God's Politics

Thanks for entering the 2008 presidential race. I know a lot of people feel as I do: After several elections where we felt we were left to choose between tired and uninspiring candidates with little fresh to offer except new twists on old electioneering techniques, it seems that in the upcoming primary elections, at least, we will have several exciting options. In both parties, in fact, we may get to choose between a number of fresh, creative, and substantial candidates instead of settling for the lesser of famliar disappointments. I hope that we will feel the same way when it comes down to two candidates in the 2008 presidential elections as well.

No doubt you’ll be getting a lot of advice and requests from a lot of people in the coming weeks, and the only reason I think mine deserves to be heard is that I know I’m expressing what a lot of people feel. So I would like to make this request at the beginning of your campaign.

Please don’t lie to us. Please forego both the repulsive, deceptive, and twisted lies and also the flattering lies we like to hear. For example, I heard a fellow candidate recently trot out the tired old line, “America is the greatest country in the history of the world.” This makes Americans feel good and gets applause. Maybe it wins votes. But it is a lie.

Yes, we are the richest country. Yes, we have the most weapons. Yes, we dominate in many fields, from sports to pop music to movies to pornographic websites to resource consumption and waste production. But the seductive lie of superiority is bad for any nation, including ours. Any nation that keeps telling itself that it is the greatest will become a proud nation (if it isn’t already), and pride, I have it on good authority, comes before a fall. Pride makes nations, as
individuals, unpleasant and ugly neighbors, and so candidates make a bad long-term decision when they seek to coddle pride in exchange for votes. If they win, they will preside over a country that their rhetoric has made more ugly and more likely to fall.

Instead of telling us this lie of American superiority, please tell us the truths that we need to hear. Tell us, as you just did in your campaign-launch speech, inconvenient truths – that we and our leaders have a habit of making mistakes and blaming others – whether it’s in New Orleans or Baghdad. Tell us the truth about our past – from our own original genocide and ongoing apartheid regarding the Native peoples of this land, to our profoundly unacknowledged and unhealed legacy of slavery and racism, to our failure to care properly for this beautiful part of God’s green earth, to our desperate and shameful violations of our own principles and ideals around the world, from Congo to Chile, and from Central America to the Middle East.

Those who say, “Those things are in the past, we should just move on,” would never say that about, say, September 11, 2001. Tell us the truth that we have unfinished business, recalling the old proverb that says the one who hides his transgressions will not prosper, but the one who confesses and forsakes them will find mercy. South Africa discovered how a different future is possible when a nation tells the truth about its past, and you could help us have our own time of truth and reconciliation.

And of course, please tell us the truth about the hope that comes through truth-telling. You and John Edwards and several other candidates have already begun inspiring many of us with your hope – audacious hope regarding poverty, environmental healing, and peace. Because, as you say, another world is possible. Many of us dare to hope that, and if you don’t tell us the old political lies and instead tell us the inconvenient truth, then our shared emerging hopes
can become a dynamic new reality.

All of us are cynical at times, but in the launch of your campaign, I feel more hopeful and inspired than I have in a long time. Thank you.

Brian McLaren ( is an author, speaker, Red Letter Christian, and serves as board chair for Sojourners/Call to Renewal. His most recent book is The Secret Message of Jesus, and his next book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, will be released later this year.

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