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Proverbs 31: 8-9 : "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…"

Being a Christian Centrist in a Politically Polarized World

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Once upon a time I was naive enough to think that “the best candidate” wins in an election.

I’m not kidding.  I was so sold-out to the notion that every vote counted and that the political system could help solve problems I helped co-found a political action committee for youth in my home town.

I sweetly believed in the quaint notion of “majority rule” because I believed that “The Majority” (whomever it may be) might give a hoot about listening to the minority after taking power.  After all, we claim to be a country based on Judeo-Christian ethics and morality.   The last I checked Jesus actually engaged and talked with people who hated his guts.

Well, the Democrats abused their power soon after winning 2008.  In 2010, Mitch McConnell made his now famous “one term President” statement about Obama.  Though his comments were much more mild than is often quoted by partisan Dems, McConnell did declare the equivalent of an obstructionist nuclear war in response.  The “Party of No” was born.

Ahhh…  Partisan bickering, how we loathe thee.

Remember what George W. said after he won reelection in 2004?  He said something along the lines of…

“That’s what you do with political capital.  You spend it.”

As I warned Georgie then, don’t abuse your power.  Engage the Democrats.  Build bi-partisan spirit.

Yeah right.  George and his buddies rammed through a LOT of junk in the eight years of his presidency, including huge portions of “the other white meat,” earmarks, unwise reduction and restriction of Wall Street watchdogs, and unwise tax slashing.  The Dems weren’t happy, but they didn’t have much choice.  Someone else was driving the car.

Well, what goes around comes around, so all the hand-wringing and finger pointing by the Republicans, blaming the Democrats for gridlock in Washington, is crocodile tears.

But now we have a problem.  This time we’re heading for a real crisis and more gridlock is the last thing we need.  

The so-called “Fiscal Cliff” is at the end of the road.

So what’s my point?

I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines and wringing my own hands, saying “Woe is me!”  People who know me best know I’m full of weird ideas.  They know I’m trying to be a conservative Christian with moderate social views in a RED region where everyone automatically assumes the moniker “Christian” means  you have an elephant on your front lawn.

So I’m using my voice.  Well, I’m using my keyboard, actually.  I want to start a NEW dialog, a dialog that brings Christians of good conscience – and anyone who wants to stake out new turf – to a new middle point in American Politics.  I want to see us speak prophetically  to the powers of our government, both Democratic and Republican, not so much foretelling the future as warning them of the dangers of hard-line intransigence.  I want to see us rip ourselves away from political ideologies and put ourselves in the other guy’s shoes, holding our rightful role in the political process as thoughful informers, not shrill partisans.

When a guy says he’s worried about leaving a legacy of crushing debt for his kid, we need to listen to him.

When a woman says she’s worried that her kid could graduate college with $120,000 in student loans, we need to listen to her.

When a person says they’re unemployed and don’t know how they’re going to keep oil in their heater, we need to listen to them.

When one section of the country suffers a catastrophic disaster, we need to show up to help because some day it could be us in the cross hairs.

This is my take on a decidedly centrist platform, a platform that cuts so strongly toward the center not a SINGLE candidate would ever touch it.  Why?  Because it’s not partisan.  It’s about empowering people, not pandering to powers.  It’s about embracing real-world, malleable philosophies and facing thorny challenges head on with an eye toward compromise, not strident, “my way or the highway” ideologies masquerading as bi-partisan solutions.

It’s based on ten, simple principles:

  1. Free speech is sacrosanct, even if I don’t like it.
  2. Like it or not, I am my brother’s keeper, especially the poor and the disadvantaged.
  3. All people are endowed with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  4. People should receive the benefit for their hard work and hard work is to be admired.
  5. A level playing field in business is in everybody’s interest.
  6. Affluence is not a sin, unrepentant greed is.
  7. Taxes are a necessary evil in a civil society.  Wield them sparingly but do not be afraid to wield them.
  8. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are the Centrist’s political Bible.  THE Bible is the CHRISTIAN Centrist’s spiritual compass.
  9. The majority might rule, but that doesn’t mean they get to ignore or abuse the minority.
  10. A free, independant, and resolutely unbiased press is the watchdog of a healthy democracy.

