Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Republicans and American Lutheranism

What follows in Italics are some political thoughts I shared with my friends this morning. It has also gotten me thinking about American Lutheranism, especially in the LCMS. First, the political thoughts.

I write this morning as a person who formerly considered himself to be a Republican. On many issues, I am quite Conservative, even now. And I have come to look upon the Republican National Convention with embarrassment. This is really a thought of the morning, and if it is scattershot, so be it.

It has been 8 years since I joined the Libertarian Party, I joined, ironically, the day W got elected. Watching the way the party comported itself drove me away. And yet - I realize that there are still several Republicans I respect and gladly support. I like Chuck Hagel a lot -- I don't always agree with my Rep. Frank Lucas - but he has a blunt candor even on the points where I think he might be too firm or to mushy. But this is almost the same way that there are some Democrats whom I really respect (even if I might agree with, say Hagel, more often that with these respected Democrats).

And I realized why I have come to dislike the Republican Party. Back in the 80s, you had Reagan de facto leading the party. Be bold. Be blunt. Do what you think you need to do. Mister Gorb., tear down this wall. Good stuff.

Even with Papa Bush - "Read my lips" was a bold statement -- and Republicans were shocked, shocked when he raised taxes. It cost him the election. Clinton won in 1992 because too many Republicans looked at Bush and said, "He went back on his word, I cannot vote for him."

Even in 1994 - the Republican House that swept in. Bold. Blunt. This is what we want to do for the American people - and then, they by in large stuck to their guns on the issues.

But then. . . something changed. I think a lust for power developed. Something snapped - where the focus shifted from a desire for Honest, small government into a desire for power. I think I want to lay it at the feet of the impeachment of Bill Clinton. At first there was the Republican response I grew up with. . . President Clinton lied to the American people. If we'll sacrifice our own President, we'll take down theirs. I can understand this. But as the process lingered, I think the smell of blood in the water - the realization that they could do almost anything if they worked together spoiled the Party and the Party leadership's approach.

By 2000 you had the wild egos come out. I remember with shock and horror listening to Republicans on election night - Republican Congressmen start talking about the money that they would finally be able to spend once Bush is elected. And I fled in terror.

Rush Limbaugh in the 90s had his big critique of the Democrats as that they value Style over Substance. I think that is still somewhat true. Of the Democrats, did Obama have the best plans. . . or did he look the best, sound the neatest? Of course, Limbaugh's complaint had the unspoken contrast - that the Republicans were the party of Substance.

Except now, looking at the Republicans I see a group that values Power over Principal. John McCain as the nominee. Why is McCain nominated. No party that wishes to stick to it's principals should ever nominate a "maverick" who bucks the party. . . if it is sticking to it's prinicipals. You don't make the unruly student the hall monitor. Unless - you are Republicans right now - and your desire is to, as a party, do anything to try and hold on to power which you are rapidly losing. If your current president is unpopular - the best way to try to keep power is "Hey, look at how different this guy is. . . he's awesome!"

And so. . . this is why the Republican party will enter decline - probably the same decline it had in the 60s and 70s. It's too focused on power, trying to lead, rather that being clear and honest and focus on their principals. Actually, I think either party would benefit greatly from clarity and honesty. . . but that's just me.

Some thoughts for election day.

Now, let me go a step further in my thoughts. I dislike talking about "Liberals" and "Conservatives" in the Church. It's not accurate. But I have made an observation. In the 50s and the 60s in the LCMS, the problem with the "libs" was that they ended up moving to a "style over substance" sort of approach. It doesn't matter what you really believe, as long as you feel good about yourself and look good doing it. This was rightly rejected.

But what of the "libs" today? They fall into a parallel of my critique of modern Republicans - power over principal. If we understand or view the Church in such a way that we assume that numbers and dollars = power, we see what goes on. What is important? We do whatever we can to get more people, more cash - and who cares if our principals, our statements of faith, or solidity of doctrine go by the wayside.

The Church isn't being run by liberals - it's being run by Neo-Cons. I'm sure the whole akward Texan thing is just a coincidence, though. Lord have mercy upon us.

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