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The Stubborn Ass Church

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…

20121002-063140.jpgphoto by EssJayNZ

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? πŸ˜‰

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54 replies »

  1. Luke,

    I have the utmost respect for you. Even more so after reading this. I told some friend’s in church recently, that as Christians we often hide under conservatism, when really we are just been hypocrites.

    The best of any man, be he or she a president, world leader or some authority is still a man…but we have placed so much of our hope in them that we lose sight of who owns the earth.
    More than anything, and regardless of who we vote for or think is best for our country, our duty is to pray and support them.

    I think if we do more of that, it would make it easier and true chane might begin to happen.

    This is another phenomenal post! You have my utmost respect, many thanks for sharing this!

    • You hit it straight when you mentioned the word hypocrites. We are so quick to point at someone else, especially a politician, as the source of our problems. The problem for us almost always lies with the face in the mirror.
      Thanks, as always, dear Boomie.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m so happy to see someone else out there with similar thinking. Wonderful post.

  3. Hey, there’s nothing wrong about writing about politics. In fact, it’s important that people take their civic responsibilities seriously, because their decisions do matter.The cynicism/ignorance that has grown the past 20 or so years has made government so much worse. The Fox/Murdock type of opinionated and sound-bite, glitzy entertainment/ratings-driven news coverage has decimated rational political discourse. So it'[s good you write about politics, and you say a lot of good things!

  4. Praising God and your words today. I pray that what you are asking for will lifted you and the rest of us.

    I am reminded by your words and although this deep faith woman needs to be gently reminded like this because I get caught in the wicked crazy of living life I know my truths I know my God. I know I am a better person. Better than not being prayerful. Its in the praying I need to be reminded. I forget to turn things over soon enough, and beore I know it the machinations of my life are the only thing in front of my self’s nose. Too often I go about thinking and feeling I can do this on my own. How foolish, why? Turning over to God my life means all of it, not when I pick and choose because its more convenient,

    I can do better.We can do better! With reminders like this how can we sit with our heads bent doing pretending not to see?

    We should be looking to the heavens and singing My Sweet lord ~ BB

  5. Thanks for this post. I consider myself a political junkie, but that does not mean I am happy with the way either side has run this country. It is easy to become disengaged and know that there is only One Person who is there to help and guide us.

    So well written. Thank you.

    • I believe the good news is that there is a not so quiet uprising in the works. There are more and more people sick of the BS. I appreciate the read, and thanks for your comment!

  6. Legion,
    I am commenting to let you know that I did read this, and as I try and avoid to antagonize bloggers I like with my views on US politics and religion, I am taking the Fifth. See what a good blogger I am?
    Le Clown

  7. I recently wrote an epic rant on my blog about extreme Christian conservatism, which stemmed from my frustration about many of the things you’re talking about here. That’s not to say that I’m of the opinion that Obama is perfect, nor do I think he has all the answers. I don’t think *anyone* has all the answers. All we can do is hope that people look to the greater good and act accordingly. And whether you believe in Jesus, or some other deity, it’s never a bad thing to have faith in a higher power to which we’re all connected, for that greater good.

  8. Fully appreciate your passion and perspective here. Personally, my approach to religion is similar to politics (in that I go more for principles than creed). But I agree with you on lots of stuff here – the need for empathy, the need for all of us (including politicians) to have humility, the need for a broader, spiritual and connected perspective. And I think we can all agree on a disaffection for politics wherever we are. Time to focus on the little things we’re doing in our corner to improve the world…Take care.

      • That is an excellent realization! I have to constantly remind myself that God is happy with me! Otherwise, I tend to allow things in my life that don’t make me happy and to harbor things in my heart that break His.

        Have an excellent day, my friend! πŸ˜€

  9. “watching His love overflow to others.” All while helping Him in His task, right?

    Thanks for the reminder. It was exactly what I needed today.

      • Much better in fact. As I’m sure you’ve seen the rough patch I’ve been having as of late, it was good to reminded that (even though I sometimes try to deny/ignore it), I’ve got J.C. hanging right in there with me, loving me more as I stumble instead of less.

        Thanks man.