So since you didn’t ask, here are my meandering, centrist, hopefully-Christ-honoring ideals.  Feel free to give me both barrels for naivety and wishful thinking.

  1. An educated electorate is a powerful electorate.  Education is the root of our democracy and a big differentiator between the democratic industrialized world and all those banana republics that still exist out there.  Ensure that every person no matter how poor has a shot at a decent, safe education and you ensure an informed, eager electorate.
  2. Focus on the educational basics but respect the need to teach people how to THINK CRITICALLY.  Take Fox News and MSNBC out of the classroom and teach students how to ask HARD questions when people present simple answers to tough questions.  Demand that your journalists treat EVERY politician with an equally jaundiced eye.  Republicans don’t walk on water and Democrats aren’t always on the side of the little guy.
  3. If a person shows their willingness to work hard to achieve and earns the grades it takes to succeed in college, make a publicly funded college education available and within their financial grasp no matter how poor they might be.  If you really want to supercharge the next generation of entrepreneurial spirit, start it by equipping the next generation of boot-strap entrepreneurs.
  4. Address the burgeoning income inequities between CEOs and other executives and the lowest paid employees in their firms.  In a world where average CEO salaries are now 400 TIMES the lowest paid employee, in a country where they ONCE were more like 40 TIMES the lowest paid employee, press for financial reforms to ensure that EVERY employee gets a fair slice of the organizational income pie.
  5. NO MORE GOLDEN PARACHUTES.  If a CEO drives a company into the ground and shareholders are left holding the bag, that CEO ought to find themselves without a hefty severance.  You want to take the risk in the private marketplace?  Take the risk.  You crap out your company?  Expect a crap payout.
  6. I AM my brother’s keeper.  Some people can pull themselves up by the bootstraps and they should reap their fair  reward for their hard work.  Some people, though, simply can’t lift themselves up.  They might have Down’s syndrome, or be autistic, or be a veteran with PTSD, or a person whose health is failing.  Civil societies do not jettison their weak and poor.  They lift them and care for them.  Or, as we Christians like to say, we must care for “widows” and “orphans.”
  7. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.  Like it or not, money is the lubrication of civil society.  Roads must be built.  Schools must be maintained.  Army’s must be armed.  FEMA must be prepared for the next major disaster, no matter where it might strike.  Some things can’t and shouldn’t be privatized.  Human greed just makes some endeavors too risky to put into the hands of private organizations.  A fair level of taxation is to be expected and supported.  Onerous taxation is not.
  8. As an individual, I turn the other cheek.  As a country, we must defend our freedom.  Defense of freedom, however, does not always translate into war and wars are not always a true defense of freedom.  When precious human life is on the line, you deploy your human assets with as great a level of fear and trepidation as possible.
  9. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are both our bedrock and our lifeblood.  They are not  static documents, embodying immovable, detailed responses to every challenge we might face as a country.  The Constitution and Bill of Rights are, however, like the Bible of democracy, a fixed point in time, a tangible, spiritual device by which “intent” is measured and solutions are crafted.  If we respect the core tenets of that Constitutional Bible, and protect EVERY person’s right to free speech and EVERY person’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, there will be no need for special classes of citizen.  Citizens will simply “be” citizens, each person endowed with the right to equal pay, equal treatment under the law, and equal access to the privileges of civilized society.
  10. Term limits must be enacted.  Anyone who makes a profession of representing the people who pay for their elect-ability is a person who no longer represents “we the people.”  Turnover in House and the Senate is good.  In a world where cash swings elections more than honest debate and credible ideas, it is time to take away the power of the king-and-queen makers and boot entrenched powers out at predetermined intervals.
  11. Corporations are not “people” and should not be endowed with the rights of people.  One person, one vote.  One person, one donation.  Corporations are nameless, faceless entities whose sole purpose is accumulation of wealth at all costs, not service to the community above all else.  Corporations are also not created equally, with all contributing equally to the good of the community.  The right of ALL corporate entities to contribute to political campaigns should be stripped and stripped immediately.  If a person does not publicly donate to a candidate, then they are conducting backroom shenanigans that must be exposed to the light of day.
