There’s a story about a new, young preacher whose first sermon at his new parish was well received. The next week, he repeated the same sermon.
The people weren’t too worried. After all, he was young and probably nervous. They spoke among themselves, “We just need to encourage him,” which they did.
But when he repeated the same sermon on the third consecutive Sunday, the elders took him aside. “We understand that you’re young and new and inexperienced. What can we do to help you develop other sermons?”
The young preacher replied, “Oh, I have other sermons ready; and, as soon as I see evidence that you’ve heard this one, I’ll move on to the next one.”
Boy, Howdy! Have I been tempted to do the same thing!
There’s an issue before us as Americans and as citizens of the Earth, that needs to be addressed over and over and over. I’m not arrogant enough to believe I have the definitive Word on the subject, even though I have addressed it many times in this blog and in other venues.
This time I thought I’d broach the subject with a number of quotes from another, more influential source. Jim Wallis is founder of Sojourners, and edits and publishes Sojourners magazine. I abandoned a major writing project on the subject when I discovered Wallis’ writings, because he says exactly what I feel, and does so in a manner much less adversarial than my own efforts have been (ironically, my campaign against adversarial partisanism could not avoid adversarialism!)
Wallis’ passion, like my own, is for bipartisan collaboration for the common good. His presupposition, like my own, is that both the right and the left have important gifts to offer in the pursuit of the common good, and that the ideological warfare that has replaced civil debate is perhaps history’s greatest barrier to that common good.
The quotes that follow are from two of his books:
[Jim Wallis, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group) 2013.]
[Jim Wallis, Conservatives, Liberals and the Fight for America’s Future (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group) 2013.] This little book contains excerpts from On God’s Side, listed above.
I use a Kindle, which gives “Locations” instead of page numbers.
“The day after the 2012 presidential election brought a great feeling of relief. Most of us, no matter whether our candidates won or lost, were so weary of what elections and politics have become that we were just glad the process was over. Many were disappointed with how dysfunctional and bitterly partisan politics in Washington, DC, had undermined their deep desires for hope and change. Politics has severely constrained those possibilities by focusing on blame instead of solutions, and winning (ideological confrontations) instead of governing [italics and parenthetical mine]. … But the election results produced neither the salvation nor the damnation of the country, as some of the pundits on both sides seemed to suggest. Instead, they called us to go deeper.” [Opening words of the Preface of On God’s Side, Location 165].
* * *
“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” ~ Reinhold Niebuhr [from Conservatives, Liberals and the Fight for America’s Future, Location 39].
* * *
“I am a democrat [proponent of democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government… The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows…. I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.” ~ C. S. Lewis [from Conservatives, Liberals and the Fight for America’s Future, Location 44].
* * *
“Perhaps the greatest loss is to the common good—because I believe that both conservative and liberal insights and commitments are necessary for it to exist. In short, I am convinced that the common good requires us to be both personally responsible and socially just (italics his). These are the two best big ideas of conservatism and liberalism respectively.” [from Conservatives, Liberals and the Fight for America’s Future, Location 52.]
* * *
“The 24/7 news coverage today… doesn’t really “cover” the news but rather fuels the audience’s already-held prejudices about what is happening. Almost all of it is biased, much of it is distorted, some of it is just plain lies, and too much of it is downright hateful. Unfortunately, we are losing genuinely important ideas that the other political side has, which are often critically needed to find more balanced answers to our complex social, political, and economic problems. We’ve lost our integrity in the public arena, substituting ideological warfare for genuine and rigorous political debate, replacing substance with sound bites…
“In such a polarized, paralyzed and increasingly poisonous political environment, it is very difficult to find or even discuss the common good. But I believe that both the conservative and liberal philosophies have critical contributions to make in solving our problems and that the best ideas from both are essential for reestablishing a serious public discourse about the common good.” [from Conservatives, Liberals and the Fight for America’s Future, Location 73.]
Most of my political exposure, other than the virtually universally biased media, is on Facebook, where some of my friends complain constantly about the “liberal press” or the “leftist media,” etc., with virtually no critical evaluation of the biases of their favored conservative sources. At the same time, other friends continuously point out the inconsistencies of the conservative media without critical analysis of their favored liberal sources.
I can think of only one Facebook friend who may share my own passion for trying to find balance and bipartisan collaboration.
I recommend—no, I implore my readers (both of you!) to read carefully the writings of Jim Wallis referenced in this blog, as well as his earlier book, God’s Politics: When the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. I also recommend Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy as a call to healing, reconciling collaboration to replace the current state of ideological warfare.
Together in the Walk,