Don’t throw in the towel on politics yet

Nov 4, 2014 by

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There are plenty of reasons for cynicism or disillusionment with government in general, and electoral politics in particular. However, before throwing in the towel, I recommend reading, “Ten Things You Should Know Before Voting (Or Deciding Not To),” by John Atcheson, and “Rev. William Barber’s New Book Reminds Us Why We Must Vote,” by Terrance Heath.

In my own view, working for change through the political system is certainly not the only thing we must do foster a more just and peaceable society. It is, however, one important facet among the many ways we can affect a complicated world. By disengaging from the political process, we are essentially doing our part to give society over to the dominant statuesque, which today is an increasingly influential corporate oligarchs.

To view political engagement as the equivalent of paying homage to a military industrial Moloch ignores the fact that the political system is not some monolithic structure. There are a plethora of people and departments on all levels — from those that faithfully serve the public good to those who are totally in bed with giant corporations, and everything in-between.

And neither is the Church monolithic. Individual Christians, churches and their institutions vary wildly. Some are self serving and in it for the image. While others faithfully love and serve their own faith communities in addition to working at transformation of society toward justice and peace — all with little or no recognition.

It’s messy whatever way we shovel the barnyard. We can choose to wash our hands and bind ourselves to perfectionist ideations with the illusion that we can stand pure and untainted outside the fray. Or, we can roll up our sleeves, put on our boots and take responsibility for our part in society.

If we claim that Jesus is Lord of all aspects of life, then we can’t limit Jesus to being our personal savior. There are social and political aspects to Jesus’ work as well. The kingdom of God shines wherever love, justice and peace are nurtured and blossoming in personal lives. It shines where these are evident in the structures with which we humans choose to organize ourselves.

If we peel away all the secular and political layers of society, we would not be left with the kingdom of God as some select group singing praises around the altar and demonstrating mutual aid, shining a light from our hill to a corrupt and depraved world to see and hopefully be converted.

The kingdom of God is more like an onion. If you peel away all the layers where truth and justice and mercy are found, nothing is left. That’s because, it’s in the layers! After all, don’t we serve a God who chose to be incarnate in the muck of the world, not as some holy transcendent “other”? Or, not as some holy man with a halo in a temple?

It may seem a purer endeavor to prepare relief kits for refugees than to engage in the complicated and messy politics of legislation and policy that relate to war making and fossil fuel dependency. But ever-so-slight shifts away from these addictions can have enormous impact — the difference between life and death sometimes for vast numbers of people as well as for imperiled creation itself.

Yes, politics are messy. But we delude ourselves if we think we aren’t already connected and part of the mess. It’s what we do with it that matters.

Wendell Wiebe-Powell attends Fellowship of Hope Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Ind., where he works as a caregiver for persons with disabilities and is involved in local peace and justice activities.


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