I’ve thought for some time now that, given the current escalation of political malevolence, I would repost this from roughly a year ago, written during the height of the presidential election campaign. A year later, I am attending the same conference I was at when it was first written, so I believe now is the time…
I hate that I’m writing what I am this moment. I love to write, but prefer to write stories of fiction – got a doozy in the works that has me enthralled, and I’ve even successfully dragged a handful of readers along for the ride. Still, it seems if you are a writer, it is not unusual that you will write more out of compulsion than you will out of desire, and so it is with compulsion that I am choosing today to write a post about *ugh* *gag* *cough* – politics. *Gag again*
After mentioning in a recent post that I’ve found respite in disengaging from exposure to political rhetoric this election season, I’ve become nagged by my own questions. Why am I disengaging? Is it healthy? Am I sticking my head in the sand while our great country goes to social and economic hell? I’ve undergone a bit of self-analysis of late, and I believe the answer to these questions is “no”. My reason for tuning out political rhetoric is simply stated in one word: focus. I am choosing – just starting to choose, really – to stop focusing on the temporal circumstances in our country and the hopeless faces we assume have control over these circumstances. Instead, I want to use the dire situation we find ourselves in – that inevitable downturn we are all flailing through and will continue on through to the end of days – I want to use this urgent situation to realign myself with the trueness of Jesus Christ.
This is the conclusion I reached recently while conversing with a friend about the presidential race: the unending willingness of most of us to place hope or expectations in some human politician to make things better has become one of the greatest indicators that the vast majority of people, at their core, believe there is a higher power – a higher power, not of an impersonal, unknowing sort, but that of a personal, benevolent, rescuing sort. This friend I mentioned, he is a passionate supporter of President Obama and carries incredible animus toward any person in the Republican Party. I listened to this friend rage on about Romney and about many other prominent Republicans. When I briefly expressed distaste for the future of either of the Presidential candidates, his response was such: “Tell me one thing that Obama has done badly.” Seriously?! I don’t care how left-leaning, hard-core liberal you are – Obama ain’t perfect. But this is how my friend thinks. If anything bad has ever resulted from Obama’s decisions, it is only because a Republican screwed it up. Of course, Bush had the same sort of blind support from his tribe of right-wing disciples. Much of conservative talk radio continues to devote itself to defending every thing Bush did while railing against the liberals destroying the country.
It appears to me that the vast majority of Americans see the political world in relatively monochromatic ways. Your guy is purely good, and the other guy is pure evil. This asinine thinking is killing us. I remember seeing Bill Clinton years ago on Oprah. I think it was around the start of Bush’s second term, and Oprah asked Clinton what he thought about Bush being re-elected and the war and this or that policy. Clinton responded in a way that grew my respect for him tremendously, and I’ve always had a bit of affection for him since then. He said, “The thing you have to keep in mind is that George Bush, and Bill Clinton, and anybody else who holds that office – they are only human. And they are trying their best to do what they think is best for the country.” How refreshing. The significant words in Clinton’s response: “only human”. What did any politician ever do to become more or less than human in our eyes? The fact that one candidate can garner adulation while another is detested to the point of near violence – this is an indicator to me that we are a society which has lost focus from our true hope, even as we know, in unconscious ways, that One does exist who is incorruptible and also capable of bringing hope to our chaos. Something in our fabric causes us to expect that someone better will come along to make things better, and we are dismayed when these objects of hope – ours or others’ – fail to make things better, and typically make it worse.
I wish the church would get its stubborn ass out of the political rhetoric. Too many Christians are obsessed with conservatism and with villainizing the President, and for what? Are Romney or Ryan going to save us? Is Ron Paul? Is Glenn Beck? No, they won’t. They are all merely human, screwed up like Obama and the rest of us. Those who think Obama is the biggest idiot ever to occupy the Office, what do you suppose you would be like in his position? What is it like to have his level of responsibility – the world on your shoulders, and half that world loves you while the other half seethes with hatred toward you? You see, the problem is that you and I are human, and if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that you yearn to be liked. So does Obama, so does Bush, so does Clinton, so does everybody. What’s it like to be half idolized and half hated by millions? What would that do to you? Whenever I think this way, what it must be like for the President, having that burden each day, I am less frustrated with the policies I don’t agree with and more apt to feel empathy for the man. I’m less likely to spew criticism and more likely to pray for him. When I think this way, I am less likely to point my finger at a politician and more likely to point one at myself, because I am (we all are) part of what’s wrong with this country.
The thing is, I don’t see anything wrong with our propensity to assign grandiose expectations, but I mourn for the fact that almost all of us put those expectations in the wrong place. To expect anything but flawed behavior from a human is pure stupidity. If you want hope (could anybody use a little hope right now?), I say you look to Jesus Christ. The Democrats and Republicans will keep stumbling over themselves, and so will all the independents and the plethora of third parties, and you and I will continue to do stupid as well. This world is not going to get better, not this side of eternity. Things will continue to unravel – economically, socially, environmentally. I pray those of us in the church, who claim to know this fact, will stop blinding ourselves with the political malaise and start loving Christ more and watching His love overflow to others.
So, I want to say something here, and I’ll confess I don’t find it easy, because I am concerned it will come across as trivial, but I’ll say it anyway, assuming there’s a chance that one or two readers may be in the frame of mind to grasp the depth of my sincerity. I have a prayer in my blood, even now; I pray that the spirit and movement behind my words will stretch beyond this keyboard, cut across cyberspace and reach at least a few who are worried about our country. I think you need to be reminded that Jesus is strong. Things are getting bad, yes, and they will continue to get worse. Jesus is strong. People in Washington on both sides are corrupt, doing corrupt things. Jesus is strong. Millions are suffering because unemployment is rocketing and healthcare is a mess. Jesus is strong. It is the nature of organizations, even vast and mighty ones like the United States, that they will go to pieces over time because they are run by flawed, often contentious human beings. And times like these may become our greatest, because more of us will learn to stop clinging to the pipe dreams of mere men and cling to the Savior who gives His life to us all.
Ok, fine. Got that out of the way. Gonna go back to writing stories now.
You happy, God? 😉