Wineskins Archive

January 27, 2014

Out of Africa: How Would Jesus Vote? (Jul-Oct 2008)

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by Elizabeth Alvarez
July – October, 2008

At the CrossroadsI love elections. They are just so entertaining. There are of course, the normal reasons – democracy at work, voice of the people, yada yada yada, watching School House Rock do “How A Bill Becomes A Law” right after SNL skits involving Presidential Candidates. But those “normal” reasons do not really do it for me. I personally, really like to watch Christians duke it out over HWJV – or How Would Jesus Vote?

As any godly person would tell you, the TRUE Christian would accept and embrace the values of party “x” and vote accordingly. At least that is what I grew up being told. But I’m not even sure that makes sense. You see, for every Republican who cries “abortion is murder” there is a Democrat shouting “protect our environment!!” For every Republican outcry against the ACLU there is an audible shout from a Democrat for help for the homeless. Republicans may drive over the poor in big tanks marked military spending, but Democrats want to pay people to be lazy. Bumper stickers that read “Jesus was a liberal” and “America needs a Faith lift!” seem only to underscore the unspoken rivalry between our two dominant parties in the hunt for per-haps the largest voting block in America: the Jesus-lovers. A wise man once told me, that if you’re a Christian, you can’t be comfortable with any party, but you choose what’s important to you, and you make a choice. Well what is important? How do I decide what my deciding factor is? Maybe, just maybe, the question we should be asking ourselves, and our fellow Jesus-lovers is not How Would Jesus Vote, but whom did Jesus love?
Jesus loves everyone, to be sure. But for me, the answer will always be Jesus loves Joyce. She is just a child. The first time I met her, she was wearing a dingy t-shirt with the words “I love myself” written in faded script. I let the memories wash over me, and my recollections take me back to my first time in Northern Uganda.

Elizabeth Alvarez and FriendIf evil had a smell, what would it be? Perhaps here, in Africa, it smells the way indifference smells – like red dirt after a long rain. They say the dirt here is so red because there is so much bloodshed. Gazing at the horizon in Gulu, my eye-line cluttered with the bodies of the tor-tured and the graves of the innocent, the scent of red dirt fills my nostrils.

When she was twelve, Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) raided Joyce’s village. Her entire village was destroyed, and her family scattered to the bush. One of her brothers was slaughtered before her very eyes, and the other two other captured. She never saw either again. Her mother and father kept close as they hid in the bush. Always watchful, ever fearful, the small family did all it could to preserve the remnants of it’s broken home. But seven months later, their makeshift shelter in the bush was discovered. The LRA raped and killed Joyce’s mother, took her father as a laborer, and her as slave.

Joyce became a concubine for the LRA. Each family “unit” would use her as it saw fit, and then discard her, passing her on to another unit. Kony’s generals flooded her system with powerful and dangerous psychotropic drugs against her will. Little boys her own age raped and beat her. Commanders used her to test new torture methods. She had no hope.

She finally escaped one year later during an LRA scuffle with the Ugandan Army [UPD] just outside of Kitgum. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, she made it to Kampala only to be sold into prostitution (twice) by a childhood friend. And though she escaped, she was subse-quently enslaved as a domestic. Beaten and starving, she was finally rescued by the Mercy Home For Children in Kampala. She will never again be tortured by Kony and his minions, but her scars will remain forever.

In the early evening surrounded by mosquitoes, malaria, and the erie melody of chil-dren’s songs, I listen to Joyce’s story. She speaks; I speak. Or at least, I try to speak. Some-where in the depths of my soul there has to be at least one word of assurance, one word of safety. But instead I can only choke back tears. Tears for soldiers blowing up villages; tears for women being gang raped; tears for husbands being forced to watch the children mutilated and tortured. My mind grows dark and the memory fades, bringing me back to my Texas home. My eyes lin-ger on Joyce’s photo above my desk. Jesus loves Joyce, so I do too. Surely when I head to the ballot box in November, there will be something I can do for Joyce?

