At the dinner table last night our seven year old daughter Anna surprised us by saying, “I have to put on the belt of Truth when I am watching political ads on TV.” My daughter has already realized that she can’t trust the politicians and leaders of our country to tell the truth. This saddens me as a father and as a follower of Jesus.
My daughter watches the nightly news with me and is pretty informed about this election. She is observant enough to know that each side is blaming the other side for lies and half-truths. The reality of life is hitting her pretty early. Maybe it’s a pipe dream but I wish she could look up to her leaders as people she could trust and emulate. At this point, I would not want my daughter to grow up and emulate the dishonesty that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are both modeling.
The discouraging part for me as a follower of Jesus is that both these men say their religious faiths inform their political views. Mormonism and Christianity uphold honesty and integrity. Yet integrity and truthfully saying what they believe is not something they or their campaigns are known for. Their lies and half-truths have created new fact checking roles for the media. The massive SuperPACs and 501(c)(4) nonprofits on the right and the left are making the whole situation even worse.
Will this ever change? Should we just come to expect that all politicians stretch the truth and lie even those that say that they follow the teachings of Jesus?
As a parent this is very discouraging for me. Especially when we are trying to raise our daughters to value honesty and integrity. But I guess Anna is right, we have to train our children at a young age to test everything they hear and discern what is Truth and what is a lie.
In my teenage years I was the poster child for conservative politics. I read almost every presidential biography and had pictures of each president in my room. I wrote a essay in high school about how I would one day become president and outlaw abortion. I attended a Bob Dole presidential rally as well as Dan Quayle’s launch of his presidential campaign in Huntington, Indiana.
I have always loved politics though my views have changed a bit over the years.
But at this stage of my life politics are a big distraction to what really should be important in my life.
Everywhere I look, listen and watch politics are the main show. Thankfully the Summer Olympics gave us a much needed break from the division and adolescent name calling of American politics. But with the announcement of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate we are back into the mud slinging. Read the rest of this entry
We are a deeply divided country. Just bring up politics at work or in a social gathering and you will see how heated the conversation becomes. Americans have significantly different views about how our nation should be returned to its prior prominence. People are angry which makes logical conversations about our differences in opinion even harder. Something needs to change.
We are quick to jump on political bandwagons of change every election year. We quickly point the finger of blame at politicians and the “idiots” in Washington or our state capital. But what if we are to blame? What if we are actually at fault for the current state of our nation? What if we played a role in the current polarized, powder keg of American politics?
Mark Dunkelman explains in this article how the sad state of our nation is tied directly to our lack of community in towns and cities across America. Dunkelman tells how we each have three tiers of relationships. Our first tier is our close family and friend relationships. Next comes our middle tier relationships of those who we regularly come in contact with but aren’t intimate. These relationships come from a broad spectrum of our community. Finally we have the third tier that involves transactional relationships that are based on a shared interest.
When American society was healthy and balanced, communities fostered middle tier relationships. Immigrants lived in neighborhoods where lawyers, doctors and skilled workers lived together. Urban neighborhoods were connection points for people from different walks of life. People knew what the other side of a political debate felt because they had relationships with them. Politicians from either side of the aisle debated during the week but sat down for drinks on the weekend. Then something changed.
Middle class families left the urban centers for the suburbs. The internet allowed people to connect with those who shared their specific views. Instead of spending time on our front porches, we spend time in front of our TVs. Over the past fifty years Americans are connecting in deeper ways with their close intimate friends and family and connecting with third tier “friends” who share their specific beliefs. We have lost our middle tier relationships with those who are different from us.
So how do we make America great again? Personally, we need to look for middle tier relationships with those who are different from us. Get to know a parent who is from a different social class than our own. Frequent a “third place” (bar, coffee shop, bookstore) outside of our neighborhood and get to know the regulars. Attend community forums and listen instead of speaking your mind.
On a community level, we need to encourage new ways of planning neighborhoods. Instead of building another monolithic suburban neighborhood, let’s encourage creativity in our urban centers. Build affordable housing that encourages economic diversity in one neighborhood. Create community gathering spots where diverse people can connect with each other. Invest in urban neighborhoods without allowing gentrification to happen.
Ultimately our children are the hope of our country. As parents we need to encourage our children to develop relationships with those who are different ethnically and economically. We need to open up their eyes to how others think and feel. They will be the ones to form the neighborhoods and communities of the future.
The answer to making America great again is not Perry, Palin or even Obama. We are the answer. Stop pointing a finger at Washington and realize that each of us has caused this mess. We have the power to change our current political climate by changing how we view our relationships.
We are once again entering the dark hole of American divisiveness that surrounds presidential campaigns. If you want to bring some fun to a conversation, especially in the church, start talking about politics. I don’t know who to blame but it is almost impossible to have a logical conversation about politics without it turning into an emotional debate with little regard for facts. I grew up loving politics and read many biographies about American presidents. Now I can hardly watch the nightly news because of the holy war that is taking place across our political landscape.
What saddens me most about this holy war is that it continues to have a negative effect on the mission of the church. The word “evangelical” is now synonymous with Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann instead of Billy Graham. Throughout the New Testament, Scripture writers implore their readers to remain united as the body of Christ. In the United States, politics is one of the most divisive issues in the church.
As Bill Hybels always says, “The local church is the hope of the world.” I still believe this deep in my heart but some Christians seem to act like our political system is the hope of the world. They might not say it that way, but they act like electing the right evangelical as president will make our nation great again. I wonder what would happen if evangelicals would transfer their political passion into the mission of their local church. I believe that the more energy and passion evangelicals put into politics, the lesser the impact of the church in the surrounding community.
So here is my challenge to those of us who get charged up and emotional about politics this time of year. When we are tempted to turn on Fox News or CNN and hear the latest charged rhetoric of either party, sit back and take a deep breath. Get out and serve in your community. Instead of speaking again Medicare or illegal immigrants, serve in your local food kitchen or homeless shelter. Turn off the TV and get to know your neighbors. Close the news magazine and start reading your Bible.
May we regain the belief that true change in our communities, nation and world does not come through our political system but through the individual actions of Christ followers who take the words of Jesus seriously and love unconditionally. Then the church will become the Church.
I am going dark for the next year and a half. Given the nature of politics in America and the fact that I am now in church leadership, I will not be commenting on politics for the next year and half. I might even go longer. In our polarizing political landscape anything I say will either be loved or hated. It is very hard to have an honest dialogue about politics without someone becoming angry. As a church leader it is better for me just to be quiet on political matters.