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The 2008 presidential campaign is heating up. The parties have chosen their candidates. The candidates have chosen their running mates. And both the Obama and McCain campaigns have adopted certain slogans designed to express the attitudes of the candidates.

“Yes We Can” has become the mantra of the Obama campaign.

“Country First” has become the tagline for the McCain camp.

No doubt these easy-to-remember slogans will help the strategies of both campaigns. But Christians should carefully consider both the commendable and condemnable aspects of these sayings.

Take Obama’s “Yes We Can!” – obviously designed to be motivational. The crowds can chant it whenever they want. Yes, we can win this election. Yes, we can take back Washington. Yes, we can make the changes we need in our society. The slogan works at multiple levels. It is simple, yet has the ability to rouse voters to action.

The commendable aspect of Obama’s “Yes We Can” is its appeal to personal responsibility. In other words, quit waiting around for someone else to bring change. We need to get involved. We can make a difference!

But “Yes We Can” has a downside. When it comes to the problems that Obama describes on the campaign trail, the phrase “Yes We Can” is untrue. Despite the appeal to personal responsibility, the Obama campaign seems to be promising that the government can and will solve the problems of America. The government can solve the health care crisis, the energy crisis, end the war, and bring about lasting peace. With enough faith (in ourselves and in Uncle Sam), we can change the world.

The problem is, no matter how hard we try to solve all the problems of the world, “No, We Can’t.” We are not the change we have been waiting for. True change began the morning a Jewish Messiah from Nazareth walked out of a borrowed tomb, just three days after being crucified.

Christians should work to make the world a better place and announce the reign of Jesus Christ. But our work for a better world does not mean that we accept the utopian dreams that a presidential candidate dangles before our eyes.

“Yes We Can” may be a brilliant political slogan, but it ultimately feeds the idolatry of American self-sufficiency.

What about McCain’s newest slogan? “Country First.” McCain’s slogan strikes against the “Me First” attitude that reigns among most Americans today. McCain seeks to call us back to a sense of duty and patriotism, a willingness to put others ahead of ourselves. This emphasis on serving others is commendable.

But, as several Christian leaders have pointed out, Christians must be wary of the call to putting “Country First.” After all, the earliest Christians were thrown to the lions for refusing to say such a thing. They believed that putting “Country First” was idolatrous. The temptations were many: Just a pinch of salt before the altar of Caesar… just a brief recognition that Caesar is Lord… just a little acknowledgement of civil religion.

As a concept, “Country First” is better than “Me First;” that’s for sure. But for the Christian, there can be no “Country First” - only “Kingdom First.” After all, Jesus did not tell us to seek first our country and its form of righteousness. He told us to seek him. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus – not the President, U.S. foreign policy, or patriotic duty.

Putting the kingdom first means that our supreme responsibility must be following Jesus, making disciples, and showing the world through our words and deeds that he is the true king. We serve King Jesus whenever we serve our local church, help others in Jesus’ name, share the gospel with those who do not know Christ, and submit to God’s will. Putting the kingdom first means we sacrifice for Christ’s kingdom.

Christians should be willing to put their duty to country ahead of their own interests. Senator McCain is right to encourage American citizens to live for something bigger than themselves. But American Christians are called to live for something bigger than their country. After all, we are Kingdom People – citizens of a kingdom that will never fade away.

This election, as the Obama campaign rises up and chants, “Yes We Can!”, let us as Christians respond with “Yes He Can… and will!”

As the McCain campaign launches a message about putting “Country First,” let us as Christians continue to put the “Kingdom First” and use this election season as an opportunity to spread the news about Jesus’ reign.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

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9 thoughts on “Yes We Can? What our Campaign Slogans Tell us about America”

  1. Thank you for a balanced view of both sides…and the kingdom mindset is something I’m constantly having to pull myself back to everyday throughout this campaign.

  2. Eric Peterson says:

    Amen! and Amen!

  3. Richard W. Wilson says:

    Wow. Awesome reflections here Trevin. It presents me with the haunting question of whether I should be voting for either of these representatives of, these incarnations of, an idolatrous political system. May God have mercy on us all.
    All the best to those in Christ,
    Richard W. Wilson; St. Louis, MO, USA

  4. Justin says:

    I think you bring up some good points, but it seems that you unintentionally establish a bit of a moral equivalancy between the two campaigns by referencing their slogans. As long as infanticide and other anti-Christian policies are the platform of the Democratic party, there is no equivalency.

