Monday, October 27, 2008

Yes, I Saw Sarah


Yes, I went to see Sarah Palin here in Springfield last Friday. It was fun, to tell the truth. I rode my bike to Bass Pro Shop from my house – about a 45 minute ride – chained my bike to a street sign and walked around the block, through the parking lot of a next door shopping center, and almost ¾ of the way around the next block to get to the end of the line.

Standing in line for a couple of hours with Palin supporters was an interesting experience. I overheard most of the standard Republican talking points, plus a lot of the misinformation spread by those viral emails, but there were a few notable comments. Like the guy who would “really like to see his birth certificate” just to make sure Obama is really a U.S. citizen, or the guy whose solution to the gambling thing is to just get “the poor people” to make better decisions with their money, or the lady who said of Obama that you could put lipstick on a donkey but he would still be an ass. But mostly it was just people standing in line, chatting about small talk and trying to stay warm.

After a couple hours, the line began to move steadily and we filed into the area through a gauntlet of security people from several different agencies. No metal detectors or individual searches, though. I made my way into a spot where a 6’2” person might stand on tiptoe and periodically catch a glimpse of the stage. There was as gospel quartet singing at the time. They were followed by a glimpse of a guy who might have been Kenny Hulsof, then representative Roy Blunt delivered a standard stump speech, then there was a long pause … and we kind of started shuffling around. Finally a voice announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, here she is – Naomi Judd.”

The whole crowd kind of chuckled because the build up had prepared us for Palin, but we got Naomi Judd instead. I was actually kind of surprised by what she said, because she talked about her own personal sorrow that Sarah Palin was being criticized so much by so many people. About how unfair it is that “because she is a woman” she is being held to a different standard of scrutiny. Which was odd because I kind of thought the McCain campaign was trying to stay away from the whole “victim” topic. But there it was, and it got a big crowd response.

Well, then Naomi introduced Palin and she came out with her two daughters, who sat on the stage with Naomi Judd as their mom talked. She was really upbeat and had a lot of energy, apologizing for keeping us waiting because she didn’t want to leave Bass Pro Shop which reminded her of home. In her speech, she really didn’t say anything new, though she focused a lot on her passion for families with children with special needs. Mostly though it was just the routine stuff.

I noticed that by far the strongest reactions came when she talked about spreading the wealth. The crowd was very energetic, with “boos” and “no way” and a lot of other negative stuff all around me. It was very strong, the energy was very high – probably the most intense moment of her speech.

We are doing a series at church about discipleship that uses this scripture as a part of the foundation:
2 Corinthians 8:13-15 - I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.’
…and so I’ve been thinking a lot about sharing the wealth. Now, far be it from me to proof-text something like that, but I do think it is kind of a foundational idea in scripture – it is the basis of a lot more than just this one passage. So I am a bit confused about how some people are reconciling these ideas – on the one hand the scriptural admonition to share resources with one’s neighbor, and on the other hand the apparent aversion to doing so.

(I’m sure that someone reading this can leave a comment to help me to figure it out. And I’m not trying to stir up anything, I honestly just want to know the reasoning here.)

So anyway, she spoke for a half an hour or so, and it was pretty exciting. I saw John McCain in 2000 when he stopped at a small rally in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in Galesburg, Illinois. And it was exciting then, too. It is exciting to participate in the process of government. We live in one of the few countries in the world where the people are free to do so, and it is a shame that many U.S. citizens take that fact for granted.

That’s one of the coolest things about the whole Obama-meets-“Joe the Plumber” incident, an idea that gets overlooked in the campaign rhetoric. A U.S. Senator, running for president, took the time to stop and talk to an ordinary citizen. It was not a passing comment, but a real conversation about real concerns. It was not a supporter, either, but a man with whom the candidate disagreed, and they said so. An ordinary person expressed disagreement with a sitting Senator and presidential candidate, out in the open, on the street in front of TV cameras and other witnesses, for a significant amount of time.

That is truly amazing, when you really think about it. And that’s why I went to see Sarah Palin – not that I support her or not but that I support the process in which she is participating. The people we vote for and the issues we vote on really do impact our lives, and it is very important that all of us participate, learning as much as we can about each candidate and each issue, and voting thoughtfully and intelligently.

So when she got done speaking, the rally was over. Palin walked off the stage and shook hands with the people who had the advance tickets up front, but most of us in the crowd kind of just wandered off. I hiked back to where my bike was and pedaled back home again. Nothing that happened Friday is going to change the way I vote next week, but it was still pretty cool to be there.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

“So I am a bit confused about how some people are reconciling these ideas – on the one hand the scriptural admonition to share resources with one’s neighbor, and on the other hand the apparent aversion to doing so.” You asked!!!

