Wednesday, August 13, 2008
How Would God Vote?
Today I attended a meeting of a book club where the author, David Klinghoffer, made a presentation about his new book, How Would God Vote? Why the Bible Commands You to be a Conservative (Random House), which I found not only controversial but thought-provoking.
I admit to not yet reading the book, but the discussion was less about specifics in the text (which reaches into traditional biblical and Jewish sources for precedents that Klinghoffer applies to 20 hot-button issues), and more about why it's not arrogant to suggest that God has a point of view that He offers for our use.
The conversation got interestingly impassioned as it rolled around to the presidential candidates, with Klinghoffer suggesting that Obama's appeal is in how he makes voters feel--like they're open-minded, forward-thinking, in with the in-crowd. It's that cool image Obama peddles, even as he eschews specifics on many issues (the only promise being that he'll raise taxes) and offers only ephemeral abstracts like "change" and "hope" as his mantras.
But David wouldn't give a public biblical stamp of approval on any candidate, shying away lest his employer, the think-tank Discovery Institute, lose non-profit cred as a non-partisan institution. I, however, see Jewish biblical guidelines that point solidly to McCain.
If, as Klinghoffer suggests, Obama's lure is in how his followers feel, and the sharp-looking, youthful black face spouting those well-crafted words, then despite his Democratic credentials, Barack's waving a red flag. We say every day (at least twice!) in the seminal Jewish prayer "the Shma," "v'lo taturu acharai l'vavhem, v'acharai anaichem, asher atem zonim aharaihem..." which means, "and not explore after your heart, and after your eyes, which (make) you stray after them."
Or, as Rashi, (1040-1105) the great Jewish scholar puts it, "the eye sees, then the heart covets, and the body sins." That's the appeal of Obama--the eye, the heart--rather than the mind.
That's where McCain comes in. When you close your eyes to the image and look at relevant criteria for leading our nation, what should you consider? Experience. Record on issues. Track record. Proven dedication.
Yesterday I was struck by an illustration of this. I was listening to my favorite radio talk show, now on in New York 3-6 pm on AM 970, WNYM, and heard a clip of Sen. McCain discussing the Russian aggression into Georgia. This was hours before the cease-fire. He said he'd just spoken to his long-time friend, President Mikheil Saakashvili, on the phone: "I've been to Georgia several times, and the lesson here is one which is larger than a tiny country. The lesson here is that we are seeing a reemergence of Russia as a major player... I do believe that we need to stand as courageously as we can on behalf of this little country.” Meanwhile, Obama continued his vacation in Hawaii.
Now, I'm sure Sen. Obama deserves his relaxation in the tropical isles. But using logic to evaluate this situation, it's clear that experience and dedication, exactly the credentials of Sen. McCain, are the tools we need on this volatile world political front. "Hope" and "change" are of little help.
Maybe that isn't romantic; maybe that isn't exciting, but the kind of "hope" we need now is that the sense of the American electorate will prevail, to let their minds take charge of their eyes and their hearts.