READ. THINK. TALK. PRAY. VOTE.
Here we are this week and next in the midst of political conventions. Here we are with only months to go before we have the privilege and responsibility to vote. Not registered to vote -- and you're a citizen? Don't listen to the news because it takes you outside your comfort zone and might upset you? Please.
Sometimes religious people shy away from politics because politics isn't very spiritual and religion is about spirituality, and besides, crooked things happen in politics. Any ancient Israelite would have greeted such an idea with an incredulous stare -- they all believed that God worked in human history, that revelation came to us primarily through human history, including crooked human history. Read the books of the Kings, and especially the stories of David, and ask yourself if God really waits for someone to come along whose hands are clean before He can go to work. These forebears of ours wouldn't know what to make of someone who had no interest in the workings of human community and yet claimed to follow the God of Israel.
Is faith about spirituality? Yes. But it's not about separation from the world. It is also about ethics. And human love of all kinds. And it is about our oneness with the earth, and the earth's integrity in itself and our stewardship of it. It is about economics -- much of Jesus' teaching has to do with money or with work of some kind: gems, farming, day laborers, home economics, inheritance law, accounting -- there are parables about each of these.
And are all politicians alike? In some ways they are -- they all want to win. But they are not alike in the policies they espouse. Don't let their posturing deflect your rigorous inquiry into what they want to do in the public arena to which they want you to send them, and don't let them get away without telling you how they intend to get there in a way that doesn't insult your intelligence. If something they say sounds too good to be true - say, that we can spend without limit and somehow still have enough money for government to function, while at the same time cutting the taxes upon which government spending depends -- it probably is. Make them or their supporters explain it to you until it makes sense, or don't vote for them.
And pay attention to the matter of interest. I do not refer to the prime rate here; I mean the tendency of all human beings to believe in those ideas that will benefit them in the short term. We all have this tendency to believe what someone will pay us to believe -- however indirectly that payment is made -- and we must make a conscious effort to be aware of that tendency in ourselves and to transcend it, or we will become the puppets of our own darker angels. If you make your living in oil, say, you may or may not be right in what you say about the nation's energy needs and those of the oil industry, but there is one thing you are not: you are not disinterested. Interest must be factored into any political thinking we attempt, or there will be an important piece missing in the end result of our analysis.
Interest, posturing, the short term. The suffering of the innocent and the selling of the powerful. Read I and II Kings. Read the paper. Talk to people. But vote. Remember that, in the end, our world is not like the world of I and II Kings in one very important respect: we elect our leaders. You don't have to tell anybody how you voted if you don't want to, and nobody can tell you for whom to vote. So keep your mind open for as long as it takes you to make it up. You have that right. An undecided voter may be a very wise one.
And then pray. God loves the nations of the world, including our own. Intends -- and wages -- good for all, and wades into the muck with us to begin the cleanup when things go terribly wrong, even when the terrible wrong is largely our own fault.