(The views I express on my blog are my own and they do not represent in any way the members of Trinity United Methodist Church or the United Methodist Church, okay?)
Our nation is in the middle of an "election cycle" (that is what the "talking heads" call it) and the volume just keeps getting louder and louder. Candidates from the fringe, or candidates who have grown desperate, are using their "outside voices" rather than their "inside voices" (these are phrases the mother of a 3-4 year old will understand). I think the rhetoric is dangerous.
During the last presidential election some people were questioning the patriotism of our current President. Which is a dangerous road to travel. Can't we disagree with someone on policy issues but respect the other person? Not take that next step and attempt to question their love for the republic or their character?
A local candidate for Congress has been accused, I saw in a banner ad on the internet last night, of promoting "anti-Christian causes." Billboards accuse him of promoting abortion. I know the man who is being attacked and he is a decent, hardworking man who is a Catholic Christian. And doesn't deserve to be "shamed" by billboards paid for by some Political Action Committee funded by folks we may never know. Down in Kentucky the Democratic candidate for Senator has brought up an incident that GOP-candidate Rand Paul was involved in as a college student more than 30 years ago, and the Democrat is suggesting Paul -a Presbyterian, I've been told- is somehow anti-Christian.
I worry for our country. Some politicans are deliberately playing to the fears and frustration of people. Much of that fear and frustration has been born of an economic recession that is severe. Policies at the national level, supported by both parties over multiple administrations, led up to the economic crash. As did personal decisions we all made to spend too much on the wrong things. But by pouring the gasoline of extreme rehetoric onto the fire of people's fears and anger and frustration politicans are damaging the country.
It is striking. In Exodus 16 the ex-slaves are marching across Sinai and they are scared. Don't see how they are going to be fed. So they turn on their leaders. They turn on Aaron and Moses. So it is. When people are scared they turn on their leaders. We want someone who can fix this -right now!
Here is what I long for: I long for thoughtful leaders of both political parties who will work together to solve the serious challenges facing our country. I long for political leaders who will work together for the common good and not be driven by a blind desire to make the other party look bad so they can "win" the next "election cycle." We're going to have get honest about crumbling infrastructure (including bridges, highways, neighborhoods and broken, dysfunctional families) and try new and creative solutions to things like the crisis in education. We're going to have to get honest about the price we are paying in Afghanistan and in not setting appropriate limits on well-meaning entitlement programs. We're all going to have to sacrifice so America can be strong, can be great, again. There will be no long-term gain without short-term pain.
My Grandpa Owen was a Republican politican who spent most of his working life as Chief Deputy Treasurer in the Indiana Statehouse. Bill Owen worked for -and was friends with- Democratic governors and state treasurers. He was also a fan of two strong political parties.
And I hear stories about how Democrat Representative Tip O'Neil would battle with President Reagan over policy questions and legislation, and then they would sit down together as friends for a drink.
America has been -and can be- a strong republic where courageous men and women work together for the good of the earth. I am praying we'll all turn down the volume. Disagree with one another on policies or philosophy but still respect one another as fellow citizens of a great nation. Let's turn down the volume. Let's respect one another. And let's view the more extreme claims of some candidates with a healthy dose of skepticism.