The Spiritual Landscape
Of Presidents and Prom Kings
They are all rich, haven't you noticed?
No one runs for president without being connected and wealthy. We are well beyond the age of rail-splitting truth-tellers turned president.
According to both Conventions, they had it harder than we think—or their parents did anyway. Their wives both love them (and they might both be brighter than their husbands—big surprise, that happens a lot). Both candidates care about us. They both have great speechwriters. They read teleprompters, modulate their voices, and make eye contact with the camera. They both have a politically correct ensemble of friends who are willing to speak on their behalf. And they both know actors from Hollywood.
To learn all of this stunningly predictable and utterly irrelevant information the two parties spent your money and mine at levels that make the combined income of both candidates appear insignificant.
Oh, snore! Wake me when the debate over facts, numbers, and issues begins—if and when that happens.
It is time to streamline and abbreviate the campaigns, strip as much money as possible from the electoral process. Focus on the debates. And impose severe term limits that eliminate the lifetime politician and dull the edge of special interests.
Let's make it possible for the citizen-statesperson to assume office for a brief tenure. Let's demand our leaders tell the truth, discuss the facts, and debate the issues. Let's make it clear that their efforts to manipulate our perceptions are utterly transparent and an obscene waste.
Polls aren't news. Market-tested language is the most elaborate form of lying out there. Likeability doesn't matter. Spin-doctors are not truth tellers or prophets. Sentimentality is the enemy of good government and justice. The politics of envy appeal to small mindedness and greed. Extravagant promises are the enemy of sound strategy. Simplistic answers are the enemy of sound policy.
I will begin to take our leaders seriously when the new normal isn't a message about how we should live, but is about a new style of leadership. We are not electing the prom king. We are electing a president.
Let's act like it, even if our leaders won't.
Frederick W. Schmidt is the author of The Dave Test: A Raw Look at Real Life in Hard Times (Abingdon Press: 2013) and several other books, including A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005) and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). He holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Job Institute for Spiritual formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and Consulting Editor at Church Publishing in New York. He and his wife, Natalie live in Chicago, Illinois. He can also be reached at: http://frederickwschmidt.com/