Monday, November 05, 2012

Concession #francisforpresident

St. Francis of Assisi is no longer seeking the office of the president of the United States.

After a brief but spirited campaign, it became obvious that several key factors were inhibiting his election hopes:

* In a race without any degree of financial restraint (not a great reflection on candidates who are seeking responsibility for a national debt crisis), a candidate who has taken a vow of poverty has little hope of making his voice heard.

* A campaign like Francis's, stubbornly focused on loving not only your friends but also your enemies, was unable to compete effectively with campaigns so comfortable slinging mud.

* Francis's adherence to a fringe sect of Christianity, while not an issue for everyone, was among many voters a hurdle to be overcome. Similarly, his history of friendly relations with Muslims set many voters' teeth on edge.
By themselves these strategic concerns might have been surmountable. But there were two issues that, had campaign staffers thought them through, made a Francis of Assisi presidency impossible:

* Francis was not a U.S. citizen and so ineligible to serve as U.S. president.

* Francis is dead.
As Francis's campaign manager I take full responsibility for these two significant oversights. I really dropped the ball there.

Even though our campaign to make Francis president is now coming to a close, at the end of the day we have no regrets. If nothing else, we helped shape the conversation in some significant ways.

* We championed environmental responsibility, reminding ourselves and one another that the earth is the Lord's, and we have an obligation to God as stewards of it.

* We argued for a foreign policy based in friendship, an acknowledgment that people in every country are made in the image of God and deserve to be treated as such.

* We offered a vision for living in the "new normal" of financial uncertainty, demonstrating a life of meaning and purpose cleansed of the toxins of a materialist, consumerist economy.

* We showed that a positive vision for the world does not demand a negative portrayal of other well-intended people, who are, in the grand scheme of things, our brothers and sisters.
So our campaign, like our candidate, is no longer up and running. Francis kept silent about which remaining candidate he would endorse in his place--largely because, as previously acknowledged, he is dead. We encourage you therefore to vote your conscience tomorrow, and to pray for and stay in dialogue with whichever candidate wins election and takes on the daunting responsibility of navigating, on behalf of an entire country, the many challenging issues facing the world today. Whoever wins will be your president but is also your brother, made in the image of God, and deserves your love and support simply by virtue of living and moving and having his being.

Meanwhile, our campaign and our candidate may be dead, but our vision is still alive and kicking it. We encourage you to read up on Francis and wrestle with his stubborn vision for the world. We have found it compelling and trust that readers of all stripes who approach his work in good faith will find much to inspire their sense of social responsibility, their inner moral compass, their love of neighbor and devotion to God. Here are three books to get you started.

Saint Francis of Assisi, by G. K. Chesterton. Written nearly ninety years ago, this portrait of the saint by an essayist of unparalleled wit and insight captures the colorful paradox of Francis' extreme asceticism and profound joy in the face of the world.

Chasing Francis, by Ian Morgan Cron. This book imagines an encounter between the pastor of a contemporary American church and the Francis of history, offering a kind of "stress test" on the values and priorities that characterize contemporary Christendom.

The Cost of Community, by Jamie Arpin-Ricci. Here Jesus' sermon on the mount (a concise and arresting vision for the world) is run through the filter of Francis's life and mission, and tested in the struggling neighborhoods of contemporary Western society. This book demonstrates that Francis's vision for the world is both utterly consonant with Jesus' teaching and still achievable, even in our time and place.

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