I fell for it again these last few weeks. And it hurt more people than I wish to admit.
You see, I’ve never voted. Not once. I don’t really care to get caught up in this person or that candidate. I find the notion silly that everything has to be pared down to only two options and neither have ever been that intriguing as long as I’ve been alive. Plus it always seems to divide and I have more interest in the day to day needs of the immediate world around me than to get caught up in Washingtonian debates.
Yet this year is different. Excitement (or fear) is in the air more than ever before. Where in previous years, nobody would bother talking about politics, now this year everyone is talking about it. My conservative parents are concerned about their liberal son. Friends and family are taking up the cause of the economy, the war, immigration and so forth. It’s not just a heightened awareness, but rather an emotional cacophony of concern and protest.
I fell for it. I have my favorite candidate. I have those candidates that I truly cannot stand. I have read more books on politics in the last few months than my previous 31 years of life (of course, that’s not fair to count years 0 – 8 since the Hardy Boys held my interest during those formative years). I daily check my international news blogs and sites since I don’t trust our American media. I nurture endless conspiracy theories in my head and try to build my case against ‘the other side.’
Then I unleash that torrent on other people. I take pride in my own stance and scoff at the platforms of others. In my mind there is a clear way to see things and if you don’t agree with me, then I believe ‘you’ve been duped’ by media or political spin tactics and the like. And, ultimately, unless you’re with me, then you’re against me.
The worst part is that, in this process, I have lost the ability to love. I don’t love my neighbor. I make fun of my neighbor. I don’t get to know my brother. I stand in shock of my brother’s beliefs. I have allowed concepts and ideals and issues to take the place of loving and serving and geniune relationship.
And I hate it.
The worst moment came when I received a ridiculous forward. I hate email forwards as it is, but this one struck a major nerve – much more so than the dancing bear who tells me to hug 10 people today. It was some notion about Obama being a closet muslim just wanting to take over our country by deceiving the masses. It was a “this guy is the Anti-Christ” email and I flipped.
I made sure I wrote back the entire list rather than just this girl. And I trashed her. I totally trashed her. I wrote over-the-top remarks about how she was uneducated and simply propagating fear and political rhetoric. I told her she needed to think before she spoke and that she was irresponsible and childish and naive and that her candidate was the one to fear.
In the end, I spoke harm to her instead of love. I spoke death to her instead of life, and I looked like an ass when I did it.
Endless people wrote back berating me for writing what I did and the way that I did it. And I knew it. I knew I had embraced mere principles over the humanity around me. And I knew that’s the very opposite of what Jesus calls us to do.
The truth is that there is no hope in principles or issues. There is no hope in politics, world leaders, policies or government. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ candidate. There is only the hope of Jesus Christ. The only thing that remains is the grassroots gospel of a new humanity of people loving and serving and giving their lives so that God might increase and be known to others as they do so.
My prayer for myself and my brothers and sisters is that we don’t forget that this political season. In the panic of the economy, the war and our country’s future, I hope that we never let go of the person next to us for the sake of grabbing onto an ideal or a party ticket. It’s only in this way that our light will shine for the next couple months.
Matt Conner is the teaching pastor at Trinity Church in the heart of Indianapolis and the founder of Analogue Media.