this preacher, politics and culture

Politics is a field into which this preacher only warily wanders. It is so hard, these days, to be heard criticizing without being heard as partisan—and thus either having one’s comments either automatically accepted and approved or automatically denied and dismissed. Every now and then, it is critical for a preacher to try.

Within all that goes on in politics—even more within all affected by what goes on in politics, it might seem somewhat trivial, or even ludicrous, to focus on the aftermath of David Letterman having made a crude joke referring to Governor Palin’s daughter. Remember that? Last summer—back in June. (As warily as I wade into politics, it takes me a long time to figure out what and how and whether to say anything. Makes the quick turn around on the Supreme Court’s recent mistake exceptional!

As a pastor, a preacher, a Christian, a husband, the father of girls, I am appalled by what is deemed acceptable in our culture. Not just on late night television and in commercials and advertisements for late evening shows shown during hours when children are watching, but also in the basic premises of all too much of children’s programming in the popular media, and in the toys—the ideas and the ideals marketed to our most impressionable ones. And it’s not funny, but crude, at best—exploitative, perverted, and dangerously soul-shaping, at worst. That said, I’m not sure why to blame David Letterman. He is not without responsibility, but as much as he may participate in the shaping of our culture, he is also a product of that culture … not to mention how entirely self-serving it seems for a politician to act the indignant victim of a culture that politicians, too, have played such an important role in shaping and then, in turn, being shaped by.

So what if—imagine—what if Governor Palin (then-Governor Palin) had instead—instead of playing victim—had instead said, “You know, Dave, I know I’m an easy target. I’m a polarizing public figure. I’m for the sanctity of marriage in a culture that doesn’t do marriage very well. I’m for sex within the commitment of marriage in a culture that is both excessively permissive and casual when it comes to sex. I have obviously failed in conveying my priorities to my own children as fundamentally as I wish I had. So, yes Dave, I’m an easy target. But I’m also sure, Dave, that you have no desire for your son to be brought up into a culture that cheapens men even as it devalues women. Do you? So what if we make a deal, Dave, you and I, to both think more carefully and more deeply about the core affirmations we hold dear and how our public roles sometimes support but also, and perhaps even more often, undermine those affirmations, to always bear in mind what our greater responsibility might be beyond our public roles, and to forego easy targets (because at this point, you’re an easy target too, Dave)—to forego easy targets for the infinitely more challenging targets that are the so many aspects of our status quo that, if we were to stop and think about them … if anyone were to just stop and think about them, are completely unacceptable. Deal, Dave? ”

Before casting blame (the easy target), assuming responsibility (a foreign idea to many for whom assuming responsibility simply means getting caught), and then, after assuming responsibility, accepting the challenge of participating in transformation. It’s an idea integral to the church—at least an idea that’s supposed to be integral to the church as I know and understand it. Confessing first, looking not out at others, but in, and committing always to the initiative of recreation. Would that we modeled it better ….

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2 thoughts on “this preacher, politics and culture

  1. Much is perpetrated in the name of greater freedom (pushing the envelope) without remembering that the foundation of that freedom is voluntary self-restraint (primarily just good manners.)

  2. so…I didn’t get a chance to speak to you after today’s worship service, but I greatly appreciate your willingness to raise some hard questions and to challenge us about choosing to live into our faith more intentionally – but as you quoted, “damn it sure is hard!” I often fear that I spend too much of my time trying to sustain and justify a lifestyle that falls far outside of what would be pleasing to God. I worry that I have allowed (participated in) my children to be more influenced by a materialistic and entitled society than by God’s requirement to love justice, do kindness and walk humbly. It’s not that we’re doing anything terribly wrong, and often we do many things right, but…is it enough? And how do I do more? That’s where I struggle.

    So, now, not only do I feel guilty about watching 24 (thanks to your message of 3 weeks ago!), I feel guilty about the clothes I bought yesterday (albeit at 50% off) and the wam house I live in, and the three cars that sit in my driveway, and the refrigerator full of food I just purchased, and, and, and….DAMN it sure is hard, but I’m glad to have a pastor like you and a community of faith that continues to raise the questions and surround me with a loving and supportive environment in which I can struggle with the tough stuff! Shall I call you when I can’t sleep tonight (or maybe I should just watch the replay of 24?) blessings!

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