by Michelle Balzer Hairston
I grew up a Christian in church every Sunday, went to a Christian college, served for 8 years as our church Administrator, responsible for everything except preaching, specializing in marketing and advertising.
Our church started as a great church model, welcoming everyone, no judgment, love, acceptance, “come as you are.” We grew so fast that we were awarded the “fastest growing church in northwest history” and they sent the pastor, I, and others out all over the country to set up new church starts using our model. However, soon the money took over the church and TRADITION TOOK OVER AND CHOKED THE LIFE OUT OF OUR CHURCH AND RUINED IT.
People with “the worst sins” couldn’t sit on the board, and blah, blah, blah, until traditional Bible thumping, hell and brimstone, holier than thou, won and destroyed the love and acceptance that made our church flourish. Instead of going out and reaching the hurt and lost, it all became about who was tithing the most and who was sinning the most.
They were always worried about others’ sin and IT DESTROYED US. A person’s sin needs to be between them and God. Period. I left the church and will never go back because the hypocrisy made me sick. They say people are leaving the church in record droves because of the devil, but the truth is its because of church folk and judgment and harm done by those who think they are holier than the rest of us.
The Christian Left began as the result of a conversation between two childhood friends sitting around a camp fire at an annual 4th of July picnic held by the surviving members of the Merry Pranksters. One, Mark Baldwin, is a Quaker and a Green Party member. The other, Charles Toy, was raised in the Lutheran Church and is a Democrat.
The story in a nutshell goes something like this:
Mark Baldwin pointing at Charles Toy and laughing: “Hahahahahahaha! And there’s my evangelical Christian friend!”
Charles was taken off guard and had to think a moment.
Charles Toy: “I’m not an evangelical Christian.”
Charles was aware of the connotations of that term and he wanted nothing to do with it.
Mark Baldwin: “What are you then?”
Mark is the kind of person who likes to draw people out and make them define themselves.
Charles Toy: “I’m a disciple of Jesus.”
There you have it folks, short and sweet. The conversation that launched a national movement of more than 100,000 people, and growing. At the time, Charles was unaware of other progressive Christian movements like Sojourners. He only knew that he was a Christian, and for that reason he was a liberal of course. He was also firmly convinced that the agenda of 'The Christian Right' had nothing to do with anything Jesus taught.
That conversation led to many more conversations on the topic of “The Christian Left” between Mark and Charles and ultimately resulted in the launching of a website and the related social media pages. Since that time The Christian Left has become a wonderful team of contributors with similar visions.
Fast forward to today.
Charles thinks that there is no possibility of Jill Stein ever winning the Presidential election and a vote for Jill would a vote for Mitt Romney. He has a more favorable view of President Obama than Mark and thinks if you’re a Green party member you should only vote for Jill Stein if you live an a solid red state or blue state. If you live in a swing state (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, or Wisconsin) you should sacrifice your vote for the common good and vote for President Obama. A Romney presidency is unacceptable in Charles’ view. It would be an unmitigated return to Bush policy which would crash the country into a dark nightmare, just as it did before.
Mark says that shouldn’t matter and people should vote their conscience.
So, without further adieu, we give you the view from the Green Party wing of The Christian Left, by Mark Baldwin.
Why, as a Christian, I'm Voting for Jill Stein
by Mark Baldwin
My choice is based not only on how he chose to negotiate with Congress on numerous issues, ranging from Obama care to the tax code, defense spending, and financial regulation. To clearly see who Obama represents, I chose to focus primarily on what he has done within the area solely governed by the Executive Branch. This analysis avoids the entangling arguments about whether or not he was stopped by an obstreperous Congress, and focuses on Obama's actions in the domain where he is the unequivocal decision-maker.
Some people are voting for Obama because of their fears for the LGBT community if Romney gets elected. Obama has successfully dismantled discrimination against gays and lesbians in the armed forces. More states will legalize marriage equality, no matter who is President. The rising of consciousness about equality for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is irreversible.
Some people are voting for Obama because of their fears over abortion. Roe v. Wade has stood for 40 years. In that time, we have seen a phenomenal and much needed rise in the power of women in society. We have more women graduating from college than men. We have women working as CEOs, lawyers, bankers, judges, professors, doctors, scientists, elected officials, and other positions of influence in society. We have more to do to have equality for women in our society, but there is no possible way for abortion to be made illegal without an immediate uprising in this country.
The Republicans use the fear of Obama taking their guns to herd conservative voters into a pen. Democrats use the fear of eliminating abortion, or rounding gays up for execution, to herd liberals into a pen. None of these will happen based upon who is elected President.
