Archive for September, 2008

Family

Monday, September 15th, 2008

“Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Matt 19:18-19

The Bible spends a lot of time in both the old a new testaments talking about fidelity. The Jews even tempted Jesus at one point to stone an adulteress. He used the occasion to remind us all that it is not our role to judge, only to love.

In modern politics, however, what a candidate does in their personal life sometimes carries as much or more weight than the candidate’s policies. Bill Clinton was almost removed from office because he lied about an affair. Gary Hart never recovered from his affair.

The family narratives of both candidates is fairly well known.

Obama was the son of a single mother. His mother was married twice. Obama has a half sister from his mother’s second marriage. He didn’t know his father and was raised by his grandparents in Hawaii. They paid for him to attend a private prep school. He discovered his purpose in public service in college and once he did, he found focus and discipline. He transferred from Occidental College, a small academically rigorous California liberal arts college, to Columbia. He graduated from Columbia with a BA in political science. He worked in New York for two years and then moved to Chicago to become the Director of the Developing Communities Project. He had great success there over three years. He applied to and was accepted at Harvard Law school and became the first African American editor of the prestigious law review. He met his wife Michelle as a summer intern for a Chicago law firm. She came from a blue-collar south side of Chicago family. She attended Princeton and Harvard law school. They married shortly after he graduated in 1992.

Based on his success at the Harvard law review, the University of Chicago offered him a fellowship and the opportunity to write a book. He taught constitutional law there. The book was published in 1995 and titled, “Dreams from My Father”. The proceeds of this book paid off the student loan debt that both he and his wife had accumulated. His first elected office was in 1997.

He and his wife have two girls and live in a very nice area near the University.

He admits to drug use as a teen. He is also trying to quit smoking.

John McCain was born to a navy family. Both his father and grandfather were four star admirals. As you might imagine, he moved a lot as a child. He went to an exclusive prep school in Virginia and received a legacy appointment to the Naval academy. He had a number of minor problems with discipline which led to his graduation near the bottom of his class.

After graduating he received a prestigious appointment to a top flight program where he had a reputation for both crashing planes and partying. He married his first wife Carol in 1965, adopted her two sons from her first marriage, and they had a daughter.

He requested a combat assignment and left for Viet Nam in the summer of 1967. Within three months he was shot down. He remained a prisoner of war for five years and endured horrific treatment.

His wife also suffered extensive injuries from an auto accident while McCain was in Viet Nam. He admits that on his return and rehabilitation, he had numerous affairs. During that time, he met his second wife Cindy in Hawaii. She was 13 years younger and the daughter of a wealthy Arizona beer distributor. McCain wrote in his 2002 memoir that he and his wife had separated by the time he met Cindy, but his petition for divorce says the he lived with his wife for the first six months of his affair with Cindy. The same book also suggests that months passed between the divorce and his remarriage. He actually applied for a marriage license before the divorce was final and married Cindy five weeks later.

He was estranged from his children for some time as a result of the divorce. He also seriously damaged his relationship with Nancy Reagan who had become close to Carol McCain as a result of John’s support of Ronald Reagan.

John and Cindy had three children together and adopted a fourth from India. This child was the focus of a nasty whisper campaign in the 2000 South Carolina primary. The campaign, attributed to Karl Rove, suggested that McCain has fathered a black child. Many feel that defeat cost McCain the Republican nomination.

So what do we learn from this?

We have two remarkable men running for the highest office.

Both are intelligent with good political instincts. Both clearly love their wives and their children. Both have had periods where they strayed from the straight and narrow. Both appear to have learned from those experiences. Both have overcome serious challenges in their lives and have grown from it.

Does this make one any more qualified than the other to be President?

I don’t know. I’m not in a position to judge. I think that elections should be about issues, not personalities.

Religion

Monday, September 8th, 2008

 

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Matt 6:5-6

 

In this age of public professions of religion, we often forget that the best prayers are those we say in private. 

 

Barak Obama wasn’t raised in any particular religion, but was inspired by Rev Jeremiah Wright to become a Christian.  He has talked about that conversion extensively in print and in public.  It was well before he became a politician and it continues to appear to be a fundamental part of his belief system.

 

Rev Wright practices a prophetic Christian ministry that is a tradition in the African American community.  Rev. Wright’s congregation uses the Bible to try to make sense of two hundred years of slavery, three hundred years of legal segregation, and the current challenges of poverty, bad schools, unemployment, crime, drugs, and broken families.  Just like Stephen Douglas before him Rev Wright holds the white American political structure responsible and predicts that God will judge them harshly.

 

This is going to make white people understandably uncomfortable because of its overt “angry black man” political message.  I would suggest that this is no different than Irish Catholic Churches sending money that Northern Irish Nationalist used to buy guns and make bombs or Serbian Orthodox Churches sending money that Melosevic used to kill Croats.

 

At the end of the day it is difficult to judge any of the members of any of those congregations because the only part of their ministry we see is the part that makes us uneasy.  It is also easy for us to say that the Serbian family should go to another church, for example, when doing so would sever  cultural and social connections to the local Serbian population.  Barak Obama did sever his relations with Rev. Wright because it appeared the Rev. Wright planned to take advantage of his relationship with Senator Obama to promote his own celebrity.

 

John McCain was raised an Episcopalian and, other than the cross in the sand story that has shown up in his speeches in the last few years, there is little in his early bio to suggest anything about his faith.

 

Locked in a tight race in South Carolina during the 2000 primary with George Bush, McCain announced that he had begun to attend his wife’s Baptist church.  The pastor of that church confirms that Mr. McCain attends those services.  That pastor also confirmed that Mr. McCain has not been baptized, which most Baptists view as a requirement to call yourself an adult Baptist.

 

He has also been associated with controversial pastors including John Hagee who called the Roman Catholic Church “the great whore” and  Rod Parsley who referred to Islam as a “false religion” that America was called on to destroy.

 

Just as Rev. Wright felt that 9/11 was punishment for oppression, Rev. Hagee has said that Katrina was punishment for our acceptance of homosexuality, and Rev Parsley has said that America was founded in part with the intention to destroy Islam. 

 

Not to be outdone, Governor Palin has a history with Rev Kalnins who warned that critics of President Bush might be banished to Hell and that people who voted for John Kerry might not gain entry to Heaven.  Gov. Palin has also said that the war in Iraq was a task from God. 

 

So what do we make of all of this?

 

My conclusion is that there is way too much religion in politics.  Religion is and should be personal and shouldn’t be a qualification or disqualification for any public office.  We should respect the wisdom of our founding fathers who understood that we would have a much stronger union if government and religion remain separate.

 

Next up family life