I hesitate to venture into the turbulent political waters that my title might suggest. I have waited a few days so that emotions can subside a bit, including my own. But I am disturbed by both the right and the left, by both Republican and Demoncrat….by Christians on both sides of the aisle. I am disturbed by many things but I am particularly alarmed by bringing Jesus into the conversation in such a way that it enables and excites political sniping and sneering.
Give me a few paragraphs to get to my point….so hang in with me.
The Obama campaign has appropriately highlighted Obama’s time as a community organizer which reflects his investment in and social concern for community life. Whether one agrees with the kind of community organizing he did (and I’m not interested in that question in this post), it does say something about his social consciousness and willingness to work in the trenches. That should be applauded.
Unfortunately, when the choice of Palin as the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee was announced, the Obama campaign seemed to belittle her role as a “small town” mayor and often referring to her as “mayor” without also mentioning her executive role as Governor of a State. Some heard this as a put-down of her experience as mayor. Yet, being a small town mayor (and previously involved in community events like PTA, etc.) reflects a similar interest in community similiar to community organizers.
So, the stage was set for a tick-for-tack. Palin–seemingly in response to the Obama camp’s devaluation of her mayoral experience–retorted: “I guess a small town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.” It was a humorous jab. I think Palin had a point–a mayor is an elected official with fiscal public trust unlike a community organizer. However, to cast community organizers in a negative light is problematic because I would suggest community organizers are important in our culture.
The Democratic response to Palin’s zing was unfortunate. Multiple voices within the Democratic party replied with their own zinger: “Jesus was a community organizer; Pontius Pilate was a governor.” This is also a humorous jab. The valid point, I think, is that no one should undervalue what a community organizer does, but at the same time the negative tone protrays governors–only Palin?–in horrendous light.
I find the whole scenario distasteful. As Christ-followers, we honor community service, mayors, senators, and governors. They are all modes of public service. None deserve a negative put-down.
I imagine that Palin really does value community organizers and Obama really does value governors–both have said as much. But the political climate won’t permit genuine mutual appreciation without some kind of murderous thrust with the political sword–it is like a kiss that kills (remember Judas?).
But what is most disturbing to me is how Jesus has been used in the service of a political zinger….and Christians themselves have promoted such use. To use Jesus as political bard in order to shore up a Republican or Democrat is subversive to the mission of Jesus itself.
On the one hand, not all community organizing is the sort of thing in which Jesus would be involved. It is not carte blanche, right? On the other hand, the kind of community organizing Jesus did was to organize his own community–to “build” his “church,” to call a group of disciples into a community for the sake of society.
The community of Jesus is distinct; a different community; an alternative community. At the same time the community Jesus organized is not isolationist. The Jesus community invests itself in people, serving the needs of the hurting and wounded. The Jesus community heals, reconciles, and makes peace. The Jesus community speaks prophetically to society, including politicians. The Jesus community speaks for the weak, oppressed and neglected. But when Christians, whether Democrat or Republican, treat others with derision, condescenion, and disrespect, they conform to this world rather than being transformed by the renewal of God’s Spirit.
When we participate in political rancor, hurt and “cursing” (treating people as less than the image of God), we abdicate our responsiblity as light and salt in the world. Christ-followers should leaven the political acrimony and expose the political venom to the light.
Unfortunately, it appears we are no different; we are not distinct prophets but inflamed participants. We have become pepper rather than salt. We have been warring in the darkness rather than seeking peace in the light.