Monday, January 15, 2007

Be the America you want to see

Just finished a riveting book that my niece gave me for Christmas (thanks, Becca!). Anyone interested in both spirituality and politics should read it: Tempting Faith by David Kuo (now a blogger at beliefnet).

From the dust jacket:

Kuo came to Washington wanting to use his Christian faith to end abortion, strengthen marriage, and help the poor. He reached the heights of political power … Yet his experience was deeply troubling. … Instead of following the teachings of Jesus to serve the needy, Kuo found himself helping to manipulate religious faith for political gain.

Biting stuff, very behind-the-scenes and creepy. I even felt the overall book was bipartisan, in the sense that both parties do this kind of thing. Yeek.

The political debate is heating up here in the US. The next two years will be intense as we gear up for the presidential election. So this passage from Christian author C.S. Lewis, which Kuo quotes multiple times in his book, are worth a look in preparation. It's from The Screwtape Letters, where a powerful demon is instructing a novice on how to derail a Christian (and remember, Lewis was British).

Let him begin by treating patriotism … as part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely a part of the "cause," in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce … [O]nce he's made the world an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.

In many ways, Kuo's book answered for me why it is that everyone runs on the platform of helping the poor, but so few actually do so once in office. It sounds good, and the trusting voters believe they mean it. But politics and partisanship prevent real progress from happening for a diabolically myriad range of reasons.

Perhaps Christianity and politics are like oil and water—they just don't really mix. And sadly, it's the Christianity that becomes corrupt in the process of trying, rather than politics becoming uplifted.

Kuo's closing point is this: that we need to stop thinking of government as the source of all goodness. In other words, we need to take it on ourselves to be the change we want to see. In order to be a country that helps the poor, we need to be individuals who help the poor.

We should be involved in the political process. We should strive to make a difference with our volunteering and our votes. But you can't spiritualize a country from the top down. Actually making America kinder and gentler is the ultimate grassroots effort. And each of us is an essential blade of grass.

God has endowed man with inalienable rights, among which are self-government, reason, and conscience. Man is properly self-governed only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love. --Science and Health

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 1/15/2007 01:25:00 PM, Anonymous Emily said...

Reminds me of the elder Bush's "thousand points of light" and the habit Clinton had of inviting exceptional volunteers to his State of the Union addresses and singling them out as examples of what we all need to do.

You can't wait for a system that rewards materialism and selfishness to go out there and make sparks in the dark.

As Orwell put it: "If there was hope, it lay in the proles." That's all of us.

At 1/15/2007 06:31:00 PM, Anonymous Becca said...

You're welcome Laura! I'm so glad that you liked it.

You were definately right on. I love the title of this entry. Wouldn't it be amazing if we all did this? I can just imagine the strength that would come from us all being what we want to see (both in America and the world in general).


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