Watching a Presidential Debate from Afar

October 19, 2016


My alarm went off at 4 a.m. one morning in Amman, Jordan. I rolled over and turned on the television in my room at the Marriott. A few moments later, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton walked onto the stage for their second presidential debate. Yes, I woke up at 4 a.m. to watch a presidential debate.

There might be something wrong with me.

Watching the debate quickly felt a bit surreal - and not just because of my drowsiness. As I watched the debate, I couldn't help but think of where I was watching it from and the people I met there. It made me even more disgusted by the political rhetoric, especially that coming from the candidate my fellow white evangelicals support en masse.

I sat there in a predominately Muslim nation where the people welcomed our group of Christian journalists and bloggers with exuberant hospitality. But I listened as a candidate lied about Muslims and urged "extreme vetting" against them based on religious bigotry.

I sat there in a nation that's welcomed millions of refugees from Syria and elsewhere, offering life-saving assistance. But I listened as a candidate demonized and lied about refugees, apparently preferring to instead let children die in war.

I sat there just a 6.5-hour drive from Aleppo, Syria (and had looked out at Syria from the ruins of Gadara a couple days earlier). But I listened as both candidates proposed ways of throwing more fuel on the fire in the war-torn nation of Syria.

We should not watch debates - or other parts of the campaign - in a vacuum. Real people suffer from the consequences of our political leaders. We have a moral obligation to consider 'the least of these,' not just our own self-interests. If you're not troubled by the claims of our candidates, then try watching the campaign from a different spot.

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