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God's Politics


Brian McLaren: My Questions for the Democratic Candidates

posted by gp_intern

As Jim Wallis announced last week, we’re pleased to be hosting a forum of the leading Democratic presidential candidates at our Pentecost 2007 conference (and hoping to do a Republican candidates forum later this year). We’ve invited several of our bloggers to discuss their questions for the candidates, but are also asking our readers to submit their questions, and will let YOU vote on the ones we should use!
+ Click here to submit your questions

I’m writing from the Republic of South Africa, where I’ve been speaking in conferences and other gatherings with church leaders from across many denominations. With the memories of apartheid still alive here, with a poverty rate of about 40 percent, with crime rates moving higher and higher – in part due to desperate immigrants from Zimbabwe – and with the continuing work of creating a successful multicultural democracy ongoing, several questions come to my mind for the three candidates. Here is how I would formulate them sitting in a home in downtown Johannesburg:

1. For Senator Clinton: If you are elected and serve two terms, it would mean that two families would share the presidency of the United States for 28 years. It’s hard not to conclude that we are living in something more like an oligarchy or plutocracy than a democracy. Would you reflect on this problem so we can see how deeply you have thought about it, and would you propose what can be done about it?

2. For Senator Obama: I’ve heard critics express fear that you aren’t tough enough or militaristic enough to be president in a world of terrorism and nuclear weapons. I would imagine that would prompt you to want to prove you are indeed capable of being tough and militaristic. But many of us are hoping for someone who will present another vision for the role of America in the world – something beyond the world’s dominant military force, the world’s police, or the world’s imperial center. Not that America would be weak, but that we would be strong in new and different ways. Can you comment on your vision for the role of America in the world, and what you would do to pursue that role?

3. For John Edwards: When the subject of terrorism comes up, many Americans seem to think that terrorism can be stopped by guns and bombs. But others believe that wherever there is a large gap between rich and poor countries, terrorism (like high crime rates) will be likely, perhaps inevitable. If that is the case, creating a more equitable global economy becomes one of the most essential dimensions of reducing terrorism. Do you agree, and if so, what can America do to increase its security by helping poor nations improve their economic systems?

There are two additional questions I would want to ask all the candidates:

1. America seems to be caught in a cycle of fear. Politicians use fear to garner support and inhibit criticism. News media profit when people are afraid and watch TV news more often, raising ratings and advertising income. The arms industry profits when fears run high. Political parties compete for fear dominance over other parties. Cycles of fear are hard to break. How will your campaign and your presidency address this rise in the fear quotient?

2. The United States is not leading the world in addressing our unsustainable economy. We are the world’s prime example of an unsustainable consumer society, and if our lifestyles were generalized to the whole human population, we would need many planet earths to sustain us. Should we be a leader in environmental stewardship and sustainability? How would you lead in this regard? What would your priorities be in environmental renewal and sustainable living?


Brian McLaren (brianmclaren.net) is an author, speaker, Red Letter Christian, and serves as board chair for Sojourners/Call to Renewal. His next book, due out in October, will be called Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope.



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Wolverine

posted May 14, 2007 at 5:03 pm


Jeez Brian, it’s one thing to toss these guys softballs, but could you at least put a little arc on them? Wolverine



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kevin s.

posted May 14, 2007 at 6:29 pm


Actually, in a lot of these instances, questions are provided by the campaigns themselves. It’s kinda the price for getting the big shooters to come to your event. Such is politics, God’s or otherwise.



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TimR

posted May 14, 2007 at 6:42 pm


Our economy is unsustainable? In what ways?



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Sarasotakid

posted May 14, 2007 at 6:47 pm


Excellent questions, Brian and very tough as well. I seriously doubt that anyone would be asking those types of questions. I would be interested in Hilary’s response to her question.