    Slogans are just words. You are right in pointing out that the actions and beliefs behind the slogans are what truly matter because they drive behavior.

  5. Gregory says:

    With God all things are possible (Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37). The Apostle Paul wrote: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). But also Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches; he who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit;for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

    I have heard one presidential candidate say that the Scripture we need in this campaign is, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33). Some of his supporters came up with the slogan “GOD FIRST.” But Alan Keyes has been writing and saying these things about this presidential election for a year. You won’t hear about him in the media. You can look at archives at Or look on line for his “Crisis of the Republic” articles published over a year ago.

    I notice a Saddleback Forum video and transcript link at the bottom of the article. John McCain was given great credit for his answer to life begins at conception answer. But what about he support for embryonic stem cell research, his voting for (our taxpayer money) funds for Planned Parenthood, and his support of exceptions to allow abortions for rape and incest. Does he recognize these are human life begins at conception, but values human life so little that he can condemn these little persons to death? Barack Obama has rightly been condemn for his evasiveness and support of abortion, even to the point of blocking attempts to save the lives of those who survive abortion attempts.

    Should Christians settle for either of these two evil ideas or candidates. No candidate is perfect. the only man who ever lived a sinless life was condemned to death, not only by the Roman procurator, and the Jewish leaders but by the crowd. He lost the vote. He seems to be losing it among Christians today.

    When Jesus was tempted by the devil with apparent and immediate success, Jesus turned him down and rebuked and rejected him. When Eve was offered the temptation to settle for that which she was told was within her grasp but was contrary to God’s will, she was deceived; she not only took from the fruit and ate, but she also gave to her husband who was with her, and he ate Genesis 3:1-8, 13; 1 Timothy 2:14). We have suffered the consequences since (Genesis 3:15-24; Romans 5:12-21).

    The Apostle Paul wrote “And why not (as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say), ‘Let us do evil that good may come’? Their condemnation is just,” and “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 3:8; 12:21). James wrote: “Therefore to one who knows [what is] good to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

    What if 50 million eligible voters in America decided they could not vote for a presidential candidate that supported the murder of innocent human life. And what if they were joined by others in voting for a candidate that not only supported life but could but argued for acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God over America, that this is a republic whose founding Documents recognize that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that our Constitution was established and ordained to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, that it recognizes that no person should be deprived of life without due process of law (of what crimes are the unborn guilty that they should they should receive from the hand of man the death penalty), that the sates are guaranteed a republican form of government. Neither of the two major party candidates for President offer this basic understanding; thus they are weak on other areas of defending our nation, this sovereignty, and our rights. There is a reason their slogans seem to pass over God. If we put ourselves first (“Yes, we can” or our “Country First” then as followers of Jesus Christ we should know that we will be last; indeed we may find ourselves not free (Matthew 19:30; 20:16, 27; Mark 10:31).

    Christians should seek and work for a better alternative. “But seek ye first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

  6. James says:

    I liked this post; a good unbiased look at the campaigns’ slogans.

    Politicians are not a solution to Jesus’ calls for social justice, nor the government. Lately the Church hasn’t seemed like the solution, either. Especially when I see a homeless man turned away hungry from three well-to-do downtown churches. Especially when we’ve not doing for “the least of these” when we have 37.3 million people living in poverty in this country while we’ve building hundred thousand dollar basketball gyms for our social club churches. Especially when we’re not “loving our enemy” and “turning the other cheek” when our churches support a government that has killed tens of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan. The church has become too comfortable and lazy in this country. Christian leaders have gotten drunk off the wine of the Empire; off the taste of political power and the money that comes with it. Now the church is more interested in having its policy implemented into law and legislating a false sense of morality on the nation. Christians are more interested in editing our constitution to be in line with their twisted view of fundamentalist morality instead of follow Jesus’ calls to help the less fortunate.

