In the Booth Not of the Booth 4

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Part of that perspective, as well, is not canonizing one candidate while vilifying the other. “You can quote both Republicans and Democrats who have had that triumphalism and messiah complex,” Claiborne says. “We’re ultimately not thinking that this person is our savior or the source of real change for the world.”

In fact, much of Claiborne and Haw’s mission has been to deflate the idea that one candidate or party symbolizes hope for society. What people do with that message, Claiborne believes, is up to them and their own convictions. “We’re inviting people to think,” he says. “That’s what a lot of people have been scared of: not trusting people to think for themselves with the help of the Spirit of God. Some folks go out and organize for one of the candidates. Others say, ‘We’re going to write in Jesus.’ Part of the beauty of it is saying, ‘We’re going to trust that the Spirit is at work in different people’s hearts in different ways.’ Ultimately, [we hope] whatever they do is seeking first the Kingdom of God and embodying their politics with their lives rather than just trusting in a single candidate or a single politician to change the world for them.”

Haw points to Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of achieving justice legislatively while still holding fast to his principles. “A good way to draw that out might be to think about Martin Luther King and Barack Obama. People have tried to draw parallels between them, but it’s good to draw out how distinct and different they are,” he says. “Martin Luther King was outside,

on the margins. There are prophets in the royal court. There are people who are engaged in a lot of different ways. One of the tricky things is to maintain the peculiarity and the distinctiveness of being a Christian.”

This peculiarity can indeed be difficult to maintain when we thrust ourselves into being active participants in a two-party system, when neither party fully upholds the ethics of Christ. However, Claiborne believes Christians can work within the system as long as they remain unwilling to sacrifice certain principles.

“For those of us working legislatively, we can’t compromise on things like, ‘We’re going to beat our swords into plowshares,’” he says. “That’s what we’re called to, and to bless the poor and meek. If we don’t hear any of these parties saying something that embodies that, then we don’t put our hand in with it. There are a number of ways you can call that. You can work for the Kingdom of God and align yourself with whatever seems to move us closer to that. It’s possible to say we’re also going to interrupt with grace and humility whatever seems to be standing in the way of the reign of God. One way of looking at voting is that it’s damage control. We’re in a sense voting against whatever is going to do the worst damage.”

Part of that perspective, as well, is not canonizing one candidate while vilifying the other. “You can quote both Republicans and Democrats who have had that triumphalism and messiah complex,” Claiborne says. “We’re ultimately not thinking that this person is our savior or the source of real change for the world.”

In fact, much of Claiborne and Haw’s mission has been to deflate the idea that one candidate or party symbolizes hope for society. What people do with that message, Claiborne believes, is up to them and their own convictions. “We’re inviting people to think,” he says. “That’s what a lot of people have been scared of: not trusting people to think for themselves with the help of the Spirit of God. Some folks go out and organize for one of the candidates. Others say, ‘We’re going to write in Jesus.’ Part of the beauty of it is saying, ‘We’re going to trust that the Spirit is at work in different people’s hearts in different ways.’ Ultimately, [we hope] whatever they do is seeking first the Kingdom of God and embodying their politics with their lives rather than just trusting in a single candidate or a single politician to change the world for them.”

Haw points to Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of achieving justice legislatively while still holding fast to his principles. “A good way to draw that out might be to think about Martin Luther King and Barack Obama. People have tried to draw parallels between them, but it’s good to draw out how distinct and different they are,” he says. “Martin Luther King was outside, putting pressure on the system. He wasn’t only being grassroots. There were people who criticized him for being too involved in trying to press for legislation, but you can’t argue that he was pressing from the outside. Barack Obama is going through the system. One thing they have in common is this language of hope, but immediately the distinctions in their language and goals are very different. For instance, Martin Luther King was killed not long after he started saying, ‘The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.’ He started saying, ‘Don’t let anyone make you think that God chose America to be a messianic force and to be the policeman of the world.’ Barack Obama has said, ‘The ideals of America are the last hope of the world.’ That’s very different.”

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Ultimately, Claiborne and Haw say the key is for Christians to begin with themselves rather than trust the government to stop injustice. “The world is going to change when we begin to change, and when we begin to change our neighborhoods,” Claiborne says. “Figure out how we can vote for the people who Jesus voted for, or spent His life with. Let’s vote for the poor. Let’s vote for the immigrant. Let’s vote for the people who are hurting. Figure out how we can do that.”

Haw adds that action on the part of Christians far eclipses their party affiliation. “What is more important than how we vote on Nov. 4 is how we live on Nov. 3 and Nov. 5,” he says.

So, how should Christians engage the political arena? That is the question. If Claiborne and Haw are any indication, the choice is up to the individual. No matter what that individual decides, though, they must realize that true change will never happen through legislation alone. And, no matter what the individual chooses to do, they must realize that they are already voting through the way they choose to live.

“We vote every day with our lives,” Claiborne says. “We vote every day with our feet, our hands, our lips and our wallets. We vote for the poor. We vote for the peacemakers. We vote for the marginalized, the oppressed, the most vulnerable of our society. Ultimate change does not just happen one day every four years.”

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