It's Time to Give Someone Else a Chance
by Richard V. Pierard
The contested election of George W. Bush in 2000 has proven to be an enormous disaster. The revelations by the 9-11 Committee and defectors from the Bush administration have exposed a government that has been sound asleep and in deep disarray. At the same time, those in power do not hesitate to unleash the most vicious attack dogs on those who dare to question their actions. The web of lies being spun to justify the unnecessary war in Iraq becomes more intricate as the months pass.
The deindustrialization of America continues unabated. Millions of well-paying factory jobs have been sent overseas and replaced with low-paying service jobs (or, in many cases, none at all) while the administration incessantly prattles on about the so-called "recovery." The White House is firmly in the hands of big-business interests and the greatest tax cut in American history has gone largely to the wealthy, clearly justifying the cynical bumper sticker "No billionaire left behind." The gap between those who receive the top 20 percent and the lowest 20 percent of the national income is steadily widening, while the middle class is evaporating. In spite of its vast wealth, the United States is moving, thanks to the policies of the Bush administration and its shortsighted allies, slowly but surely in the direction of becoming a Third World country.
And where are the prophetic voices that should be ringing out from the Christian community about this pitiful state of affairs? They are largely mute. We have allowed ourselves to be pacified by the "family-issue" scraps tossed to us from the administration's table. The president supports every measure that allegedly combats abortion – including blocking valuable stem-cell research that even Nancy Reagan maintains might have helped her late husband. The programs for "faith-based" charities have resulted in the sorry picture of Christian groups jostling for a place at the public trough. We have a constitutional amendment to "defend marriage," as if it were ever in danger. Conservative Christian groups are promised action to allow "school prayer" and vouchers to fund their own schools. And the sad story goes on and on.
I would argue that we have the wrong family issues in sight. Every death and serious injury of our armed forces' young men and women in Iraq damages the families from which they came. The crumbling Social Security system, crippled by massive federal deficits, menaces every aging family. Those who believed they should save for retirement by investing in 401(k) programs have watched their family security evaporate as the stock manipulators close to the Bush administration drive down the market so they can reap massive profits. The hatred of America that is growing around the world because of Bush's arrogant foreign policy threatens the families of Christian missionaries and other people who labor or travel abroad.
The ongoing assault on the environment, including the unwillingness to confront the global-warming crisis, endangers the health of every American family. The outsourcing of jobs and moving of factories overseas directly threatens the economic and psychological wellbeing of every family that is victimized by these actions. The energy crisis resulting from the market manipulations of corporations linked to Bush and Cheney (such as Enron and Halliburton) have made life more difficult for every American family.
The brilliant new book by Glen H. Stassen and David P. Gushee, KINGDOM ETHICS: FOLLOWING JESUS IN CONTEMPORARY CONTEXTS (InterVarsity Press, 2003), reminds Christians that "life issues" are more than just the usual ones served up by evangelicals. We should be promoting a love ethic that emphasizes peace and justice for all and concern for the weak and powerless. Such an ethic is diametrically opposed to the values now coming out of Washington.
Whether John Kerry can change the direction our country has taken remains to be seen, but I am willing to give him the chance to do so. George W. Bush and those supporting him have blown the opportunity to move us in the proper direction, and they must be turned out of office.
Richard Pierard is the Stephen Phillips Professor of History at Gordon College in Wenham, MA.