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)?”