Election 2012, What Presbyterians Should Care About – Norb Kumagai

Photo: LWVC

As part of the ongoing Patheos 2012 election coverage and commentary, I am opening up my blog for Presbyterians to answer this week’s question, “What are the key issues at stake in this election for people of your tradition?” I gave no guidance other than to keep it under 500 words and to avoid bashing and dehumanizing rhetoric. If you would like in for this week, message me via my FB Page.

First up, Norb Kumagai –

We lost our Dad, Lindy Kumagai M.D., to cancer almost five years ago. Our Dad, one of the original faculty members at The U.C. Davis School of Medicine, was the author of the school’s “Special Admissions Program” and was Chair of The Admissions Committee the two years that Mr. Alan Bakke applied and was denied admission (U.C. Board of Regents v. Bakke, 1978).

In mid-November’07, I made arrangements with our County Elections Office for our Dad to cast a “Vote By Mail” Ballot (February’08 California Presidential Primary Election), as soon as it was legally permissible.  I recall explaining to our Dad that he would be able to vote early (“One, Last, Final Time”) and asked whom he would support to which he replied, “Obama, Because It’s All About Race”.

Sadly, our Dad was never able to cast a ballot for Barack Obama having passed away over Thanksgiving Weekend’07.

For me, someone who has a strong interest in civil rights and social justice issues, Election 2012 in many respects, is all about race. My faith and my personal experiences are what guide me.

Our Mom, my relatives and my grandparents were interned during World War II in Topaz, Utah. They were denied their constitutional rights as they were rounded up and “deported” to “The Jewel of The Desert”.  The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., U.F.W. President Cesar Chavez and U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy all combined their faith with their advocacy for civil rights. As Presbyterians, we should be called to do the same.

We have witnessed Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer’s SB 1070 “Papers Please” which targets Latinos. Although The Supreme Court threw out most of the statute, local law enforcement is presently allowed to stop and question anyone whom they “reasonably suspect” is undocumented.

Voter Identification Laws, which Republicans claim will ensure the sanctity of the ballot box, also targets race. According to The Brennan Institute For Justice (New York School Of Law), potentially five million eligible voters, many of who are people of color, could be disenfranchised because they lack the identification necessary to vote in specific states.

U.S. Attorney General Erik Holder has successfully challenged both Arizona’s SB1070 and Voter Identification statutes. I’m pretty certain that former Attorney Generals John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzalez (who both served under President George W. Bush) would not have done the same.

Following The Rodney King Verdict and the subsequent unrest, a close friend of mine, Ms. Angela Oh, was asked by President Clinton to serve on a task force which traveled throughout the country and engaged others in discussions about race.

As you cast your ballot (either by mail or at the polls), please prayerfully ask yourself, are we progressing forward or taking our country back to the early 1960’s where African Americans lost their lives to ensure our right to vote?? I would welcome a renewed discussion about race relations and social justice issues once this election is over. Perhaps like-minded Presbyterians could lead the way.

[Norb Kumagai, who “Lives & Breathes Politics”, resides in Northern California and is an Ordained Elder in The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)]

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Obama, Romney and a Conservative Evangelical Counter-Cult Expert

Photo by ilmungo on Flickr

I love politics.

I grew up in Sacramento, CA running the halls of the State Capitol Building where my mother worked for various legislators for nearly 25 years. I still have aunts, uncles and friends who are heavily involved in politics and I have always believed that public service is honorable calling. The intricacies of the system, the importance of relationships, the development of strategies and the struggle to find common vision has always been inspiring and exciting to me. Sure, I lament the fact that distrust seems to be the default opinion of politicians and, yes, politics can be excruciatingly frustrating. But in the end, the beauty of our democratic system is that it holds in tension the great diversity of our country as we strive to peacefully move forward as one body.

So, as you can imagine, I also love Presidential election season.

And yes, I am a Christian.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an intriguing article by a fellow Patheos writer, Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary. In his article, Why This Conservative Evangelical Counter-Cult Expert Will Vote for Romney, he addresses a question that I’ve wondered about since Mitt Romney, a Mormon, won the right to face President Barack Obama in the 2012 Presidential Election, “Who will Conservative Evangelical Christians vote for?”

Now I am not surprised that he comes down on the side of Romney. As he stipulates, Romney is a not a principled conservative and since I don’t think Obama has endeared himself to many Conservative Evangelicals over this first four years, there is prob not much of a chance that Obama will see an increase in the Conservative Evangelical vote. Still, Romney is a Mormon and there are many who think this is bad. As Groothuis says…

However, Mormonism as Mormonism is heretical. No one should be a Mormon. It is “another gospel” (see Gal. 1:6-11). I learned this in 1977, when, as a young Christian, I read Walter Martin’s modern classic, Kingdom of the Cults. Nothing since has convinced me to the contrary.

And clearly he sees President Obama much differently than I…

Obama, while not a Mormon, has no credible Christian testimony. Consider his twenty-year membership in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s racist, ultra-liberal, Nation-of-Islam-supporting church. Ponder his stance on abortion and same-sex marriage . . . Obama is far more sympathetic to Islam than he is to Christianity. I did not say that Obama was a Muslim, but that he is deferent to Islam and seems oblivious (or indifferent) to the dangers of Sharia law (see Robert Spencer’s Stealth Jihad). This is urgent, since Sharia law is already being implemented on American soil.

Safe to say that Professor Groothuis and I have probably never voted for the same presidential candidate. Still, there are some arguments in his article with which I deeply resonate. He challenges the strategy of opting out of the voting process as some kind of protest, he claims fundamental differences between the two two parties and he calls people to use their faith as a lens through which they exercise their political power. The part of the article, however, that really convicted me was his perspective on the office of President and the role of religion in government.

If Romney is elected president, it would give Mormonism a platform it has never enjoyed before. That is bad, very bad. However, the president is neither Theologian-in-Chief nor Pastor-in-Chief. He is Commander-in-Chief. Moreover, Mormons have every right the Constitution affords our citizens, and conservative Christians can and should be co-belligerents with Mormons (and others) in political causes. Ecumenism religiously is another matter entirely.

So while I vehemently disagree with most, if not all, of his assertions about the nature of the Christian faith, the Democratic party and President Obama, I very much agree with his overall understanding of the relationship between personal faith and the political process: the United States is not a church and the President not a Pastor.

Church and State must be kept separate, but faith and politics must be held in tension.

So for those who disagree with folks like Professor Groothuis about where our country should head I would offer the same kind of arguments about why you should vote for President Obama:

  • Voting is our civic duty;
  • Opting out of the process is a waste;
  • There is a difference between the core principles of the two parties;
  • Obama is better than the alternative;

I close with one last quote from Professor Groothuis’ article.

But we should remember that politics is not the church. It is the art of the possible. Often we must choose the lesser of two evils, which is also the evil of two lessers. We reside in a fallen world. Get over it . . . You are not appointing a pastor but voting for a president. A vote is neither a letter of reference, nor an unqualified endorsement, nor an act of worship. A vote is the exercise of the franchise, one part you play in our Republican form of government. It is a right, a responsibility, and a privilege that should not be squandered.

On this I couldn’t agree more.

Obama/Biden 2012