Politics As Usual?

I just read where Lynn Swann is going to run for governor of Pennsylvania. Yes… the same Lynn Swann that was a wide receiver for the Steelers. His fundraising efforts have even been dubbed, “Team 88.” My childhood football hero might become a state governor. I guess it’s no different than a former wrestler or movie star being elected.

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff is in the news, too – and his scandal threatens to take down several congressmen. As if Congress didn’t already have enough trouble, with Bill Frist and Tom Delay both in trouble for other woes. Many are predicting a voter backlash as a result. But it turns out that some of the same top lobbyists (in terms of money) for Republican causes also turn out to be some of the same top lobbyists for Democratic causes. For tobacco producers, health care, communications and electronic industries, and the like, they’re always going to give to both to insure they gave to a “winner.” That proves to me that it’s more about protecting one’s assets to them. It’s far from simple, but the motive is fairly basic: we elect who will be best for us. That may or may not be the best for the country as a whole.

Political woes are nothing new, and they’re not confined to one political party. Bush (George the elder) and “no more taxes.” Newt Gingrich and broken promises to country and his wife (family values?). Reagan and Iran-Contra. Clinton with questionable campaign money raised and Zippergate. I used to be passionate about politics. Now, I’m no longer a Democrat or a Republican – I’m a Cynic (I checked Commonweath law, and there’s no such designation, so I’m an Independent on the books). I drag myself to the polls and feel soiled after voting. Some say you have to pick the lesser of two evils, but the lesser of two evils is still evil.

Years ago I heard Will Willimon (now Bishop Willimon) preach a sermon about rendering to Caesar, voting, and our faith. I found myself in agreement with most of his sermon, and it got me to thinking: if a Christian votes, how does he or she do it with Christian integrity? What receives priority: our Christianity or our American citizenship? Can we separate our faith and our politics? When given a choice, do we elect an inept president who is moral, or do we elect a president of questionable morals but an effective leader? Some say it is akin to a surgeon who is going to operate on your child; you could care less what kind of life the surgeon lives, you just want the best surgeon in the world to be operating on your kid. Others say that moral fiber is essential to national leadership. Hmmmm.

If the latter is true, politics and governing has got to change. It’s an old song, I know. But I think it’s a song that needs to be sung until the harmony sounds good. We shouldn’t settle for status quo faith; neither should we settle for politics as usual. I'm with Jim Wallis - we need politics to have a soul.

Render to Caesar… but be sure you render to God what is God’s.