We are coming into our four year presidential election cycle.
During this time candidates will take credit for everything that is going well, and blame their opponent for everything that is going poorly. They will motivate their base by highlighting the cultural wedge issues that divide us. They will pretend to be for us only, and deny any personal motivation for power wealth and fame. They will all be properly vetted through the process of campaign contributions.
They will not wear NASCAR like jackets with their sponsors proudly showing. If they really did have a message coat it would say, “I am for you” and “My opponent is the Devil.” We know the drill. We have been through it many times before. We must once more choose the lesser of two evils.
Elections are like Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the Football. Lucy,( the political establishment), coaxes Charlie Brown, (Joe Citizen), to get motivated enough to vote, (kick the football framed as his important issue). Of course Lucy always pulls the football away. Charlie Brown is suckered again. First he believed in words rather than policy. Secondly like a bull charging a red cape, fell for the particular issue (the football) waved before him rather than more substantive matters had he given it some thought. And finally because of Messiaism, the idea that all we need is the right person in power, and justice will trickle down upon us. Charlie winds up flat on his back yet again.
Emma Goldman said, “If voting changed anything, they would make it illegal.” She is about half right. Voting is the fundamental legitimizing structure of our whole political and economic system. And if governments lose their legitimacy, they are over or under-thrown. So it is a long process of necessary appeasement. We do have some influence in some matters of foreign and domestic policy.
Perhaps the important stuff has already been removed from democratic influence like IMF, and WTO, and other economically enforceable agreements. Likewise a fair bit of the Military Industrial Complex is secret and off the books. Military debt once accumulated is obviously sacred and must be paid. On the other hand we get to vote for or against our local school levy. And we get to vote for our President.
Some things are just too important to be subjected to democratic control.
Now some people think we are a Christian nation. But I’m not sure we agree on what that means. Does being a Christian mean hating Gays and Muslims? Does it mean blaming the poor and deifying the rich? Is it about making personal piety a legal issue? Or does it mean disarming in a dangerous world, and establishing a base line of food, water, housing, security, and education for all people? Is it about a graduated income and inheritance tax to fight the growth of unwholesome aristocracy, thereby making social economic justice a legal issue? Is there no middle path?Personal freedom and social justice are locked in eternal tension.
What does it mean to be a Christian and a citizen this cycle?
In the story of the Temple Tax, Jesus famously answered, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”. It was an ironic Socratic non-answer. This means that the truth is in us, and the question is to serve as a midwife to bring our answer to birth.
We are still doing our best as good citizens and good Christians to birth this vitally important teaching of Jesus.