Middling

The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

Monthly Archives: November 2012

Political honesty

Over lunch the other day, I partook of a most fascinating (and entertaining) conversation with some friends. The basic premise was imagining a politican running for office on a platform of “total political honesty.” For example:

“If I am elected, I pledge to take whatever I want from my opponents and give it to my supporters.”

“I actually have no inclination, much less passion, towards this particular issue, and I have no intention of carrying it through when I am elected. I simply make a big deal of it now because I know it is important to you all as voters.”

“I am aware that my campaign has primarily consisted of negative ads defaming my opponent. In fact, this was intentional on the part of my team and I, as psychological studies have shown that a negative perception is more effective and impacting than a positive one, thus increasing my chances of attaining your vote even if I never say a word about myself.”

“I’d rather use lots of fancy, nice-sounding words than craft good, informed arguments. Flowery language appeals to a much broader base of people.”

“My foremost goal in this campaign is to win the election. So cast your vote for me!”

And so on. Extremely tongue-in-cheek, unlikely to ever happen in earnest, but profoundly entertaining to think about.

Please do not misunderstand me; this conversation was not directed at any political figure (past or present) in particular, and is certainly far from being applicable to all political leaders today. But it did raise an interesting question in my mind: how would people react were (unlikely as it is) a politician to arise who said such things? Would any actually vote for him? How many, and for what reason? How would having such a candidate in the line-up change people’s perspective on the political process? Would it force people to reevaluate why they vote for who they vote for? Would they become more wary, more conscientious, more informed and discerning voters? Or would it be business as usual?

All I can say is, I hope that any political leader (current or yet to appear on our ballots) who runs on a platform — or principle rather — of complete political honesty will have more noble aspirations than this one.

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Duty, results, and thankfulness

Over election week, I went on a campaigning trip where for several days, I and many others engaged in various endeavors aimed to affect the outcome of the election. We had a short devotional each morning before shipping out; on Tuesday morning, our devotion centered on this simple verse: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

The first part of the verse reminded us that though our campaigning was largely done in the names of the various officials we hoped to elect into office or organizations we happened to be collaborating with, our efforts would ultimately be in vain, regardless of the results, if not done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Striving to serve those other names that week was entirely appropriate, but only if kept in perspective with our primary focus, the name above all names.

To do all things in this name has ramifications: How can you do anything in the name of the King of the Universe, and do it in a half-hearted, timid spirit? How can you act in the name of the One who is lowly and meek in heart, in a manner that is ungracious or ungentle? And how can you live in the name of the Prince of Peace in a spirit of constant frustration and anxiety? It’s a question worth pondering: what does it look like practically for me to carry out the task before me, and my whole life, in the name of Jesus?

This brought us to the second part of the verse. Having done all things in the name of Jesus, both word and deed, the proper course is not to take ownership of or to agonize over the results. It is to thank the Father. In the context of our work there as campaigners, I was reminded of the sermon I had attended that Sunday, in which the pastor exhorted his congregation to approach the impending election with humility and graciousness, neither returning the next Sunday with knowing “I told you so” smiles or “This is it; the apocalypse is upon us!” broadcasts of despair.

I find it interesting that at its root, both of these responses display a denial of the Lordship of Christ mentioned in the verse. One remarks “now all things will be put to rights; we have the right people in office,” the other laments “clearly, with these folks in office, the end is nigh,” but both fundamentally place their trust in the political leaders to make things right, rather than the sovereign God. Towards the neighbor who voted differently, both display a sort of ungracious arrogance, a turning away from the character of God, which in essence is a denial of His Lordship over one’s life. And both fail to thank God for what He has already done; one because he’s too busy celebrating the victory won by human effort, the other because he sees nothing to be thankful for. Both are greatly mistaken.

Instead, as we are commanded to do all things in Jesus’ name, we are called to be thankful in all things through our Lord Jesus to God our Father. And such an attitude of thankfulness, acknowledging both God’s sovereignty over all circumstances and over one’s own life, does not easily degenerate into either of these extremes of arrogance or despair.

The motto for the campaigning organization we worked through was “the duty is ours, the results are God’s.” This obviously applies and was intended to apply to political elections and offices, but it seems every bit as applicable to the rest of our lives also: our jobs, families, schoolwork, hobbies, friendships, and so on. A very real duty is set before us; to do all things as unto the Lord, in the name of Christ. Yet once this is done, the results belong in the hands of the very same Lord. We can and should hoe, plant, water, and weed with the best that we have to offer in our abilities and attitudes, but it is He who makes the crops grow or wither, not us. And however the harvest appears for the future, still we put our trust in Him and remain faithful to His character, through our Lord giving thanks.

How I just took an event from election week and turned it into a Thanksgiving message is beyond me, but I hope that you spent and enjoyed this day in a time of gratitude to the Lord and fellowship with others. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  ~ Timothy