By Aaron Visser
In the sign-off of his special on election night on Showtime, amidst the jocularity and satire, Stephen Colbert said some pretty thoughtful and sobering things about this most recent election. At one point, he compared politics to things like poison and gambling: too much of either, and you end up regretting it. If you haven’t seen the video, I encourage you to go find in on Youtube.
His comments caused me to contemplate further. I began to think of politics as a medicine we are required to take. If we wholly ignore it, refusing to take our pills, we will nsuffer the ill effects, and we end up sick and weak, sometimes even succumbing to death. An uninformed, apathetic people will eventually give up their rights in exchange to “not be bothered” by the difficulties of governing and managing such a large and diverse group of people.
But it we take too much, we end up overdosing, and the results can be equally as disastrous.
Honestly, I think we overdosed this time. I know I did. It was too in your face, and, may I dare say it, mattered too much? I can’t even count how many articles I read, Facebook posts I glanced at, and campaign commercials I ignored. It was 15 months of hatred, fear, arrogance, attack, and mockery. And it was right there, sprawled before us the entire time to be consumed at an almost pornographic level.
Yes, the issues concerned were and are incredibly important: There is a racial divide in this county that needs to be addressed much more effectively than it has. The growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor is very problematic. The effects of global warming on our earth is nothing short of alarming. All these issues, along with others, are important and need to be addressed. But is politics really the only option?
When discussing this, my wife reminded me of the famous quotation by Gandhi: Be the change you wish to see in the world. So simple, yet so profound.
Over the past four years or so, I felt a pressure, and I’m not sure from where, to be more politically involved. I thought that to truly live into my duty as a citizen and a human, I had to really care about the political process. Now it is only too late that I realized that I overdosed.
Thankfully, I have not succumbed. But I am still recovering.
I still want change. Desperately. But I am not going to put politics on a pedestal. I’m not going to judge my contribution as a citizen on my level of political savvy. From now on, I want to take responsibility for my actions rather than delegating that responsibility to others, and I want to try to be the change I want to see in the world. I am going to focus more of my efforts not in who or what I vote for; or what causes or party I align myself with; but rather if I can truly and simply be the change I want to see in the world.
I can’t help but think of Jesus and the political climate of his day, which was more volatile than anything we have seen in this country since the Civil War. In scripture, we see a Jesus who is aware of the political situation. But Jesus himself remains separate, distinct from the all the different political leanings of the times.
He was zealous, but he was no Zealot.
He respected the Law, but he was no Pharisee.
He cooperated with Rome, but he was no Sadducee.
He lived counter-culturally, but he was no Essene.
He is Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords. And his is a Kingdom that operates outside and above all others. If anyone became the change he desired to see in the world, it was Jesus. So much so that he gave his life for the change he desired.
It is to this Kingdom, and this Kingdom alone, that my allegiance lies. It is a Kingdom built on a foundation of love and sacrifice, not military might or economic security. And it is in this Kingdom alone where I find the grace, mercy, love, and peace I so desperately desire for this world.
So yes, I will still be informed about politics and continue to take the pill of democracy as needed. But I will never again overdose.
Aaron Visser is Associate Pastor of Jacob’s Well Church Community in Evergreen Park, IL.