Monday, July 21, 2008

The Talking Points of Presumption

Politics and religion are the two great taboos of polite discussion. In the USA, as we inch toward voting for the Presidency political discussion becomes the regularly broken taboo. Heated opinions are tossed about on every street corner where people congregate, and restaurants become places to rest and rant.

Over the years I have been intrigued by the fact that every person living is an authority on religion. As a pastor for the last 23 years I have deep experience in understanding the Bible, studying the issues of religion and human interaction with things Divine. Yet, almost daily I meet people who believe their experience and understanding on these issues far exceed my own. Many of these people seldom deal with the issue of religion until it is time to fervently debate their own position. I typically smile during these encounters, considering that fervency is a better sign than nonchalance.

Politicians must have similar feelings when sitting at the table with the multitudes of political armchair quarterbacks. (Sorry for the decidedly American reference here - you'd have to watch American football.) These politicians have spent decades behind the scenes of this dance we call politics in which the balance of power among people, and the development of the laws of our lands is determined. They have seen the delicate maneuvers taking place. They have walked through the dilemmas, and felt the pressure of the "damned if we do, damned if we don't" scenarios. They have seen the dark underbelly of corruption, and the innocent idealism of those seeking the public good.

It seems to me that those of us who sit outside the halls of power easily describe our political opinions with the naivety typically reserved for idealistic teenage years.

We appear to know the hearts of the politicians we judge, and call them out as being (pick a popular epithet here) stupid, dishonest, corrupt, naive, morally bankrupt, indebted to special interests, or whatever host of other things we find reprehensible.

It is the common attack of the left upon the right in America to call out the opposition as stupid. It is the common attack of the right upon the left to call the opposition morally bankrupt. I find these talking points to be shallow arguments meant to win without significantly intelligent persuasion.

Quite frankly it sounds stupid to call a man who has risen to the pinnacle of world political power "stupid." The inanity of such a comment can not be understated. To call a person morally bankrupt or corrupt without having all the evidence on the table, and clear before us is in itself a corruption of the very principles of justice and mercy upon which Americans pride themselves as standing for.

The politics of presumption flow from the lips of those who call themselves spiritual as freely as polluted water, and so in this season of political change we are being called to a new kind of politic - the politics of grace.

I hope I have stepped on your toes. In a democratic union like the USA (not designed as a pure democracy by the way, but that is another topic) responsibility lies in the hands of every person - every voter. In a land of free speech our speech is of critical value, and if we follow the corrupt and stupid talking points, which frequently make the sound bites of daily news, we shall be responsible for our nation's rising stupidity and corruption. So I leave this thought with the words of someone older and wiser.

"But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

Check the post below for links to the other SynchroBloggers joining this discussion.


Anonymous said...

Way cool thoughts there Phil. It's interesting, because it is through my experiences of 'armchair' spiritual 'experts' that I have come to reconsider the position of politicians...that delicate manoeuvres in the background in the face of 'over-simplistic' demands from those outside. I've much more compassion for politicians now. :)



Pastor Phil said...


The world is full of armchair popes, and armchair presidents. Maybe someday it will be full of street gritty volunteers.

Anonymous said...

Good words.

From my perspective I find it funny that those with definite opinions (perhaps they register as a party member) think that other opinions/parties are significantly worse than their own. It's like all or nothing.

We can't rely on politicians to change the world and every political philosophy has good points and bad points. Good will come through democratic route as well as the republican. Bad will inevitably come through both as well.

The question that I'm most concerned with is "which presidential nominee will make the best leader". (atleast for today)

Pastor Phil said...


We can't rely on politicians to save the day?! Oh no. That's it I'm writing Ben Stein in for President. ;-)