Sunday, November 23, 2008

Done with....graceless politics

(see the original here)

I have been taking a bit of a blogging sabbatical. And, as Pete Seeger once said, "it turned into a Mondical, and a Tuesdical..."

It hasn't been that I haven't had anything to say; quite the contrary. But I have been so overwhelmed with so much raw emotion that I really couldn't put my thoughts into focus until today. Two blog posts have brought the issue into sharp focus.

I know the author of one of the posts. In it, a person who considers themselves a Christian spews every kind of poison and vituperation about the US president-elect, forecasting a fall into socialism and communism, doing the whole Osama/Obama thing, and basically predicting the end of American democracy and capitalism. This person basically echoes the most absolutely divisive, abusive portions of the weeks-before-the-election nonsense - including the nonsense that Barack Obama is a Muslim and is sold out to al-Quaeda.

It's clear that this person is so blinded by party-line hate that they have lost all sense of proportion - and that there is no sense in confusing them with any facts, or indeed any questions about what they believe to be facts (like, what was a Muslim doing as a long-term member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago?).

I won't even link to their post; I don't want to give them any more traffic than they get already. But it brought into sharp relief the divisiveness and hatefulness that has stampeded into the American psyche in the last ten years - a hatefulness that seemed to swell and crescendo in the last three months.

And, God help me, I started to buy into it. Those hateful bastards!, I found myself shouting at the radio in the car. How could morons like that be that way?!? I found myself listening to news programs and getting furious - absolutely furious - about the misinformation and the sheer evil that was being spewed in the name of "righteousness" and "defending America."

That's when I realized it: I was getting hateful - about hatefulness. How sick is that?

That's when a voice of pure grace came through - courtesy of this post from the I Am Done with... blog. It put into clear focus just what I've been "done with."

Graceless politics.

Look at these faces:

These are not the faces of two enemies, no matter how much some people would like to paint them as such.

These are not the Godless Muslim Socialist and the Right-Wing Whack Job.

These are not the Right One and the Wrong One, or vice-versa.

They are two men who are, I hope, dedicated to their country and to their ideals. They both profess to believe in God.

And - despite language about "landslides" and "mandates" - both of them would have been leading a nation that is neither red nor blue, but decidedly purple.

So what I am "done with" is this idea of " Us" and "Them." I am done with the idea that people who disagree with me - regardless of the topic - are The Enemy. I am done with the idea that the world is going to end because of the results of the election. And I am really, really, really done with the idea that we could be any worse off in 4 years because of the election than we are now (James Dobson and Focus on The Family notwithstanding).

The fact is, regardless of who won the election, we are very likely to be a lot worse off in 4 years than we are now. I don't believe that any one president could possibly undo the evil that we have done to ourselves in the name of greed and selfishness in the last decade.

And I believe that the so-called Christian church, in their rush to focus on their own very specific agenda of the last dozen years, has absolutely failed to address the fundamental sins of selfishness, self-centeredness, and conspicuous consumption that have led us to this point. Yes, we may be safe from same-sex marriage in the near term - but I hate to tell you: that's not what got us to the edge of economic and social disaster, folks.

I found this passage from the "I am done with..." post particularly appropriate:
What I am saying is we don't have to vote for someone we disagree with, we don't have to support them but we do have to love and extend Grace to them if we are going to call ourselves followers of Christ. The Religious Right is known as a legalistic, moralistic, loveless, extreme of the Republican Party because there is no Grace shown to anyone that opposes them. That is not Jesus.
(emphasis added)
Are you hearing this? You and I are not simply proponents or opponents on this topic, or that one. We are individuals. Human beings. Members of families. We are your brothers, sisters, parents, neighbors, and co-workers. We are all "children of the Heavenly Father," as the old hymn says (even the group of us who don't believe in that same Heavenly Father and won't sing that hymn). And those of us who profess to follow Christ need to remember that Jesus came with a new set of instructions:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35, NIV)
Note that it doesn't say "that you love the folks who look like you" or "love the folks who vote like you, or go to your church." But it does say that everyone else will know that we are Jesus' disciples - if we have love for one another. Not if we vote the right ticket; not if we go to the right place to worship or listen to the right preacher or exclude the right undesirable folks.

I'd issue a challenge to every person who is both a believer in Christ and a politically-active person: that we read those two verses - twice, slowly - before we write or speak anything (anything) - about those who might disagree with you.

It will be interesting to see how the political landscape would change if we all would practice that tiny little portion of what we preach.


Peter said...

I wouldn't give James Dobson a link, either, come to that.

Anonymous said...

During this official (Hallmark-endorsed?!) observance of Thanksgiving, I'd like to note that posts like these are just a few of the many things for which I'm grateful.

Keep on bloggin', Steve. The internet needs more centered, grounded, calming words of wisdom like these.