Despite all the awful antics that go on around it, today I want to talk about politics for a moment. Sorry but not sorry …
Because at its core, politics is ultimately about people and money, how we treat one another, and the values that shape our lives. And these things really matter!
So anyway, this week saw the US midterms usher in fresh glimpses of hope in what has been a pretty polarising couple of years in politics, which have been too heavily dominated by fear and division.
But personally I cling to the belief that what unites us as people is always far, far greater than that which separates us. And so, on the whole I finish this week feeling quite encouraged by the midterm election results which highlight a swing back towards a slightly more moderate, more representative, and more unifying brand of politics instead.
Some of the key highlights of this week for me, include:
- Much higher than normal voter turn-out for midterms (particularly amongst younger voters); 114 million cast in the US House races in 2018, compared to just 83 million in the last 2014 during Obama’s last term in office.
- More female voices being represented in politics than ever before; both with more women running as candidates, and more women serving in Congress than ever before too, including 28 first time House members.
- More diverse representation across Congress than ever before; including the first Latino governor, the first Native American congress women, the first two Muslim women voted into congress, and the first LGBTQ member of congress too.
- The Democrats winning control of the House of Representatives; which means more checks and balances on Trump’s policies for the remainder of his term in office.
And none of this is about party politics for me either. Because regardless of your political persuasion, its always ‘a win’ for everyone when the government that represents your nation’s interests begins to more accurately reflect its make up, and a higher number of voices get heard.
And I think it’s so refreshing to sense a coming change in the air, because there’s no doubt that the past two years have presented some all-time lows in American politics, under a leader who has supported all kinds of nationalism, sexism, racism and division, and multiple human rights violations – to mention just a few of the issues.
But for me, perhaps the most troubling part is that he does so whilst also claiming to represent evangelical Christians. Yet the way that he treats women, people of colour, muslims, members of the press, or basically anyone who sees the world a bit differently to him, is simply not true to any kind of christianity that I recognise at all.
Because to me, the whole idea of building big walls to separate people, tightening immigration to keep foreigners out, under-valuing women, or handing out tax breaks to the wealthy whilst the poorest communities are left overlooked and exploited, is just massively counter to the gospel of Christ.
The politics of Jesus was always about looking after the poor, the displaced, the foreigner, the destitute, the orphan, and the widow.
Not once have I ever found a verse in my Bible that persuades me of anything different. Rather it reminds me that if I am really serious about following the Gospel of Christ, I am compelled to live a lifestyle of love, compassion, and generosity, to always be willing to share what I have with those who have less.
There’s this verse in the Bible that puts it like this:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” (1 Timothy 6: 17 – 18)
But I don’t want to just pick on America either, because the UK’s Brexit obsession, the campaign for Scottish independence, the plight of refugees being held in the so-called ‘Calais Jungle’, or the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping across the west… to me, it all smacks of the same kind of thing.
History shows that whenever rich nations feel an economic pinch, they tend to swing towards a more protectionist, isolationist and self-interested position. And I think we can do much better. Or have we forgotten in our comfortable western Christianity, that the whole earth is the Lord’s and everything (everyone) in it?
And I know, I know, that we don’t always feel especially rich in our society since we’re not all living as millionaires, but I think we are still all implicated in what the Bible has to say about wealth – because if we have a home to live in, clean water to drink, cupboards stocked with food, and a car to drive around in, we are in the richest few per cent of the whole world.
It’s so easy to look at current affairs and to just criticise or complain about what’s wrong with the world. But I think often the answers start much closer to home. They start with me, and they start with you too.
There’s also this famous proverb I absolutely love which says:
‘When you have more than you need, build a longer table not a higher fence’.
What an incredibly challenging but beautiful principle! I’m thinking of having it framed and placed on a wall in my house somewhere, as a reminder of the standard that I want to strive to embrace in my life.
And I know that I can’t single-handedly reshape the political zeitgeist, passify international conflicts fix the issue of global poverty, or lessen the effects of corporate greed, but still none of this excuses me from opening up my heart, rolling up my sleeves, and being willing to play my small part.
But what does that actually mean in practice? Well for me, it looks a lot like starting right where I am, with small steps that can add up to a big difference – and encouraging others to do the same. It looks like ensuring that I stay informed, always turning up to vote, and never being afraid to speak up for what is right.
It looks like choosing to live a bit more generously and open-handedly, and being willing to open up my home and my heart to others, including those who are different to me. And it looks like sometimes being willing to get my hands dirty by donating some of my money, time or resources to those who need them, wherever I can.
So can I leave you with a parting challenge today?
Will you join me in choosing generosity over selfishness, unity over division, hope over cynicism, and most of all, love over fear – regardless of belief or political persuasion.