Thoughts on Bitter Gun Owners and the Entitled 47%

Photo by iambrad on Flickr

It is said that we preachers only have 3-5 things to say and we just keep finding new ways to say them. There is some truth to that I think and this state of being is not always bad. Themes of living love, extending forgiveness, seeking justice etc. are well worth coming back to again and again and again. With this in mind, I apologize for what may soon just be heard as “blah, blah, blah, graciousness, blah, blah, blah, blah,” but it seems as though the “soap box” upon which I have been standing during this presidential election season has a big ol’ neon sign saying to my Christian brothers and sisters, “Don’t be mean!”

If you did not catch it, yesterday a video was released from a private fundraiser where Presidential candidate, Governor Mitt Romney, got into some hot water with the following comments:

There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. [Mother Jones Breaking Article]

One can imagine the hey day folks where having with this one. Obama supporters, Romney detractors and even conservative columnist,  David Brooks, all joined in on the dog-pile on Romney festivities. And then there was Romney’s press conference to explain the comments and Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, said that Romney was on message.

Now as I have said before, there is very little chance (0%) that I will vote for Romney and the accompanying Republican platform, but, no matter how much I may disagree with his perspective and the policies that would emerge from them, I am also not going to jump on the “Romney Hates You!” train. After all, it was only one short election cycle ago that, then candidate Barack Obama got into his own hot water when at, yes, a private fundraiser, he was caught saying the following to explain why he was having a hard time attracting support from the Mid-west and working-class Americans.

And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations. [Video w/words]

And much like Romney’s current gaffe, there were press conferences, apologies, justifications, etc.

So what? Are these just words taken out of context, missteps from campaign-weary candidates, blatant pandering or insights into what a politicians soul? Probably a little of all of these thing and I bet, no matter the origin, none are election game changers. Incidents like this certainly galvanize people who are against a candidiate and may even lesson the fervor with which some will support a candidate, but I doubt that any single incident, or even compilations of incidents will cause a Republican to vote for Obama or the other way around.

As I watched the commentary role out and the snark-fest reach a creciendo, I did think to myself that, as people of faith, we have missed an opportunity to witness to a better way of engaging in the public square and political arena. Rather than join in what feels so often like a village mob seeking the head of some political monster, imagine the power of collectively offering a vision of disagreement and discernment that does not resort to one-dimensional characterizations, dehumanizing rhetoric and mean-spiritedness masked as righteous indignation.

That would be pretty awesome.

It saddens me people when people call Obama a socialist, a marxist or a dictator and label him as stupid, ignorant and anti-American, because no person, no matter the office held should be seen the target of hateful rhetoric and personal attack. What then is the difference when Obama supporters do the same to Romney or Ryan? Not much. Sure this is politics where spin runs rampant, mud-slinging is justified and strategy trumps truth, but when approached with a less of faith that should guide our whole life, aren’t we compelled to speak outside of this style and tone?

Yes, yes we are.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Or as I posted on Facebook yesterday, albeit with far less tact:

Okay church, please remember that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control did make the final “fruit of the Spirit” list . . . JACKASSERY, however, did not.

Ultimately, as I engage in conversations about politics and the common good, I ask myself the question, “To what end?” and as difficult as it is to resist the satire, snark and sarcasm that feels so good and feeds my soul, building community across lines of ideology, theology and perspective is more important than any snarky captioned picture that I might add to the conversation. So while I will probably not call anyone out in particular, it’s my hope that rather than join in and promulgate hatred and discord, more of us will seek to live those fruit of the Spirit ideals: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

A boy can dream.

Peace be with you all.

  • ToronadoBlue

    Bruce,
    I don’t have much to add to the conversation, but wanted to say that I really appreciated your thoughts.

  • Ben

    Bruce, I appreciate this post. I hadn’t
    looked at you as a peace maker trying to build bridges in the past (could be my
    own mistakes), but I also haven’t read more than a handful of your blogs. Much
    of what I did read came around the time of GA this summer. I appreciate what
    you had to say here and you and I wouldn’t vote the same way much of the time
    (I assume). But I appreciated it for the simple reason that it was not just the
    typical partisan hackery from either side. One of things that pains me about the
    modern political discourse is that we only define ourselves by what we aren’t
    as opposed to who we are…I steer clear of partisan politics from the pulpit
    except to make comments like that to put the mirror back on ourselves. And the
    thing that is sad is we blame the politicians but they are only giving us what
    we want to hear! Thank you for the good word.

