Names etch in our memory people or events. If someone says to me, "Bill Clinton," I remember "blue dress." If someone says to me, "Vietnam," I say, "FUBAR." This game possess a serious note: names mean something, and they carry a ton of weight.
In Vietnam, American forces called the enemy "Charlie." Even calling the enemy "Vietcong" might be too much. Racists utilize slurs for fear of facing the fact that if someone has a name, they're humans too.
Israel and Hamas epitomize the forgetfulness of names. Seems they forgot the people they kill have a name. Israel's intentions are logically understandable, uprooting and dispelling Hamas, but the sacrifice of innocent human life to achieve the goal sought doesn't sit well.
Sure, if you're into Machiavelli and the "end justifying the means," some innocent lives lost matches up to your principle of success. First, you support that unrest is your end, and more war doesn't appear to be the solution. Which, in the end, is no different from those 'terrorists' our government vehemently fights.
But, I, for all the corrupt public officials from Illinois, can not get past children and women dying.
I can't get past destroyed communities and arrogance from Israel.
I can't get past the hesitance of "the nation of God" to put down their arms and seek peace.
Israel ignores one vital fact: those who die by the bombs and bullets have a name.
Hamas ignores one vital fact: those who die by the bombs and bullets have a name.
For them, it's not killing innocent bystanders it's taking down a regime, a power over a power, and bombs fought with bombs. For Israel and Hamas, peace sits next to the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and unicorns. Peace doesn't belong in their reality, because peace has a name.
Peace welcomes itself as the boy in the street playing soccer.
Peace introduces itself as the mother who struggles to provide for her children.
Peace speaks up as the young man wanting to escape a war torn reality.
Peace demands to be heard and for its name to be called out. With each child that dies, each family that loses a community, each mother that weeps over her child's body, the name "peace" desires to be heard.
Peace has a name.
Like the crying children and celebratory cheers, peace has a name.
Don't fear speaking the name "peace." Don't fear sharing the name "peace."
Two groups in the Middle East forgot the name long ago. Let's hope they can someday be reintroduced.
These two groups are only one instance of forgetting the name. Sometimes we see peace as the abscence of violence. This sentiment only gets us so far. The abscence of violence does not peace that peace has been welcomed, only that for the time being, weapons at rest. Within the borders of the United States we see fogetfullness. People lash out at people because of their political position, going so far as to stomp on somebody's head. When political ideals clash heated rhetoric and emotions escalate. Yet, have we forgotten the beauty of discussion? Have we forgotten that extremism only gets us angry at each other? Have we lost the simple ideal of respect?
When folks turn out to vote this upcoming week, and I hope they do, I hope their choice is not made because they are fueled with hate. I hope their thoughts are not fueled by violent rhetoric and personal vendettas against an idea, a party. I wonder, sometimes, if Americans really do care about this country. Every politician, from left to right, claims they love this country. Some even claim they love it so much that they are going to take it back. Yet, the extermism demonstrates no such love. Their materialism has seeped into their politics: they want to own this nation. They want to claim it as their own, and make the policies their own policies.
Yet, to love this country is to love peace. Peace will not arrive until we listen to each other. To love this country is to allow other voices to speak. To love this country is to stop trying to shut down hope, but enliven hope through consensus and conversation. The violence displayed by political extremist within this country does not come with bombs or guns. Indeed, when violence uses guns it is easy to understand those that are barriers to peace. Yet, when it is cloaked in a well-tailored suit, fine rhetoric, and millions of dollars in support the barriers to peace are hard to identify.
We too must not become barriers to peace. We must remember that peace has a name. It is your name, and it is mine. Peace calls out as the greatest possible humanity between us all, together, as one for the betterment of all within this, our country, the United States. Let your vote speak as a remembrance of the name, that wonderful name, that we all are possible of knowing, sharing, and living.
On this edition of State of the Christian Left, Mark Sandlin from “The God Article
” steps in for a conversation about Tea Party Politics and the future of the Church. Join in the conversation.
"Fear is good, especially that rooted in reason and truth. Fear rooted...in the irrational, and in hyperbole and deception, is not good. Justifiable fear keeps humans alive, and it even can move humans to do great things."
Bill GnadeI recently suffered the comments of two folks on my previous blog post about my characterization of fear and the Tea Party. Fact is, I never once said Democrats don't participate in the tactics of fear.
I admitted that both sides have it wrong, and both sides have aspects about their policies that are useful. Yes - both sides participate in the tactics of fear. Fear is a part of our survival, an instinct triggered when our survival is placed into question. Yet, the point of the previous article was the opportunism of Tea Party Fear.
