Much is being made of values in the run-up to the November midterm
elections. Many are talking about fundamental values, not a litmus test that
passes for values. Stem cells and same-sex marriage are taking a back seat to
honesty, integrity, truth and justice, the closer we get to election day. "Who
can you trust" is being asked more than whether a candidate believes the same
way I do.
Americans want to believe their representative in government is a person
of integrity who will hold up the best America can offer to the world as well
as to its citizens. Americans want a government that responds to disasters such
as Hurricane Katrina with actions that help victims and not photo-ops. They
want a government based on "justice for all" and not one willing to lock up
human beings without criminal charges. Americans want to be represented in
Washington, not just used or taken for granted by those who crave power for
Republicans and Democrats both face the trust question -- it is not
limited to one party. Congress itself is fighting to restore its image with
voters because of what scholar Norman Ornstein describes as a "culture of
corruption" on Capitol Hill.
The Abramoff scandal touched members of both parties. An FBI investigation
of one congressman uncovered thousands of dollars in his freezer. Another abuse
of power involves improper sexual advances by a member of Congress to a
When I decided to run for Congress in 1974, the country was in the midst
of a political culture of deception. Voters wanted representatives in their
government they felt they could trust. Voters in the heavily Republican
district in Delaware County, Pa., voted for a young Democrat, an ordained
Methodist minister with no political experience. Several events came together
creating almost a "perfect storm" for political change that year. The
resignation of President Richard Nixon and his subsequent pardon by President
Gerald Ford, inflation and fuel shortages all influenced voters. Democrats
picked up 49 seats in that election to claim more than a two-thirds majority.
As Americans in 2006 look at their elected representatives, they are
asking similar questions as voters did 32 years ago. Are we being told the
truth about a foreign war where our young men and women are dying? Can I live
on what I make or do I have to look for a second job to make ends meet? Can I
afford to put gasoline in my car?
When a candidate faces those questions voters want honest and forthright
answers. We know that people of faith vote. Many of these Americans who vote
I've come to call middle church, middle synagogue and middle mosque. They are
people of faith who hold these values of honesty, integrity and justice very
close to their hearts. In my Christian tradition, the words of Jesus in the
Gospel of Matthew (25:34-40) about taking care of "the least of these" embody
America's moral values. I'm reminded, also, when the Gospel of John (8:32)
tells me "the truth will make you free." That's the freedom I think most
Americans want to see in their communities, in their country and in the world.
This majority of faithful Americans, I predict, will vote in large numbers
Tuesday. They are tired of one side or the other claiming to have God on their
side and forcing a narrow, mean-spirited, divisive agenda on the rest of the
I believe these faithful Americans are standing up for the basic moral
value of justice for God's creation. They want alternative-energy sources, not
only for national security, but because global warming threatens God's planet
that we've been given to care for.
Americans want to know why the minimum wage has its lowest buying power
since 1950. They want to know what kinds of jobs await their children and will
their children be able to make a living. Specifically, many Americans I talk
with want to know why Congress has raised its own pay several times without
raising the minimum wage.
Making war is not making peace. No matter what Americans have been told
over and over again, they have come to know the truth. They know war is not the
best way to peace.
Americans will vote overwhelmingly for American values on Nov. 7. They've
done it before. I doubt they'll disappoint.
The Rev. Bob Edgar is general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA and author of "Middle Church, Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right" (Simon & Schuster, September 2006).
©2006 San Francisco Chronicle