Rick and Monique

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Judge retention, politics and God

I need the ear, or the eyes as it were, of Christians and the non-religious alike. 

Many Americans often vote according to a candidates views about one or two specific issues such as military benefits or taxes or abortion, and some vote straight-line Republican or straight-line Democrat because that's what their family has always done. But I've met very few haters--I have met a few--but only a few.  The recent Iowa vote proved interesting not because the candidates that were chosen was an unpredictable vote, but because three Iowa Supreme Court justices were voted out of their jobs.  Their positions had come up for a retention vote.  A judicial retention vote differs from a regular election.  Voters can't vote between a list of judicial candidates and the judges do not have opponents.  Rather, the voter chooses to elect incumbent judge(s) to a further or not the judge's term in office.  Iowa retains judges if ballots cast in favor of retention outnumber votes against.  In 1962, Iowa voters approved constitutional reform replacing the judge selection by popular vote with a merit selection and retention election process. The process intends to select the best qualified applicants and judicial accountability and protects public oversight, a nation of the people, by the people and for the people.  Why must the people be involved?  Because the judicial nominating committee by the nature of the committee itself won't be impartial--like everything they need checks and balances.

The 15 member committee, as I understand it, is balanced by gender and a number of other factors, but is not balanced by political affiliation.  Currently, the board is 86% Democrat.  Of the Judges  Democrat Governors appointed 5 of the judges, and none of the 7 judges are or ever have been registered Republicans.  Judge Baker, although claiming to be independent gave thousands to the Democrats.  There are others who've donated to the Democratic party over the years including Wiggins, and Appel, the latter donated tens of thousands to Democratic party.

My point is that all of these people, including past Governors have implemented their rights within the process.  It's easy to over-politicize the system based on prejudices, but I'm alright with a process based on the rights within a system.  Does that mean the system is fair?  I don't think this process is entirely fair or impartial, but it's still a system that protects and expects judicial impartiality, and does a good job of it.  I suppose I just muddied the idea of "good", but there's nothing new there -- For example, I did good yesterday, even though I probably didn't do everything quite right.  There's another post in that sentence alone.

I voted to retain the judges, and many did not.  In the end, they were not retained.  I voted to retain them because they made many hundreds and probably thousands of decisions and many (probably not all, they are human) of them were just decisions, meaning they performed exactly as the system requires them to perform and beyond.  Thousands of times they did exactly as the citizens of the state of Iowa and the United States of America expected them too.  Some decisions fell well outside of popular opinion, but they were just and, according to them, the Constitution experts, constitutional. I agree the majority of Iowans said that they did not want something, and the Judges, said "too bad, we have to go against you on this one."  I personally can't say whether or not their political agendas biased them--I have a feeling they did--everyone has leanings.  Their political leanings probably helped usher the issue to the front of the line, and they were pleased to proceed unrestricted, but that doesn't mean they made an unconstitutional decision.  

I personally do not want the Judicial branch to become politicized.  I don't want them to have to campaign for an impartial job.  They do not necessarily have to cater to the will of the majority because they don't act as legislators, they act as guardians, unmeasured by popularity.

But the people are the last check in the balance system, and I'm for that.  We are a partial people, for one idea, against another; most of these yeses and nays are based upon partial nurturing.  I'm not afraid to tell you that I'm against abortion and by saying that I oppose legislators that are for abortion. That vote alone doesn't make me against women or against families or against men because anyone who knows me, knows better.  None of us can be pigeonhole by the vote.  I'm inconsistent because I'm partial and by no means does that make me a bad person.  I'm partial to military families and so Rep. Boswell (D) falls on my positive list some of the time. I was against some of the things Grassley (R) did, but I love his affiliations to Camp Hope and so he falls on my positive list some of the time.  Sometimes I vote for something because I'm against another something, and sometimes I vote for something because I'm conservative and sometimes I vote because I want to protect something.  My partiality is one reason why Judges should be protected from my politicizing them because they voted for or against something, and I disagreed with them.  And yet the people need to protect their constitutionally driven right that the system works because of them.

But, while I'm concerned about decisions, no political decision changes the message.  I believe God is despite the politicization of what we've decided God wants.  Sometimes we try to put words in God's mouth, and by doing so often shoot the wounded, and maim the sick.  Therefore, my message of salvation doesn't change, won't ever change whether you put me in prison for my beliefs or not.  If you're willing to politicize whomever you decide you need to protect, you're willing to put someone else in jeopardy by that very politicization.  History reveals many bad laws that allowed for the persecution of Christians, laws that allowed the genocide of the Jews, and laws that prepare eight year olds for war.  Please don't be willing.

