I have no energy these days for defining myself as a republican or democrat (or libertarian or green). The kind of energy and ideological certainty required for that has been wrung out of me long ago. I have friends whose disposition or vocation lead them down the path of intense partisan engagement — it’s their way of making the world more just, and I bless them. I simply don’t get revved up for the party (pun alert).
I am genetically incapable of seeing the world in such stark, all-or-nothing categories. Perhaps it’s a weakness. Truth is I have an inkling we need more poetry and less platform, more friendship and less name-calling, better stories and better neighbors – none of which are encouraged in the current political brouhahas.
I’m certainly not saying none of this matters. The gospel is inherently political (i.e. public, social), but the gospel is not equated with any one player in our political system. So, our civic convictions matter, but they probably matter less than we think. And my hunch is we’re losing sight of other truths that most certainly do matter while we’re giving so much blood, sweat and tears to all these things that likely matter less than our high blood pressure suggests. How’s that for a convoluted sentence? See what talking politics will do to a fella.
While I don’t care about being an elephant or a donkey, I do care about being a Christian. And the apostle James has instructions for how I’m to live in this world if my first allegiance is to a Kingdom come. James’ words seem timely for the hour:
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
We who call ourselves Christian are ones who, because of our loyalty to the way of Jesus, have a commitment to truly listen, to hear the other (their hopes and fears, their history and convictions). We are the ones charged with getting another’s story right (in contrast to looking for ammo to use against those we’ve named as enemies). If our words formed slowly but our love flowed free and if our rhetoric lost its angry venom, vitriol and combative suspiciousness, then I imagine the American political machine (for a moment at least) would grind to a halt, if for no reason other than gawking, jaw dropped, at the ones they’ve labeled as haters living like lovers. I don’t actually know if our obedience to James’ words would make much difference in November, but it would mean that as God’s people we would be asserting our belief that God’s Kingdom is above every other kingdom.
I’ll be pulling the lever in November, as I attempt to make wise judgements about the important issues at hand. However, I’m unclear what exactly God thinks about various economic theories or if he has in mind an appropriate tax rate or a straight answer on the best way to make health care accessible to those shut out of (or unable to keep pace with) the current system. Given that, I’ll not attach God’s name to imperfect solutions, but I will try to use my noggin and give it the best go I’m able. I’ll grapple with a Christian vision for a state’s use of violent force. I’ll ponder over the best ways to cherish and honor life when both sides have their blind spots. I’ll wrangle with how (and where) individual responsibility, justice and compassion intermingle. I don’t have final answers to all these questions. I do know, however, that I’m to listen much, speak little and refuse anger.
Anger usually comes when we feel we’re being thwarted or threatened, when we’re defending things like our version of the American Dream. I love America, but America isn’t my dream. My hope rests in a God whose dream for the world is far bigger than that.