05 December 2008

Mennonites and Barack Obama

In this week's Mennonite Weekly Review, Steve Kriss confesses to something traditionally un-Mennonite: having a political position. Specifically, in favor of Barack Obama. This is awkward both because Steve is a pastor, and has to be in pastoral relationship with people across the political spectrum, and because of the compromises necessary when you have to vote for one of two candidates. And what do you do when the guy you backed because of religious principle wins?
I am wondering how the Anabaptist message might be relevant in this changing world. Who are we becoming, and who might we become, in an America that elects Obama as president? Will we have more “Esther moments” of speaking truth to power? Or is it a time to renew the tradition of separation from the world?

Photo by BarackObama.com.
And from a Mennonite perspective, there's a lot to like about Obama (especially, I would say, in contrast to John McCain; but that's another argument). He favors applying government resources to social programs, but is friendly to working with "faith-based" groups to do so; opposed the war in Iraq from the start, and favors diplomacy over military force; and seems to have a genuinely reflective personal faith. And, of course, Obama represents a transcendence of American culture and racial barriers that Mennonites have long aspired to, if not achieved.

But Obama isn't Mennonite. He opposed the invasion of Iraq because it was a stupid move, not because he's opposed to war in all its forms. He practically channeled George W. Bush during the campaign, talking about what he wants to do to Osama Bin Ladin. An Obama administration will be more peaceful than the Bush administration, but that's like saying Obama is taller than a hobbit. Mennonites, and members of the other historic peace churches, will still have a role in witnessing to peace.

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