Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Decidedly Partisan

Last night, my family gathered on the couch with popcorn and juice pops. We cheered, we laughed at the silly hats and funny grown-ups dancing around. We stayed up past bedtime, and yelled out the names of the famous people on T.V.

"Monday Night Football!" You might think.

No. [Sigh] No. We were watching... the Democratic National Convention.

On the drive home from school last night, Cooper was especially sad. So, we started counting Obama yard signs to distract him. On Candler Rd. alone, we counted nearly 10. Jackson's able to spell his own name, and can read Obama's. Once we got home and started watching the coverage (and that great performance by John Legend!), both boys were yelling, "Barack Obama! Barack Obama!" at the top of their lungs every time they saw him. I'm even starting to warm up to Joe Biden as his VP pick (this quote is one of the reasons). We watched with excitement and anticipation.

I don't remember much about politics growing up. I remember the 1988 election fairly well, but didn't get excited about the entire democratic enterprise until 2000. It's a delight for me to watch my children getting excited about their stake in this country's government already. I didn't know I could care about such things as a little girl. Jackson, in his 3 5/6 years, has voted with us 4 times already, including the 2004 presidential election when he accompanied us in his infant carseat as a 3 week old. I love that they understand, already, that there are ways that they can participate and understand the larger world around them. It makes me proud.

Four years ago, I was heavily expectant with little Jackson. Matt and I drove from New Jersey one rainy July day to see John Kerry at a rally in Philadelphia. I remember how excited I felt, being a part of something larger than myself. Lugging my belly up the stairs that Rocky climbed, I got knowing looks from other hopeful folks, as we all thought about what a change in leadership could mean for us and our children. The air was heavy and sweet with summer rain as we cheered for the man we hoped could change some important things for us.

During the 2004 DNC, I remember being transfixed by this newcomer - this unknown (to me) senator from Illinois. This man with a funny name, who I thought, "I can't wait until he runs for president! I'd vote for him today!"

Months later, we watched t.v., and I nursed a sniffly newborn baby, as we watched with disappointment as the election returns came in. It was close, inconclusive. It felt all too familiar and way too sad. I had no idea that this could happen. Four more years? My newborn baby would be in school at the next election. My tiny infant who couldn't talk, walk, eat or focus his baby eyes yet would, by then, be a fully-functioning member of society. That was too much time.
And it has been too much time. Too much sadness, too many disappointments, too much fighting and too many lies. Too much war, too much money spent on too many of the wrong things. I've felt, as a citizen, disempowered. Hopeless. Myopically focused on the tiny things in front of me so that I didn't have to see the broader landscape of sadness and brokenness.

Now I know, as a devout and orthodox believer of God in Christ, that this world is filled with brokenness and sadness. That war has been the primary answer for the world's problems since the dawn of time. Matt's turned me on to the writings of William Stringfellow, who speaks to the powers and principalities of this world which prevent us from living out the life of freedom that God intended us to lead. The world's institutions have been created by humankind, and humankind, as we know, is broken. Even the church, the living and earthly body of Christ, has been broken, and the only thing that will put us back together is the dramatic and eventful inbreaking of Christ's presence on this earth. Our politics, institutions, churches, schools, clubs, committees, organizations and families are all broken in their creation. I know this. I know that a politician does not hold the key to the salvation of the earth or the creation of a perfect world.

But, I do know that I feel incredibly hopeful about the potential for change that we see with this candidate for president. He's smart, he's articulate, he's down to earth and honest. He's transparent and faithful. He's young and demonstrates courage and integrity that we need in a leader. Perhaps I shouldn't be so forthcoming with my opinion on the matter. I, for one, was rubbed very much the wrong way when I saw Rick Warren and Saddleback Church hosting a debate (as an aside - the cone of silence? Just plain weird.). It's not the church's business to be participating in the political process. Am I curious about Barack Obama's opinion about the presence of evil in this world? Sure. Do I want to know where John McCain stands on the issue of abortion? Yes, of course. But any church is called to be in this world, but not of it. Yes, we should educate ourselves to make the most informed decision, but calling a debate in the walls of the body of Christ is akin to rendering unto the temple what is Caeser's.

So I've learned to care about politics from the position that what happens in this world affects how I do ministry. If we had universal health care for all - do you know how many fewer homeless veterans we'd have coming to our outreach door? I'm not saying we'd be out of the assistance business, but it sure would be a nice change of pace.

This week, I'll be watching CNN and PBS, listening to NPR and using the word "pundit" in a sentence. Until Christ comes to rapture his people, this is the world in which we're living. So, I'm showing you my cards and wearing my heart on my sleeve.

Here is Michelle's speech from last night. She talks about listening to our hopes, rather than our fears. She talks about dreams and giving our children what we never had - not in the form of privilege, but the form of education and opportunity. I can't speak for you, but I'm excited, and very, very hopeful.


Anonymous said...

I find it odd that you criticize a church for hosting discussions among candidates, yet you proudly display your political views of a candidate who supports abortion on a blog that is linked from the homepage of St. Mark UMC. What is the difference? There is none.

Mandy said...

The difference between me and Saddleback Church is that I am... me. An individual. With opinions. And a blog. I'm not a church inviting strategists and politicians into my walls to host a debate and be present in the process. Now, I'm still working this out for myself. Maybe, as a faithful Christian and one who is called to pacifism, I shouldn't participate in this process at all, even as a voter. But I don't think that's my particular call to action at this time. I feel compelled to stand up, speak, write, and vote. So for now, in my fragile understanding of how I am to be in this world, that is what I shall do.

Leigh said...

Well said