Fear becomes useful when it alerts us to potential downfalls – potential pits and valleys that might make our humanity suffer. But, in politics, fear panders to our worse humanity. Yes - all politics is fear-based. You have to make people scared in order to vote. We have become, as a nation, so concerned with what we have, with our materialism, that if somebody is going to take something away we get mad, we become fearful. Politicians will tell you what their opponets will take away, and in order to protect our 'possessions' we will vote against the politician. Yet, opportunisitic fear takes it once step farther. Opportunistic fear preys on those that are confused and struggling to understand the change that has occured. Opportunistic fear boasts in its power to turn people against their friends. Instead of fighting for ideals, opportunistic fear fights for emotions that blind people to the destructive force of fear.Fear becomes destructive when we lose our reasoning behind it. Yes, I fear people that walk around my house, late at night, with a knife in hand - I call the cops. That's survival. Yet, what the Tea Party presents is not an impulse to survive, but destruct. Their fear dissolves the trust that can be given between neighbors. Their fear creates suspicious communities, ignorant of the larger systems of socialization that play themselves out. Politics will always have fear, that is as long as the voices of privilege possess the political conversation.
Until people get sick of living in fear, it will continue. Fear becomes the inevitable and final point to our political action. If we can turn our opponents into propagators of fear, we can most surely win. Yet, this will only create generations of suspicion and distrust in our political progress. I do not anticipate this change to occur quickly. I do not anticipate that people will move away from fear, for it is so near and dear to our understanding of humanity. Yet, I challenge people to seek to build communities that are honest with each other. I dare say that fear isn't propagated just because a politician says it, but because we validate their words. When we buy into their fear, and share it, we plant the seeds of suspicion. When become so involved in the fear we cannot step back and examine the argument. We need a multiplicity of voices – voices that are different in tone, message, and timing. Fear won't allow for the varied nature to exist. So, perhaps I'm suggesting fear for humanity's sake. I'm not asking you to take on any particular political viewpoint. I'm not telling you that fear is gone. I'm telling you that if we don't learn to be with one another, and if we stop trusting those within our communities, we cannot makes this world better.
If we never share our stories, we can never hear them. If we never hear our stories, we will not know where the future lives, and what lives in our past. Fear, for me, is the fear that I could live this whole life, argue for policies, and never know my neighbors, those my policies affects. The other day I sat down to enjoy the Fall weather.
A classmate, 25 years my elder, sat down and began to chat. This classmate, a West Virginian native, began talking about politics. We were on the opposite side of the fence. Indeed, he supported many ideas expressed via the Tea Party. We went back and forth on interpretations of data and stories. After about 75 minutes of conversation, we noticed that we weren't so different. Yes, we don't agree about many political policies, but we agree that humanity is a good thing. When we think we have it nailed down, when we strap our 'truth' down with the straps of fear, we lose sight of what matters: humanity. Fear works when we accept it as a reality, and, then, say to fear: Get behind me. Fear wakes us up, but won't keep us awake.
What will keep us awake is the caring compassion of communities. What flies in the face in the Tea Party, the RNC, the DNC, and every political party/corporation is the commitment to listen to each other and create policies that reflect communities. When we think we have a policy we must listen to the situations within our communities. We must open our ears to not only those that live next door, but those that live down the street, and those that live uptown and downtown. If you want to create something sustainable stop believing that political parties with their own institutional self-interest will make the world better. If we do not take back our communities and declare our investment in them, we can never know what needs to be done. Whether you're an extremist or moderate, I think we can agree that our communities need hope.
I'm committed to my fellow human. I'm committed to learning my systematic, institutional, and privileged past. I'm committed to believing in a future that brings out the best in each other. I'm committed to a people, not a politics; communities, not a corporation; hope, not hate. Fear then not knowing your community. Fear then not knowing the possibility of the future. Fear then not knowing yourself. Now? Stop fearing and start living.
In a few days voters will (hopefully) turn out and cast their vote for their respective candidates. Indeed, this election has profound significance for the future of our country. Unlike the conservatives of the 90's, the vehement extremism that has plagued the Right could very well plagues us all. Fraught with fear and dire rhetoric, people are slowly becoming prisoners to fear. From right to left this election isn't about who's right, it's about who possess the truth.