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A.B. Dada

posted May 14, 2007 at 7:23 pm


1. There is no doubt that we already live in an oligarchy, because it isn’t the person who occupies office that sets the standard of their term. The Bushes and the Clintons are both manipulated strongly by the mercantilists who have always paid to support both sides of the elections. Why not look at Ron Paul, who receives most of his campaign finances from actual individuals? 2. America is bound by the Constitution to have no role in the world. Our first President said to (paraphrased) trade with all, entangle alliances with none. Had we continues on this non-intervention path, we’d still have the most powerful trading nation in the world. All candidates on both sides of the fence want MORE intervention in the world. All but one. 3. Terrorism is merely a label regarding another individual or group’s desire to stop the meddling of a foreign force or State. Terrorism is solved by not meddling. Again, only one candidate wants the U.S. to stop meddling with force, and instead instill peace through truly free trade. 1b. The best way to reduce fear is to truly extricate the U.S. from foreign entanglements. We have troops stationed permanently in over 100 countries of the world. Do you wonder why people want us out and will use any means necessary to do so? Only one candidate wants to bring back the troops from 100+ nations to defend our soil where they are most needed. 2b. Every candidate but one (again, Ron Paul) has no solution to consumerism. Paul understands WHY we have an unsustainable economy: we spend too much because government prints too much money. This is called inflation. Inflation happens when the government prints new money for no reason. It makes costs escalate. It makes industries uncompetitive on the global market. It makes easy credit that comes back to hurt those who took advantage of the easy credit in the long run. Only Ron Paul wants to return to a sound money policy — no more inflation, no more fictitious dollars printed out of nothing. Also, he wants to cut back Federal spending to Constitituionally sound levels — probably a 70% chop off the block. Let the States do what the Constitution lets them do. Let the U.S. merely protect individuals from their States.



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Jason

posted May 14, 2007 at 7:35 pm


I agree with Dada, vote Ron Paul. Nothing will change ever if we continue the status quo or stick to party line voting. Vote for change for once people, true change. Cant be a bad thing when a candidate says he will dissolve the IRS!



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Don

posted May 14, 2007 at 7:44 pm


Regarding Wolverine’s comment a the top, I think hard-hitting questions for the candidates are vital right now. These are serious times, and we need serious discussion, dialogue, and ideas from anyone who wants to hold high office (and not just president). It’s time to demand more from our candidates than just spinning one way for one audience and a different way for another. Or attacking one’s opponent for a comment or vote made years ago (after taking it out of context). Brian’s questions are serious and they are deep. They get behind the surface issues and begin dealing with substantive ideas: who are we, where are we going, and where *should* we be going? It might be more revealing to know how the candidates react to these kinds of questions than that actual answers they give. That is, of course, assuming Brian (or someone) has the opportunity to ask them. TimR: One way our current economy is unsustainable is because of its dependence on petroleum. If the supply is cut off (by war, terrorism, or whatever), or if we run out of easy-to-extract petroleum, we’re done for economically. Despite recent fuel cost increases, it’s still pretty cheap. What will happen if the cost *really* goes up? Peace,



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Eric

posted May 14, 2007 at 8:11 pm


I agree with Don that the questions are serious and deep, but (as Wolverine said) they are also softballs. If I were a Democrat trying to run against the Bush record of the last eight years I’d beg for a question in which I could articulate how I’m different than he is, which is what these questions would lead to. It you were asking the Republicans these questions I might consider them a little tougher.



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Eric

posted May 14, 2007 at 8:43 pm


Here’s a good question for any of the candidates: In the U.S., a gallon of gas costs less than most any other place in the industrialized world. Because of the low cost of gasoline American drivers don’t economize, drive oversize cars, and send billions of dollars per year to countries that work against U.S. interests. Would you raise the gas tax and increase the cost of gasoline so that Americans will use less? Or this one: The U.S. depends far too much on foreign souces of energy and its power plants put too many greenhouses gases into the air. One alternative to fossil fuels is nuclear power. Do you support building more nuclear power plants in the United States? These questions have very serious ramifications, demand specific answers, and would actually be difficult for Democratic candidates to answer. It would show me how serious they are about solving energy and environmental problems.



