After tomorrow it will all be over. By “all” I think I mean the election, but who knows… The campaign has the feel of a Netflix binge watching drama – with everything slipping out of control. Chaos, “fsociety” sort of way…
On some level I have been watching and reading too much. Movies and television are filled with images of dystopia. Then social media is in the habit of translating that dystopia into today’s reality. In a way I start to believe that false reality. Today’s election feels like a crisis moment. We are afraid. But, no matter tonight’s result, tomorrow America is not going to turn into Haiti.
Some of our fears are justified. If we were each honest we could give a long list of troubles even for our preferred candidate (unless you wrote in someone’s name). But at the core the candidates are not the problem. At the core is the answer to the question: How did we end up with such candidates?
“Everyday we change the world. But to change the world in a way that means anything, that takes more time than most people have.” – Mr. Robot 1
It is not just elections that are broken – our world is broken. But in typical fashion we don’t see the problem in ourselves. As past generations, we place the blame somewhere else. They might refer to the spiritual (the Devil and God), we believe we have moved past such archaic ideas. In our understanding the powers which lord over us have become systemic, rather than spiritual. One might rail against corporations or the NRA or the uneducated, another may rail against the government or PETA or immigrants.
Excluding the people groups – there is some truth to this belief. Evil is active. In my understanding it is both systemic and spiritual (I am still a little archaic). The founders were wise to set checks and balances. Not just for branches of government, but for all parts of society. Economy regulated by the government. Free press investigating the politicians. The civil courts providing recourse for the injured. On and on our system goes – supposedly working seamlessly. 2
These branches of these systems are so apparent, because they are ever reaching. In these systems individuals can feel powerless. But at the root of every institution is people. Not just leadership, but countless individuals. Each person feeding into the many branches.
Each person changing the tree.
Most of us do not take this responsibility seriously. Unless we control one of the branches – as a politician or corporate executive or through wealth – we see ourselves as powerless to create change. So we seek something/one to create change for us. We believe individual actions don’t matter. That we can’t change anything. So we join the flow of the very thing we rail against…
Rather than find a way to live out the change we desire.
I wrote that we won’t wake up tomorrow and be Haiti. This is true. It does not matter if Donald or Hillary or Gary or Jill or Evan or my dad or even you are elected. I was referring to living in sheds with no electricity or clean water… that is not going to happen. But the good part of Haiti won’t happen either. Amidst destruction and need of our recent mission trip, we found a lot of joy. A rocky dirt space and a basketball became a soccer game. Tinfoil and string became a kite. Old plastic bottles, with caps for wheels, became cars. Their joy was not just among the children. The adults were always laughing and talking. Sharing. Always together.
It was hard for me to imagine their joy with so few possessions… I suspect they could not imagine joy in our world with so few relationships.
Relationships – loneliness – is at the core of our struggle. If we would simply know one another. More than that, if – as Christ commands – we would love one another. If you and I would take this seriously. If we would make the time to live it out …
My Friend in Iraq, Jeremy, started the Preemptive Love Coalition. The organization wrote a blog about how family can Wage Peace on Election Day. It was simple acts – thank you’s and cookies. But imagine acting this out in your neighborhood. Rather than envisioning a meteor taking out the opposition, picture taking cookies to your neighbor with the opposition’s yard sign… “thank you for voting”.
If we took Jesus seriously… He commands us to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to love our neighbor. Together with loving God, to love our neighbor is the greatest commandment. “All the law and prophets hang on these” (Mt. 22:40). I suspect all the world hangs on this command and if we would live it out everything would change.
Even our politics.
1 Meg and I just watched the first season of Mr. Robot. I am a fairly sensitive soul, there are some troubling parts, fast-forwardable. So I am not sure I would recommend the series. At the same time the show is clever, and it captures a feeling that technology has left us out of control – or in someone else’s control. It also captures this election, that we have lost control and how some are willing to do anything because of the loss.
2 The Church is crucial in the system. But it should not be one of the branches of the system. The church is not an institution, so much as individuals living the Way of Christ. When the church begins to act as an institution – wielding the authority of government or control – it has lost its way. The Way of Christ is the path of the cross. The path of sacrifice and love. The path of grace and fellowship. The church is not top down, but among the people. We feed the root of the system – and in love everything is purified.