Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Tomorrow night, the only two people who have any chance at securing the most powerful and politically/historically influential job in the world will engage in a debate so that we who have the responsibility of electing such a person can make our decision.  The truth is most people have already made up their mind.  Among the small group that has not decided who they will vote for either doesn't follow the issues and will vote any way, or are fundamentally frustrated with the limited choices.  So, with such an audience, the candidates simply are hoping to not make major errors, to navigate the challenging questions of our day in two minutes or less without saying anything too revealing that might actually change how someone already feels. 

I remember my speech class in college.  The first speech we gave was a 2 minute self-introduction (just to break the public-speaking ice).  You can't say much in two minutes.  If you talk quickly, you might get through a single double-spaced typed page.  But lets face it, talking quickly is not great for most public speaking endeavors.  So, perhaps 3/4 of a double-spaced page is more accurate.  Now waste a portion of that space saying meaningless introductory remarks, a small bit for your conclusion on each question--and you really only get about 1 paragraph, at the most, of substance--and by the way, the questions are some of the most complex, consequential, issues the world will ever face:  How do we ensure people have access to healthcare?  How do we care for the poor without creating government dependency?  What do we do if Iran achieves a nuclear weapon?  What do we do if Israel attacks Iran first?  How will you handle people and fellow politicians who disagree with you?  Is there anything the government can do to ensure jobs with living wages are available for the citizens?  If not, what do you do with the unemployed and unemployable?  What about socially divisive issues?  How do you decide who to appoint to the Supreme Court?  We won't get to all the questions, because the TV slot leaves only 90 minutes so there can be 30 minutes of paid political operatives telling us what they believe we should have heard, and who we should believe "won"

It's all about winning at this point.  Pick sides, fight it out, see who wins.  In fact, most Americans will not even watch for substance, rather we will be hoping that our chosen candidate delivers the knock out punch.  It's a sporting event more than a policy discussion.  Lets face it, we don't like policy discussions.  Policy is hard, complex, and doesn't fit into neatly categorized boxes of right and wrong, good and evil.  And at the end of a long day of work, who has the energy to follow policy.  So we tending to deify our side, demonize the other side, and dig in our heals to watch the battle, hoping that once again good will triumph over evil--just like in star wars--since it is really all about entertainment.

As bad as this is, the real problem is that this practice at demonizing each other spills over into our other relationships.  At home, in the workplace, at church even? we engage in discussions to win.

But in sharing the Word of God to the Church in Philippi, Paul said:
I urge Euodia and Syntyche to come to agreement in the Lord...  Be glad in the Lord always... Don't be anxious about anything; rather bring your requests to God... If anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise...
When the goal becomes winning, we sacrifice knowing, loving, and growing.  If only we were not trying to win, but trying to figure out.  Not trying to defeat, but trying to sharpen.  Not trying to overcome, but trying to find harmony--that we could compliment each other rather than destroy each other.  I believe this is the vision God has for us--I pray that at least those of us who call ourselves church could find this way.

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