Well, things were very busy over the weekend, hence no Sunday Sermon, it should be back this week. For now, I have been struggling with the whole political debate, if I can even call it that. I listened to someone recently who advocated taking an interest in politics because the meaning of the word originally focused on how we organize our living together in community. Unfortunately, what passes for ‘politics’ these days could better be qualified by the word bad – ‘bad politics’. No wonder so many people don’t want to talk about what is happening. You know the situation at the Christmas dinner table and someone makes a loaded comment about the state of the country, the nationality of the President, the evils of big corporations etc etc. This either elicits silence or a somewhat heated opinion and sighs from those who want nothing to do with it.
The problem I always face is being branded with a certain political persuasion because I happen to believe, for instance, that guns should be restricted, or we should make sure the poor and disadvantaged are taken care of. On the other hand, I believe in the free market and I think the government should not interfere with my rights to buy raw milk. I guess that makes me a liberal, libertarian capitalist. The problem for a follower of Jesus like myself is that I am guided by principles that often transcend political boundaries and yet, it seems, most people are determined to put me in a box so they can define what I believe. In a similar way, I have had to move away from using the moniker ‘Christian’ for the same reasons. If you profess to be a ‘Christian’ in the bible belt here in the US it is automatically assumed that you will hold certain political views that frankly, I find difficult to reconcile with the teachings of Jesus.
So, where does that leave me? As I have wrestled with this issue over the last few weeks, it seems clear that the established political camps have imposed their thinking on the population at large and caused a fault line to exist that dictates allegiance along party lines. The irony of this scenario is highlighted by the political leanings of those who regard certain issues as more important than others. So, the bible belt Christian, who has been largely hijacked by the Republican party with the lure of anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage as the moral issues of the day stands distinct from the African American Christian communities, who largely vote democrat on the basis of civil rights and a much higher proportion of the poor in their communities.
At the root of this divide, it seems, is the issue behind most of the failings of our current political scene, and this is not limited to the US. Self interest. It seems to me, that good politics is characterized by an overriding interest in the good of the whole community. Where this no longer operates satisfactorily is when the needs of a thriving community are subsumed by the interest of the individual. I remember the elder George Bush being elected back in the late eighties on the back of his famous promise ‘Read my lips. No new taxes.’ To me, this summed up the appeal to self-interest over the needs of the community as a whole. When it seems that politicians themselves are more interested in their own success and rise to power. When the desires of the financial contributors trump (forgive the pun) the interests of the electorate and the electorate are, themselves, more concerned with protecting their own individual rights, then good politics is doomed to fail.
How would it look if, when we prepare to vote, our perspective would be guided by the needs of the community, by social justice, harmony, tolerance and kindness. Whether Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Labor or whatever political hue, what if we were to vote for the candidate who best demonstrated a desire to promote these qualities in the communities they serve. I realize this sounds idealistic and impossible to imagine. However, the recent popularity of surprise political personalities, whatever your views on their personal beliefs would seem to highlight a dissatisfaction with the current political scene. We stand at a crossroads, where forces of hatred and exclusion are vying for the vacuum that is emerging in our current disillusionment. I sincerely hope and pray that those who value the rights and needs of others and their whole community will be willing to relegate self-interest as they consider for whom they vote. This is, after all, is our opportunity to determine a better place for our descendants to inhabit. We can bury our heads in the sand in disgust at bad politics, or we can help determine our own legacy and look past the labels and vote for what is best for us all.
So agree – disengaging is never the answer…