If I Am Elected…You’ll Be Sorry But the Food Will be Great!
College life insulates us from much of the rest of the cosmos. When I show up early on campus to speak and grab dinner at the union, I always am slightly mystified to see twenty or thirty students spread out over five hundred empty seats watching CNN. I’m always tempted to think of them as an “X-Files” type UFO conspiracy gathering info from our news preparing for the Big Takeover. And this can be at a university of over 25,000 students. During my own student gig, the Vietnam War ended and a former president died. I caught up with those things a couple of months after the fact over Christmas break when, like an Olympic breaststroker, I surfaced from the semester for air.
The rumors going around are true; we’re electing a president (and a bunch of other leaders too) in November. For many of us, this marks the first major election where many of us will get to vote. Politicians know this too. Do we think they’re constantly popping up at universities for the food? This means, however, that we can no longer keep blaming our parents and others like them for screwing up the country. Now we can help screw it up too. And, from now on, when things go south in some way, we will have taken an electoral bite out of the enchilada like so many others. That said, we should jump into the fray with all the mustard we have. So here’s the order of business – pray, think, vote.
I can offer some unique help here as I have actually run as a candidate for the President of the United States. Seriously. It started while I did talk radio in Detroit. In a news segment, we highlighted comments from a number of celebrities hyping their candidate. Just because someone’s mug is on a movie or TV screen, or they do music, why should their opinion be any more knowledgeable than someone who catches three different buses in the rain to go to work barely supporting a family of five? Take the opinion of any celebrity on politics with a grain of salt the size of Halley’s Comet. One comment stood out as being especially naive, shallow and self-serving (And I love this artist doing what they do.). I snapped. I said, “That’s enough! We need a new voice not captive to drooling celebrities, one that understands the common man. I am now declaring myself a candidate for the office of the President of the United States.” I spent the rest of the show laying out some of my platform. I would make no promises that later I would break. I said straight out that my administration was going to do absolutely nothing and would spend a lot of money on themselves while doing it. This was the integrity plank of my platform. I also wanted to increase national prestige by adding one more state but I didn’t want to add a lot of problems. You see, a lot of our remaining candidates for statehood (territories) have baggage (poverty, ethnic friction, local government instabilities, etc). My solution? I proposed to annex White Castle Restaurants as the fifty-second state of the Union. No matter what time of day or night, these place are never empty! The new state would begin with a trade balance in the black. People came to the studio windows, stood there and saluted. The magic ended when an armored personnel carrier from the FCC pulled up outside (Just kidding here but I really did the rest of all this.). By the end of the show, I’d filled a number of cabinet posts from the listeners not to mention a few volunteers to fill supreme court appointments.
As with everything else in our lives, Jesus Christ cares about our part in the political process. We stand untrue to our faith to retreat to the Christian ghetto, allowing every other voice in our culture to frame the boundaries and define the substance of the public square. As you step up to the voting booth for the first time, Bryan Roberts has some words of wisdom for us. Moving beyond this November, we need to start thinking theologically about this thing called politics since it will exert major influence over the rest of our lives – not only nationally but on the state and local scene. Some of us will be called by God to enter it at all levels. Politics isn’t evil; God instituted government to order human affairs in a sinful, fallen world and to restrain evil. Like any field of human endeavor, it gets murky and goes bad when structures get populated with fallen people. And many innocent get hurt. And like any field of human endeavor, that makes politics a target for expressing redemption and justice (things Jesus Christ does very well.).
So let me suggest some things to dig into. The Hearts and Minds Books gang list books by vocation and the ones on politics are great. We are not the only ones trying to figure out what it means to be part of the political process; a lot of college age young adults wrestle with it too. Alisa Harris tells of her political awakening during university years and just after in “Raised Right.” It’s funny, poignant, honest and where many students are today. Lisa Sharon Harper, a former InterVarsity staffer, co-authors “Left, Right and Christ” with D.C. Innes. In it, she (a Democrat) and Innes (a Republican) Christianly discuss with respect and even good humor every issue that separates the two parties. Just their interplay demonstrates how we should be talking to each other today. It’s solid and tight and will help us sort out what positions we hold no matter where we come out. Harper also has written “Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican – or Democrat”. Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, penned “Beyond Good Intentions: A Christian View of Politics” There’s good mulch for research papers here and our profs will be amazed to see some of their undergrads citing such a meaty source. All these can be had from the good people at Hearts and Minds Books. Say you want the “Geezer” discount and he will knock off 20%. If we’re thinking about what politics does and should mean to us, politicians do the same. Meet Mark Hatfield. A Christian (He served as the faculty advisor for InterVarsity at Willamette University in Oregon.) who served thirty years in the Senate, he almost ran as Nixon’s running mate in 1968. He was also the first Republican to oppose the Vietnam War. His books, “Against the Grain” (memoir) and “Conflict and Conscience” may be out of print and can be scored on the cheap. “Conflict” stands as especially valuable because it’s Hatfield being transparent about his faith amidst serious struggling over big issues of the time – just like people new to the political process approaching their first vote.
May I suggest a couple of things of my own? Never vote for anyone because they’re cool. If we’re voting for the president of tenth grade student council, then “cool” your brains out. Elected officials may well decide, among other things, whether a few countries get blown up and which ones, whether our country in particular stays free and the fate of your forthcoming children. Shovel down through the hype, learn, think…and vote. This is a very adult thing.
The second thing to remember is that, while politics fills a necessary place in a fallen world, politics will not save us. A lot of people think it will. Politics is no messiah; that job is already taken. The people Jesus died for span out into every field of human endeavor, some in politics and some as voters, to press all of His beauty, truth, power, holiness and love into the clay of wherever He places them. He didn’t form a political action group to work toward getting a bunch of His people elected to the Roman senate. God’s way has always been for Christians to be light and salt. If Jesus were to appear in Washington, He might tell all branches to take off the nice clothes and robes, put on sackcloth and ashes and lay on their collective faces before Him for about a month – sort of to clarify and cleanse their perspective.
Ignore all this and you might get someone like me. Who knows what could be fixed in this world over a bag of “sliders”?
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Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.