  12. Campaign spending is out of control and must be capped.  Adjusted for inflation, NO political campaign should get away with spending unlimited sums of money to buy an office.  Every campaign should be limited to the same cap.  If it is a national campaign, such as for the Presidency, then that cap will be high, perhaps $1,000,000 adjusted for inflation, but other than that, excessive spending does NOTHING to contribute to the vitality of our democracy.  It is time for us to restrain ourselves for the greater good of our society and future generations.
  13. Super-PACs must be abolished.  The ability for a privileged few to buy enormous sums of airtime without disclosing their identities fully must be restrained.  Individual contributions must be sufficiently high to permit people of great wealth to participate in the process but low enough to ensure that NO person can BUY an office.
  14. We must return the nobility of public service to its rightful place in our society.  We must laud people who give their talents to the rest of society through their service in comparatively low-paying, civil service roles.  Once upon a time we encouraged people of great talent to serve in our halls of justice, in our regulation of Wall Street, in libraries, work placement offices, and in the military.  Now we laud the ultra-wealthy and suggest that working for “the government” (aka: YOU AND I) is to be avoided like the plague.
  15. The facts matter.  Truth matters.  Some ultra-wealthy, big-time billionaire ought to endow a national, non-partisan institute in perpetuity to do nothing but hold BOTH parties accountable.   As a matter of decency and fairness, if an organization chooses to air an ad that maligns a candidate using shady, dubious facts, the corresponding truth must be aired.  For every campaign ad that is aired that does not pass the fact-check of the non-partisan group, air time should be reserved to indicate that the previous claims cannot be substantiated by public records.
  16. Keep politics out of the church, keep the pulpit out of politics.  When people of faith mistakenly believe that Christ would have permitted himself to be a political activist, they forget that the Lord of the universe willingly went to the cross rather than foster an insurrection against Rome.  His kingdom was NOT of this earth, and neither should ours be.  Our eyes must be fixed on HEAVEN, not the next election cycle.  Our fellowship should be based on our beliefs in the triune God, not our devotion to this candidate or that.  There are good Christians who lean one way and the other in every Christian church.  It is perfectly acceptable for Christians to run for office, to participate in the political spectrum, and even be completely open with their faith.  It is entirely another thing for Christians of good conscience to mistakenly believe that God endorses one political party over another.  God honors those who honor Him, and with all the lies and half-truths that are uttered in the name of politics it is hard to imagine that God is honoring all but the most pure of political candidates.
  17. Balancing a budget requires a backbone of steel.  Someone will lose, someone will win, but in the end the entire country should benefit.  Compromise is not a filthy, dirty word, but a part of a healthy, bi-partisan process of doing what is in the greater good for the entire country.  If members of Congress cannot do such hard, bi-partisan work without succumbing to the persona of children on a school playground, then the Constitution must do the work for them, slashing all budgets equally and raising all taxes automatically.  A balanced budget amendment is essential to ensuring that people with weak constitutions do not punt hard decisions down the line to the next generation.
  18. Fundamental access to basic healthcare should not be an afterthought but a civil right.  For every under or un-insured person who shows up at a hospital ER without insurance, there is a consequence.  It should not be incumbent upon hospitals to simply write-off such visits, but a smoothly functioning society must anticipate and plan for such a reality.  Whether such coverage is provided through the private market or the government is ultimately irrelevant; the need is tangible.  Coverage for pre-existing conditions must anticipate the fact that a fluid, entrepreneurial society must make barriers to labor movement as low as possible.
  19. Members of Congress who miss more than 25% of their votes should resign.
  20. Members of Congress should have no greater benefits than those received by the bulk of the American electorate.
  21. Greed is bad.
  22. Selflessness is good.
  23. The Electoral College perpetuates Red State/Blue State partisanship and country-wide polarization.  Even within given states, minority voices can be ignored.  The Republican in New York or the Democrat in South Carolina feel disenfranchised as candidates go after “Electoral College” winner-take-all blocks of votes.  If a direct election were held, candidates would be required to reach out to more, dissimilar voters in more areas of the country, being forced to embrace hard messages and thorny challenges in every outpost and every burb across the land.