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Don

posted May 14, 2007 at 8:55 pm


Eric: Excellent questions. I would add one thing to your first question (in capitals): “In the U.S., a gallon of gas costs less than most any other place in the industrialized world. Because of the low cost of gasoline American drivers don’t economize, drive oversize cars, DON’T USE OR SUPPORT THE BUILDING OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, and send billions of dollars per year to countries that work against U.S. interests. Would you raise the gas tax and increase the cost of gasoline so that Americans will use less? Later,



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Ngchen

posted May 14, 2007 at 8:58 pm


Ron Paul is an interesting candidate whom I respect. Even though I disagree with him over a couple of issues, at least I know he’s honest. The classic problem with the gold standard (as pointed out by economists) is that well, (1) the supply of gold can’t reflect the need for money supply changes quickly enough, resulting in periodic deflation, and (2) if you don’t trust the government to use its printing press responsibly, how can you trust the government to not ditch the gold standard when inconvenient? So the problem it purports to solve isn’t really solved.



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Sarasotakid

posted May 14, 2007 at 9:17 pm


Don, I agree with you. The questions are serious and deep. To characterize them any other way simply ignores their content or amounts to baseless, bad faith criticism. I think that even Democrats would have a tough time giving adequate answers to these questions because at the end of the day, the Democrats are a right wing party in the broader spectrum of political ideologies.



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Eric

posted May 14, 2007 at 9:23 pm


Don, good edition to the question.



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Carl Copas

posted May 14, 2007 at 9:55 pm


McLaren: “If that is the case, creating a more equitable global economy becomes one of the most essential dimensions of reducing terrorism. Do you agree, and if so, what can America do to increase its security by helping poor nations improve their economic systems?” That’s a softball question? Ron Paul is the Dennis Kucinich of the Republican Party. Both are interesting men who offer genuine alternatives to the Republocrat mainstream. Neither man has a snowball’s chance in Gehenna of getting elected.



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kevin s.

posted May 14, 2007 at 10:20 pm


Softball questions are labelled as such when they provide an easy opportunity to segue into talking points, as these questions do. Eric’s question would give the candidates fits.



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Ted Voth Jr

posted May 14, 2007 at 10:33 pm


Brian;We need someone tough, even in peacetime; we don’t need a militarist, even in wartime. A militarist believes, contrary to Clausewitz, that the use of military power solves all problems and should be the means of preference, of first resort. Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, none of whom served in Vietnam,are militarists; Colin Powell– what a disappointment– who had served? Probably not; he’d seen first-hand the limits of military power. Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, were they tough? Yes. Were they all vets? Yes. Were they militarists? I’d say no. I believe Obama or Edwards or Richardson is tough; and Clinton? Heaven help our enemies! But none of em sound much like militarists, except Clinton, who wanted to keep troops in Iraq indefinitely, last I heard



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Eric

posted May 14, 2007 at 11:20 pm


Carl – yes that is a softball question. Any Democrat could easily answer “yes, I agree” to that question and then go on to talking points about how we need to help the world’s poor more. Kevin – Yep, exactly. You have to give candidates yes or no questions otherwise they revert to talking points.



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justintime

posted May 14, 2007 at 11:29 pm


Dear candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America, America’s manufacturing base is being shipped offshore. America’s high tech skilled jobs are being shipped offshore. America’s raw materials are being shipped offshore. American consumers have few choices except products manufactured offshore with raw materials exported from America. America’s massive trade and federal deficits are being acquired by foreign investors. Even America’s infrastructure is being auctioned off to foreign investors. American investors are moving their investments offshore. American corporations are moving offshore to avoid taxes. America is rapidly losing the ability to create wealth. Looks like America’s gonna end up as a colony again. 1. Can you see this picture? 2. How did we get ourselves into this untenable position? 3. How do you propose to turn the American economic disaster around and bring back prosperity? .



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Hali

posted May 15, 2007 at 12:33 am


kevin s. wrote “Softball questions are labelled as such when they provide an easy opportunity to segue into talking points, as these questions do. Eric’s question would give the candidates fits.” The maddening thing about the major candidates in BOTH parties is that they use ANY question as an opportunity to segue into talking points. I can’t remember the last time I heard a direct, honest and relevant answer (Paul and Kucinich excepted).



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justintime

posted May 15, 2007 at 1:15 am


Revise question 3: 3. How do you propose to turn the American economic disaster around and bring back prosperity for all Americans? .



