Saturday, January 28, 2012

Election Year Blues

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
(John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, (1834–1902), otherwise known as Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.)

I don't know anything else about this quote other than what I just learned from a 10 second web search. Still, it seems like an apt quote to ponder this election year.

Election year. Ugh. The circus has been going on for months and it's only begun.

It's troubling to me how much religion gets tossed around in these election years. Even more troubling, to me as a Christian, is how Christianity gets tossed around in election years. So much of the time, I don't see recognize the theology I try to live out expressed from campaign trails. More often than not, I'm embarrassed by how Christianity is used, and I mean used by these candidates.

I'm not likely to write much about the election. Those who know me and know who I'll be voting for and those who have followed this blog can probably guess. I'm a left-leaning, queer, Christan---most of the time. There are also all sorts of ways that I hold to traditions and honor the past---and anytime we start talking about preserving traditions, that's inherently conservative talk. There's a lot of ambiguity in terms like "conservative" and "liberal" for me, and I find myself leery of people who use them with absolute certainty and conviction.

Am I liberal? Some would say quite so. Am I conservative? Others would say quite so. What do I say I am? I admit, I try not to, at least not in those terms.

What I am fairly certain about is that this line between "conservative" and "liberal" is drawn in the shiftiest of sand. It turns out that once you claim one of the labels, you're given a test to determine if you/re conservative or liberal enough.

Ack. Talk about test anxiety.

Here's the thing: Jesus was a liberal, shaker-upper of the status quo. Yes he was. He was also an adherent of the law and customs of his people, which is really right in line with being conservative. I laughed at a recent opinion piece I read that suggested, in that always popular game of making God in our image, that Jesus was spiritual but not religious. How can one look at the gospel accounts and say Jesus wasn't religious? He was repeatedly in the Temple. He read scripture there. "On the night in which he was betrayed," or so we're told, he was observing a ritual meal with his disciples. These are religious activities. Fairly conservative ones at that.

So I wish---with all the futility of wishful thinkers---that we could stop claiming Jesus as being on "our side" during these political seasons. I mean, Jesus is on "our side" in a broad sense in that Jesus is for us. All of us. The more important question is always, "am I on Jesus's side?" That's the important question because I think, whoever we are, whatever our stance, however well intentioned and scripture informed we may be, Jesus is going to surprise us. And probably tick us off a little bit in the process.

That quote up there about power . . . I think the best thing we can do during election years is to remember that we are voting for politicians who are, at some level, seeking power There may be all kinds of rhetoric about serving the country, but let's face it, there's power in those seats and power will always try to maintain itself. That's the surprising thing about Jesus, if we're to believe the second chapter of the letter to the Philippians. Jesus never maintained his power, but emptied himself of it. No one we vote for is going to do that.

God is not conservative and God is not liberal. God is, however, an extravagant lover, bringing abundant life, bringing the sort of justice that cares for orphans and other at-risk people over maintaining power. At least, that's what's been running through my head the last few days, every time I've heard people talk about being conservative or liberal. I'm just trying it out here. Let me say it again.

God is neither conservative nor liberal, but extravagant.

May we, as we vote our conscience (and maybe the lesser evil?), see a way to live our lives in this extravagant love, in this abundant life.

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