Political races are about getting people to be concerned about what the politician is concerned about. Sure, politicians begin in the common experience of their constituency, but then they take it to the next level. If they can get people to buy into their particular interpretation of the problems facing communities their chances of success are high. Conservatives had become irrelevant. In the wake of the 2008 election conservatives were sent running for the hills from a democrat tidal wave. After the water receded, we all found out that the damage done wasn't as bad as we thought it might be. Out of the hills came a changed conservative base. Out of the hills came a force resolved and entrenched. Out of the hills came a voice that spoke to the possibility of fear.
Politics have historically been positive: there's a problem and politician proposes a solution. What came out of the hills was not positive politics. They looked at the landscape, and then, instead of seeing a rich ground for new growth said we simply cannot grow. They looked at their world and thought that what had happened was the worst that could happen within American politics. They, however, had a short memory of what had actually occurred.
Yes, it's about to get philosophical.
When Hobbes proclaimed that we needed governments because our state of nature would otherwise cause us to kill each other, he set in motion a worldview that to this day prevails. After all, with out rules, laws, we would kill each other to get what we wanted. We would do what was only in our best interest. Entering into the social contract allows us certain protections, but with that comes some sacrifices. Indeed, by being born into the now established social contract, we give up particular 'rights.' For example, we pay taxes to help make our society better. From roads to schools to social services, we all pay into them to insure a better society.
When Tea Party descended upon the political scene, foaming at the mouth with fear-driven opportunism, they seemingly forgot the social contract they had entered into. Sure, less taxes sounds nice. Sure, localized schools sounds nice (not really). Sure, increasing states rights sounds nice (death nail). But, if restricting federal government involvement is their desire, well, we're going to have some issues. Our social contract in this country is predicated upon participation through voting, civic activity, and social engagement. Yet, this means having a spirit of hope and forward movement. Fear does not foster this sentiment.
"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
The Preamble serves as reminder to once and future generations: it's a work in progress. But, it didn't say one particular group was in it to form a more perfect union. It says, "We the people..." We are, whether we like it or not, in the same experiment the same constitution. Tea Party members love the Constitution and right so much that they cannot see the people it was written for. They have become so obsessed with their own privilege and power that they cannot see the implications of their rhetoric.
Tea Party extremism, then, speaks to no particular human experience. It does not root itself in solving the problems of "We the people," but only a few. They do not represent America, but their rhetoric does not reflect that. Ironic, though, that their extremism has caused liberals and democrats to do the same. They have retreated into their particular camps. Instead of becoming vulnerable and speaking the truth about both sides, they have become recluses in their party's huts hoping to receive a morale boost. Yet, it's not going to happen. Americans are restless, becoming tired of the past 10 years of political rock-throwing. We couldn't find consensus if it hit us in the face, slapped us on the cheek, and poured cold water on us. We have forgotten, and "We the people," have bought into the lie that our party has it right.
Let be clear: I'm a democrat and support democrats. Yet, I have had people in conversations say that I'm a conservative, and in other conversations say I'm a liberal. I don't think either party has it totally wrong, but I don't think each party has it totally right. Conservative ideas and Liberal ideas can and must work together to form a more perfect union.
With that being said, I think the Tea Party needs a HUGE slice of humble pie. I cannot support any ideals pushed by the Tea Party. I cannot support they way in which they speak, the fear they use to pod people to the voting booths. Honest conservative values are a different interpretation of uniting people - Tea Party values are a dishonest interpretation that only drives wedges between their neighbors. If we cannot recognize our neighbors, those with whom we have inherited the earth, we cannot know our political landscape. Fear prevents us from taking the risk of relationship. He creates the attitude of perpetual suspicion that seeps it way through out lives. With this sentiment I close with a story:
A young man moved to a new town. He and his young family bought a comfortable home, and had settled in. One morning, as he was drinking his coffee, he noticed a neighbor out tending to his flowers. He walked up to the old man, and introduced himself. They spoke for a bit, and then the young man asked, "So, how are the neighbors around here?" The old man, looked up, with a bead of sweat dripping off his old flimsy nose. He paused for a moment, looked down at the ground, sighed, then looked at the young man in the eyes. The old man replied with a simple question: "How were your neighbors where you used to live?"