  • http://twitter.com/rdkemper David Kemper

    I think Tony makes some good points and think also that it’s important to see these points in the light of “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…” [Jn 8:7b] and find ways to walk with each other in our respective journeys. Both parties pander. Both parties (as well as all people) say regrettable things, kick the can down the road and make selfish decisions.
    As voters, we need to hold ALL leaders accountable, not just the ones we dislike. For example, it is well-known that Congress has somewhere around a 10% approval rating. Yet we re-elect incumbents 91-94% of the time. Even in the revolution of 2010, there was 87% re-election. [source: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/incumbent-re-election-rates-in-the-2010-mid-terms/ Congressional districts have been drawn to be more homogeneous than ever. This makes it easy for us to elect someone who is just like us. But it makes it hard for them to find higher ground if they only have to please the homogenous group they represent.
    Thus, we hate Congress, but love our congressperson. When is the last time we wrote our congressional rep, or Senator and urged them to compromise on the party line in order to reflect better values? I think we can be guilty of thinking that the end justifies the means instead of trusting that is we follow the right means, the right ends will happen.
    Tony seems to value personal accountability and responsibility. My favorite text on that topic is Mt 7:3-5. “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye when the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite,” People like that part, but the story continues, “first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” We are supposed to watch each others blind side, but need to do our own work first.
    Thanks for this topic. Peace

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    As always Tony, you bring such spice to the conversation :-) Side questions, how would you define “liberal Christian” and then do you see a difference between a “progressive” Christian? I am just curious as to you assumptions as you clearly have an idea about who they are.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Donna, so let me ask you the intent of your response to Leslie? This is a very honest questions in that I think it is important one for us all to answer. Is it to persuade her, just put something out there for other readers to read, shame, vent, etc.? Also, I would be very interested to know what you think about teacher’s unions, but that might be for another post.

  • Piper M

    In response to your claim that people who dropped out of high school vote Democrat, I’d point you to statistics showing that the less education people have completed, the more likely they are to vote Republican.
    I’d also like to direct you to any number of verses in which Jesus exhorts us to provide for the poor — and not a single one where he tells us to judge their “lifestyles” or applaud the rich.

  • donnavelar

    Dear Leslie – how can you be dismissive of something that affects every part of your life outside your relationship with God? It’s apathy that also costs us so much of our freedom. Aren’t you tired of paying for other people’s mistakes and poor choices? Wouldn’t you rather appropriate that money for those who really need it as Tony said? Obama hates those who have worked so hard to take care of their own families and offer their children a bit of the American dream. My husband and I SACRIFICED by working our ways through college and avoiding sexual relationships while in school to be sure we could continue to pursue our dreams. WHY ARE WE DEMONIZED AS THE EVIL RICH?????? That is sick and evil in itself to call what is good, bad. But… God told us that in the end times, what was right will be called wrong and good shall be condemned. Vote conservative. Vote for Romney to preserve the possibility of the American dream for our own kids. Obama wants to see all of us stifled and no one can any longer attain The Dream. Those who vote for Democrats largely are on the dole and want to keep it that way. The others are filchers who profit from corporate cronyism (SOLYNDRA… among many others..)! BTW – I’m a public school teacher and get so very frustrated and angry that in a country where all citizens are offered a free and fairly decent education that we still have so much laziness and pleasure seeking and rebellion against the authority of the teachers who would help them find the success and financial rewards that our welfare youth want handed to them for nothing. God help us all.

  • donnavelar

    Well said and 100% accurate, Tony! If only everyone was wise and honest enough to admit this! Again – “one can dream..”

  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.desylva Tony DeSylva

    It’s true that both parties have a base of people that will vote for “their party” no matter what. So he was dead on there. It was wrong to say that all of them are “moochers”. That said, I 100% agree with the overall flavor of his statements. As I stated on FB. Modern presidential elections are determined by tiny fractions. Most people who get welfare, food stamps and similar things vote democrat. Most people who dropped out of school, who use drugs, had children out of wedlock and now work low paying jobs if at all, feel that the “rich” owe them something and vote democrat. There is no point in trying to dispute that, it’s a fact.

    So we know elections are determined by the tiniest of margins, it’s safe to say without those demographics I described democrats would never win an election unless they changed their platform.

    I’m constantly amazed that liberal Christians seem to think that supporting the life styles of what I described is fine. It’s not fine. No I don’t think Jesus would be ok with the perpetuation of those life styles. He obviously was all about forgiveness, but with that means change. Forgiveness is pointless without it. I’m amazed how liberal Christians seem to forget, “feed a fish to a man feed him for a day, teach him to fish feed him for live” and how the bible rails against those who are lazy.

    Am I the only commenter who sees what is going on in Europe? Am I the only one who sees the same thing happening here? Yes, hand ups, no to hand outs and perpetuation of welfare lifestyles. Yes, yes don’t bother to comeback to be about the old or the cripple or the sick, those people obviously need to be taken care of. But the fact we waste so much money on those who at one point or another made a series of bad decisions and are unwilling to change hinders our ability to help those truly deserving of it. Doesn’t anyone see that?!

    This country will face terrible economic times unlike anything we have in the present if the majority of the us population receives more in government benefits then pay in TAXES. There won’t be a need to even have 2 parties.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lamardenborough Leslie Mardenborough

    Recently in response to a FB post I admitted my aversion to politics. I was accused of therefore being an uninformed voter. But I don’t know what I’m learning about either candidate during this campaign that would help me make a more informed voter. I wish that candidates would read and agree with this blog…then act on it. Maybe I need to pray about that because that would require God’s intervention…a miracle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/planey1 Patrick Laney

    But its easier to ride jackassery into Bethlehem and Jerusalem then it is to carry the burden of a bag fruit and who is willing to do that kind of work?


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