But Joyce and her problems have no place in our elections. How I feel about an issue the Supreme Court has already decided and Congress could do nothing about, or what I think about privatizing social security is more important than her. After all, Jesus loves America and God blessed it (especially Texas and Tennessee) so that’s what counts on election day. I know people are starving from the world-wide food shortages, but my ethanol car is very chic. I know coffee cartels beat and abuse their workers, and subject entire countries to poverty, but five dollars a cup is too much to pay for fair labor coffee. Sweatshops are bad, but I can’t see the blood on my brand new jeans so it’s easier to forget than how much gas costs at the pump. What about prayer in schools and Christmas trees on government property? These are issues that matter to ME – these are the Christian issues; and these are the issues that Congress should be dealing with so these are the issues that are going to decide how I vote. As long as I also remember to vote cor-rectly on abortion and gay rights too I’m good to go for 2008. After all, what else could “social justice” mean? Jesus doesn’t love all the little children of the world, only the American ones and unborn babies.

The Psalmists tell us that God is known by His justice. Ecclesiastes chapter 1 notes that nothing is happening now that has not been happening, or has not happened before. We as a race are not increadibly creative. And the Old Testament would seem to confirm that such horrors have been plauging man for quite some time. Psalms 10:2 says “[i]n his arrogance, the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.” Ezekiel 22:29 observes “[t]he people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.” Joel 3:3 says “[t]hey cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine that they might drink.” Isaiah tells of worker abuse, and slavery, Amos tells of merchants cheating the poor, and Psalms further tells us about the wicked who lay in wait and capture the innocent and drag them from their villages. But per-haps most telling, Job 5:4 says “His children are far from safety, crushed in court without de-fenders.” Jesus came to heal the sick, give sight to the blind and set the captives free. He came to set you free from sin and set the captives free. Jesus said let all little children come to me – he probably meant you, me, the anabaptists, AND Joyce.

One sixth of the world lives in abject poverty, far more dire than the likes of anything to be found in America’s inner cities. For lack of a Tylenol, a twenty-nine cent bag of ramen, a glass of water, or a $5 immunization, 38,000 children die each day. That’s far higher than the number of people who die from standing in long lines at their doctor’s because their HMO is badly managed. Whatever extra money developing countries have to spend on education, health-care, and food for their populations must be spent instead to pay off debts owed to the developed world – debts owed to America. And trust me, the interest rate we charge them is much more oppressive than the rate Visa charges you. If this trend of robbing Peter to pay Paul continues, the United Nations reports that by the end of this year, an additional 50,000 children will die each day in these darkened corners of the world.

If only those we were voting for had a say in what happened to the Joyce’s of the world. If only something called the Global Poverty-Reduction Act existed, and if only each of the 2008 candidates had taken a position on it. If only the President of the United States and our elected Congressmen were the ones who created foreign policy. If only we could choose the men and women of the Congress who would soon be asked to extend the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. If only we had some way to impact the decisions of those who control our military. If only there were some way to communicate our outrage at never having heard an apology for Ameri-can slavery, or for China’s securing the privilege of hosting the Olympics in the face of an ap-palling human right’s record. If only my choice on election day would have some impact on our government’s decision of inaction with regard to the Sudanese genocide. If only those who America protected, cared for, and loved were up to me – up to us. If only…but I guess that’s all just a pipe dream.

My heart is forever marked with red dirt of Africa, and my shirt stained with Joyce’s tears. She knew me naught, nor could I ever understand her, but when I cried, she came and cried with me. When she needed justice where was I? At an illegal immigration rally – Jesus doesn’t love them, they’re felons. Where were you? Where was America? Where was your party? Where was your favorite radio preacher? Or perhaps more importantly, where was your ballot?New Wineskins

You can start or join a thread about this article in the discussion forums for this issue, At the Intersection of Church and State.

Elizabeth AlvarezElizabeth Alvarez is a recent gradauate of Pepperdine University School of Law. She is a humanitarian aid worker and human rights lawyer. She is the CEO and serves on the board of AFOIO, a non-profit which seeks to expose Churches to God’s call to social justice. Her work focuses mainly in East and Sub-Saharan Africa. She currently resides in McAllen, Texas and her website is

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