  10. Here I thought I was going to read about policy and who was right and who was wrong, and instead I find a lovely piece about the human aspect to the presidential race. And about being the president. I am wonderfully delighted and surprised πŸ™‚

  11. I admire and adore your sincerity. Personally.

    “…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.” That preaches brother. I feel the Holy Spirit moving in these words. Well spoken.

    I’ve supported Bill Clinton as a human since I first became familiar with him. I find him no worse than the rest of us, and honestly a bit more honorable in that he embraces the reality of his own flaws as genuinely as he does the flaws of others — AND the flaws of our system. Anyone who makes a real effort to be effective in growing the nation’s economy (and effectively does just that) while not denying its inherent hang-ups is a good guy in my book, generally speaking.

    This post reminds me of the saying: “Heavy is the head for he who wears the crown.”

    I was an administrator for the local Occupy movement in my city in its earlier stages and chose to step down. I’m with the heart of what our citizens are revolutionizing, but I am saddened to witness the weakening structure of the movement… It isn’t because of a lack of media coverage or a lack of power of the people or a lack of clarity in the movement itself; it is a cohesiveness that’s missing. And it isn’t missing from the whole; it is missing from the members individually. You cannot insist on change while resisting the act of change itself. You must BE the change you wish to see in the world. So many times I felt alone on an island, speaking to motivate the masses who refused to first look at how they lived their own life. You cannot demand that Bank of America change their corporate policies of grred and monopolization and political chess-playing (buying representatives into office to maintain legislative loopholes to continue to operate with zero accountability to shareholders) when you bank at the very institution you are picketing. You cannot hold a sign that days you occupy your government when you are one of the 70% of US citizens who doesn’t even vote. (And yes I empathize with your sense of complacency because it feels pointless when all the candidates leave a sour taste on our spiritual palate but still, these members did not have the slightest clue or care about the democratic process itself, at 30 40 50 years old they never once in their life voted and couldn’t care less about it, yet marched up and down busy roads moaning about the system and how unfair they felt it is)… I could not stomach the deep abiding sense of ignorance breeding ignorance. And nobody seemed prepared at the time to take an honesty look in the mirror before pointing an angry finger.

    I’m inside the underlying emotion of this post and I respect & appreciate you writing it.

    • By the way, 70% is an excessive exaggeration. Intentionally. πŸ™‚ It occurred to me that your readers might see my response (not just you reading it lol) and they likely aren’t accustomed to my sarcasm. I promise I’m not an idiot. πŸ˜‰

    • I will officially award you the thorough commenter award! πŸ™‚
      The story of your experience with the occupy movement is fascinating. I think you got an inside look into what many people missed about that movement- that it was mostly hijacked by a lot of hanger onners who didn’t really know or care about the original idea in the first place.
      Thanks as always for reading and the thoughtful words.

  12. I rarely comment on anyone’s posts. When I do, it’s usually absurd. As above. I’m sorry for that.
    But on the flip side, it indicates that your writing is deeply compelling; inspiring; thought-provoking.

    So I guess this is what they call ‘hijacking a thread’?
    My bad. I’ll try to be more focused. Concise. You know.

  13. People are people and we all are flawed and we really need to keep it in perspective, both the next month through election day and the big picture scheme of things. There’s structural challenges we have to overcome and neither party looks particularly competent at the moment and whether left or right it’s going to take time to get “somewhere”. I appreciate that you being self-aware about not wanting to participate and being realistic about the future and what’s really important. Very well expressed I think.

  14. Luke, thank you for this.

    I’m not by nature a political animal, but this election and all that goes with it has had me seriously depressed, to the point where I’m finding it hard to write or blog or read other blogs. The relentless pounding by the media hasn’t helped; how can you know who to believe? The amount of information/polls/opinions is staggering.

    In three weeks, at least we’ll have some idea of which boat we’re in. Sometimes closure helps.

    You’ve supplied an answer to much of my confusion – it’s all bigger than we are. Time to accept that, accept help from above, and move on.

    Wonderful uplifting post…

  15. I found you on Facebook when someone posted your story about finding the woman at Starbucks. Amazing, sad story. Out of curiosity, I wanted to read this before leaving. I figured you ‘d bash Christians, certain denominations, and conservatives. I’d be disgusted, and move on. I am moving on, but before I do I want to say … I was surprised. We are a country full of quiet Christians; not many talk freely about faith and the power of Christ! Jesus is strong! Thank you for writing this…

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