Earlier today on Twitter, I entered into a quite spirited discussion with Phil Kerpen, author of the book Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America – and How to Stop Him. The conversation focused not on his book, which I confess I have not read, but rather on something he stated on Twitter, namely that unemployment benefits should not be as extended as far as they currently are. His assertion was that said benefits, when extended to 99 weeks, provided little impetus for individuals collecting unemployment to seek employment, and was only a drain on the general economy. My response was that not all people who are collecting unemployment are shiftless losers. At least some of us are daily seeking a job, and are dependent on unemployment insurance in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. The conversation got a bit testy, but in the end I believe we reached a mutual agreement that an overgeneralization of the unemployment insurance situation in terms of the people collecting said benefits was not beneficial and was not always applicable. Or, at the least, that this description was not applicable to yours truly.
Not everyone who collects unemployment is a slacker. Not everyone who works for the government, be it at the federal, state, or local level is seeking to live a carefree life sponging off the public. And, not every politician is a double-faced slimewad seeking to line their own pockets at the expense of the people while making empty promises they have no intent of keeping.
To accept clichés like this as being something of value is to play directly into the liberals’ hands by providing them with an easy target. It provides ammunition for their false assertion that conservatives are heartless scumbags seeking nothing but to coddle the rich, while becoming rich themselves, all at the expense of the working man.
It is frustrating in the extreme to find myself having to rise up in strident opposition against people with whom I should be, by all rhyme and reason, a brother in arms. I hope that by carefully clarifying and explaining the situation as it pertains to me personally, people will come to realize they often base assumptions they make about others are often based on falsehoods that are totally inapplicable to the individual and the individual’s situation. Conversely, I hope the conversation will genuinely be a two-way street, with both parties being willing and able to accept an offering of understanding or acknowledgement that perhaps there are indeed two sides to the story.
People change. They change their minds on matters, they change their opinions on matters, and they change their outlook on matters as time goes on. This is not a sign of weakness. Nor, when speaking about matters of spirituality and the fundamentals of God and Christ, is this a sign of weakness or of shifting morals, or a lack of faith. The goal is to mature and grow. Or, at least, that should be our goal. When one has found truth, this does not mean that the journey is officially over. Ofttimes, it means that the journey has just begun. It simply means that the journey is now beginning from a new location, one in which the person undergoing the journey has full confidence will not be shaken, nor moved, nor in any way hindered. Truth is truth, after all.
This ties into what I discussed in yesterday’s post, namely the matter of grace. We wish for grace to be extended to ourselves. In our hearts, we wish to extend it to others. This is the way it ought to be. When you have tasted the love of Christ in your life, it is only natural to wish to share this with others whether you love them or not. Christ’s love is so powerful, and so overwhelming, that it overshadows all of the human emotions that keep us apart from loving each other as it directs us to love each other. Why? How? Because He first loved us. And, at the risk of sounding simplistic about it, He is God. He’s got some juice.
We don’t have to try to gin up love in and of ourselves for people, places, and events about which it is impossible in the natural order of things to love. Nor does God expect us to automatically love everyone and everything. He expects us to recoil from evil, to reject it, and to fiercely oppose it. However, He does not call us to reject and oppose evil with the standard devices this world uses to do so. Instead, He calls us to oppose evil, and overcome evil, with good. This is the way of Christ; not a blissful acceptance of all that is, but rather piercing of what appears to be, and into the heart of what is, with the sword that is indeed His word and His love for us.
Even as Christ sees us as individuals, and approaches us as individuals, so we too ought to see and approach each other as individuals, eschewing the generalizations and clichés that we all far too often use to differentiate one from another. We need to extend each other grace even as He has extended grace to us. Namely, one on one, with genuine sincerity and love for God leading us into loving each other. Again, this is not a blind love, nor is it a mandate to accept everyone and everything as it is. It is a call to proclaim the revolutionary, all-powerful and all-changing gift of God to us in that through His love we can be transformed, refreshed, and renewed; made into what we can be as opposed to what we currently are. It is His taking the elements of us that are good, the elements made in His image, and empowering them to overcome the elements within all of us that are, shall we say, less than savory. So, in brief our goal should be to extend grace to each other even as grace has been extended to us.
Why, then, do we so often refuse to do so for individuals for the simple and mere reason that they are in a public position? Does being a politician, or in some other fashion viewable to the public, automatically disqualify somebody from the love and grace of God? Does it make someone any less human? Any less deserving? Any less in need of God’s healing and forgiveness?
Far too often, we seek in others that which we dare not ask ourselves to accomplish. I’m not talking about being able to pull off some athletic feat that we in our couch potato state aren’t capable of, or some feat of mental gymnastics that we in our slightly less than a Mensa member status cannot possibly pull off. Rather, I’m talking about the demand we make of others that they be perfect.
Going along with this is the notion that any faults, any slipup, any past discretion automatically disqualifies somebody from holding a publicly viewable position, be that of entertainer, athlete or politician. It’s not that we’re looking to put people on a pedestal. Instead, what we’re looking for is to somehow tear down people who desire to climb aboard a pedestal even though, at the same time we are tearing them down, we are encouraging them to climb up there and do us a favor by performing the service that we so desperately need.
How illogical is it to believe that we can give ourselves license to change, mature, and grow while at the same time refusing to allow the same grace to our politicians? Certainly some are better than others, and certainly we should not blindly accept anyone who seeks political office while completely disregarding anything and everything that has taken place in their past, be it of a personal nature or of a policy nature. However, what we should do – indeed, what Christ calls us to do – is offer the same level and amount of grace to others that we wish to have extended to ourselves. This goes for Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Barack Obama.
We can nitpick any candidate’s past, speeches, and record to death if we wish, looking for something that we can hold up and say “ah-HA!” However, at what time does this process become not so much a desire to appropriately vet a candidate, but rather a desire to tear everyone down so we can feed our own cynicism about the entire political process? And, indeed, our cynicism about each other?
Remember Kings and Chronicles. In the books of Kings, we have every single everything that every king of Israel and Judah ever did, especially if it was of a more salacious nature. Consider the example of David and the entire episode with Bathsheba. Now, look at Chronicles. What is the only thing that is listed against David throughout his entire reign as king? Taking a census, which was a direct violation of the Mosaic law.
This is grace in action. It’s not that God closed his eyes to everything wrong that David did. As Kings tells us, he was very severely punished for disobeying God. That said, in the end God in His word described David as “a man after My own heart.” I’m not comparing anyone currently running for political office to David. What I am saying is that perhaps, just perhaps, we need to back off a little bit, stop demanding the perfection from others that we do not demand from ourselves, and attempt to see politicians and leaders as God sees them, not as we see them.
Where is our faith? Why are we not believing that God can work the same miraculous healings, empowerment and guidance in the lives of others that He has done our own lives? When will we start praying for our leaders, and praying that God will bring powerful witnesses into their lives? Perhaps even ourselves? When will we start remembering that politicians, too, are people?
We would all be better off if we stopped looking at politicians with a jaundiced eye and started looking at them through the eyes of Jesus. People will disappoint us again and again, even as we disappoint ourselves and each other again and again. However, even as God can pick us up and put us back on the right path, He can do this for others. Even as we can be led by the Spirit, so can others. And that includes the current slate of candidates running for the office of the president of the United States of America.