I have the honor of addressing spiritual and political leaders in a variety of settings. Here is a summary of some of my thoughts as we prepare for voting in November. The importance of this election cannot be overstated. I am not simply advocating an "ABO" (anyone but Obama) strategy - this is the same shortsightedness that led to trouble in 1976 with Carter and 2008 with Obama. it is important that our voting locally and nationally is proactive and not reactive, and a response to vision and values.
We need clear discernment of the key issues and proper dispositions for lasting change to occur. We must not allow propaganda and deflection to sidetrack clear thinking. Big lies will be sold as truth. Caricatures will be presented as accurate pictures of reality. Statistics will be twisted to validate either progress (the Dow Jones is up this week) or the need for austerity ($5 gas prices prove we need a "green" economy). Religion will be used to promote more or less federal government action. When presented with uncomfortable facts, candidates will fall back on slamming their predecessors or rivals.
Our founders limited the role of government, especially at the federal level and left sovereignty with the people and the states. The last century has seen this fundamental principle reversed, with many people thinking that government bestows liberties and rights! Our founders and all thoughtful people know that liberty requires virtue and self-regulation. America's birth defect of slavery (thank you, Peter Friedman, for this insight) is healing slowly, but the combination of latent racism and institutionalized victimhood keeps us from more progress. It is possible to affirm the lasting principles of our Constitution and enjoy 21st century innovation and insight. Justice Ginsburg is flat-out wrong to suggest that nations should not look first at the US Constitution as a model. She is obsessed with the imperfections (that Amendments have and can address) and fails to see the underlying brilliance of the authors. We are in a new battle between the totalitarian vision of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan that controls all facets of life and meters out a few benefits and John Locke's works on civil society and the role of government that protect life, liberty and property.
Discernment means that we must recognize ideology as the enemy of theology (for those of faith) and sound critical thinking (for those of all faiths or none). When we are captive to any word that ends in ISM, we place ourselves in a straight jacket. For example, though I am considered "conservative" on many subjects, I refuse to allow the lens of conservatism to be the first refractor of truth. My carefully-considered positions on issues may place me in or out of particular ideological 'camps." For example, I am pro-life and also against the death penalty for civil crimes. I think we have a moral obligation to offer health care to all, but not deliver it as a single-payer program of an inefficient federal government.
Discernment affirms that policy compromises can work, such as the Clinton-Gingrich deal on welfare, work and the budget in the 1990s. Public-private partnerships are salutary for large infrastructure projects. Budget restraint has to include military and social welfare spending. There are "deals" that can happen that maintain the integrity of all parties.
Discernment means that we strive to find a healthy balance between individual rights and community well-being, especially concerning property use. There is a way forward that transcends the petty despots that push extreme environmental agendas or their counterparts that are on the take allowing rapacious development with no thought to ecological concerns.
A Culture of Life means that the vulnerable are cared for, from conception to coronation and that private and public groups work together to ensure that children are welcome, the aged are respected and the hurting are treated with dignity.
Discernment means that people of faith see God's common grace in others. Partnerships across cultural and religious boundaries are possible as we celebrate shared values and visions for the future.
Dispositions of humility and hopefulness, reverence for God and respect for all people and prayerfulness and personal kindness will build a better future. Our new dispositions can forge new alliances as conservative groups work with more liberal groups to combat sex and work slavery and ameliorate poverty.
When we love our enemies and return curses with blessings and refuse to get in the gutter of deceit, sterling character is forged and specific competencies will shine. When we live within our means and work to create wealth for ourselves and others, we will find more moments of joy and peace.
We have the opportunity to create - one conversation and one relationship at a time -a better future for our nation and the world. Yes, we must vote. Yes, we must debate. No, we cannot compromise crucial beliefs. But we can be known for our love and integrity, our humility and respect for all and our willingness to listen deeply, think well and find ways to work together.