The above is from my brother’s Facebook page, and okay, I admit it; I occasionally stalk him on Facebook. His privacy settings allow me to see his page and posts without being his Facebook “friend.” We aren’t Facebook “friends” because we aren’t, well, friends at all. I’ve written a fair bit about my troubled family (of origin) history on this blog; so you can catch up on that in prior posts if interested. Of course I’ve written more about my parents, however; suffice it to say that my (half) brother and I don’t agree about much. Our disagreement is more than political and our falling out has much to do, in fact, with the drama that occurred surrounding my dad’s death. Perhaps I’ll write more about that another time. To go back to politics, though; he is, to use his term above, “mixed up” in the Tea Party and all things “conservative,” while I am obviously not. Ironically, he thinks I’m the one “mixed up” in something, apparently. Am I?
Certainly I have a point of view. I think there should be a government based “social safety net.” I think this is necessary because the “Church” so routinely fails to actually be the Church by loving folks so effectively through meeting their practical needs and working for change that poverty and related problems are greatly reduced, if not eliminated. I think we should “welcome the stranger” and I recognize that we whites of European descent are strangers in this land; we’re invaders, usurpers, and responsible for genocide and wholesale oppression, historically. I am, I hope, consistently pro-life, which for those who don’t know means that I not only support life in the womb and am therefore opposed to its destruction (or “termination”), I also support life on the battlefield and on Death Row. I oppose violence of any kind and so oppose war and capital punishment. I also support the programs and institutions (the social safety net I spoke of above, like “welfare,” Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, etc.) that make it possible for women in difficult circumstances to “choose” something other than abortion, and I do not judge them, I hope, for whatever caused them to become pregnant in the first place. This is a “consistently” pro-life approach, I contend. As a would-be Christ-follower, I believe God created the earth “good” and ultimately means to redeem not only us but it; so I contend that our care for creation should start now, that we should stop exploiting and degrading the earth and poisoning the environment we all share. Hence, for all these reasons, and likely more, my outlook is one that aligns more closely with what is thought of as a “liberal” agenda.
However, I am not a “blind loyalist.” As should be clear to anyone who reads this blog, I am deeply disappointed in the Obama administration. I helped elect him the first time because I deeply opposed the indefinite detention without charge or due process of anyone, whether they were citizens of the U.S. or not; so I hoped the President would, indeed, close Gitmo. Though he has made an attempt to do so, that attempt has utterly failed, and instead of closing it, the President has signed into law a policy that would extend this heinous practice of indefinite detention without due process and apply it to U.S. citizens even. I oppose war, especially those with dubious justification, poor planning, that are fought by a small percentage of the population, and those that are financed via “the nation’s credit card.” While the President has sought to “wind” the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan “down,” he has greatly expanded the use of drones to assassinate not only suspected militants but also their family, friends, and associates, their neighbors and children, those who come to mourn them at funerals, and far too many innocent bystanders too. As Glenn Greenwald so brilliantly argued, such “targeted killings” only perpetuate and (I would say) even increase the “terror” they’re supposed to prevent. They are, in fact, terror. In our use of drones to rain down death from the sky on combatants and children alike, we’re the terrorists. We also expose ourselves to a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences that we can’t begin to fathom. We’re ahead of the rest of the world in the use of drones and drone technology now, but not for long. How long before we’re the recipients of “death from the sky,” instead of the perpetrators? I opposed the Bush administration’s civil rights encroachments, such as warrantless wiretapping and much of the Patriot Act, all in the name of “safety.” Sadly, however, the Obama administration has only expanded these practices and further codified them to the point that every electronic communication is likely captured and stored, if not actively monitored by some dystopian sci-fi machine.
I was so glad to be part of history in electing the first Black President, and I not only like the President personally but agree with much of his rhetoric. But I am not so blind or partisan as to be unaware of the sharp contrast between his words and actions, and I will not sit idly by because what I believe to be evil is now perpetrated by someone I happen to “like.” I’ve hoped, for some time now and usually in vain, to find a voice that more truly reflects my status as a Christ-follower, as a disciple, as a citizen of God’s kingdom. As Jen Hatmaker so ably put it (so ably that I’ve quoted her many, many times):
Politics are rife with power-plays, hypocrisy, corruption, agendas, contradictions, good platforms, bad platforms, men and women who love their country, men and women who’ve lost their moral compass, good policy, dangerous policy…in the red and blue camps alike. That any believer imagines a political platform will either usher in or threaten the kingdom of God is worse than dramatic; it is unbelief.
No president can take the Kingdom out of our hearts. No candidate can steal what Jesus has already won. As the Kingdom came, so will it continue – not through Empire but through radical, subversive faith. It cannot be shaken, it cannot be removed. It lives and breathes through the work of Jesus on the cross, not the position of any human on the throne. Nor can any man in the sphere of government ever represent the comprehensive gospel of Christ. Never. He may reflect elements, but rest assured, those tenets will be contradicted elsewhere in his platform.
Our faith and outrage and hope and trust is misplaced in any leadership model other than Jesus’, who resisted all earthly power and position and rejected any political identification:
The last shall be first.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
My kingdom is not of this world.
The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.
Jesus’ subversive teaching taught his followers to shame and expose the evils of political oppression by audacious acts of humility, not through bedding down within the system.
So maybe I am “mixed up in it,” but hopefully not in the way my brother believes. I hope to be “mixed up in” the hard, dirty work of fighting for change, and carrying that (nonviolent, Lord willing) fight to all- conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat- who inflict suffering of any kind on their neighbor, whether local or global.
Having said that, I’m also intrigued by the argument my brother and his “friends” apparently agree with that their side in the conservative/liberal debate uses “facts” and is vindicated by them, while the other apparently does not. I see this as peculiarly ignorant, and therefore dangerous. Again, as Glenn Greenwald at least begins to argue in the article I linked to in my last post, in this Orwellian time we now inhabit, there may not be any “facts” anymore, at least not any independent ones (and I admit, perhaps there never were). Paradoxically, the internet age has given us access to more information than ever before; yet for all our knowledge, there seems to be little wisdom to be had. The sheer amount of information we can access is so overwhelming that we must rely on others to parse and interpret it for us, or at least we are strongly inclined to. There are so many “facts” out there that any that are used to support one side of any argument can be readily opposed by other, countervailing “facts.” Likewise, the meaning of any one set of facts is always subject to interpretation. One set of numbers can be made to mean a variety of things, depending on the context one uses or does not use and the interpretive filter brought to bear on the information. So it’s not so simple, and in “fact,” I would say it’s impossible to state resolutely that “we use facts and they don’t.” Instead, it’s more accurate to say that “we have our (interpretation of the) facts and they have theirs,” even if the facts in question are, in “fact,” the same.
So, this “Orwellian” moment places a great deal of pressure on the “interpretive filter” one uses that I spoke of above. I would hope, then, that mine is a good one. Hopefully it’s not colored by fear or shame, by scarcity or nostalgia for a better yesterday that never actually existed. As one who seeks to follow Christ, I hope the filter through which I see the world is marked by love- love for God, for humanity, and for God’s good earth. I hope I do indeed “esteem others as better than myself” and so seek laws and policies that insure their well-being. I hope I remember that no amount of “safety” for me and mine is worth the absolute lack of it for so many others around the world. I hope the only facts that ultimately matter in my life are that I had a chance to love my (again, local and global) neighbor as myself, and I wasted no opportunity to do so.