Even as I write this I am confronted with an awareness of how much I want my words to count for something. I want to be heard. I want to matter. And I want to belong.
Such awareness painfully resurfaces childhood wounds of feeling invisible, helpless, and unlovable. And yet through this lens of my own suffering I’m now able to see others hurting in their own desperate attempts to be heard, to matter, and to belong.
All of the fear and anger around these elections makes me wonder if voting is as important as we think it is or if its importance is for the same reasons we assume it is. Because sometimes voting feels like yet another distraction from owning up to our negligence, failure, and inability to engage what really matters in our own lives.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t vote. But I think we should consider our motivations behind voting, its perceived versus actual importance, and whether or not there may be more impacting ways beyond voting to invite others into the love of God.
One of the virtues of democracy is that it creates an opportunity for us to openly discuss our thoughts, values, and ideals, which creates the life-giving space necessary for us to connect with one another. And connection is a vital part of what it means to be human.
But a quick glance at my Facebook feed shows me just how bad we are at connecting with each other and how good we are at pushing each other away. Perhaps this is because we have put a lot of effort into being right and not enough into taking a stand for honoring, respecting, and acknowledging the image of God in each other. When we put a lopsided weight on winning and correctness our exchanges cease to be a safe place for honest, intimate, and vulnerable connection and instead they drag us headfirst into a conversational fistfight for our lives.
It’s as if we’re afraid to not know everything.
In some ways I think we’ve mistaken the privilege of democratic dialogue for our right to demand our own way, often using fear as a motivating force. But the problem with fear is that it is the polar opposite of love.
Because using fear to communicate your political point of view is like using your middle finger to say hello.
I see a lot of drawing lines and choosing sides, but very little open, honest dialogue and human connection. Politics is about people not issues, because issues objectify us into talking points. So why in the name of human dignity do we so blatantly dehumanize one another in the political discourse surrounding human dignity? Perhaps we have mistaken being right as the only way to find connection and unity?
I sure hope not because I am reminded on a regular basis of just how little I know and how wrong I can be about God, others, and what really matters in life.
It’s amazing how little I know for sure when it comes to the simpler things in life, let alone the vastly complex issues facing this country in regard to civil rights, healthcare reform, foreign policy, national debt, unemployment, war, and poverty just to name a few.
Perhaps there is a distinction between making a good decision and making the right choice.
Because making a good decision is to give it your best shot knowing clairvoyance is not expected, whereas making the right choice assumes that there is only one answer in a given situation that requires complete comprehension of all variables and flawless execution of the correct selection.
Which puts a lot of pressure on us.
American culture has fooled us into thinking that the world revolves around us and as a result many of us walk around feeling the weight of humanity resting squarely on our shoulders. But what if God is inviting us to surrender the weight of humanity back to Him? What if His yoke really is easy and His burden truly is light? What if God is inviting us to trust Him in new and impossible ways but we just want to try to fix things in our own strength?
As much as I would like to believe that the solutions to our nation’s problems can fit neatly into a one-hundred and forty character tweet, I get the feeling that it’s not that simple.
Such simplicity sets us up for the dangerous notion that we can actually fix everything if we can just get our collective act together. This type of thinking can easily lead to self-sufficiency and self-righteousness, and if we’re not careful we can begin telling ourselves (contrary to the Sermon on the Mount) that it’s the affluent, the educated, and the few that can figure it out and get their act together that are blessed (instead of the poor in spirit, the merciful and the peacemakers).
When we unintentionally presume voting to be important for the wrong reasons, we can become incredibly distracted from some of the substantial, tangible issues we can actually engage with in our daily lives. I must admit that in many cases the complexities of politics are well beyond my scope of experience and understanding.
To be clear, I’m not asserting that we can’t or shouldn’t participate in our government. But I do question the thought of the news media and blogosphere providing an adequate amount of unbiased information for the general public to somehow all be experts on how to run a modern day empire of over three-hundred million citizens. I’ve personally seen men of great character struggle to manage successful businesses, community organizations, and faith communities, let alone an entire nation; my point being that leadership is no easy endeavor regardless of political or religious affiliation (a quick reading of Moses leading the Great Exodus affirms the difficulties of ruling a nation of ungrateful bastards like us).
It also saddens me that some of us have confused the virtually effortless act of casting a ballot as being a legitimate gesture of faith while ignoring and missing out on a multitude of daily opportunities to experience and invite others into the love of God here and now.
For some of us, casting a ballot might literally be the least we can do to invite others into the love of God.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t vote so much as it means we might want to reassess the importance we attribute towards voting on the issues compared to the importance of engaging in these issues in our everyday lives.
Consider for a moment that Jesus was murdered by the government of his time. Through the prodding and manipulation of religious leaders and at the hand of the Roman empire, He was killed. Leading up to his death He was given chance after chance to grasp at power and take the political route as leader of a nation, yet he constantly and resolutely declined. Why did Jesus refuse to set up his own political rule? What was he holding out for?
Jesus either failed miserably, was holding out for America to pick up the slack, or was up to something bigger and better.
I’m not saying there are no answers or that there’s no right or wrong in life. I’m simply suggesting that we should consider giving the same consideration and attention to the process of our thinking as we do to our conclusions. It would also do us good to question the legitimacy of the binary options we are presented with in politics, theology, and life in general.
Because to think we must choose between the lesser of two evils is to ignore the fact that we don’t actually have to choose evil at all.
If these elections are shaking the foundations of freedom, hope, or security in your life, I’d like to welcome you into a real freedom that liberates us from the lies of false hope, the bondage of self-sufficiency, and the emptiness of political promises.
Because to know politics as the arena in which we can find or lose our freedom is to never have known freedom at all.
So by all means go cast your vote, but don’t stop thinking through what it really means to be free when you leave that voting booth. Try not to confuse civic duty with divine calling and for the love of God don’t dismiss the love of God! You are beautiful, you are necessary, and you are not forgotten by a God that loves you regardless of what happens in this election.
May God guide and keep you in His love as you live out your calling and convictions. May you know that you have already been saved from yourself at His great and willing expense and not your own. And may the love of God liberate you from any illusion that your freedom in Him is in any way at stake against the principalities and powers of this world.
May the love of God heal our addiction to hope in political systems, to black and white thinking, and to suggesting simple solutions for life’s incredibly complex problems. May we stay anchored in His love amidst a swelling sea of answers and assertions by men claiming to have the power to save us.
And may we rest in the truth that regardless of who’s in the White House, the God of the Universe hears us, we matter, and we belong to Him.
Now that is one-hundred and forty characters worth getting excited about!
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