I don’t like who this election is pushing me to become.
I don’t like the phone calls I’ve been getting.
I don’t like the mailings I’ve received.
I don’t like the unrequested DVDs I’ve received in the mail.
I don’t like the voter guides “they” wanted me to pass out in my congregation.
I don’t like the fear mongering or the name-calling.
But most of all,
What I like even less than all of that, is who it’s making me become.
What I mean is, earlier today I sent a guy packing from our church office.
We have a door chime that lets us know when someone walks in the front door. I heard his footsteps in the hall outside, and as I turned to see who it might be, my heart sunk and my stomach rose at the same time.
Not that I knew him. But sometimes you just know, intuitively, exactly what to expect.
He walked in, asking if I was the pastor (a question I’ve come to hate for reasons I’ll leave for a different post). He carried himself differently than the people who ask for help. He was dressed professionally, it was the end of the workday, and his question to me combined to tell the story I didn’t want to be true.
See, in churches, we don’t get too many salespeople. Neither do we get Jehovah’s witnesses or Mormon missionaries.
We tend to get Christians with agenda to push.
I glanced down at the packet of material he had with him…and something inside of me finally snapped.
I’m just so tired of being told how to steer this flock.
I’m tired of being thought of as an extension of one party, just because of my position as pastor.
I’m tired of feeling used.
I’m tired of the hype.
I’m tired of the coercion.
I’m tired of the same old conversation that pretends like the current election is the most pivotal moment in global history since…since…the last one, I guess.
I’m tired of the demonizing and the billions spent on self-promotion while so many go without so much in our world.
So I snapped.
And to clarify, me snapping…is like most people speaking their mind.
I gave him the chance to tell me who he was and who he was with, and then I basically sent him packing.
He asked me if I had received the voter guides his organization had sent to us.
I told him yes, we had.
And then I went on to tell him that we recycled them, that we weren’t passing any political literature out in church, and that we’re not taking a partisan side in the current election cycle.
He handed me his packet and then he left.
I don’t think he even said goodbye.
And now I’m all worked up.
I’m sure I spoke nicely. I’m sure I wasn’t as rude as I remember myself being.
But still, that’s not me.
There’s no reason I shouldn’t have invited him to have a cup of coffee with me. After all, that’s one reason we have a pot ‘on’ most of the time. “Tell me what this is all about,” I should have said over a steaming mug while I put him at ease in our church library.
Then maybe…just maybe…we could have had a conversation about politics, faith, and the intersection of the two.
Just maybe both of us could have had our minds opened to ways of thinking we hadn’t considered before.
But instead I sent him packing.
Instead of both our minds being opened and a conversation beginning…I’m pretty sure both of us are more entrenched in our ways of thinking now than we were before we met.
I saw him through my office window on his way out.
He wasn’t smiling.
See, entrenchment is pretty much the only thing elections are good for. That’s exactly why we all get so much negative crap from so many sources.
Because if and when a campaign can strike a chord within you…when they can push your buttons enough that you eventually snap…that’s exactly when you’ve played right into their hands.
Just like I did.
Because when you get to a certain point, you begin to react instead of respond.
And reactions are what get people elected.
Can you imagine how the election cycle would look differently if thoughtful, measured, and careful response was a prerequisite for voting?
Can you imagine how differently campaigning would be done if the candidates appealed to reason rather than reaction?
Let me put it another way.
After this interaction, I heard somebody come inside the church again. All kinds of people come and go from our building all week long. It’s seldom a reason for fear.
But after my interaction with this guy, the thought crossed my mind “uh-oh…what if he came back with a gun, or a bat, or just wanted to teach me a lesson?”
(thankfully it was just the chair of our church council)…but such are the times we live in.
Invoking that kind of fear is what elections are good for. They turn members of the same Body against each other.
They focus on reaction, not response.
So as we inch closer to November 6…may we all remember that our identity, our hope, and our salvation are found only in Jesus, whose response to the political chest-thumping of his own day can be found in the cross he bore…for me, for you, for Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and even their outspoken supporters and opponents.
God save us. Every one.