McCain and Obama Are Afraid of Sacrifice


Why would two card-carrying Christians evade the issue of sacrifice in a nation where the overwhelming majority professes faith and a significant slice say the nation is Christian?"

Since World War II, we have never been asked to sacrifice anything to help our country, except the blood of our heroic men and women. As president, what sacrifices—sacrifices will you ask every American to make to help restore the American dream and to get out of the economic morass that we're now in?" asked Brokaw.

McCain went first: "I'm going to ask the American people to understand that there are some programs that we may have to eliminate."

Asking for understanding isn't sacrifice. Saying some programs might need to be eliminated doesn't call for concrete relinquishment.

"I first proposed a long time ago that we would have to examine every agency and every bureaucracy of government. And we're going to have to eliminate those that aren't working. I know a lot of them that aren't working," said McCain, who referenced the elimination of earmarks and a reduction in spending.

Recalling 9/11, Obama criticized President Bush who at the time urged the American people to go shopping.

"That wasn't the kind of call to service that I think the American people were looking for," said Obama before he said that the American people are hungry for leadership.

Instead of offering leadership by addressing the question, Obama reverted to campaign yammer about the need to increase oil production, to develop clean coal, to store safely nuclear energy and to save home energy.

Talking about oil production and storing nuclear waste doesn't address sacrifice.

Neither Obama nor McCain showed any leadership on the sacrifice issue. Both treated the issue as if it were politically toxic.

So, why would two card-carrying Christians evade the issue of sacrifice in a nation where the overwhelming majority professes faith and a significant slice say the nation is Christian?

Sacrifice is undeniably at the heart of Christian faith: God sacrificed his son for the sin of the world, to show the world how to live. Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend."

Jesus also said, "Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required." Early Christian leaders heard the message and faced beatings and martyrdom, sacrificing for their faith commitments. The first Christians gave to a hunger crisis in Judea, giving for the well being of others.

Sacrifice is a core Christian practice. Clergy call church members to give sacrificially. Christians give up vacation time for mission trips and projects. They volunteer in a plethora initiatives. To be Christian is to know firsthand the practice of self-denial for the greater good.

As Susan Pace Hamill, one of the interviewees in our DVD "Golden Rule Politics," often points out, "Jesus Christ did not preach a low-sacrifice gospel."

Yet in a nation of much faith and in the midst of a financial crisis, sacrifice isn't even on the table for public discussion by our leading presidential candidates.

If politicians will not lead, then moral leaders must lead.

We need the best of our faith leaders to call both candidates to an honest discussion about sacrifice for the common good.

We need clergy to confront the reality that too many American Christians are self-indulgent, addicted to overconsumption and convenience, unwilling to deny self for others.

Then, we need our faith leaders to translate the moral agenda found in the Golden Rule into doable steps of sacrifice.

Our culture is indeed hungry for leadership—leadership which people of faith can and should provide.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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