Yesterday I posted this announcement on my Facebook page:
Due to the increasing level of venomous political debate in this country, I have decided to unfriend those of you who consistently use our Facebook connection to espouse your political preferences. There are plenty of politically oriented sites that encourage this type of discourse, and my personal Facebook page does not need to be among them. The typical comment I read does not serve to resolve anything. It only states an opinion that at least half the nation will disagree with. I too have my own political views, but I will not use this platform to share them. I’m not asking you to refrain from sharing your views, political or otherwise, I’m just giving you a head’s up on my own personal policy. Thanks
Though I rarely engage in political commentary, I would like to expand on the above notice with the intention of providing a bit more context.
Emerson wrote, “If you would lift me, you must be on higher ground.” Considering the state of today’s political landscape, the one who looks to politics to lift them to higher ground must certainly inhabit a very deep valley. The political community as a whole does not communicate from the higher ground of ethical or spiritual integrity, but from the valley of moral and ethical depravity.
The average citizen maintains a higher level of civility than our current political dialog reflects. Most people I know do not ask another’s political persuasion before they extend their word of encouragement or their helping hand. Who doesn’t interact daily and harmoniously with people of opposing political views? True character has always been blind to party lines.
I’m pretty sure that corruption within the world’s political machinery is at an all-time high. Then maybe it’s just the advent of social media that brings more of it to light. Politics has become a cesspool of people willing to sell their souls for the pottage of money, influence and power. And we look to this cesspool for our happiness? For affirmation? Does our strength, our peace of mind, our sense of identity depend on our party winning? Are we really blind to the fact that what our party wins, our party must fight to keep? And do we not see that what our party loses, our party will need to fight to regain? Winners and losers are the ebb and flow, but the perpetual fight is the eternal sea itself. And the fight has sunken into a vile contest to see who can most effectively erase the humanity of the opposition. In the name of winning, it seems that all rules of common decency have been set aside.
Is it possible to get a diversified group of people on the same page to resolve common issues? Of course it is. Imagine ten people, political affiliation unknown, standing on the shore of a frozen lake. Another person is walking on the ice and falls through. These ten people will drop everything, no questions asked, and work together to rescue this person. They do not care if the rope they throw is red or blue. They will tie them all together to achieve the goal. We see stories like this when hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters hit.
In contrast, take any issue, place it in the political context, and you will see grandstanding politicians let the issue thrash in the broken ice and drown because a given solution does not align with their political agenda. If we consider the politics we see practiced today as our higher ground, then there is no cure. Politics is not founded on a unifying principle but is, by its very nature, adversarial. We seem to be too willing to sacrifice the strength and integrity of our nation for the false security of clinging to party ideology.
A colleague of mine recently retired from ministry and began making political commentary. After maintaining political silence for many years, I’m sure it felt good to finally be able to speak his mind. While I appreciated his spiritual work, however, I have absolutely no interest in his political views. I’m sure his intention is to elevate the political discussion, and though I suspect he suffers from a mild case of messiah complex, I wish him the best. The cure for this complex, I’m sure he’ll discover, will be a healthy dose of reality. He stepped from the higher ground where his audience was both politically right and left to a position where his audience is right or left. In other words, he just cut his audience in half.
The spiritual is universal. The political, as I’ve indicated, is divisive, adversarial, functioning, as Emma Curtis Hopkins might have said, within the realm of the pairs of opposites. How can our clergy claim to bring a universal message of truth when it is tainted by the color of political bias?
As I see it, the job of the clergy is not to influence the vote of our people, but to encourage them above all to know and be guided by God. I am not advocating political inaction. To the contrary, I encourage you to join your campaign, vote your conscience, and for God’s sake be civil about it. But while you do this, understand that your source of power, self-confidence, and inner strength bubble up, not from your political victory, but from your spiritual core.