The difference for me is having the ability to spread the wealth based on personal passion. Thus far, I have not seen enough fiscal responsibility from our government to trust that they can manage my inflated tax dollars with effectiveness and efficiency. And, they don’t seem to look back – they will toss dollars at a cause and ignore the outcome – so it seems. Look at what happens with philanthropy – a common person/group managing funds they dedicate to a special cause with the oversight necessary to ensure the funds are used effectively. Suppose the government decided to take all the dollars that churches collected so that they could make the final determination on distribution to ensure that all churches had equal funds with which to administer programs and finance overhead? That does not sound good to me.

So there you are - a difference.

By the way, good for you on giving Sarah Palin some of your “ear time”!!! And……when will we see something new at Reverendphotog?

Diana

John Schmalzbauer said...

The conservative answer to your question about spreading the wealth would go something like this: Christians should be able to spread the wealth through private institutions (especially the church), rather than government. I think that's what Diana just said.

For a progressive take on the issue, see Paul Rashenbush's blog:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/progressiverevival/2008/10/senator-obama-said-to-joe.html

Raushenbush quotes his great-grandpa Walter "Social Gospel" Rauschenbusch from 1907:

"Wealth - to use a homely illustration - is to a nation what manure is to a farm. If the farmer spreads it evenly over the soil, it will enrich the whole. If he should leave it in heaps, the land would be impoverished and under the rich heaps the vegetation would be killed."

I think it is cool that Kenny Hulshof used a manure analogy to make the opposite point: Hulshof said that wealth is not like manure and shouldn't be spread around.

Anonymous said...

Andy:

To be brief, I agree with Diana's summation. Craig Moore recently blogged on this matter with an interesting twist and result.
As an aside, you had me until you mentioned Naomi Judd. Her sister Ashley, is far easier on the eyes!

Best,
Joseph

Anonymous said...

Judd Note

Interesting that Naomi was with Palin. Ashley (actually Naomi's younger daughter and sister to Wynonna) was here at democratic rally and introduced senior staffer of Obama's campaign who came to talk about women's issues. Kim Lorenzen was there and we talked about it. I missed the rally, though.

I agree that it is our responsibility to get informed and be willing to discuss the issues with civility, something which I find sorely missing in most political conversations.

- JudyCS

Patrick Moore said...

One issue I see is that politican folk are quick to claim the adjective "evangelical" (in its current political and religious connotations) but rarely follow through with its implications. Like you alluded, silence on how an evangelical, who believes in biblical innerancy, understands the Jubilee year. Or silence on when do children or teenagers go to hell if they haven't accept Jesus as personal savior if they die. In my mind, if you are going to claim the title, you need to take all the implications that go with it. (Again it is sad that a good word like "evangelical" has been distorted.)

Larry b said...

It is quite cool that we do have such easy access to our national level politicians. I live in a small (<10,000 people) town in Iowa and because of Iowa's caucus, we had Obama, Clinton, Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, and others stop by our local coffee shop where we could just stop in and see them. Hillary came back through and stopped at our local YMCA and talked too. It's a great opportunity to really here what they have to say absent media bias and production.

In regards to your question about resisting the sharing, most others have addressed that. I would only add that, sometimes it seems to me that people advocate raising taxes to do this, but they are unwilling to answer the question of how the federal government is a more moral entity to fairly distribute wealth than other mechanisms.

The federal government is, first of all, not permanent (it can change every 2 years) and thus tax laws and it's disbursement are subject to the whims of the representatives elected into congress. It spends borrowed money already (national debt) and will be doing so for ad infinitum. It has already shown that it is willing to reappropriate money at any time for other usages such as military actions. It does a poor job caring for those it is charged to care for (VA hospitals care of our soldiers), and it's sheer size promotes very inefficient uses of the resources it's given.

I'd much prefer that if the government wants to help move wealth around, to have the government incentivize people with tax credits or other rebates for people who actively care for others through their donations directly to needy families or to local agencies that serve these families.

John said...

…and so I’ve been thinking a lot about sharing the wealth. Now, far be it from me to proof-text something like that, but I do think it is kind of a foundational idea in scripture – it is the basis of a lot more than just this one passage. So I am a bit confused about how some people are reconciling these ideas – on the one hand the scriptural admonition to share resources with one’s neighbor, and on the other hand the apparent aversion to doing so.

Quite easily. In charity, we give money to the poor. In taxation, money is taken away from us. One is voluntary and the other is coercive.

Anonymous said...

I can see the argument of it being voluntary when you give to a charity and involuntary when you are taxed but what I don't get is that we already pay taxes for things that we all use and need such as road repair, sewers, education, etc. Helping those less fortunate would benefit everyone, too. Are the republicans suggesting we do away with all taxation? Taxes are involuntary, yes. But necessary to run our country. I'm sorry that there has not been a government recently who has managed your inflated tax dollars effectively, mine too. Let's elect one that will. -Erin

Melissa said...

