Why I’m voting for Barack Obama, and why I hope you will too – Reason 3

[Thanks for all the positive responses to this series of posts. You can find Part 1 here … and Part 2 here. Reminder – I’m speaking here for myself as a private US citizen, and not on behalf of any group. ]
Reason 3: The Least of These
I’m a Matthew 25 guy. That means that I take very seriously Jesus’ words about caring for “the least of these.” I don’t believe a nation’s moral greatness is measured by how many tax breaks it gives its richest individuals and corporations, or by it’s kill-power in terms of weapons and readiness to use them, but rather by how it cares for its most vulnerable people – its children, its sick, its disabled, its unemployed, its minorities.
So when I come to an election, I don’t just ask, “Which candidate will do the most for me and my nuclear family?” I extend my concern.
I extend it to my extended family, which includes people with special needs and disabilities, people with chronic illnesses, gay people, poor people, people of advanced age, people with histories of addiction and crime and mental illness. How will they be treated in a McCain administration? How will they be treated in an Obama administration?
I extend my concern even farther. How about people who live less than an hour from my front door – in inner-city Washington DC, in impoverished sections of Baltimore – how will they fare? Which president will be most concerned about them? Or how about people in states like Ohio and Michigan … where hundreds of thousands of people are unemployed because too many American corporations shipped jobs overseas? Or people in Katrina-devastated areas of Mississippi and Louisiana? Or people in the coal country of Kentucky or East Tennessee and West Virginia, whose lives are being devastated by the “externalized costs” of “cheap coal?”
I don’t stop there either. I go beyond the US. I think about slums where I have walked, people I have met, shacks I have sat in and shanties I have eaten meals in … from Mexico to Chile to South Africa to Burundi. Which candidate will do the most for the least of the least of these?
And when I ask these questions, it’s not just a matter of foreign aid, as important as that may be. It’s a matter of trade as well: which candidate is most interested in trade policies that avoid exploitation abroad as well as at home? And it’s also a matter of war, because a nation at war has fewer resources to be generous.
The gap between rich and poor is growing greater and greater, in this country and around the world. So I ask myself, which candidate is concerned about strengthening the economy in robust ways that will not simply help oil companies, coal companies, and job exporters make higher profits, but will instead support the development of new “green” businesses that have the most promising future and can provide meaningful jobs here and abroad that workers can take true pride in?
Which candidate best understands poverty and economic vulnerability through the closest experience of it? Which one promises to bring the most resources – energy, intelligence, creativity, and commitment – to helping the least of these?
I don’t doubt that Senator McCain would make national defense his top priority as president, and I don’t doubt that he would be most ready to sustain or expand our war-making activities around the world. But I’m ashamed of our nation being known for rushing to war. I would like to be known for helping the poor.
In the end, I truly believe that a nation that helps the poor will have fewer enemies – and therefore more national security – than one that pursues its own national interest through war. As the Apostle Paul said, “Do not look out only for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Your attitude should be that of Christ Jesus.” That other-oriented mindset is, to me, a powerful reason to support Barack Obama for president.
(You may be wondering, “What about the unborn? Aren’t they among the least of these? And what about other living creatures – endangered species and the threatened ecosystems on which they depend? Aren’t they among the least of these?” I plan to address these issues in upcoming posts. Stay tuned. For more on Matthew 25, check out the Matthew 25 Network.)