Before arriving in Wisconsin almost ten months ago, I knew that our nation was politically polarized in a way that I have not seen in my adult lifetime. And, before moving here, little did I realize that our beautiful State of Wisconsin was such a hotspot for this polarization. In fact, soon after our arrival, I noticed folks trying to figure out whether I was politically an “us” or a “them.”
Therefore, since we have a recall election for Governor on June 5th and a Presidential election in the fall, and given the general condition of extreme polarization, I call upon all the followers of Jesus Christ to have the servant-mind of Christ during this election cycle, and to act with the corresponding Christ-like humility and sacrificial love.
Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Have the same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.
Only God knows who will “win” these political contests, but, in any case, we are to humbly love and serve one another as the mind of Christ directs us to do — without regard to one’s status as a Republican or a Democrat. Also, we are to recognize that our relationship with our brother or sister in Christ is far more important than political one-upmanship. And we are to remember that “victory” breeds enmity, and that today’s victor is tomorrow’s vanquished.
In chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes, it says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” And it then goes on to list the many dualities of this life — a time for this and a time for that, etc. Likewise, there are seasons and times for entire nations, but no matter what the current season and time may be, it seems to me that we ultimately steer a middle course. As the great ship of the U.S.A. tacks back and forth, we ultimately steer a middle course toward the horizon.
For me, American Conservatism and American Liberalism are the yin and yang of our nation, and both political traditions contribute to society. They both have gifts to share for the common good, and we all fall somewhere on this American political spectrum. To ensure “a more perfect union,” both political traditions seek to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (U.S. Constitution Preamble). And while both sides also seek to “provide for the common defense” and “promote the general welfare,” each side tends to emphasize these two priorities differently.
Furthermore, I have routinely observed when ordinary folks of opposing political parties sit down and talk things through that they consistently come to a reasonable middle ground. So, why can’t our elected officials do the same thing?
The problem arises as big-money interests enter the democratic process, making elected officials beholden to these big donors and driving the public debate to unhealthy, hyper-polarized extremes. I mean, we can be passionate about our particular political leaning, but evil is found at the extreme poles of this spectrum. Consequently, my slogan these days is “Vote for moderates and unite our country!”
I am convinced that America is in desperate need of centrist politicians who can compromise with the opposing side for the common good. And this is because neither the Left nor the Right is any good for America without the counterbalance of the other. They are a check and balance to each other that helps America travel a middle path between both ideological traditions, because it is problematic when society goes too far either way.
However, as Christians in America, the servant-mind of Christ that is within us (the psychology of the cross) calls us toward greater humility, inclusivity, civility, sacrifice, and unity in diversity — Republican or Democrat, black or white, male or female, gay or straight, and so on. And in support of fostering this inclusive and compassionate mindset of Christ, our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has prepared social statements and social messages on a variety of issues.
These social statements and messages of our national church have been democratically voted on by our national church assemblies that are made up of two-thirds laity and one-third clergy. These church resources offer biblical and theological guidance for each individual to freely consider and apply to our 21st Century context. (You can find these on the display-rack in our church entryway or at the following link… http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues.aspx)
On this coming Independence Day, July 4th, 2012, let us remember these things I have written here. Let us remember that we are all (both Republicans and Democrats) “one nation, under God” and “indivisible.” And let us remember that we are all (both Republicans and Democrats) striving in our own way to promote “liberty and justice for all.”
For me, the U.S. Flag means equal rights for all — without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, social status, ability, gender identity or sexual orientation. For me, it means shared sacrifice for the “common defense” and the “general welfare” (U.S. Constitution). For me, it means that (ideally) this country “gives to bigotry no sanction” and “to persecution no assistance” among its citizens (President George Washington, August 1790). For me, it represents these lofty ideals and the brave souls who were willing to give the greatest sacrifice for these ideals.
Lastly, as the world gathers on July 27th for the 2012 Olympic Games in London to join in peaceful athletic competition and celebration, let us also remember that we are one humanity, under God, sharing one world together.
May the inner peace and joy of Christ fill your hearts and minds this June and July, and beyond!
By God’s grace, Pastor Tim