Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

before mid-term elections

In his book, “Sabbath”, Wayne Muller writes, “There is a grand and lively debate flourishing throughout the land, lamenting the tragic decline in our morality and values. Where in our political life…have our traditionally held values of honesty, courage, and integrity gone? Where in our civic life are the fundamental qualities of respect, deliberation, and wisdom? Where, in our personal lives, are the codes of individual responsibility and accountability, civility and compassion?”

Of course, this weekend before mid-term elections, many of us have received ‘voter pamphlets’ in the mail that provide a ready answer. As bad as things are already, all thoughtful people of faith had better vote republican on Tuesday, because anything less than that is a vote for godlessness, late term abortion, oppressive taxation, fearful surrender to terrorism and every other ill that could possibly plague us. “Keep things the same and things will get better” seems to be the cry of the day.

Lest you think my sarcasm mark me as a democrat, let me hasten to point out that the minority party has offered no compelling vision to address the problems of the day. The best they have offered us is, “We’re not republican”. I’m sorry, but a vision of negation isn’t very compelling.

By all means vote – pray, deliberate alone or with friends – and vote. But understand that neither party can answer the questions Mueller asks, because both parties presume that such qualities can be nurtured in our current meta-vision which defines the good life as an ever increasing cycle of economic production and consumption. Such a model is flawed at so many levels one doesn’t know where to even begin. But quickly, let’s note:

  1. Economic indicators don’t measure the things of greatest value. The woman who is caring for her Alzheimer’s afflicted husband, changing his clothes, helping him bathe, and taking him for walks makes no contribution to the GDP. Nor does the person who signs so deaf people can attend our worship services. And what of the woman who cares for her children, loves her husband, and bakes fresh bread for the family, whether living in St. Louis or Bangladesh? Worthless by GDP standards. Unless money changes hand, nothing of value has happened. This is so deeply engrained into the fabric our global culture, that millions are trading the priceless values of nurture, intimacy, creation, and love for the transient promises of economic gain. It’s a shabby trade, rooted in a faulty means of assessing worth and we’re paying a global price.
  2. To increase consumption, we must increase discontentment. Thus the model is actually built on making people unhappy with their current state of things, which might be fair for those living on $2 a day, but is ridiculous for we of the developed world, awash as we are in stuff we don’t really need and still, for the most part, unhappy.
  3. The cycle of production and consumption creates another cycle: The cycle of weariness. In this cycle, we work increasingly long hours to buy things we don’t need, and drop into our beds at night exhausted, with no time for volunteering, or cooking with fresh ingredients, or having good conversation while the candles melt down, or making love, or walking slowly through the park to sense the turning of seasons, or read our Bibles and pray.

If you’ll pardon an analogy, it’s as if a couple is interviewing two different painters for the job of re-doing our house, in hopes that a new paint job will fix all the pathologies that plague them and their children. The parties are the painters, the parents the voters. Come now. Is new paint really the solution? I wonder if the meth-lab in the basement might not be an issue? Cosmetic solutions and discussions abound, but they’re all basically the same: how can we recover civility, safety, and tranquility, while maintaining our relentless pursuit of upward mobility and global economic domination?’ Call me when hell freezes over. You’ll certainly have your answer by then.

This needn't be as pessimistic as it sounds. In fact, far from it, this assessment simply points out the grave need for the church to articulate a 3rd way - a way based on entirely different assumptions. When we begin to step into this way, the light will, in increasing measure shine into the darkness. That's hope - and a vision worth living for. Happy Voting!!


At 8/11/06 12:22, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard, very well done on this post. I was suprised to see your support for the Republican vote. I had the opposite impression from your comments on Bush and Obama, who votes far left. I applaude your unwillingness to give allegiance to either side, and that you keep even political talk as Christ centered as you can.

You are especially right about the 'cycle of weariness'. Having work, a girlfriend, and the guys, I do have an abundance of fellowship, but I really feel non stop, and that I only give a small percentage to quiet, the Bible and prayer.

At 8/11/06 23:20, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Richard will confirm, since no, it isn't entirely clear. But I think the view that "people of faith had better vote republican" was being put forth by said 'voter pamphlets' and not by Richard.

At 9/11/06 07:01, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

Yes...I'm happy to confirm - I think perhaps my sarcasm has once again risen up to bite me. It was indeed the voter pamphlets to which I was referring.


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