  24. Members of Congress may not lobby the government for a minimum of four years after leaving office.
  25. The salary of members of Congress should be fixed at no more than 6 times the national poverty level.
  26. Like corporations, unions are NOT individuals and should NOT be permitted to contribute to political campaigns.  If individual union members wish to contribute, their contribution should come from their pockets and NOT from the coffers of the union by way of their dues.
  27. We’re all a bunch of immigrants.  If someone is contributing to society and doing work that no other citizen wants to do, why would I vilify them?  If a person jumps the fence, send them back.  If they’ve managed to integrate into our way of life and become a contributor to the greater good, then why would I throw them back over the fence like a drug dealer, homicidal maniac, or greed-monger?  Immigration law must be robust, must be enforced, and must be adequate to the task of protecting our borders.  Common sense immigration practice must also remember that every one of us started out as a newbie and if it weren’t for a little grace here and there we’d all be swimming in the Atlantic or Pacific.
  28. I’m not a big fan of homosexuality.  The Bible I read and try to obey says the homosexual lifestyle is a sin.  I am also fanatical about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  These documents make my legal responsibility clear.  If someone denies a person a legitimate civil right, even if my moral compass says that part of what they do in their private life is “sinful,” then I must defend the person being denied their civil right.  If someone attacks a person with whom I might have theological or even moral disagreement, then I must defend that person.  In fact, I think that’s even kind of a Biblical message.  Consider the parable of the good Samaritan and the unmerited grace that person bestowed on a tortured traveler.  May God have mercy on my soul  for the times when I err on the side of upholding my Constitutional responsibilities as a citizen of this country.
  29. Next to education, NOTHING is as vital to the smooth functioning of democracy as an independent, infectiously curious news media.  When news media is partisan, it fails the electorate.  When news media is constantly searching for the truth in a story, even if that truth might make the investigator personally squeamish, it functions in the best interest of the citizenry.  Thank God there are still a few stridently curious news outlets out there.  They make up for the ones who pander to narrow interests.
  30. There is nothing wrong with accumulating wealth and enjoying its benefits.  As an economic and political philosophy, socialism is a dead-end.  But greed exists in this world and by our nature our DNA craves selfish pleasures.  A healthy set of business regulations that ensure a level playing field for all players, coupled with an appropriately applied tax code that ensures that the ultra-wealthy are not able to make themselves into untouchable kings or queens, are essential to maintaining the health of our democracy.  There are too many loopholes, too many tax credits, and not enough predictable gradations in the tax structure.  I do not deny the appeal of stripping away loopholes and reducing tax rates.  I DO have a problem with changing the tax code if it means a back-door reduction in taxation for the wealthiest among us.
  31. There was nothing wrong with the Estate tax before and there is no reason to perpetuate the Bush era estate tax cuts now.  The ultra-wealthy weren’t ultra-poor before those tax cuts.  I don’t remember any of the people in central Montgomery County hurting for a second BMW in the driveway of their $750,000 McMansions.  Now the wealthy are just getting obscenely wealthy and the gap between the rich and poor widens more with each passing day.  It’s one thing to want to pass your kids a nest egg.  It’s entirely another when you have to be passing at least $4million before the taxman gets the cut AND even then you’re only paying a pittance.
  32. I still am the President of an S-Corp consultancy.  It is time for the Chamber of Commerce (of which I was a multi-year member) to stop whining about the unfairness of the tax code toward small businesses.  Although I didn’t have the stomach to be a cut-throat businessman, for a while I did enjoy the benefits of a tax code that is SLANTED heavily in  favor of small business.  The tax deductibility and the tax reduction options available to S-Corps and LLC’s are mind-boggling.  So stop whining, people.  The reason you’re not creating jobs isn’t because the tax code isn’t in your favor.  There is still plenty of money to be made if people with entrepreneurial grit roll up their sleeves, even WITH this confusing, complicated tax code.

I am certain there is much more to add.  I’ll keep building on this as time goes on.  Feel free to shoot me a note with a recommendation and I’ll add it to the list with your name attached.  If you want to tell me I’m nuts, I’ll post that to.  Just please be respectful and intelligent.  No name-calling, please.

 

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