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between Atlantic and Beach
Beach Haven, New Jersey 08008
Perhaps you're a visitor on Long Beach Island. Maybe you haven't been in Church for a while and would like to start back. Whatever is going on in your life, you are welcome at Holy Innocents. Your past affiliations don't mean nearly as much to us as your present affiliation with us.
Remember the guy who complained about the same sandwich in his lunch pail every day? When asked who packed his lunch, he replied: ”I do.” You see the problem…
National politics are important, and because politics are important, I am concerned by the cynicism about it I observe in other people. I am even more concerned- I am troubled- by the cynicism I observe in myself. It is cynicism I am loath to say is attributed to none other than George Wallace in 1968: “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans anyway.” There always has been and always will be dis-satisfaction with elected officials. There always has been and always will be corrosive advertising that preys upon fear and exploits prejudice for its own ends. There always has been and always will be vituperative, rude extremism in the public discourse. That said, I think the public discourse is at as low an ebb as ever I remember it in my lifetime.
Wallace’s remark speaks of exhaustion that comes when politicians and government are unresponsive to the electorate, and exhaustion that comes because those in authority are unresponsive to each other in any meaningful and productive way. Wallace’s 1968 remark illustrates what we see as well today- cynicism born of endless scandal, chronic distrust of elected officials, and ample evidence that, despite our hope and expectations, public servants are prone to be no less selfish and self-interested than anyone else. Scandal, dishonesty and greed have come to be expected norms; the anomie, disgust and contempt many people feel have been rightly earned by those for whom we feel it. Politics may not be an honourable profession in our generation, but it does matter- a lot. “Public service” may be an oxymoron at this point, but it hasn’t always been so, and that matters…a lot.
In spite of all that, Eleanor Roosevelt believed that not participating is “…cowardly evasion.” Mrs. Roosevelt was right on the mark. Even when there’s nothing else to take into the polling place, take your skepticism and doubt there, and have the courage to go on the record with it.
Uncritical thinking concerns me. Believing that moral truth derives from a majority, either liberal or conservative, is silly and it is dangerous. To embrace a populist mentality is to cheat, and not think critically. It is comforting to have one’s opinions confirmed- but that is all a majority is when you vote with it. A majority is not an automatic expression of the right.
Paul writes to the Church at Thessalonika: “Test all things, and hold fast to that which is Good.” This, from a well-educated citizen of the Roman Empire, who knew exactly the political cost of faithfulness. What an encouragement to critical thinking and prayerful reflection…a powerful antidote to corrosive advertising and ignorant mud-slinging.
We can do better. We do so when we repent of our Wallace-like cynicism. And we could do worse than hold hands with Paul and Eleanor as we enter the polling place…Eleanor calling us to the decision-point not just as our right but also as our duty, and Paul giving good and wholesome instruction about how to know what to do. Your government can’t tell you how to pray, but your prayers can and should tell your government how to act- this is the fundamental elegance of the 1st Amendment. These prompts are ours from our tradition as Americans and from our tradition as The Church.
Real Americans do vote-liberal or conservative- they DO vote. Real Christians do vote-liberal or conservative- they DO vote.
Enough. You know what to do. Love you. See you in Church. FBC3+