Where the President has domestic power is through departments such as the EPA, and the Justice Department. The President has enormous power in the area of foreign policy, namely negotiating trade deals, and the use of troops and special ops abroad. Where Obama has a choice, he chooses to side with the global financiers and the military-prison industrial complex.
Blessed are the Peacemakers
The Obama administration has pursued global military domination and the use of military solutions in foreign affairs in a manner similar to other President’s since WWII. Obama did not get us out of Iraq. He just waited for the Status of Forces Agreement to kick in. Like Bush before him, he lobbied the Iraqi government to keep US troops in Iraq beyond the agreed withdrawal date. Depending on your source, 5-10,000 troops and private mercenaries remain in Iraq today.
Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan. If you, as a Christian, believe that more violence in Afghanistan has helped to alleviate suffering in that country, then vote for Obama. If you believe that drones strikes that kill and dismember the poorest women and children in the world is truly making America safer, then vote for Obama.
Here’s a little dose of drone war reality.
If you think that Obama is doing things more ‘surgically’, more ‘rationally’, then I encourage you to read this and wake up to what the logic of secret wars really means. Make sure to read the core source documents to understand the insidious nature of these types of wars.
If you oppose drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and other places around the globe, then vote for Jill Stein.
Obama supported the military coup in Honduras, supported a fraudulent election there, and now Honduras leads the world in the murder of civil activists.
Obama undermined democracy in Haiti by preventing the largest party, the Lavalas party, to participate in the elections after the hurricane. This will bring you up to speed. Note that the President’s policy for Haiti comes right out of the arch-conservative Heritage Foundation playbook. Don’t take my word for it. Read it yourself and decide.
Obama is escalating tensions with Iran. No evidence whatsoever exists that Iran is producing a nuclear bomb, yet Obama is supporting an economic blockade of Iran? This blockade is preventing medical supplies from getting to Iran. Such a policy is inherently immoral. Read more here. If you support punishing the Iranian people for crimes not committed, then vote for Obama. If you oppose escalating tensions with Iran, vote for Jill Stein.
In the area of “free-trade,” which is undermining our economy at home, depressing wages, destroying our manufacturing base, and furthering environmental destruction, Obama is leading the charge on behalf of the global financier class.
Obama is conducting secret negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). No, you and your representatives in Congress are not allowed to read the agreement, but CEOs for Fortune 500 companies are. If you liked NAFTA, you are going to love the TPP.
Obama made disastrous decisions for the environment in terms of his appointments and his environmental agenda. His major appointees are handmaidens for oil, coal, nuclear power and natural gas, and his policies have empowered and enriched them at the expense of our communities and our environment. His nominated Van Jones, but as soon as there was the Republicans whinged the tiniest bit, he backed down. Then, he appointed Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior.
When the gross malfeasance of BP and a consortium of other oil related industries disregard for safety decimated thousands of families in the Gulf, the Obama administration showed a callousness toward the victims of this calamity. The Coast Guard restricted access to scientist and journalists trying to examine the damage of the spill, study the effect of dispersants. Obama let BP administer the distribution of funds to those affected, a process that has done every thing possible to minimize damages paid to the families devastated by this tragic testament to greed.
I stand unequivocally opposed to the Tar Sands and XL-Pipeline production. If you vote for Obama, then you also support the XL Pipeline.
If you support these people, you support Jill Stein.
Obama is promoting off-shore drilling in the Arctic. I cannot support a person who is supposed to represent me blithely ignoring that repeating the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico in the treacherous Arctic Seas is just a matter of time. I agree to a degree with those that argue that it is up to the people to put pressure on him after he is elected to stop drilling in the pristine Arctic, but isn't that why we elected him? Nobody says Shell must have a big protest to get a seat at the President's table.
If you truly oppose drilling in the arctic, you support Jill Stein.
Obama's support “clean” coal will impact the health of our communities throughout the nation. Coal shipped from across the nation will be exported from Oregon. Sulphur, mercury, and other contaminants will spill into our water and our air. These poisons will enter the bodies of our children while they are undergoing complex metabolic changes resulting debilitating birth defects, physical and mental health problems, problems learning, and cancers.
Obama unequivocally supports nuclear power. Can you spell Fukushima? If you support Obama, then you support expanding nuclear power, and upgrading our entire nuclear arsenal. If not, then vote for Jill Stein.
Obama said (I paraphrase), "Governor Romney and I have similar positions on Social Security." Obama has proved his willingness to be a spineless negotiator, and will negotiate away our earned retirement pension.
Have you noticed how Obama has not mentioned raising the minimum wage in this campaign? Ask yourself why not?
Has Obama supported forgiving student loans? Why not?
