Thursday, November 8, 2012

Start with Yourself: Day 28 of 31 Days of Falling by Faith

"I am more comfortable than most with the realization that mine will be a voice that is little valued or noticed, save for occasional scolding." (Bruce Frohnen, Associate Professor of Law, Ohio Northern University College of Law)
"On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” (William Lloyd Garrison, abolitionist, 1805-1879)
"I remain, way down deep, very cynical about politics." (Fr. Dwight Longenecker)

All of the above are exactly how I feel today, now, all at the same time.

I don't have a TV so I didn't watch any of the election day or night speculations and reports, and I deliberately stayed off Facebook and out of my e-mail boxes, for the most part, after the polls closed. I haven't watched any online post-election news coverage, nor have I listened to either of the candidates' speeches on YouTube, and I don't plan to. I haven't read any newspaper coverage either. It's too stressful.

I have been reading blogs, however. And sharing links and quotes. And writing. Because that's what I do. That's how I process.

Early this evening I clicked on a link that led me to the unfamiliar blog of a young Baptist pastor where I read the following in a comment:
"Who cares who enters into political office—the only thing that matters for those that follow Christ is ... God and his kingdom, and ... becoming overly involved in the affairs of American politics is a distraction from what one ought to devote themselves [sic] to...."
A similar cynicism about politics was expressed by a Roman Catholic priest who came to his vocation by way of Evangelicalism and Anglicanism:
"It is because [the believer] trusts in the Prince of Peace that he does not trust the princes of this world, and it is because he accepts the reality of immortality that he can deal with the reality of  being mortal, and it’s because he has a bright eye to eternity that he can cast a dim eye on elections."
To a degree I agree with both of these men. For most of my life I have been much more comfortable staying out of the conversation when it comes to politics, because I have always felt deeply skeptical about politicians and the political process. My openness about my concerns and opinions this election season has been entirely uncharacteristic, and it would be completely natural for me to close my mouth and never open it again except to say "nice" things, safe things.

But there is also something dissatisfying and inadequate, to me, about their conclusions. Does it really not matter who is in charge of our government? Tell that to people in our country and around the world and throughout history who have suffered greatly because of the policies and practices of those who govern them. Why bother attempting democracy at all? Why not do away with all laws? Should those who used political power and processes to end slavery and win women the freedom to vote, for example, not have bothered? To me it seems unloving, even un-Christian, not to care about such things and not to work within the system to address them.

I stumbled upon the missing piece in a reflection written by Matthew Warner for the National Catholic Register. Warner too points out the limitations of American politics and politicians. "Most politicians," he says, "are not leaders. And that's because politics has become less about leadership than it is about marketing." But instead of making that assessment a dead end and telling us to "fugetaboutit" and focus only on getting ourselves and others to heaven, he tells us that it does matter who our leaders are, and it's up to us to attract those who are good for us. (It just occurred to me that no pastor or priest would say it doesn't matter who our church leaders are.)

Elections "matter a lot," Warner says, but
"if you want to change their results, the mechanism is not a political one. It's cultural. And politics rarely drives culture, it's almost always the other way around. So stop worrying about how to change the politics and go sit down and figure out the next big way that you are going to change our culture for the better. How are you going to lead? Figure that out and the elections will take care of themselves....

"Real change starts in the home. Not in the White House.... It ends in the election booth. If we're only showing up to fight in the election booth, we've already missed the battle.... We need cultural leaders. We need individuals and organizations to rise up and provide inspiring, convincing leadership that will lead to conversions of mind and heart. That's the surest way to change the politics. That's where real change will come from. And we already know where our hope comes from...."
Speaking of caring about such things, I have to admire a new Facebook friend—we found each other just a few days before the election. The day after the election her posts were filled with unvarnished, unconsolable frustration and anger. Today she wrote a beautiful, gracious, gratitude-filled apology to all her friends that she closed with these words: "Love to you all. I don't care who you voted for, or what your position is on anything. None of that is more important than human beings and I hope you at least agree with me on that part." I wanted to hug her. I trust a passionate response like hers much more than I trust claims of detachment. I respect the process she went through, and that she was brave and crazy and honest enough to go through it publicly.

I'll end with Warner's ending, or perhaps I should say, his beginning: "Start with the culture. Start with your home. Start with yourself."


1 comment:

  1. Absolutely, positively what I needed to hear today - actually, yesterday would have been better - at Faith Sharing! You are brilliant my friend and you should have your own column in the newspaper! I believe in you! Hmmmmm, great idea! MHM