I wrote awhile back on Sarah Palin's Theocracy. Though, I'm not sure what scares me more, that or Christine O'Donnell's idiocracy. After her remarks about church/state separation this week, I think we can all agree that she might be a few apples short of a bushel. But, she might win, so I want to make sure she knows where I stand, and offer an invitation to do that what is hard: hope.Dear Christine:I hope this finds you well. Though, I am almost certain that after your comments this week, you must be feeling pretty down. Before I get too long-winded, I want to know who does your dental work? You did have to flash that smile quite a bit. Ah, those pearly whites sure did shine! But, then again, what else are you to do when your caught looking like a complete idiot. Now, you are correct, the phrase 'separation of church and state' is not in the first amendment. The writers of the constitution made the amendment much broader than the 'church.' It prevents establishment of religion with government backing. Put simply: Think how many witches could miss out on the American Dream if your religion was the established religion. I'd think democracy, and the freedoms you fight for, would be in grave danger. Christine, now, don't get huffy with me. I don't mind if you think we shouldn't have separation of church and state, I'm just asking you to read the Constitution.After all, you'd think somebody that wants to lead the country would understand its founding document. But, I could be wrong. Well, then again, I wasn't wrong in 2008 when I voted for President Obama. I hear you want to change taxes too. Now, Christine, what in the world makes you think that you can do that? You might have to actually read the tax code, and Lord knows that's not short! You didn't even read the Constitution! Lower your goals, seriously, for your health and my country's health. Now, you probably think that I'm an evil lefty. I can change your thoughts on that. Fact is, you have a notion about me and my ideology. But, the sweeping generalizations you make prey upon fear. That fear, well, it's nothing new. It's the fear of failure and it's going to stare you in the face if you become a Senator. The fear you peddle will follow you. I suppose you could have tried to do what no one else is: unify. That doesn't mean you have to throw your convictions out the window. It does mean that you're willing to listen, and that might be the one thing that's different than all others running. Your solutions, your overarching solutions, are going to fix everything. The Left's solutions are going to fix anything. In fact, as long as you continue being a huckster of fear, nothing will change. I'm in this for the long haul, and I don't know if you are. I've got a country that needs a lot of repair, but there's still much good about it.You see, I believe that Americans have a power deep within them to speak, and to act, for each other. It's easy to peddle fear. Telling people that coming together is the best thing to do is difficult. I'm not asking for a truce between 'your side' and 'my side.' I'm just letting you know that there's table available and waiting. Your legacy will be defined by how the American Experiment evolves. We once were a nation full of optimism, and possibility. I'm not afraid of what you and your Tea Party Cohorts might do in Congress. I am concerned about how this will affect future generations. Instead of looking back upon this time and saying we worked together, they might say that we divided ourselves. They might say that fear was smarter than us: fear divided us and prevented us from seeing what really mattered: each other.Christine, some folks might say that I'm crazy for believing that you could change, and maybe I am. But, if I can't hope that those vastly different in mindset could walk to the table I think I'd give up. I'd give up on the people that need aid because our societal structures have frowned upon them. I'd give up on the future, because I wouldn't be able to tell the story of hope, and it's perpetual force. I'd give up on myself, for just as hard as you might find it to walk to the table and sit down, I do too. Fear serves only one master, and that is destruction. I heard you speak of God, and the God that loves. I cannot see how these two match up. God is love. And as a friend reminded me yesterday, hate is not the way. Fear and hate are siblings in a violent war. The fight you think you are fighting is not a war against good and evil, it's a war between possibility and impossibility. As I close, let me ask you to never use the church in your reasoning for hate or fear. The church has survived well with religious freedom. Indeed, people come to this nation so that they might enjoy that liberty – the liberty that allowed you to be a witch. Christine, give to Caesar what is Caesar's; give to humanity what is humanity's. I don't think I'll ever know exactly what humanity needs. I know, however, that humanity doesn't need fear. If you ever want to write back, feel free. You're always welcome. The table's waiting, and I'm walking towards it.Are you?Warmest Regards,J. Zachary Bailes
This week on State of the Christian Left, we examine the use of communion as a political tool
, the divisive nature of Fox News, the silence of the Christian Right, and moving from communities in the sanctuary to sanctuaries in the community. With contributions from Mark Sandlin at The God Article
. I welcome the outstanding music of The Fire Tonight.
Once upon a time we signed a social contract. When we decided to enter the dialogue and government, well, we gained certain protections. We undoubtedly lost or had to sacrifice particular freedoms. In the signing of the social contract, we accepted that there will be injustice. Unfortunately, it's built into the system. Injustice is an unfortunate byproduct of not only our social contract, but also our economic system. Capitalism needs those in the margins.
Yet my point here is not to give an education on social contract theory. If you want to read more, go read Hobbes, Locke, Rawls, or Nozick. There are many others, but I won't be labor this point. We accepted that injustice would be present. Our governments have injustice built into the system. It's an imperfection that is constantly reworked. Yet, we often times focus so heavily on the idea of injustice as a lack of rights. My suggestion, that because it's a lack of rights, it's also a lack of responsibility.
