Friday, August 31, 2012

True Modern Republican and Christian?

For the last week I have watched the RNC, partially because I feel more than ever the need to be fully informed before I vote in November and partially because I assigned watching both conventions to my AP classes. And as I've watched the convention, and listened to the various commentary surrounding the convention, my personal struggle with American politics continues to grow.

I did not grow up in a particularly political household. My maternal grandmother was a diehard Kennedy Democrat, but my parents, who do regularly exercise their right to vote, raised us with values that most closely resemble those of the Republican party. I have assumed for years, based on occasional discussions at home, that my parents tend to vote Republican. I, however, have desired to consider myself an Independent, mostly because I don't want to be tied down to any particular political party. I agree with different ideas spouted off by members of both parties and try to vote for the individual who I believe will be best for the job at hand, whether it be president, governor, or state representative. I have friends and family members who belong to both parties who I believe ascribe to the ideals of their parties because they believe that those ideals are what will best move this country forward. I respect that, and I'm glad that I live in a country where that is allowed, although I increasingly feel that it is becoming less acceptable. Far too often the media appears to not believe in "agreeing to disagree." Instead, all sides of the media appear to revel in the shouting match that has become American politics while the American people continue to struggle: failing schools, unemployment, skyrocketing student loans, foreclosures, etc. Both sides say they have solutions, but neither side wants to compromise to find a solution, ANY solution.

But recently this hasn't been my biggest struggle. My biggest struggle has been the lack of concern and human compassion that I see plaguing the policies of the Republican party. And it is these policies that I see flying in the face of Biblical truths that I have known since I was a little girl. It is one thing to stand up for the unborn and be against abortion. It is another thing entirely to make seriously misguided and insensitive statements about what happens when a woman is raped and robbed of her power and dignity. Yes, Akin was publicly blasted from all sides by those in his party, but how many of those blasting him had secretly had those thoughts themselves, and might still have those thoughts? It is one thing to say that you believe in education and that a strong education is important to strengthening America. It is another thing entirely to take power away from public school teachers who are desperately trying to educate in a system that keeps getting budgets slashed. It is one thing to say you want to see a healthy nation. It is another thing entirely to refuse to work with the other side to come up with a health plan that will ensure that ALL Americans receive the best health care, saving lives and tax dollars. And most of all, it is one thing to say that you are concerned about the millions of Americans who are out of work. But it is another thing entirely to ignore the widening gap between the richest and the poorest in the United States.

I am no economist, and while I understand and love history, complex numbers are often over my head. I was a good math student, but as I tell my students, I haven't done calculus in 15 years, and they wouldn't want me to help them with it now. I believe in the free market. I believe that people should have the freedom to start their own businesses, build those businesses, and if they are blessed and become wealthy, good for them. They deserve it. I went into teaching because I love English and history and I wanted to do that for the rest of my life. I love my job and I love what I do. But I also knew that I would not become rich doing that. No, I would not teach without getting paid, primarily because it takes me away from my kids and that would be a lot of work with no extrinsic reward. If I'm being honest, yes, I believe that teaching professionals should be paid more money for what they do. But success has a lot of definitions, and for me success is a good marriage, healthy, happy kids who grow up into fine Christian adults, and students who find their own success once they leave my classroom because of what they have learned in my classroom. Success should not be about money but instead financial independence and satisfaction with where you are in your life. Unfortunately, this is not the impression I have gotten watching the many speeches coming out of Tampa this week.

There is nothing wrong with wealth, and I don't believe people should get something for nothing. But I do believe in ethical business practices. I do believe that the minimum wage in this country is NOT competitive and people cannot expect working single moms to get off of welfare if they cannot afford both school and daycare with what they are earning. I do believe that health care in this country costs too much (look at a recent bill from the doctor lately?). I do believe that we need regulation to keep businesses and financial institutions in check. And I do believe that the attitude "It's my money and I should be able to do with it what I want so keep your hands off" is not only unethical, but un-Christian. This is not about class warfare. This is about taking care of each other. This is about making sure that people have true equal opportunity. There are a lot of things that are broken in this country, and it is time for Christian Republicans to question the "keep your hands off my money" attitude that appears to be repeated by one Republican politician after another. Jesus said "give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's". Do you think that he agreed with Roman policies? Do you think he liked the way they were running the entire empire? Personally, I don't think he did. But he recognized the need to pay taxes to ensure that the empire ran semi-smoothly. And the early Jewish Christians understood the importance of taking care of each other, many sacrificing wealth because they were Christians and the political environment would not allow them to keep their wealth. No, Christian businessmen do not need to give away all their money, and no, they shouldn't insist on paying a lot more in taxes. But it is time for the Christians in the Republican party to start showing that they have compassion, not just in word, but in policy. It is time for Christians in the Republican party to start demanding that those policies take care of the struggling American people and help them obtain independence, not just force it on them. That is the way to gain the trust and respect of the American people, and possibly win an election.

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