I think in four years, the election should look more like Dancing with the Stars!

John said...

Erin wrote:

I can see the argument of it being voluntary when you give to a charity and involuntary when you are taxed but what I don't get is that we already pay taxes for things that we all use and need such as road repair, sewers, education, etc. Helping those less fortunate would benefit everyone, too.

Who decides what is something that we all need and can benefit from?

Are the republicans suggesting we do away with all taxation?

I don't know. You'll have to ask a Republican.

Taxes are involuntary, yes. But necessary to run our country.

Again, who decides what is a necessary government program and what is not?

I'm sorry that there has not been a government recently who has managed your inflated tax dollars effectively, mine too. Let's elect one that will.

Or better yet, how about I keep my money to save, give, or spend as I see fit. It is, after all, mine.

Anonymous said...

We decide as voters which government programs should be funded by tax dollars. I am not an expert but I just think that if people felt less desperation and more hope for their future and the future of their children that they would be less inclined to turn to things like escapism through drugs, alcohol, gambling and less likely to neglect, abuse their children and spouses, less likely to turn to crime, less likely to need to turn to gang activity, etc. I could go on and on. Point being helping others would, in my opinion, help EVERYONE in the communtity to live safe, peaceful lives with a better chance at happiness. Including people that don't want to share. -- Erin

John said...

Yes, Erin. That's your opinion. And a reasonably well-reasoned one. But why should someone who disagrees with your opinion about what would benefit society in general have to pay for it?

bob said...

I think to use biblical ideals of caring for the poor is all well and good, but we live in a far different economic situation.
The majority of people in biblical times lived agrarian or small scale commerce,shop keepers,inns and such.
Todays tax code if nothing else is manipulative. Tax credits and deductions used to push people in the way the government sees fit with little thoughts to consequences.Perhaps the biggest effort at helping the poor happened in the so called great society of LBJ. What were the consequences of this help generation after generation of people trapped in poverty.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Obama meeting "Joe The Plumber". After seeing the way the "Obama media" has treated this man can someone please tell me why you would ever want to meet the Obama? He has shut anyone down that has questioned anything about him. I wonder what will happen if he becomes president and we don't agree with something he is doing. Are we supposed to just sit and keep our mouths shut? RE: the Verse you used. It refers to an equal distribution. In our Country there is eqaul opportunity to get what you need and or want. You see they just tried that with providing everyone the chance to own a home. Look where that got us. the verse I believe refers to for example When the Hebrew children were in the wilderness God provided manna each day. If someone took to much it would have been wasted for for God only provided what they needed or else they would not have kept searching for a better place. Paul, I believe is speaking to the church say that if you have taken more than you need and see another in need then you should try to help if you can. God set the first flat "tax" system when all that is asked of us is to tith 10%. Not 30% for those who make over $250K and those who make under $40K just forget it. You said you heard negative stuff all around you? I'm sure if I had been there it would have been possitive stuff I heard. You hear what you want to hear, that's just the way it is.

Jonathan Bartlett said...

The problem with "spreading the wealth" is that the U.S. is a secular state. You can't do it in the name of Jesus, and, to top it off, it is forced. And the people who are fighting poverty are governmentally restricted from dealing with any of its spiritual roots. So, if you believe that Christianity is part of the solution to poverty, then having the government be the vehicle for the solution simply won't work. I go over this in more depth here and here.

Totalitarians in the 20th century have all been people who wanted to do good in the name of the people. It just turns, as a practical manner, that for governments to handle social justice it means that governments will dictate the values of society - by force - not because they are bad people but simply because that's how a government operates.

That's why conservatives, when administering social justice, tend to favor non-governmental solutions. Interestingly, there is a red state/blue state divide on giving - the conservative states actually tend to be more generous givers than the liberals. This isn't to brag, but just to point out it isn't because conservatives are selfish, it's just that we really believe that the government is the 100% wrong institution to be carrying any of these things out.

saggy69 said...

i can't believe that more people don't see the condition the state of Ill is in or the city of Chicago, and want this man to run our country! Chicago is ran by Dem's and they have all but ran it into the ground. 10% sales tax (highest in the nation) and highest state income tax in the nation. That's how you help those in need? Thanks, but no thanks!

elm said...

This is a wonderful blogpost! I share in your confusion about spreading the wealth, to be honest. Many people have commented to say that it is not the government's job to step in with such issues. I've heard the same argument with the poor -that it should be the Church's job to handle the poor, not the government's. Yet the majority of those same people want the government to step in on the issues of abortion and homosexuality. I simply find that to be inconsistent.

John said...

elm wrote:

Yet the majority of those same people want the government to step in on the issues of abortion and homosexuality. I simply find that to be inconsistent.

Many of them do. I'm glad that I'm not among them.