Yesterday I received a pocket-sized Constitution from the ACLU. Now, I’ve never had a pocket-sized Constitution, so I’m quite pleased. You never know when I will need to whip out my Constitution so I can beat up on some Constitution-hating, rights-violating, fools. You sense my sarcasm?
Rights undoubtedly play key parts in our ongoing experiment we call “American Democracy.” We have from the very beginning of this Nation called upon liberties and rights as the foundation of our country. Without such language and ideas America does not become the country we know today. All people protected under the blanket of the Constitution enjoy rights and liberties that were, at one time, unprecedented, and are now considered the status quo.
With all good things comes the inevitable fact that there will be downsides. Rights can become entitlements, which then brings notions of desert, and well, it gets muddy quick. Before long we are arguing about what we deserve. John Rawls would have us stand behind the Veil of Ignorance and make a decision. Robert Nozick would have us defend ourselves against the evil, tyrannical power that is taxation. Both arguments deal with what we deserve.
At the end of the day anyone can make an argument for what we deserve. Depending upon which criterion one might use, anything can become deserved. What is it that we don’t deserve, as humans? What is it that we ought not have placed upon us? From Church/State Separation to Abortion we always argue about what something deserves. I don’t care about what we deserve, because any entitled Millennial will make an argument for desert, hence living in some delusional desert-ridden world.
We don’t deserve pain or suffering because of belief, appearance, or decision. It is only when we harm others, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally, that are desert is taken from us. We deserve the freedom to engage our world free from constraint, free from undue burden. Desert always finds itself centered around material items: Cable TV; food; water; shelter; a job; or a family. What if it was that we don’t deserve not to have a family. Sure, you can have one if you want to, but you don’t have to have a family. We don’t deserve to have our quality of life dampened – we deserve the possibility to engage opportunity. We deserve the opportunity to hope.
Hope, then, is not given, but made. Hope requires the indelible power of creating opportunity amidst the impossible. The human condition is a tour de hope as we encounter this world and all its power. We deserve the opportunity to hope, the opportunity to make a path in an otherwise pathless world.
If we are going to claim that we deserve, or we have rights, we must be willing to take responsibility for those rights. We must be willing to sacrifice other things for particular rights. We display stark and bold ignorance when we recklessly proclaim rights, and don’t proclaim responsibility. Rawls and Nozick are right – both of them. They display the difficulty in co-existing amidst all the rights and calls for rights. They display the need for proper navigational tools as we all engage the calls for rights and what we deserve.
There are rights, and by those rights we occasionally make wrongs. When we ignore the rights of others, when we display our lacking foresight in favor of selfish progress, we hurt and hinder the experiment of which we all play part. The church has not spoken out at times, and other times has stood up for others. If we want to say that we have a future, if we have a history worth perpetuating, we need to figure out where within our society the Church has been complicit with injustice.
Politics is sickening, and absolutely, downright, heart-wrenching at times. Yet, it needs people to stand up and proclaim not their right, but their responsibilities. So, when, when someone from the Tea Party proclaims all about their rights, we need people to stand up and ask them how they are demonstrating their responsibility. If you want to remove taxes, lower them, are they willing to accept the private responsibility? I highly doubt it. We have worked long and hard to build into the government responsibilities that our social contract has neglected. If we want to talk about justice, then we have to talk about what we are willing to do. Sometimes, because we can't always expect 'us' to do what we must have the government remind us of those responsibilities.
Our rights are completely impossible to understand without responsibilities. If the obsession of responsibility were a tenth of the obsession with rights, we wouldn't have a narcissistic, close-minded, fear-mongering, divisive group like the Tea Party. I hail from Kentucky, and if Rand Paul wins the citizens of Kentucky will suffer. They have suffered fools for many years now, with McConnell and Bunning leading the way. While illiteracy runs rampant and poverty settles in the Appalachian mountains, a candidate wants to elevate rights and take back taxes. Actually, he will be taking back the future possibilities of citizens. He will keep Kentucky illiterate. He is only interested in his own rights. In fact, I'm sure Paul has never mentioned responsibilities, ever.
With election day just around the corner, I wonder how many candidates can accept the responsibilities their rights imply. How many of us can do the same? It's hard, but necessary. For if we're going to talk about justice, what people deserve, we must know what our responsibilities are if we ever want to see transformational justice present.
