Love and politics seem like an oxymoron, right? Most of our political conversations in the United States as displayed in media are more about taking sides rather than trying to find common ground, hating the person whose opinion differs from our own rather than choosing to agree to disagree. And then we have the political campaigns that are drenched in dragging one’s opponent through the mud and seeing how much dirt one can dig up to discredit their candidacy. So, when I heard Marianne Williamson, spiritual leader, writer, speaker and author of the words, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same,” was running for president I could hardly believe it. I wondered how she was going to survive amidst the “food fights” and the slinging mud. How was she going to rise above the mayhem that is our political zeitgeist? My skepticism or rather concern assuaged when I began to listen to her talks on the campaign trail and even more as I began reading her book, Healing the Soul of America. Here was a candidate for the first time in my life, who was not backing down from addressing the deep-rooted issues that keep the United States of America from living out her highest ideals: democracy, equality and equity, liberty and the ability to pursue happiness (not at the expense of another’s happiness and freedom).
Williamson, in her book and also on the campaign trail acknowledges the United States’ history of exploitation of other nations and those indigenous to this land, people of African descent brought over through the Transatlantic Slave Trade, immigrants who have sought a new life in this nation and citizens of this nation that find themselves in the lowest economic bracket. While lifting the lid off of what some in this nation would rather keep covered, she holds out hope. Hope that if we as a nation truly repent for the ways we have been oppressors, complicit in oppression and silent about the oppression of others and seek to restore broken communities that languish behind because of systems of injustice, healing for this nation could begin to take place. How is that for a political strategy?
Some may see such a strategy as naïve and impossible, given that greed and pride run deep in this nation’s veins. Who wants to give up power, wealth, or prestige? Who wants to admit they are unfairly benefitting from a system designed to keep certain people from having a seat at the table: a teenage boy who is now homeless after revealing his sexual orientation to his family, an immigrant child in an overcrowded detention center, a black man driving home at night, a black woman who is struggling trying to make ends meet for her family, a kid locked up for selling marijuana (the same substance that’s now being sold legally in some states). Who is willing not just to bring change within the system but to change the system all together? This takes great courage. So, what would a political system based upon love and not fear, hatred, or greed look like?
I believe Jesus in Luke’s gospel gives us a glimpse when he depicts Jesus in the synagogue opening the scroll to the Prophet Isaiah and reading:
“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD (Luke 4:18).
It seems to me that this would be a system privileging those who have been marginalized: the poor, the captives, the blind, the oppressed. Would you be willing to work towards the establishment of such a political system?
For those who seek to live according to Jesus’ teachings, can you say this is the litmus test by which you make your decisions about who you will cast your vote for, or what policies you support? If not, what is your guide and how does your standard promote or deter from Jesus’ mandate to, “Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31)?”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain undeniable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is included in The Declaration of Independence (US 1776.)”
The truth is the world got it wrong. Something that God quickly began to teach me as I attempted to watch the well-known movie The Pursuit of Happiness. As we embark on what is easily the most hostile election year to date, it is evident we need to pursue what Jesus instructed from the first day of his ministry. We need to pursue the Kingdom of God.
As Christians, too often we associate ourselves and our circumstances with the pursuit of things that make us happy or feel good. This takes us away from the purpose of God in our lives. Happiness by definition comes from the root word, hap – which means luck, chance, or fortune. This sets the way to create an idol in our lives, one that causes us to focus on the pleasures of life and the circumstances that surround them. Take note this is something God clearly speaks about in Isaiah 65:8-12. This is even true when it comes to the election and voting for a person who makes you feel good, or even secure and happy, not necessarily what lines up with the will of God.
Does that mean that God’s will is for us to never be happy? By no means. Quite the opposite in fact. God wants us to be happy. Jesus preaches it very much so in Matt 5:3-12 commonly known as the beatitudes. Take note, however, this sermon is preached as characteristics for those who have entered into the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17). ‘Blessed’ in Greek means happy and in Aramaic means prosperous. What does that mean for us? It means that in order to be really happy (blessed), we need to pursue God and His Kingdom. Deeper than that, seeking God, staying in His will, produces joy, and that is something that is not dependent on circumstances, it is indwelling and solely dependent upon God.