to argue that the next president will have an unusual opportunity to shape the Supreme Court and thus the nation for the next generation. On issues of life, family, and the First Amendment, I believe Bush’s nominees would be preferable to Kerry’s.
On the other hand, Kerry is better on economic and racial justice, the environment, and America’s international role.
Economic justice – Bush’s policies have been sharply slanted toward the rich. His tax cuts have overwhelmingly benefited the richest 10 percent. He has cut a variety of programs that benefit poorer Americans, most recently slashing the number of Section-8 housing vouchers that partially subsidize low-income housing at a time when more and more poor working families cannot afford housing. His tax cuts have helped create a huge federal deficit that our grandchildren will have to repay. Kerry promises to reverse some of the most unfair tax cuts, increase effective programs to empower poor Americans, and lower the budget deficit faster than Bush.
Racial justice – The situation is less clear-cut here. Bush has made high-level, very visible minority appointments. He has also dared to talk publicly about our nation’s ghastly failure to provide quality education to African-American and Latino children and has insisted on regular testing so that we know clearly which (often inner-city) schools are failing. He also substantially increased federal funding for education, by about 35 percent, although his “No Child Left Behind” package is not fully funded and Kerry promises to change that. On balance, however, for several decades, the Democratic Party has been more open to and supportive of African-Americans and Latinos than have the Republicans.
Environmental issues – Bush’s stance on the environment has been appalling. In spite of clear scientific evidence of global warming, he rejected the global agreement worked out at Kyoto to reduce fossil-fuel emissions. Domestically, he has largely ignored conservation, and refused to raise substantially the CAFE standards that could easily force car manufacturers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. (Regrettably, Kerry has proposed using our reserve of petroleum to lower rising gasoline prices, when in fact they should go still higher to discourage the use of fossil fuels.)
Foreign policy – Bush’s unilateralist policies have resulted in a dramatic loss of respect for America all around the world. On the environment, the World Court, and, of course, Iraq, he has chosen to defy world opinion and act in a unilateralist manner that is widely perceived as arrogant. Many of the reasons Bush gave for invading Iraq have proven – at best! – to have been based on faulty judgments. After the fall of Iraq, when a multilateral approach might have avoided the ferocious opposition of so many Iraqis, he refused to welcome a significant role for the United Nations. High-level decisions about the application of the Geneva Conventions to prisoners of war in Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, and then Iraq contributed to the terrible abuses at Abu Ghraib that will continue to undermine American credibility for years to come. Bush has a great catch phrase – “Freedom is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity” – but his actions have tragically weakened America’s ability to play its historic role of nurturing freedom for everyone around the globe. Kerry’s promise to do better is credible.
In some areas, it is a toss-up. Bush has pledged to increase economic foreign aid for poor nations far more dramatically than any president in years. His $15-billion commitment to Africa to combat AIDS is also commendable. Kerry, of course, would probably implement both commitments. On international trade, Kerry has sometimes sounded like a protectionist who ignores the fact that when Western jobs move to poorer nations and thus enable poor people to find new and better paying jobs, poor nations benefit – and so do consumers who pay less for the things they buy. On the other hand, Kerry is right that international trade agreements pay far too little attention to concerns for the environment and the rights of labor, and he promises to correct that.
I have two final comments. First, it is obviously presumptuous to make such sweeping, summary judgments about enormously complex topics, but I believe that a much more extensive analysis of both biblical norms and the facts of our world would back up what I have said. (And in other places – e.g., my books RICH CHRISTIANS IN AN AGE OF HUNGER; JUST GENEROSITY: A NEW VISION FOR OVERCOMING POVERTY IN AMERICA; COMPLETELY PRO-LIFE; and many past columns in PRISM – I have spelled out those arguments in a lot more detail than I can here.)
Finally, I cannot tell you how to vote. Personally, I find this year’s decision especially wrenching. Evaluate both candidates on the basis of what you consider to be a biblically grounde
d, factually informed approach to politics. Pray. Discuss the issues with others. Then vote your conscience, knowing that God promises to accomplish his will through our weak, finite, often perplexed efforts. May God use your vote on November 2 to bless this nation and the world.