    In fact, the evangelical church in America has become so corrupt and morally bankrupt that it no longer resembles any of the teachings of Christ. The Southern Baptists and conservative Christian fundamentalists of the Religious Right have become a misguided group who traded the Gospel of Jesus for the Gospel of American Empire; who traded Jesus’ calls to end poverty and violence for the Empire’s call to wage war and to profit from the underprivileged.

    As a Bible-believing Christian, I am PRO-LIFE and I vote ALL my values. That means I am against war, against the death penalty, against discrimination, against destroying life on this planet through pollution and oil addiction, in favor of welcoming the alien, and against policies that lead to violence and poverty around the world. Life doesn’t begin at conception and end at birth. I will not be voting for a McWarmonger.

  7. melanie says:

    YES WE CAN is not an evil idea. Being self-sufficient is not the base line of the slogan, being more connected with our community is the goal of “yes WE can”. Please note the article below about Obama helping someone in the airport 20 years ago.

    Your concept that God can do everything for us is twisted and counter productive. Yes, I believe we should seek guidance from the Lord when making important decisions, but Jesus preached to the people and told us knock and the door shall be opened. Ask and you shall receive, do not judge others.

    Yes We Can is a call to get involved. We can’t wait for Jesus to return and balance the budget! These things must be done by us and we need to choose specific people who we can trust to do it well. People who have a strong faith in the goodness of others. Not people who judge others as evil and wage war.

    The Norwegian newspaper VG has reported a truly amazing story about a newly-wed trying to get to Norway to be with her husband, and the stranger who helped pay an unexpected luggage surcharge. The blog “Leisha’s Random Thoughts” has translated the story.

    It was 1988, and Mary Andersen was at the Miami airport checking in for a long flight to Norway to be with her husband when the airline representative informed her that she wouldn’t be able to check her luggage without paying a 100 surcharge:

    When it was finally Mary’s turn, she got the message that would crush her bubbling feeling of happiness.

    -You’ll have to pay a 103 dollar surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway , the man behind the counter said.

    Mary had no money. Her new husband had traveled ahead of her to Norway , and she had no one else to call.

    -I was completely desperate and tried to think which of my things I could manage without. But I had already made such a careful selection of my most prized possessions, says Mary.

    As tears streamed down her face, she heard a “gentle and friendly voice” behind her saying, “That’s okay, I’ll pay for her.”
    Mary turned around to see a tall man whom she had never seen before.

    -He had a gentle and kind voice that was still firm and decisive. The first thing I thought was, Who is this man?

    Although this happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the authority that radiated from the man.

    -He was nicely dressed, fashionably dressed with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt open at the throat and khaki pants, says Mary.

    She was thrilled to be able to bring both her suitcases to Norway and assured the stranger that he would get his money back. The man wrote his name and address on a piece of paper that he gave to Mary. She thanked him repeatedly. When she finally walked off towards the security checkpoint, he waved goodbye to her.

    Who was the man?

    Barack Obama.

    Twenty years later, she is thrilled that the friendly stranger at the airport may be the next President and has voted for him already and donated 100 dollars to his campaign:

    -He was my knight in shining armor, says Mary, smiling.

    She paid the 103 dollars back to Obama the day after she arrived in Norway . At that time he had just finished his job as a poorly paid community worker* in Chicago , and had started his law studies at prestigious Harvard university.

    Mary even convinced her parents to vote for him:

    In the spring of 2006 Mary’s parents had heard that Obama was considering a run for president, but that he had still not decided. They chose to write a letter in which they told him that he would receive their votes. At the same time, they thanked Obama for helping their daughter 18 years earlier.

    And Obama replied:

    In a letter to Mary’s parents dated May 4th, 2006 and stamped ‘United States Senate, Washington DC ‘, Barack Obama writes:

    ‘I want to thank you for the lovely things you wrote about me and for reminding me of what happened at Miami airport. I’m happy I could help back then, and I’m delighted to hear that your daughter is happy in Norway . Please send her my best wishes. Sincerely, Barack Obama , United States Senator’.

    The parents sent the letter on to Mary.

    Mary says that when her friends and associates talk about the election, especially when race relations is the heated subject, she relates the story of the kind man who helped out a stranger-in-need over twenty years ago, years before he had even thought about running for high office.

    Truly a wonderful story and something that needs to be passed along in the maelstrom of fear-and-smear politics we are being subjected to right now.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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