I refuse to pick a side and I also refuse to be neutral. Watching the State of the Union address was like watching some sort of combination of Saturday Night Live and Madam Secretary. It was part drama and part comedy. This is not intended to be disrespectful. It is how I felt as I was watching.
I must keep in mind that what I am watching is not policy or work getting done. It is theatre. Every word and every action from all in that room was both predictable and rehearsed. It is as real as any reality show we may watch. That does not mean that it is not important, nor does it mean that the actions and words are meaningless. I would argue that the opposite is true.
Both sides have a role to play and for a while now I have attempted not to take sides when it comes to party politics. I suspect that I am like many believers who have both agreements and disagreements with the platforms of both major parties. But refusing to take sides does not assume remaining neutral. As a believer I generally stand on the side of those who are left out, of those who have no voice or do not know how to use it, and of those who attempt to escape horrid conditions. I stand on the side of tolerance while maintaining a personal set of standards that I try to align with scripture.
I believe in the rule of law for our nation, but personally live with as few rules as possible. They are good ones; for example, “love your neighbor as yourself” and, “do to others as you would have them do to you.” This allows me to be patient and gracious and hope that others will afford me the same. My success rate ebbs and flows, but I keep trying.
I am also thankful for many who choose to pursue public office and do their best to take their faith with them. What I despise is the behavior that some exhibit while claiming to be our leaders. The theatrics we have witnessed this past week serve to reinforce the tacit permission that our leaders are giving us to continue our derision and intolerance of those with whom we disagree. It is also worth remembering that we rarely see all the things that happen to keep our nation working properly. It does not make for good viewing and it does not serve the purposes of keeping us in one camp or the other.
I want to share a couple perspectives here. One is from my Filipino friend, Salvador Carriaga, who lives and works in the Philippines with a faith-based trade school and organic farming. He spends some of his time in Oklahoma and Texas working with the homeless.
Here is what he recently wrote, “I love the drama in US politics. She impeached him, he ignored her handshake, and she shreds his written speech just inches away. Tomorrow, the impeachment drama will end, and the hard campaign begins. By the end of the day, nobody gets killed. In Philippine politics, politicians get murdered for less drama. I’m going home to run for office. You are invited to my inauguration or assassination. America, at least your checks and balance is entertaining and not frightening. Lighten up. Feel blessed and enjoy your freedom to disagree. It’s the strength of your democracy. If that is all that I bring back to my people, I would do well. God bless America.”
I would also like to encourage us to respect our leaders, but be less inclined to follow their attitudes and behavior toward one another. It will not change unless we change first. Some leaders truly lead. I fear, however, that we currently have leaders who are a reflection of who we are rather than calling us to be better for the sake of each other.
With that in mind let me share a quote from Jesus in Luke 6:32-36, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”