Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Why I Left the Republican Party, but Didn't Become a Democrat: The Seamless Garment

The seamless garment is a prominent but puzzling symbol in John’s Gospel. The soldiers cast lots for this garment so they would not have to tear it since “the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top” (John 19:23). This seamless garment, like the seamless net (21:11), seems to be a symbol of unity or oneness, the unity that Jesus brought and calls us to live out. The late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin used the seamless garment as an image for a unified or consistent ethic of life. This image challenges us to have a seamless respect for life from the womb to the tomb. This is my story.

A “consistent ethic of life.” This was the resounding word I heard from Scripture, from God, as I embarked down this journey of transformation. Instead of gripping to 2 life issues: abortion and gay marriage, I also found that the Bible had to say a lot about other life issues, such as: war, poverty, capital punishment, euthanasia, universal health care, immigration, nuclear weapons, the environment, racism, AIDS, the poor, the maimed, the widow, and the orphan. When I was younger I saw abortion and gay marriage as the crux of my foundation in which I chose my candidate, or party. I also focused on ultra conservative economic principles like capitalism, consumerism, and the trickle down theory. Then it all changed.

Now I am trying to formulate a biblical, God-fearing approach to how I live my life out in the practical day to day and for the locus of my morals and ethics. So, not only do I stand on moral principles to guide my pro-life platforms and traditional marriage/family platforms, but I also stand on the platform that tells me that it is uncompassionate and inexcusable when thousands of Christians believe in the saying, “God helps those who help themselves”. That when millions upon millions live in the world without access to water, it is a life issue. That it is also a life issue when a country who holds a fraction of the world’s population uses 40% of its resources. It’s a life issue when 6 million children die a year due to malnutrition/starvation related diseases, when 4/10 of 1% of the US budget is used to address world poverty (and guess how much goes to war…), when 47 million people have no health care coverage, when corporate executive incomes are 400x higher than the average worker, when 3.5 million people experience homelessness every year, and 20% of those are military veterans (talk about hypocrisy).

As God widened my understanding of who He is and what He calls for He began developing in me a holistic approach to applying His Word into practice. No longer did I stand only in the gaps of the Religious Right's unbalanced approach to ethical issues. I now understand that life issues are more than just abortion and gay marriage, and as I was finding this out, it hit me like a dear in the headlights that I was no longer a Republican, yet not becoming a Democrat. I realized that as one author puts it (paraphrase)...Republicans draw lines that are never meant to be crossed and that's a good thing, and Democrats erase lines that never should have existed, and that's a good thing. I was somewhere lodged in the middle, hoping to stand with an Evangelical minority (which is fastly becoming a majority), to stand up for what Jesus calls for and to show our "leaders" that this is what we stand for. I say this minority is becoming a majority because as Barna, a leader in Christian research, has just said, "One of the most reliable constituencies of the Republican Party in recent years has been born again Christians. Our latest national survey of likely voters, however, shows that the Republican Party has lost the allegiance of many born again voters. The November election is truly up for grabs - and if the election were held today, most born again voters would select the Democratic Party nominee for president, whoever that might be." We are truly witnessing a shift within Christian ranks to the middle. I am in those ranks.

I don't believe in abortion. I stand against gay marriage. I believe we are to be good stewards of the earth. I believe everyone bears the image of God, even enemies of the United States. I believe we are to take care of the poor, the lame, the widow, and the orphan. I believe no one should go to bed hungry. I believe water should be accessible to everyone. I believe if we say someone else cant have nuclear weapons, then we cant have nuclear weapons. I believe in alternative energy. I believe in gun control. I believe that the Bible says we are all pilgrims and strangers to this earth and that we should embrace strangers when they come into the land, and that we will be judged by how we treat them. I believe that every person should have access to health care. I believe no one should be homeless. I believe minimum wage should be increased. I believe consumerism and big business are inherently evil in that they divide allegiances (see Jesus' statement of God versus mammon). I believe corporate executives and boards should be ashamed of themselves. I believe the "American Dream" is tragically flawed and leads to death. I believe all of these things and more..and that makes me neither Democrat, nor Republican.

I leave this post with this entry:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I life my lamp beside the golden door." -Statue of Liberty


John Lynch said...

The responsibility that comes with the opportunity of globalized access & awareness combined with being among the world's most wealthy is staggering!

I am learning to think of my "home" in America as more of a "home base" for local community and globally extending mission. My hope is that all American Christ-followers adopt this worldview and live it out.

May we become known as a traveling people who sojourn often among the needy, cultivating God-led connections around the planet with people of need and places of missional opportunity. May we reclaim our identity as the sent people of God!

Thanks for this post, brother. Love ya!

John Lynch said...

Hey padna! How are you guys doing this week?

Rebecca said...

Great post! I resonate with it a lot.

So, forgive me for asking, but who are you? I can't find your name anywhere on your blog! :) Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm terrible at updating it.

P.S. It's totally fine if you ever gave me "singleness" advice - although my guess is you haven't. :)

Rebecca said...

Hey!!! I just figured out who you are!! Hahaha :) Hi Grant! :) Now I can bookmark your blog and check it regularly - most excellent! Thanks for leaving a comment.

And no, you most definitely have not given me "singleness advice." No worries :)

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