My brother recently asked the question: “What does it mean to be a Christian in America?” I expect many will answer, with varied views, and perhaps it’s there we find answers. America has long been understood as a ‘melting pot,’ perhaps unfortunately. We undoubtedly have many ethnicities, races, and creeds represented. We have had the unique opportunity to create a new country using a government that is ever evolving. Perhaps in no country do we find religion and politics so closely tied together, but so radically separate.
There are many who think that the role of religion in political discussion must be more prevalent, and others that disagree. I find myself enjoying the free expression of religion afforded to me via the Constitution. This position arises for me from a religious sense. While I certainly could argue this from a philosophical point of view, or secular point of view, I would like to use a sacred based argument to argue for a secular right.
As a Christian I have learned the commandment to “love thy neighbor,” and put differently to “love thy neighbor as yourself.” On one hand there is the imperative to love someone – while the other one includes so reflection upon you love yourself. Either way demonstrates the imperative to open up space for others to feel welcomed and loved. As a Christian the loving occurs in the free questioning of life. This includes finding the way that best suits you. While this poses questions of truth and absolutism, the basis for my argument lies in the free space presented in the imperative to love.
American Christianity, for me, receives no formal definition other than the recognition that it is always expressed in the religious marketplace. I cannot speak for other religions in the American fabric, but religious groups at work in America must always be understood through the context of democracy and freedom. If at any time one is compelled to believe or not believe via government coercion, we have lost our civic responsibility.
This too raises a question: which responsibility takes precedence – religious or civic? My answer – neither. We, in America, cannot understand our historical, present, and future religious identities absent civic life. Religion has inspired political movements, and government has inspired religious rhetoric. For other countries one may take precedence over the other, but America holds both in the balance as religions are protected by the very contract we call the Constitution.
This type of Christianity must be preserved, for it provides perspective that may otherwise not be found. American Christianity’s biggest hurdle for further developing itself, is itself. As culture shifts and technology improves we are faced with a rapidly evolving society. Instead recoiling into a fearful position, like a dog backed into a corner, we must move forward with the culture. We do not move forward with an attitude of complacency, but an attitude of certainty. Certainty that demonstrates freedom and love par excellence as we encourage others to find the way to live freely and openly.
Some would say that Christianity must have guidelines. I say, the guidelines Christianity must have are simple: whatever you do, whatever you preach, harm not the physical, emotional, or mental state of parishioners. Christianity, the American Version included, has broken this simple rule time and time again. American Christianity is in the unique placed to demonstrate the radical freedom as described in the Kingdom of God. Without proselytizing, but developing an identity synonymous with freedom.
As Senator Byrd passed away, the media latched on to the remarkable amount of time he served. No doubt he deserved recognition for his service and unwavering commitment to the people of West Virginia. Yet, the man who served half a century in the Senate would not have the chance to have accomplished such a feat if Rand Paul had his way. Yes, Rand Paul. The man advocating term limits does have a point – you might wear out your welcome, and more importantly your effectiveness if you linger too long.
Some advocate for this to prevent from the good ol’ boy system forming. Some advocate term limits because they are dissatisfied with Congress. News Flash: people have been dissatisfied with Congress ever since the U.S. became the U.S. Americans seem to glean some enjoyment by hurling insults and pointing out Congress’ ineffectiveness. Congress moves slow – and quite intentionally. A fast moving Congress could inflict such irreparable damage that years later we as a country could regret. Change, especially with Congress, must move slowly and intentionally in order to make the Union’s future bright.
There exists in Rand Paul’s call for term limits a kernel of truth. Congresspeople have become career politicians. Bred is a disconnect between Main Street and Wall Street; between reality and polity. The cries for smaller government are no more than cries for more control and connection to Capitol Hill. What Paul doesn’t realize, or won’t make clear, is that pushing for an Amendment calling for term limits is impractical and nothing more than publicity fueled. Instead of pushing for substantive change that affects the very people he leads, he pushes huge reform that has little to no chance of success.
Paul might be more effective if he magnified the spirit of his idea: we as Americans must reconnect to our roots, to our working class. Coming out with plans and future policy is much easier, than pushing an idea that is not able to be put down on a piece of paper, or laid out in a Harvard Outline. To engage the spirit of something is to allow it to continue, and not give it a Bill number.
Americans know the Spirit well, the Democratic Spirit. Our ancestors fought wars on the coast and in the statehouse protecting ideals that uphold this country. We have tried to give the Spirit words and language through the Constitution. We have tried to give it a heart by opening our lands to immigrants. We have tried to make it stronger by building financial institutions that open up the future. The Spirit does not end there.
