I forget this truth more often than I care to admit, but my true happiness, joy, and freedom is found in Christ and not in politicians or policies, in legislatures or in presidents. I think we all forget this and so we foolishly believe that everything depends on the next vote or the next election. It doesn’t. Anger drives the debate and separates the participants from one another, making any future debate impossible.
A few months ago I remember speaking with a liberal friend of mine who was surprised that I found her vitriolic ridicule of Republicans funny (instead of insulting). My only response was that I’m not sure I know any Democrats who hate Republicans as much as some Republicans hate other Republicans.
I’m a big fan of Blue Virginia because I am reminded that while the Democrat Party may march in lockstep, Democrats disagree with other Democrats rather harshly as well. However, they aren’t as mean-spirited toward one another as we Republicans tend to be. It’s the hatred and vitriol with which we treat one another that burns us out and causes folks to rage-quit the party. We’re convinced that every Republican failure or Democrat success means the end of our Republic; NAY, the End of Civilization! Yet, here we all are. Still here. Still preparing for the end.
This morning, I found myself at a crossroads. I could wash my hands of all this ugliness (God knows how much of it I’m actually responsible for) or I could simply wash myself of the false belief that somehow one vote or one election, one party or one politician, is more important to my happiness, security, and freedom than God.
I don’t mean to preach, but I am aware that there are a large number of fellow believers out there in the world of politics, drawn to civic participation by their love of liberty and justice and their hatred of injustice, infanticide, and economic slavery. We work hard and support candidates. We volunteer. We donate. We hold meetings. We speak at meetings. We raise money. We knock doors. We do all of this in the hope that things will get better. When they don’t, we get mad. Sometimes we forget that life as a Christian is relatively simple. We’re to love God and to love one another. I suppose this even includes other Republicans (as hard as that is to do sometimes).
I know that I often sit down at this keyboard with a spirit of disgust and judgment. The more clever my veiled insults and sarcasm sound when I read back my own words, the better I feel. How selfish and petty is that? Too often our human, all too human, the idea of justice is to hurt those that hurt us, to anger those who have angered us, and to judge those who have judged us. Clearly we’ve missed the point (or at least, I have).
It’s the anger that burns us out, that makes us want to quit. We’re angry because, for some ridiculous reason, we believe that our efforts ought to be rewarded and everyone else’s efforts ought to be thwarted and denied. We celebrate our victories at the expense of those who are miserable at the same political outcomes. We seethe at the prospect of our own defeat.
Why anger? Why not sadness? If we elect Republicans over and over again, and abortion remains an acceptable form of birth control; sadness seems more warranted than anger. Anger never motivates us toward compassion or successful action. Anger never motivates us to build bridges. Anger never makes us behave in ways that those not of our circle or faction seek to be closer to us.
We’ve all seen where anger takes us. We all know that one guy on Facebook that hates everyone and opposes everything. He’s pushed everyone away but himself, because he and he alone knows what’s right and everyone else is bad. That’s where anger takes us – to an island where we affect nothing and no one.
I want to enjoy politics because politics is important. Politics is the process through which we celebrate and advocate for the principles and virtues we believe in. Politics is the process through which we have mature and adult debates of the highest importance, where serious men and women decide serious problems. Politics matters; and like all things that truly matter, it deserves our attention. However, there is no salvation in politics. Politics cannot change human nature. Politics cannot bring peace or joy to the human heart. Politics is not a reason to hate people and it’s not a reason to judge people.
The virtue of politics is that we live in a society where we are free to participate. You know who should be angry? A woman in Saudi Arabia, a homosexual in Mosul, a Christian in China, a Buddhist in Afghanistan, and an unwanted child in her mother’s womb. There are real injustices out there in this world far worse than the disputes we face within the Republican Party and within America today.
I’m done feeling angry. I’m done judging you. I’m done blaming politicians and political parties for being human, all too human. I intend to lobby my principles and political philosophy and to advocate for policies I believe beneficial to the human condition in these United States of America. But that’s it. That is as far as it goes.
Politics requires me to participate because I’m lucky enough to live in a nation that allows it. My faith requires me to forgive as I’ve been forgiven, to love as I’ve been loved, and to recognize where my hope comes from – it is sure as heck isn’t Washington D.C. or Richmond, Virginia.