Politics and change

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I’ll admit that I’m a political junkie. I’m rather addicted to the news about campaigns, especially presidential ones.

But this year I have begun turning off the news because it all makes me kind of sick to my stomach. The incivility of it all, and on both sides of the political spectrum, doesn’t seem to me to be in line with my expectations of political leaders whether they are insiders or outsiders.

Perhaps that makes me part of the establishment that has been the object of so much railing and wailing. Being civil to one another in the midst of debate has lost its advantage. The art of debate used to depend heavily on civility. Apparently it does not anymore. I miss that. That might make me part of the establishment. Unfortunately, I see the high level of incivility among the establishment as well.

This lack of civility has been encouraged by not only the politicians themselves but many if not most of their supporters. It has been aggravated by an irresponsible news media hungering for attention themselves and, therefore, reporting every tidbit, every nuance of boorishness they can find. Indecorum hasn’t been hard to find over the last eight or nine months. Ordinarily civil public servants have found themselves drawn in, giving in to the fray in an effort to get some attention for themselves while they have otherwise been ignored. But if a person, public servant or not, has not previously given up a wit of concern for respect for all people regardless of their beliefs and ethnicity, throwing themselves into the discourteous fray will, without doubt, backfire on them. Either they sell their souls for a piece of the action, or they can’t live with themselves (or their families can’t live with them) for falling into the pit of loutishness.

That is the state of this country and its Congress. We have become an unseemly lot. It is not an attractive quality.

Over the past few months and even weeks, there has been increased speculation on the part of political pundits regarding contested conventions on the part of both Democrats and Republicans (although last night’s outcome in New York may have made such a consequence more doubtful for the Dems). The question raised over and over again is whether the individual parties can ultimately stand together in order to get their eventual nominee elected. There have been threats on the part of at least one candidate to bolt his party entirely and run as an Independent or to sue it for unfair rules, thereby increasingly threatening the ability to defeat the Democrat nominee. An ego that seems to know no bounds believes it can run independently of the party machine and still come up the victor.


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There’s no doubt that there are vastly differing ways that individual states elect their delegates to both Republican and Democratic conventions. And there’s no doubt that how that process is accomplished needs to be assessed and revamped if the parties are to survive. That truth has become glaringly obvious in this election cycle. Changing the means the political parties do business has to be done. Doing it at this point in time is absurd, however, and it should be addressed as soon as the November election is over.

But last night I heard former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani reiterate the Politician’s Creed: “Whoever is the Republican nominee is the person for whom I will vote because I am a Republican.”

Through history, that has been the rule rather than the exception. Both Democrats and Republicans have sworn allegiance to their party contender, thus putting aside their differences in order to unite each of the political parties against each other. There’s nothing odd about what Giuliani said. And, regardless of who would appear to be the nominee now, the picture can still change dramatically. Even in the Democratic Party process.

But I heard something in what Giuliani said last night, in what has been said over and over again in this election cycle and through history, that struck an even deeper tremble of prophecy for me.

“Whoever is the Republican (or Democrat) nominee, I will support because I am a Republican (or Democrat).”

That’s the same stick-in-the-mud mentality that has threatened the main-line churches in this country for decades. And it’s the same stick-in-the-mud mentality which has ignored the fact that people and cultures change over time. It demands that people fall into line with a mind-think that is not their own.

Contrary to decades of history, most people don’t identify themselves as members of a particular denomination anymore. Just as we used to make assumptions about people based on their ethnicity, their family histories, their color, we used to make assumptions based on a person’s religious affiliation: Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist, United Church of Christ (Congregationalists), Baptists, Mennonites, Quakers, for example. With the exception of perhaps the Mennonites and the Quakers and their penchants for peace, we can’t make those assumptions anymore. Increasingly, people don’t want to join a particular denomination or be identified with it. If they consider themselves to be religious (and many increasingly don’t), and even if they attend a church and join it, they tend to believe what they want to believe regardless of what that denomination teaches. Many just don’t join churches at all anymore. Incivility in the church is just as ruthless if not more so than in politics.

We used to say, “Well, if the Presbyterians believe that, then I believe it because I’m a Presbyterian.” The Presbyterian Church, like so many other denominations, is dying.

There is coming a day very soon, and it may have already arrived, when people will no longer affiliate with a particular political party any more than they will with a church. The parties are dying too.

It may be that church and politics should not be mixed. But one can certainly learn from the other and from my perspective, they’re all losers. We’re all losers. The country is one big loser because people no longer demand respect from themselves or each other.

It all comes down to a matter of civility and being open to change.




Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

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