If you want to make a vote based on fear, then fear what Obama and Romney agree on. Those areas of agreement will have a far greater impact on your daily life than will the areas where they purport to disagree.
Jesus did not work out a deal that was 'pragmatic', or 'reasonable'. Those are the words used by the elites, so that you will see the practicality in accepting 1.1% of the crumbs rather than 1%. They want you to see the logic that they need the whole loaf in order for you to be properly fed.
My choice is based on who will most act like Jesus. Jesus did not compromise with the money-changers in the temple; he grabbed a bull-whip and drove them out.
My conscience as a Christian compels me to vote for Jill Stein, and not for one who will compromise with the money-changers.
Don’t trust me; trust yourself. Take this quiz, make sure to click on “Show more questions” to see all the choices, and decide for yourself who really represents you.
In the Spirit,
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The Christian Left: Here. There. Everywhere!
Doing the right thing can be very lonely. Think of all the prophets throughout history. They had their backs up against the wall. To say that they were between a rock and a hard place would be an understatement. Often their own families were against them. Their own religious and societal institutions were sometimes rejecting them. They were called crazy. Jesus’ own mother persuaded him to come home and get some rest because the townsfolk thought he was going nuts. It’s there in the Bible.
Martin Luther King’s fellow clergymen often said, “Calm down Martin. You’re going to ruin the cause. Don’t speak out against the war (Vietnam). That’s crossing the line. You will lose a lot of people.” The very President he was negotiating with in the White House had his brother Bobby, the Attorney general, wire tap a lot of the hotels and motels Martin stayed in during the struggle. Martin knew it. This stalwart practitioner of nonviolence would be beside himself when sometimes his followers broke out in violence and hatred. Malcolm X severely criticized him. So did Stokely Carmichael. Many said he was not aggressive enough. Others countered that he was too incendiary. But despite that he was a fragile person like the rest of us, he had a strong faith in God and the nonviolence of Jesus which kept him going.
I often think of what Progressive Christians are up against these days. Right wing pastors foisting a Gospel of merit and rugged individualism on the public, and that being virtually the only version of Christianity covered by the media. Charismatic health and wealth gospelers incessantly asking for people to send them money, and then claiming that they are so wealthy because they are blessed by God.
Stories like Jerry Falwell spewing that 911 was punishment from God for homosexuality, feminism and the actions of other groups of human beings that he hated. The Westboro Baptist family protesting at funerals with hellish signs and abject hatred dripping from their words. Pat Robertson telling us that natural catastrophes are punishment from God and Sarah Palin wrapping the cross in the flag by promoting her own brand of xenophobia. These distortions seem to be all that is appearing in the press.
It’s enough to make a Christian want to cry out: “This is not what it’s supposed to be all about! Where is the love in this?” Indeed, where is the Christlike love? It is a very lonely time for us. We need to get together in spirit and encourage one another that the love and sacrificial motives of Christianity are still alive. That cheap grace will not reign. That Christ still wants us to reconcile and work for social justice. That sometimes, a lot of times, we can use government and social institutions to help those who are hurting precisely because the love of Christ overcomes the cold bureaucracy that Conservatives seem to be so paranoid about.
At this time in history, being a progressive Christian, emphasizing the good things that the left can do, seems like an insurmountable obstacle to overcome. But we have the grace of Jesus. We have one another, and that is why it is so comforting to have a place like The Christian Left to come and visit in spirit once in awhile. To know that there are other people out there who conclude like us that there is something terribly wrong with what is advertised as Christianity today. People who want to be assured that they are not wrong about taking up the cross. About discipleship. About not being self righteous and condemning everyone. About accepting everyone unconditionally with love no matter what.
We are broken people and we fail a lot. And that is why we can let go and put our trust in Christ and let him show his love through us, whether it be through a person to person encounter or government legislation. Whether it be through a charity or a chance encounter with a fellow human being (and yes, animals too). That is a message that many who are hurting want to hear. And that is a message that Progressive Christians can exhibit: Progress is helping others who hurt because we genuinely care and we hurt ourselves. It’s not offering someone a formula for salvation and then advising them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps come what may. We speak by our actions. Let’s all be broken together, love one another and search to help others who are broken and look to the one who was broken for us on the cross. And we don’t need to search far because they will be those who we come across everyday of our lives. As The Apostle Paul said: love conquers all.
(Post submitted byKeith Goss who is a member of The Christian Left and a Guest Blogger).
About TCL Blog
We’re not about Dogma here. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.
Charles Toy is the founding member of The Christian Left. We're sure you will enjoy his passion as well as his wit. Guest bloggers featured often.