Believe in America

1. In footballing terms, the scores of the US presidential debates are like 2-8, 2-1, and 3-0. Obama might win the final two debates, but the one that people would remember the most is the first debate, the one that Romney won so convincingly and is propelling him now to the finish line.

2. The election is not Obama’s last stand. It is White Men’s last stand. They are getting outstripped (permanently?) of dominance which they have hold for the past 250 years. The end is near and they don’t like it. It perhaps feels like an emasculation for them. But, the U.S. is going to be more and more diverse anyway. Sooner or later the Republicans need to wake up and realize that this is no longer their grandfathers’ country.

3. It is so awesome that Romney could become A in one day and anti-A in the next day and yet people still want to vote for him. This guy is willing to say anything just to get elected. He becomes everything to everyone! (Then I shudder when I realize that it could happen in 2014 Indonesian election in the form of Bakrie and his Romney-like party, Golkar.) Obama have a lot of weaknesses, no doubt about that, but at least he has some principles.

4. Americans elected Bush for 8 years. If Obama is white, he will win this election in a landslide. I don’t know who first said this, but I guess it is true that racism is America’s original sin.

5. A few days ago there is this news about Billy Graham dropping off Mormonism from his list of cults, and his association justified the decision by saying that “our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.” And of course this is total bullshit. If your primary focus is indeed to promote the gospel, then you don’t need to bother about your reference to Mormonism as a cult.

(I am not saying that they can’t change their theological position. People do this all the time. Of course they can argue about this theologically. Mormonism might not be a cult after all. The problem is the reason behind their decision. Do you think they will put back the reference again after the election?)

I think the true reason why they do this is to cater for those voters who might want to vote for Romney but feel that they can’t choose “heretic” to become their leader (much like the recent election in Jakarta, although for different kind of religion and heresy). In other words, it’s like they are soothing these people and say to them that it is not a sin to vote for a Mormon. This is sad, indeed. I didn’t expect this coming from Billy Graham.

(Indeed, CT just ran a new story: Has Billy Graham suddenly turned political? Or is it his son who is behind all these statements?)

6. Still on the topic of faith. CNN wrote an interesting piece on Obama’s faith. They argue that Obama is “a progressive Christian who blends the emotional fire of the African-American church, the ecumenical outlook of contemporary Protestantism, and the activism of the Social Gospel.” I still think that basically he is a Niebuhrian Christian. (Scot McKnight: “President Obama’s faith is an African American liberation kind of social gospel.”)

7. America’s original sin is racism and America’s god/religion is America herself. Not that syncretism is unique and exists only in America, but the thing is American evangelicals love to complain about syncretism in other countries, without realizing that they too are doing the very same thing. Romney’s closing statement includes messianic sentences like “America is the hope of the earth.” His campaign slogan is “Believe in America.” Not that Obama doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. Both of them do, but Romney certainly believe it more. In America, the question is not whether you believe in American exceptionalism. The question is how much you believe in it.

(Personally I think Mormonism is the pinnacle of American religion. The logical conclusion of American syncretism is Mormonism, where Christianity is thoroughly Americanized. And, the only exceptional thing about American exceptionalism is only Americans believe in American exceptionalism. And that the theological corollary of American exceptionalism is cultural imperialism of American mission.)

8. China is rapidly on the rise, but, love it or hate it, the U.S. is still holding the supremacy in the world. And that’s why sometimes I think the rest of the world should have some say in the U.S. election, because, again, whether you like it or not, what happens in America will have repercussions in other countries. And, unlike the Americans who amazingly are divided evenly between Obama-Romney camp, the rest of the world knows very clearly which choice will be better for the world. We still remember the hell under Bush (who, if you remember, is supposed to be a “born-again Christian” and names “Jesus Christ” as his favorite philosopher). It is, indeed, tempting to ask, “Is America stupid?”

9. I don’t know why, but I just love to bash America. And, yeah, I realize that I am wasting my time by caring too much about this election. (Or that in general I care too much about a lot of elections – Singapore, Jakarta, and now the U.S.) “Elections are like the Roman Circus, entertainment to keep us distracted from doing anything meaningful in our political life.” (Hauerwas)

(While we are at Hauerwas, I seriously recommend his book, War and the American Difference.)

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