All I'm asking you to do is come and see what I believe about God, about Grace, about the blood of Christ.  We are made of imperfect people who need God.  But I'm also certain that the majority of the Christians I've ever come in contact with, and that have become my friends are not haters, in fact most of them love more genuinely that most other people.  But they're afraid of losing the value system that they believe has held this nation together, and in some ways, they're right.  Studies show that Christians are generally happier, live longer, are sick less often, are less bitter; and yet tunnel vision sets in and Christians settle into their recessed vision of morality with the belief that these set of principles are how we can wrest this nation from the hand of the devil for God, as if God is not already intimately involved in the process of history, present and future.  

The Christian morality does, in fact, intend life's beauty to be engaged abundantly.  We don't have to compromise others because of our faith because politics doesn't change the message.  We can promote Christ to them, and God will change those whom hear us speak (II Corinthians 5:14-18) Our politics becomes our law-ridden sacrifice, when God asked for our obedience.  I fear that many of the religious, Christian or not, bend to politicizing their beliefs, or at the very least allowed professional, impassioned politickers, to influence them.  Politickers are often good people--they are--but they're also experts at knowing what information influences constituents, and it works because most constituents don't have the time for due diligence.  But these politickers are also willing to vilify someone in order to deface him or her or them.  A Christian must read Romans 13 before the process begins again in another year.  So many Christians, so many of the religious in general, and also the so many of the non-religious believe that politics will save their religion, save their beliefs.  We're asked to hate sin, we're asked to hate injustice--even judges are prone to error sometimes, and they must be held accountable.  Iowans had a right to make their own decision and I am pleased that the process again meted its voice, based on its own merits.  The people, all people have a right to decide what they believe would be best for their societies. But don't engage because you think you're holding the system in check for God.  The message of God can come from a politician.  I'm a Christian statesman, I can't be anything but Christian.  I'm also for upholding the Declaration that all men of every taste have a right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness according to their sense of what that means, as long as we're not every man for him/herself.  You can't ignore me, and thus I won't ignore you. God hears and listens and acts.  I'm not trying to put words in God's mouth.  Rather, God puts words in mine.  Your rights do not change my message that you need a savior.  Despite how you wish to live, it's a simple thing to believe that Christ died for your sins and rose again securing for your salvation.  It's a simple thing to believe that God reigns and simply, is.  More difficult, scary and mortifying is to believe that we're random.  You say I sound crazy, I say I sound more sane than the impossible fixation on another cause.  In the end, there is no other way.

You can try to legislate against me for that belief, you can even kill me for it.  Conversely, I can attempt to make you act Christian by political promotion.  Neither succeeds in the end.  The problem with trying to politick God is it's never right to make God relative to one's politics.  One Christian's methods, actions and word choices might deem different than another Christian's methods, actions and word choices.  Inject yourselves into politics, of course! Misguided as we are sometimes, doesn't mean we shouldn't fully vet ourselves into the American political system.  I'm not afraid to be right, and neither should you be.  Remember, God is neither Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent. Therefore, your politics spewed without love is only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol (I Corinthians 13). You want an ordered and Christian-like political system--but you sacrifice so many by your feelings of what that should look like (II Corinthians 5:16 NLT).  

Look--God does not need to imbibe your politics.  He doesn't derive power from an external source, as if he needs a good weight lifting session in order to flex his muscles.  I know the words of God through Scripture and I understand what it is to guard my heart and I am fully aware of the gift of faith that streams through me.  But I live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Judgment is God’s.  All of you are welcome at my table.  I'm not a Republican or a Democrat--I have my leanings--I am conservative, and I understand why I am conservative, and I appreciate the conservative point of view--and yet many of you on any side of a table has influenced my paradigms and I am better for it.  Either way, my politics and my country require me to be generous to all, allowed to love on you, allow you to pursue your rights, allow you to be an amazing person (II Corinthians 5:16 NLT); but my bent or yours is merely that.  I'm not saved by my political affiliation; I'd only be disappointed if I were.

As always, my ideas aren't always the right one, but in the same way, just because someone whom doesn't think like me says something is just, doesn't necessarily make it so.  What is truth though is that you and I still need a Savior.  Come and see.