I write this post as the 2008 political campaign has finally ended. At 29, this marks the third Presidential election of my voting career. Having taken part in these three elections (and most of the others in between), this election year was altogether different for me. In the weeks and months leading up to yesterday, I had countless conversations, emails, facebook exchanges, etc. with people who vehemently disagreed with my political ideology and an occassional sympathetic ear – but I find myself very alone in this arena. Perhaps, I’ll look back one day and see that this was the political season that raped me of my youthful naivete in approaching politics. I, as a minister, I have found myself in a precarious position. Most of us know to leave politics out of the pulpit as it has no place there. I’ve never been tempted to dabble there – that area seems pretty black and white, but from there the water gets a little cloudy.
Most ministers I talk with leave politics at home. They don’t put signs up in their yard or bumper stickers on their car (both, I strongly believe all people of faith should avoid – public endorsement like that seems like a bigger barrier to the kingdom than anything positive). They don’t blog about it (unless they have some secret blog that no one from their church knows about – yeah, I don’t think many folks from church come here, so I’m guilty). They limit their conversations with sympathetic church members they know to be “safe.” I suppose there is some value there. It seeks to avoid polarization. I in no way wish to cast aside those good intentions. However, I can’t help but seeing in that perspective a bit of superficiality and television evangelist. If someone asks me what I think, I believe I should tell them what I think instead of dancing around like some little girl holding in her pee. We, like the rest of the world, have strong convictions and beliefs. Talking about them with others helps temper our ideals as well as challenge them and grow them. I don’t believe that we should go on the offensive, but I also believe that we should not run from them and play the politically safe game. Avoiding them altogether, as many do, seems too “safe.” Perhaps, their naivete is long gone and they realize how hot the fire is we are playing with.
So . . . I chose to be a bit more vocal about things for the first time. Still no preaching or signs or bumper stickers, I’m not talking about that. But, I have posted publicly on facebook a couple of articles that lean to the left. (I’m sure there were a few folks who said, “I thought he was a minister!”) I have made comments here and there on facebook (which are seen by 300 plus people I know at differing levels – most Christians, some not). It’s been a great way to reconnect with some folks at a level beyond the, “How’s the wife and kids” stuff. The result has been numerous conversations on ideology with people I know at varying levels and who are from an array of different socio-economic situations: doctors, lawyers, factory workers, professors, business folks, other ministers, that one strange guys that I don’t know what he does, and that girl from high school who I think is stalking – just kidding, on both accounts). At first, I thought, great! We can talk through these things and hopefully help each other grow, etc. That’s where that naivete was probably still alive and well. The discussions turned to tomes, and I came to realize that my minutes were turning to hours addressing this stuff. The tone of the discussions also changed. What I entered into, at first, with an open and honest heart, quickly became frustrated and more interested in changing the other person’s opinion than any kind of growth or encouragement. I got really caught up in that again today, when I finally realized I needed to take a step back and think about things. The result is this, very long, post that is currently on my blog and posted as a note on facebook.
I am disappointed with the attitude of so many Christians I have seen living out their faith in this political season. I am disappointed, especially, in myself. I, like so many others, have lost my way this political season. I have become more interested in arguing my wacky concepts that nobody is pro-abortion, that capitalism isn’t God’s one and only design for the economy, that the zealous nationalist patriotism so many Christians hold to, looks similar to jihadism from outside our country, and on and on (these things I think are important and uphold a counter-culutral sense of politcs that the wounded Lamb embodied choosing the way of death instead of imperial power – that’s the point of Revelation!) And I have failed to use this opportunity to hold unabashedly to my core tenet of faith: there is a Supreme Being who has created this world as it is, and who, through some incredible Providence that I cannot understand, will make all things good in the end. I have forgotten the great catechism that has guided so many believers in history: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Not to win elections. Not to pursuade people of the “right” answers.
As we move forward into this new world, I believe that Obama’s tenure will bring a new chapter to our nation in many ways. For me, the most important thing to be said as we move toward a new world will be learning to move beyond our prejudices. No matter your affiliation or feeling, you couldn’t help but be moved by the scene in Chicago last night which inspired hope and opportunity for all African Americans in our country. Hopefully, all were able to set partisianship aside last night for a few hours and just enjoy what this means in the big picture of our nation – and of the world. John McCain’s concession speech encouraged all to do so, and was a wonderful call for all to move forward. This is the most important political event of my 29 years.
The way forward means a call to a new conversation. I apologize to people who are not Christians who have watched over the past months and have seen no difference between people of faith and those without faith. I am sorry we have not shown the way forward in the midst of disagreement. We should have shown the way. Our sacred text reads that nothing is to divide those with a believing faith in Christ – but that has not been the case – or at least it has not been evident. We are divided . . . blue and red Christians.
You and I both must overcome the desire to be right, and instead let the desire to be good be our chief aim. Instead of locking heads about the semantics of abortion law, let’s work together to help young people find more constructive things to do with their time than have irresponsible sex. Instead of fighting over how to best combat terrorism, let’s make every effort as individuals, organizations, businesses, and even government to be people who love others. I am sorry to say that our faith does not fight force with force and may not always look “successful.” Instead of bickering over money and taxes, let’s share the incredible wealth our nation has been blessed with with those in our cities and living on the streets, with those around the world. I am sorry so many of my fellow Christians speak of what they want to do with “MY” money. All that I have is yours, and if you have a need that I can address, I will do all that I can to do so. Instead of arguing over health care, let’s help take care of our neighbors and fellow citizens.
Most non-Christians would be surprised to know that this is exactly what the first church was like. There are four Gospels that tell us about the life of Christ, and then a Book called Acts which tells us what Jesus’ followers did with his teachings. Early on we find thousands who were cut to the heart and didn’t know what to do in light of thier faith. They came to believe that Jesus was God’s Son, and became followers of him. The result was not toting Bibles around yelling at people, but instead living communally with each other. They shared all that they had. They cashed in their retirement accounts and took care of each other. They ate together every day. They created little communal societies of accountability. It wasn’t easy – which is probably why they didn’t last. But, there can be little doubt that if the church was doing that today, many of the arguments that created our political campaign this year would have never happened. Early on, it was difficult for leaders of the nations to do anything to the Christians – they were so peaceful and helped the nation so much. Compare that to today, and it is hardly recognizeable.
So . . . for all of those who are reading this who have had long dialogue with me, I am sorry that I have taken up so much of your precious time. Thank you for taking the time to read these words right now. Those of you who don’t know me at all, or have lost touch, I hope this is a clear window into my heart and mind. For Christians reading this, I hope you will turn the news off tonight, stop reading political articles online, and spend time with your family. Pray with your wife and kids. Leave the comfort of your home, and find someone in need. Over and over again we are commissioned that way, but I run from those opportunities. Pray about your church. Pray that God will move in you. It is my suspicion that most of you are like me and have spent much more time reading through political rants than quality time with your Maker. I know it sounds trite, and it isn’t like me to be trite, but I can’t really remedy this issue any other way.
I come from a tradition that inadvertantly has used prayer more like a cop-out than the incredible world changing power that it is. I feel well-grounded and totally dependent on God in some areas of my faith, but prayer is not one of those areas. I think sometimes I read, blog, or do other things to avoid the face to face encounter with a God I so seldom talk with. I think, if you are like me, I need to stop typing and reading . . . and spend my time where I can actually do some good – relying on the one who will get me there. And, if he tells you how to fix some of these major problems, be sure to let the rest of us know!