We have tried to give it a slogan: “The American Dream.” All too often people do not achieve “the Dream,” but only embrace a nightmare. The American Spirit calls for progress, and gratitude to those that have gone before, and that which inspires today. The American Spirit erupts from the soul of a poet who paints the American Landscape. The American Spirit bellows deep from the mind and heart of the child learning to read. The American Dream must not be confused with status or success, but with the possibility to embrace a new tomorrow, a new day. The corporeal American Spirit displays itself with 307,000,000 faces and sings with 307,000,000 voices.
We have tried to take it to other countries – we have tried to create for others this grand and disastrous experience. The Spirit of Fear threatens the Spirit of Democracy. For it is not through fear that democracies are born, but in the sweet scent of freedom and liberty.
Whether we try to push for term limits or smaller government, we must be mindful of the Spirit we carry, the Spirit that carries us. Indeed, from the Congressperson to the non-voter, America’s heart does not seek the pursuit of power, but the power of pursuit. Chase. Hope. For as we move, as we foster a spirit, we kindle the American Spirit for future generations. The people that say we are doomed for disaster may very well be correct. The naysayers and those filled with negative rhetoric are cautionary tales for what happens we lose sight of the Spirit. We will falter, we will fail, but we must kindle the Spirit.
American Christianity, then, is always, and at once, evolving and moving. Where the rigidity poses hindrances, our civic understanding prods us forward as we recognize the future possibilities. We, and those within the Christian Left, must move forward not as the politicians, but as the conscience to political powers. Being an American Christian does not prohibit us from speaking politically, and quite often necessitates political action, but we must not use Christianity, its values, morals, or teachings, in the creation of harmful policies. Any politician claiming in the redeeming power of the cross must answer which master they will serve: the Church or the State?
"It is of little surprise that our nation is so divided when our churches are so divided – by age, by race, by economics. It is not surprising that we cannot figure out how to come together in our daily lives when we cannot figure out how to come together in our spiritual lives." ~Mark Sandlin "The God Article
"Everyone needs someone to fight against, or at least something. I'm convinced. It's the funny, and oft times, childish game we play that unfortunately as very un-childlike repercussions. Our abilities, for most of us, aren't tested in a race to the end of the field, or a race to the house. We aren't at all concerned with how much better your peanut butter and jelly is, compared to the others. No, we have passed those innocent comparisons, yet the game remains the same: who's better? One politician will square off against another. They sling punches at one another through media, debates, or an occasional speech. If a politician can villanize someone, make them the source of all that's wrong with the system, they can get votes. That's not the end of this funny game. After the politician shoves off all the stuff that's wrong with the system, they become the political janitor, or at least try. Yet, they fail the name because rarely, if ever, do they actually achieve anything. In wondering why they constantly fail, I've come to notice that in trying to make themselves so clean, they forget to recognize that their own party has had some failures. Even if they do recognize it, they shrug it off declaring that their party's decisions weren't as bad as the opposing party's decisions. In failing to recognize their own failures and subsequently paint themselves as the political janitor, they perpetuate a system of politics that constantly "cries wolf" when they're yelling political progress.So, we go 'round and 'round on the political merry-go-round never once stopping to get off, intoxicated by the dizzying effect, until we're so overwhelmed with the consistent spinning that we fall off, aimlessly walking, hoping not to puke. Yes, that's the image we're left with - puking. Yet, instead of staying off the merry-go-round and heading to the slide, we get right back on. To put it simply: we're intoxicated with the political game. After all, that's what it is: a game. Yet, unlike hopscotch or Go Fish!, this game has real life consequences. After a while, we start vilifying others throughout our daily lives. After a while, what was once our neighbor becomes our political adversary because they have Richard Burr sign in their yard. We allow the mess to meddle, when it shouldn't. We start living and relating based on preferences rather than humanity, and before long we can't seem to understand why we don't have community. It's a mystery, eh?Not really. Christians too have a remarkable place in this whole mess. We've not done too well communicating that denominational preference doesn't mean you can't share in community. We've done a superb job in creating 'others.' If you can keep people at arms length that don't agree with you, don't think like you do, or just don't care about the things you care about, it makes life easier. Yet, it makes life shallow, isolated, and absent of God's fullness as displayed in fellow creatures. It's not always about 'getting along.' When people, in a depressed and apathetic tone say, often times quietly, "Gee, if we could just all get along." Yes, it would be nice, but 'just getting along' will take more than hopeful words. It's going to take more than meetings and organizations. It requires conversation, and opening yourselves to the stories of others. For our congregations, it means speaking and listening to voices that are traditionally 'sacred.' Indeed, most of those voices that could speak to the church, encourage the church, and aid the church's evolution are the 'other.' They possess the greatest insight and wisdom when it comes to the church. Why? Because there's is the voice that has been turned away because it didn't fit into the mold. They have been made the 'other' because the powers that be didn't make the time or open their minds and hearts to the possibilities that wait in the 'other's' experience. I've heard too many preachers proclaim the Gospel on Sunday, and condemn on Monday. What's at stake is the lived experience of people, that cannot be overturn by any preacher or pastors self-righteousness. It requires the grace of listening, and possibility.People that want a change in the political landscape, a change in the way things are done, I'd suggest you stop playing the same old game. I can't tell whether the church or politics started this nonsense first, but we can never know what we need or where we are going until we open our God-given hearts and minds to the voices of those we so often villanize - the 'other.'
