Pop quiz: What’s more important to you, fighting terrorists or ending poverty? Your answer may reveal who you’ll vote for come November, according to a new survey:
The survey commissioned by Compassion International and conducted by Barna Research Group found that 80 percent of those surveyed who identified themselves as strong McCain supporters believe fighting the war on terror should be a higher priority for the next president than to end extreme poverty.
Only about a tenth of the Arizona senator’s strongest backers prioritized the fight against global poverty over the fight against terror. In contrast, only 30 percent of Obama’s strongest supporters place a greater emphasis on fighting terrorism than on ending global poverty, while 45 percent of this group placed ending global poverty above efforts to stop terror.
Among undecided voters, 40 percent of this group placed fighting terror over ending global poverty.
The Bible never speaks a word about fighting “terrorists”—but in more than 300 verses it discusses caring for the poor and doing social justice. It’s clear that God has a special preference for the poor and social action on behalf of “the least of these.” It’s interesting that so-called “values voters” who tend to vote Republican, are not moved by issues so clearly valued in the Bible.
To be fair, that’s not to say that supporters of McCain are not concerned about the poor—they are. But, they tend to have a different idea of how government works and who it should benefit. Many conservatives see government as a hindrance and not a help and place a high value on “personal responsibility.” This leads them to support “faith-based” charities funded by the government to feed the hungry. However, their support for other corporate forms of socialism, like a Wall Street bailout, appears to be at odds with this “personal responsibility” philosophy.
However voters may feel about the issue of poverty, the candidates, on either side, are not talking about it very much. Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and former World Bank economist is challenging the candidates to talk about it in their next debate.
”In the first debate, no one even mentioned poor people,” said Rev. Beckmann. “Our current economic problems have hit poor people very hard, and the presidential candidates have two different responses in mind. But children who are not getting enough to eat are also not getting enough attention in this election.”
It’s incredibly easy to vote our fears instead of our compassion, but if Jesus taught us nothing it’s that the antidote to fear is compassion—that perfect love that casts out all fear. If America is to be the great nation it once was—whether it’s led by Republicans or Democrats—it will have to again discover and focus on its sense of commonality. A Wall Street crash means a Main Street crash because we are all connected. Poverty (physical or spiritual) can breed terrorism. All the issues we face are intricately connected and can’t be voted for to the exclusion of the other. We can bicker over them as partisans or realize we’re all in this together and follow the advice of Leviticus 25:35: ”If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.”
Creating authentic, open community solves all the world’s problems, from terrorism to poverty. I just wish it was on the ballot in November.