I’d like to go on the record and say that I am officially fatigued by the political rhetoric of the day. The vilification of presidents and opponents has risen to the level of ridiculous, and important values and traditions like reconciliation and giving someone the “benefit of the doubt” seem to me to have vanished…
And I’m not without some political history. A couple of years ago I read a great book called Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis. It was my first real window into the historical animosity that our political system has sustained from its very beginning. From name-calling to pistol duels, our political landscape has been fairly well stained with the blood and tears of some magnificent souls.
And today we continue to litter the hillsides with the careers and lives of our fellow American travelers. I’m tired of it. And I’m tired of Christians joining the fray, perpetrating some of the most tasteless dialogue while claiming a moral high ground. I’m not talking about the LEFT, and I’m not talking about the RIGHT… I’m talking about BOTH.
I want to believe it when St. Paul says that within the sovereignty and presence of Christ there is a new creation. I want to believe that many of the old orders will slip away. I want to believe that the people who claim Christ can act and speak in such a way that humans are blessed on both sides of the aisle.
How do we actually begin giving the benefit of the doubt back to others? Do we need a mantra to chant each morning, “All Democrats don’t hate the military, all Democrats don’t…” Or maybe it’s something like, “Bush isn’t actually stupid, Bush isn’t actually…”
Could it be that “loving our enemies” might fundamentally demand that we begin from the benefit of the doubt? Can the people of God hate their political opponents?
I’ve recently known a Christian minister to call President George W. Bush a bastard, and I’ve also heard many a Christian pass along their favorite jokes about President William J. Clinton’s sexual misconduct. Sickening.
I recall that one of my least favorably received sermons was during the Clinton years when I compared most conservative Christians of the day (me included) to Jonah sitting on the hillside at the end of the biblical book bearing his name. You know the whole story, right? Jonah never gets it… at the end of the story Jonah is still sitting on a hillside maliciously, maybe even gleefully, waiting for the fire of judgment to fall on the city. And that’s where so many Christians in those days sat, on the hillside hoping for a judgment and condemnation, with a nary a prayer for the man.
So, specifically, here might be some benefits of the doubt to start with:
- Gore is truly concerned about global warming, because he loves the earth.
- Bush is doing his best to keep us safe from extremists.
- Democrats really want to help the disenfranchised do better.
- Republicans really want to help the disenfranchised do better.
- Folks on the LEFT can be some amazing Christians!
- Folks on the RIGHT can be some amazing Christians!
- The goofiest commentator on the RIGHT doesn’t represent them all.
- The goofiest commentator on the LEFT doesn’t represent them all.
- If anyone says they’re trying to follow our Christ, believe them.
- Even if you disagree with their conclusions, believe a person’s stated intentions and desires.
Christ said that we should love our enemies… that aught to change our speech and lead us towards paths of reconciliation. Now that I’ve made my little list up there I feel like it barely scratches the surface. If fact, I’m embarrassed by how anemic it looks and feels. Surely the words, “love your enemies” carry more weight than that.
Maybe we have too little faith that God can take care of this world and too much belief that the wrong politician can actually destroy it.
I’m going to go pray for Nancy Pelosi and Rudy Giuliani now. I’ll spend some time in my Book of Common Prayer, pages 388-389 (Form IV) and pages 820-822. And I’ll try to love some the folks who most drive me crazy in today’s political carnival.