That Political ElementI cannot lie and say that I do not have misgivings about much of what I have written recently. I suppose they are the same misgivings I have had repeatedly when I have attempted to clarify what I feel is true and what is not true about the relationship between faith and politics. I hate to sound quietist, because I do not believe Christianity is quietist. On the contrary, we are called to live for others, and not to fall for the variety of honey-traps the world dangles before us - fame, money, power, sex, comfort. When we stubbornly refuse to give in, when we adamantly oppose the world's enticements to silence the radical message of God's love, force is too often applied. I am not speaking here of the killing of Christians in Pakistan, Indonesia, Somalia, and other places around the world, although those are also tragedies, but the kind warned about by Jesus himself, and to be expected. Rather, I am speaking of the forceful silencing of the message of grace by the "powers" that be.
An Episcopal priest speaks out against the war, and the IRS goes after him. ministers march against the war and are jailed. The right-wing scream-machine tries to shout down the message of the emerging progressive Christian movement. Our patriotism, faith, and morals are questioned. I had the parent of a child in Kuwait - just before the beginning of the war in 2003 - come close to physical violence because I spoke out against the war, insisting that we were being lied to and that we, even we who opposed the war, would bear as much a responsibility for all that would and has befallen us, because, as Americans, our tax money buys everything from bullets and bombs to general's salaries. I refused to back down, answering his anger with compassion and love, and rather than attack me, he finally stormed out of the room, more confused than angry.
It seems a time is coming - sooner rather than later with the recent passage of a bill giving the Executive unprecedented, and most likely illegal authority to, among other things, declare anyone anywhere at anytime an enemy combatant, strip that person of all Constitutional protections, and imprison them indefinitely - when we Christians may pay with more than villification and social ostracism for our insistence on being bearers of Good News. We face dangerous, serious times ahead, and we need to be aware of the reality of the dangers. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if some fake emergency arose between now and November 7 and the elections were postponed, under some provision or other of some bill, the interpretation of which is issued by our criminal Attorney General, ALberto Gonzalez. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if our courts weren't closed. I wouldn't be surprised if our nation became some horrible monster, a travesty of a nation, perhaps the most dangerous rogue in a world full of dangerous rogues.
Yet, neither politics, nor law, nor elections, nor courts are our salvation. We must speak out about what has become of this beloved land, but we must never rest our hopes there. Our hope lies beyond these ephemeral trappings of power, in the fearlessness that comes with knowing that all the tools at the hands of the pwoerful mean nothing because the tools will, one day, fail, and the powerful will lose all they have gained. I fear a rough road ahead; I hope it may not be, and we will soon emerge from this nightmare into which we have wandered. I do not, for one moment, believe that any of it has any ultimate, eternal significance.
I think I have rambled more than I have made a point, so it is best to stop.