I don't like to spend a lot of time writing about the political arena. While I do greatly LOVE my country and would like to think I would lay down my life for the ideals She represents- my allegiance is to another kingdom that sometimes brings me in alignment with, sometimes brings me in opposition to, and finds parts of both parties that support Biblical ideas.
In saying that, I do line up more as a conservative than a liberal and have voted for every republican nominee in my voting life. I wish the party would do better at fulfilling their promise of limited government and fiscal responsibility, but the dynamics are always difficult when it all goes to Washington and the give and take, pressure to fund raise, and empty rhetoric that bounces of largely empty rooms and high definition TV cameras is more prevalent than action.
It would take way too much space and detail to dig into all that makes government and especially the federal government end up in bureaucratic red tape and gridlock, and we HAVE to have government to 'provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare and ensure the blessings of liberty for us and our future offspring'.
But I wanted to make a few comments on the nature of our current debate and what has to happen for the declining trends to change.
1) There is an improper view of government in both parties as a 'moral' agent. This may sound ridiculous, but the first step away from the gospel and proper role of government was prohibition. Our laws need to closely mirror the moral law of God, but do not need to go beyond those measures. They need to punish wrongdoing but not coerce right doing. I know I will sound 'libertarian' in these ideals, but when a majority seeks to legislate morality, we become as oppressive as the Pharisees in demanding standards that are impossible without God's grace. Common decency is a desire that we would have for all people regardless of any other distinguishing factor. We are losing our manners. We all desire to bask in God's common grace. There should not be any party that owns morality, it should be a shared burden of all people. We all fall short of these standards because of human nature, but we will not sit idly by and watch our culture fall into coarseness or depravity. Not with laws or guns- but courage to look at one another and say, 'No this is not right'.
2) There is an improper view in both parties that success = wealth. The most dangerous political card played in this current debate was 'class warfare', an ever present human default mode that sparks bloody revolutions and civil insurrections. That was the best message from the RNC this week: in America we have never been jealous of success- we celebrate it. The problem is that some in our country no longer believe in equal opportunity and others have been so consumed with greed that there is no safety net with heart and no distribution of resources based on common sense and a sense of duty. The ever widening gap of have and have nots has destroyed every empire in the history of the world.
The only out is a movement away from determining success by looks, accumulation, and consumption. There has to be a fundamental change where success is defined as what you have done for someone else, or achievement, or forward progress, or solving a problem. But we also have to rebuke any Robin Hood passions to steal from those who have achieved wealth to give to those have not. We must be repulsed by those who hoard wealth, but never tempted to be thieves.
3) There has been a terrible replacement from 'freedom of religion' to 'freedom from religion'. If I look back on prohibition as being the first step away from the gospel foundations of our republic, I see the secularization of government as the first step toward totalitarianism. The decision of the Supreme Court to outlaw the posting of the 10 Commandments and restrict prayer in schools did more damage to the framework of our country that even the dreaded Roe v. Wade debacle, though they all did insufferable damage.
When the justices decided that no religion in the public square was the intent of our founders, they did, in fact, endorse a religion called secularism. When you unchain the Creator from the laws and liberty of our nation- you remove any hope of a consensus of shared values. The problem is, it will not remained unchained for long. Something strong has to step in and fill the void of endless opinion- usually an elite that picks the shared values and rules those with overwhelming force.
Again, in a strange way, I have to (as an 'evangelical') draw comfort that a ticket consisting of a mormon and a catholic (who don't just wear the label but follow those tenants) is a better America than those who give lip service to a religion but whose real God is practical atheism. We have better ground for gospel conversations in a land where faith matters than where faith is privatized and suppressed. No religious freedom in the marketplace of ideas is supporting a grand winner- atheism.
4) The fast flicker of mass media information and declining educational standards has created a generation that is persuaded by their eyes and makes choices by their feelings. Long term debates, based on logic and evaluation are not found on a national level.
Don't you see this in both parties? Produce a slick message, don't mind the facts, because there is no right or wrong. Win at all costs, even if it compromises basic tenants.
Is it all lost?
There has to remain a spirit of optimism, even if it seems tempered. I would like to hope that the brief sense of unity immediately experienced after 9/11 or the shared joy of Olympic pride show that there is still a powerful American ideal in the land.
The difficulty is that there is pain and sacrifice involved in solving our big problems. If there is a politician who decides to push for real reform, there will be some level of revolt. And the TV cameras will find the down side.
At that point, it will be a like a season of Survivor. Can the group that is holding austerity to the fire going to survive the opposition? Could there possibly be enough tough, bi-partisan courage to hold the course?
Here is how it has to go.
Religious freedom must win over secularistic oppression.
Educational choice must win over the over-protected status quo.
There has to be a consent of shared values: truth, discipline, compassion, stewardship, respect, and tolerance.
There also has to be a shared outrage of injustice, evil, and oppression.
Fiscal responsibility must win over unchecked entitlements.
The government must be streamlined, the tax code simplified, and regulations must be restrained.
We have to get to the point where people of dissenting views are not enemies and we seek common ground based on solid character and good faith negotiations.
We have to be more Pro-America than Pro- Political Party.
We have to forgive more and complain less.
We need to stop being entertained by the tearing down of others.
Bottom line: We need God's mercy.