Friday, July 27, 2007

Why I am not a Democrat.... or a Republican.

Though the Democrats generally tend to lean towards my values as a Christian, I cannot call myself a Democrat. But that doesn't make me a Republican either. Nor any other political party. What occurred in the past few days in regards to the Farm Bill and the Fairness Amendment is a perfect example of why that is. If representatives of congress were free from political pressure to vote their conscience, the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment should have passed. Instead, the amendment failed with a vote of 117 to 309 (see if your rep dropped the ball here). Note this bit from an LA Times article before the voting began:

"This is the biggest change we've had in payment limits ever," said Peterson. He said that "wheat, cotton and rice are not in support" of the change and that neither were many of his committee members. Nine of them are freshmen Democrats who defeated Republicans in rural districts. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have made protecting those Democrats a priority to ensure that they keep their seats.

In the past, Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) had supported similar measures introduced by Kind.

"We have pushed them beyond where they feel comfortable," Peterson said of the freshmen as he explained why he would oppose any move to further lower the cap on subsidy payments. "Their constituencies do not support what we have done." Advocates who expected Pelosi to push for deeper reform were frustrated.

That's putting it lightly. As I heard one advocate say: "What's the point of getting the Dems reelected if they don't change anything?" I'm amazed that our political system works as well as it does! The thing is, though, that so many Christians allow themselves to be lured in by one side or the other. We all know about the Religious Right and how so many Christians in America identify themselves with the Republican party. But the "Religious Left" is not the proper answer. As a Christian, my core identity is found in Christ. I am certainly concerned that the government acts in accordance with my moral values (particularly protecting the disadvantaged of society), but we ought to watch out for that sweet, addictive drug they call "political power." We ought not get duped into thinking that some political party, or government for that matter, is the embodiment of Christ on earth. They merely have their power on lease from God, and we need to make sure they understand that.

That is why I may be disappointed in the outcome of the vote yesterday, but I do not feel that my efforts were wasted. It is not a waste to do what is right. It is not a waste to speak truth to power, even if power wins in the short term. Of course, we can see some "practical" benefits. We know that we've made some progress, we've had good press coverage, we got some baby steps in reform, and tons of new advocates found their first opportunity to raise their voice. And this round is not even over: there is still the Senate bill to think of and then the conference to reconcile to the Senate and House versions. These practical points are important for organizations like Bread, so they can keep their steam going. But ultimately we do this because we are standing up in our biblical concern for justice and we need to make our voices heard, even if they are not heeded.

Today, one of the things about Bread for the World that I am grateful for is that one key word they emphasize: nonpartisan.

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