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kevin s.

posted May 15, 2007 at 4:44 am


“The maddening thing about the major candidates in BOTH parties is that they use ANY question as an opportunity to segue into talking points. I can’t remember the last time I heard a direct, honest and relevant answer (Paul and Kucinich excepted).” Yep, and if you are wondering why, recall what happened to Joe Biden when he veered off talking points. When you make 2 million statements throughout the course of the campaign, you either stick to talking points, or someone calls you out.



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Deb

posted May 15, 2007 at 6:18 am


I guess I’d like to see questions that by their posing do not lead the candidates to answer in a particular way…



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Donny

posted May 15, 2007 at 1:37 pm


Fear huh Brian? Like Christianity being outlawed for instance? Which is the distinct goal being achieved through hate crimes legistaion and secular humanist rule on our colleg/university grounds? Islam never being challenged by Liberals (that hold political power) for promoting the murders of non-Muslims? Schisms brought on by homosexuality being forced on the Church? Stuff like that raising the fears in Christians? Stuff that is really happening?



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Donny

posted May 15, 2007 at 1:40 pm


. . . and, “Sojouners” holding a Republican candidtae debate?Why not have the Democrat National Commitee hold it in its DC office, or Hugo Chavez host it in Venezuala?No difference.



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jesse

posted May 15, 2007 at 3:16 pm


As Jim Wallis announced last week, we’re pleased to be hosting a forum of the leading Democratic presidential candidates at our Pentecost 2007 conference (and hoping to do a Republican candidates forum later this year). –Are they seriously hoping to host a forum for Republican candidates? Wouldn’t that kind of be like the Heritage Foundation hosting a Democratic debate? I’d be very surprised if this happened.



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Alicia

posted May 15, 2007 at 8:03 pm


Brian’s piece said: “The United States is not leading the world in addressing our unsustainable economy. We are the world’s prime example of an unsustainable consumer society, and if our lifestyles were generalized to the whole human population, we would need many planet earths to sustain us.” This “green question” is certainly one of the most important questions on my mind.However, I have to take issue with the traditional “religious left” canard about terrorism arising because of global poverty, and, for me, taking the terrorist threat seriously is one of the most important things I am looking for in our next POTUS.Those who think the Patriot Act was excessive should think about would happen here if there was another mass casualty terrorist attack on U.S. soil.In this regard, I recommend that everyone who is interested read Paul Berman’s book, “Terror and Liberalism” which tells, from a left-wing perspective, why liberals should view Islamist radicalism as the greatest anti-democratic threat since Hitler and Stalin.I want to hear from the candidates how seriously they will take the two greatest threats to the future of humanity: global climate change, and Islamofacism. There are many other terrible threats to humanity, but I believe these have the potential to cause the greatest destruction.



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God's Politics Moderator

posted May 15, 2007 at 10:09 pm


“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) This message thread has been visited by a God’s Politics Blog moderator for the purpose of removing inappropriate posts. Click here for a detailed explanation of the Beliefnet Rules of Conduct: http://www.beliefnet.com/about/rules.asp which includes: Help us keep the conversation civil and respectful by reporting inappropriate posts to: community@staff.beliefnet.com 3



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Alicia

posted May 16, 2007 at 12:16 am


Thanks, Donny.As a politically moderate Christian, I like to be exposed to thoughtful and respectful viewpoints from the Left, Middle, or Right. I don’t see that labelling people as “Christian-hating” leftists, etc.Can I just add that when I was many years younger, my politics were much more to the Left?Then, as I grew older, I realized that people have to be taken as indiviuals, not labelled as “Bourgeois,” or “Yuppies,” or “Tree Huggers” or “Soccer Moms” or “Bushies” or whatever. Labels appear to me to be shorthand used for the purpose of dismissing people without addressing the substance of their arguments.



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kevin s.

posted May 16, 2007 at 3:29 am


“Are they seriously hoping to host a forum for Republican candidates? Wouldn’t that kind of be like the Heritage Foundation hosting a Democratic debate? I’d be very surprised if this happened.” Maybe Sojo is responding to the criticisms that they simply represent the Christian left-wing.



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timothy moriarty

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