"These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines."
A guest blog from my brother, Bruce L. Carriker:
Most of you know that I hold some very strong political opinions. With Labor Day behind us, that means this year's Presidential liefest...er, campaign...will begin in earnest. Neither the prospect of electing Mitt Romney nor the prospect of re-electing President Obama excites me. I feel that neither of them is really up to the task of of leading our country at a time when the Congress is determined to obstruct everything. And don't kid yourself. If Mitt Romney is elected but the Democrats retain control (or even just 40 votes) in the Senate, nothing will change except the faces. Senator Reid will do to a President Romney the same thing Senator McConnell and Speaker Boehner have done to President Obama. I see few positives about either option. But, one option is so much more dangerous that my choice is pretty simple, and made for me by default.
Beyond that, here's what I'll be saying this political season, inspired by (and much of it quoted directly from) David Kuo's Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction (which you should all read):
Once it would have bothered me - a lot - to see a political leader I supported with my vote and my efforts and my money break his promises. But that's politics. For too long I've held this secret hope that just the right guy doing just the right thing would make America better: Obliterate poverty, obviate the need for abortions, eliminate loneliness, end despair, wipe out crime, and increase opportunity. I had that hope for Compassionate Conservatism in 2000; and for Hope and Change in 2008. But those hopes were misplaced and unreasonable, and set the bar too high. Our political leaders, after all, are just that - political...just plain old people doing a plain old job. They can't save America...And my ultimate hope is back where it should be - not with people, not with politics, but with God.
Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on [politics], let's give that money to charities and groups that are closer to Jesus' heart. And we Christians should spend less time arguing with those on the other side and more time communing with them...Let's take every ounce of energy [and every dime of our money] we currently expend on politics and divert it to other things. Instead of sending letters to Congress and engaging in political arguments with friends and listening to political talk radio and canvassing door to door for candidates and volunteering in campaigns, let's spend our time in different ways.
Let's read Matthew 25. Let's start with the things God has commanded us to do - pray, learn, listen to Him and serve a hurting world. There are so many other things we can and should be doing. We Christians need to follow Jesus' commands and flock to soup kitchens, battered women's shelters, prison cells and hospitals. We need to seek Jesus in the distress and disguise of the poor.
If we take a break from politics, will America go to pot? Of course it won't. The brilliance of our Founders is that they created a system where change is very slow and very gradual. Nearly four decades of Democratic congressional control couldn't sink us. Watergate couldn't sink us. Three decades of the "Reagan Revolution" couldn't sink us. Bill Clinton's moral failings couldn't sink us. The presidency* of George W. Bush couldn't sink us. The Great Recession hasn't sunk us yet. Christians retreating from politics this year won't sink us.
Ronald Reagan [was fond of] referring to America as the "shining city on a hill." It is a beautiful metaphor. But for us Christians, it is blasphemy. We ARE NOT the shining city on a hill. When Jesus used the words...he wasn't referring to a country, he was referring to Solomon's Temple - the dwelling place of God - in Jerusalem. The shining city on a hill contained the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat of God, not the seat of civil government. That was sufficient for Jesus; it should be sufficient for us, too.
So, I'm taking a break this year. If any of you wants my opinion on some political topic this fall, I'll be glad to discuss it with you privately - in person, or via private message or email. But, I won't be sharing my opinions in open, online forums where they serve only to inflame passions, jeopardize friendships, and change no minds in the process.
from The Rev. Bruce L. Carriker
* Bruce had initially typed this as "residency" and asked me to correct it to "presidency," which I did, but not before pointing out to him that "I kind of liked it that way -- you know, like the writer in residence in an English department -- not really on the full time staff, just temporarily sharing his views. I thought that's what you meant!"