The following is a press release from C.H.A.N.G.E, in Winston-Salem, NC, a multi-racial, multi-faith, non-partisan community organizing group comprised of 53 dues-paying congregations, neighborhood associations and other interested groups. The organization represents a constituency of some 26,000 community residents that belong to its member institutions. It engages in issue-based campaigns established by its grass-roots membership. As a nonpartisan organization, CHANGE does not endorse individual candidates for elective office. Please visit their website. This is the kind of work that progressive Christianity can stand behind, and take a cue from.Here you may find a .pdf version of the press release here. C.H.A.N.G.E. – Communities Helping All Neighbors Gain Empowerment Rev. Ryan M. Eller, Lead Organizer NEWS RELEASE: October 10, 2010 CHANGE, on behalf of its 53 member congregations and organizations, is moving into an aggressive awareness-raising campaign around Education and Voting in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County community as we near the November election, in which the race for local School Board is nonpartisan for the first time in our community’s history. This past week, CHANGE gained momentum in its efforts by adding two coalition partner organizations to its list of supporters: The Wake Forest University Office of the Chaplain, and the YWCA of Winston-Salem. Additional coalition partners include: NAACP, Urban League, Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, Piedmont Slam, NC Voter Rights Coalition, Carver High School Alumni Association, A.K.A. Sorority, Institute for Dismantling Racism, Concerned Citizens for Education Accountability and Achievement. Earlier this year, CHANGE introduced its “Agenda for Our Kids: We Can Do Better.” Candidates for School Board were asked to respond to the organization’s agenda, and an updated version of this information since the Primary Election is now available by contacting CHANGE by phone or online: www.changeiaf.org. Some candidates have clarified or changed their positions on issues of concern to CHANGE in the Agenda for Our Kids. We continue to emphasize the primary components of our Education Agenda & Campaign: 1) Increasing family and community engagement in our schools. The purposes of this initiative are supporting and strengthening our students, our teachers and administrators, our schools; and building community relationships and a culture supporting education 2) Reducing dropout rates by ending short-term out-of-school suspension (OSS). Short-term suspensions being conducted in a school-based context helps ensure the commitment of the education system and community to every child, and helps prevent such problems as gang recruitment. In-school-suspension and alternative learning environments are under-utilized. As a leading cause of dropouts, OSS is also unnecessarily costing our school system hundreds of thousand of dollars per year. 3) Ensuring that each of our schools reflects the make-up of our community. All research studies show that a diverse learning environment and student achievement are inextricably linked. CHANGE members are also actively working on issue-oriented efforts to engage voters on the subject of education and help ensure that the community turns out for the election. Get-Out-The-Vote efforts include phone calls, literature distribution, and canvassing neighborhoods to knock on doors and talk with voters. All efforts are non-partisan. CHANGE does not promote or endorse candidates. MEDIA ADVISORY: CALENDAR ITEM: CHANGE Fall Community Delegates’ Assembly Sunday, October 24, 5 – 7 p.m. United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, 450 Metropolitan Drive, Winston-Salem Spokespersons for the CHANGE Education Agenda are available for media interviews upon request. CHANGE is a multi-racial, multi-faith, non-partisan community organizing group comprised of 53 dues-paying congregations, neighborhood associations and other interested groups. The organization represents a constituency of some 26,000 community residents that belong to its member institutions. It engages in issue-based campaigns established by its grass-roots membership. As a nonpartisan organization, CHANGE does not endorse individual candidates for elective office.