Annie Turner — The three crucial issues this election

I invited a few friends to respond to this week’s #PatheosElection question: What are the key issues for people of your tradition to consider as they approach this election?

Here’s the answer from Annie Turner, author of over 40 children’s books, including Father of Lies (HarperCollins), a novel about the Salem Witch Trials from the viewpoint of a 14 year-old bipolar girl. Annie blogs about her faith journey at

First let me make a disclaimer: I am a progressive Christian who worships in two communities, one a more traditional Catholic Church and the other a more liberal, gay-friendly, inclusive United Church of Christ. I also come from a background of passionate social activists, parents who constantly worked for peace, belonged to unions, and were committed to the underdog. So these all inform my faith life and values.

There are three issues I see as crucial to this election, and none of them are being adequately addressed by either candidate: climate change, wealth inequality and war. All three issues affect the poor and marginalized of our world far more strongly than they do privileged folks who are more protected.

I believe God is sharing this miraculous creation with us so we can live, value and grow into the people God hopes we will become — loving, giving, and committed to the sanctity of this earth and each other. We already know about the melting of the Arctic ice and how endangered polar bears are. The growing season in my home in Western Massachusetts has been extended now by almost four additional weeks. I observe more of certain kinds of insects than before, particularly creatures like ticks, which carry disease. Scientists predict an increase in various bacteria and viruses with this warming trend. This will impact all of us, not just poor people. By not caring for our earth we our flouting the One who created it.

Neither candidate is talking about the growing gap between the rich and the poor, but recent statistics in the New York Times point out that the gap is the widest it has been since the early days of the 20th century. Why does it matter? One of the saints — possibly St. Ambrose or St. Bernard — said that the extra cloak in our closet we do not wear, the extra gold in the ground (read “bank”), and the surfeit of food in our house, do not belong to us but belong to the poor. This is an astounding concept and one we need to emphasize, particularly in the great Social Justice teachings of my Catholic Church. Charity is not enough; some form of justice in wealth distribution, in restructuring the tax code, taking away subsidies for oil and gas, keeping the estate tax, and protecting the middle class would be a start in fiscal justice.

We cannot continue to be the world’s policemen, says Michael Klare, the fine author of Blood and Oil and The Race for What’s Left, and a liberal intellectual much in demand as a consultant by our government. We are beggaring our grandchildren, he said in a talk last year. Any talk about reducing the deficit (and please let’s not balance the budget by reducing food stamps and other programs which protect the most vulnerable in our population) has to address our tendency to police the world at great cost in money and in our brave soldiers. The failure of our two most recent wars — in Iraq and Afghanistan — to achieve any true stability should be a potent reminder of how not to conduct our foreign policy.

Let peace break out, where it is possible. (I’m not naïve; I know we need a solid military.) Let people in positions of power continue to push for controls on emissions and pollutants. Let regulators see to our banking industry and our tax code, released from that disproved theory of “trickle-down economics,” which statistics show is simply pie in the sky. It has never worked.

Finally, in order to hew to basic Christian values and not be swayed by special interests, we need to get the corrupting influence of unregulated campaign contributions out of our political system. That’s another argument, but an important one I believe. It will take courage; it will take willpower; it will take bipartisan effort; it will take large doses of the Holy Spirit to achieve these ends. But I do believe it is possible. Remember, Christians are optimists!


Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

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