Election season is trying. Professionalized deception courting our every move. Stickers and signs littering the horizon. No longer do we have the luxury of watching a TV show with the normal commercials advertising the American Dream car or tracking the biking Barbie that is T-Mobile incarnate. No, now we’re supposed to critically evaluate 30 second blurbs and 24 foot signs and 2 hour long films for how they are tricking us, ever mindful of the responsibility and privilege we are facing next month in the curtained booths. Now we can’t ignore major philosophical differences that divide the American people, or rather, the people in our family or church or club. While some communities decide that all topics relating to politics are taboo (“Isn’t this the BEST coffee?” “I love your shirt.”), it would be dreamy if the Christian community could engage in discourse without echoing the typical scapegoating and name-calling so popular in our world. Not for the sake of debate but growth and opening and rising. The wide place when it comes to politics, from my understanding, is not to shut the door on conversation or critical thinking. It is not to comfortably surround one’s self with homogenous messages and pious party alliance. It is not to think of one’s self as too cool to bother about “politics.” The wide place is above the milieu. And I suggest that this is where the Church belongs. This is where the Kingdom lies.
In college, I had the pleasure of interacting with committed, educated, sincere, and kind Christians who had different political views. It was so freeing to talk about issues of our time and the frustrations of a two-party system with people who fundamentally and overtly were more invested in Jesus and His Kingdom than a donkey or an elephant. It was helpful to me as I was getting to know my passport country, learning to be an adult and seeking to marry my faith with my vote. While it prohibited me from the Siren song of the “one issue voter” and ensured that I could not find belonging in party rhetoric, I am grateful for the help in establishing a sojourner’s position. This is one place of life where I am secure with not belonging.
After last election, my friend and I designed T-shirts reminiscent of the catchy Obama Hope art, only with a simple representation of Jesus as the image. This election, I thought it would be funny to put our friend Romney’s picture (that is his first name) and Ryan’s beside a Romney/Ryan poster, as America’s Comeback Team. It’s been interesting to see how these plays on campaigns have been received. People interpret them according to their political lens, often assuming that I was making a statement for or against the candidate they were for or against. In reality, I wasn’t intending to add to anyone’s campaigning efforts…
As tensions heighten, research continues, and ads go to every measure to pander to us, I hope that you and I can be engaged, critical, open and passionate without oversimplifying or injuring relationship. It requires much effort and learning to maneuver to a poll well; being a citizen of this country is not made easy by being a follower of Christ. This should come as no surprise. It is hard to pull up out of the categories and political language our culture offers us, especially if one way of thinking has been our diet and environment for years. But there is a better way that sits better in the soul. If we try it together, it will be much easier. I am thankful to those of you who have been an example to me in this way and to the communities that have modeled the high road, showing me that we are Kingdom people. We are not excused from participation nor are we to shadow the culture’s cues on how to think. Certainly the milieu matters but it is not where we have to stay.
“Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness because before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject. But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.” Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, p. 46-47.