JIM'S PLACE: JULY 18, 2016

Today marks the beginning of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.  Next week it will be the Democrat’s turn.  Unless you just landed from Mars you know that the presumptive nominees for the office of President are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  We have already been inundated with story after story and talking head after talking head about the relative merits and foibles of these two candidates.  And there will be months more to come.

Regardless of which candidate you support, I hope you will be involved in this election process by learning about the vital issues we face as a nation and by voting your conscience.  Democracy is advanced citizenship.  To listen to most people talk, you might assume that the “government” is some alien power that hovers above us and makes declarations we all have to obey.  The truth is, the government is us.  And the way we fail, primarily, is if we don’t participate.  Your voice and vote need to be heard.  And at the end of the day, whether or not your slate of candidates won, we are all in this together and we owe it to each other to make it work—together.

It is in that spirit that I hope and pray we can begin to write a new chapter in what has become the ugly polarization of American politics.  Maybe we’ve listened to too many screaming commentators.  Maybe we’ve listened only to those commentators with whom we already know we agree.  But what is undeniable is that the process has been hijacked by people who have very definite agendas to push.

The result is that many of us have come to consider demonization of the “other” as a default position.  There is a corresponding narrative to all this:  My opinion and the opinions of those who agree with me represent the “Children of Light” while those who would disagree with me are the “Children of Darkness” who must be stopped at all costs.  That narrative is a tasty one for many of us—the thought that we are fighting a cosmic battle for good over evil.

But it is a false narrative.  The fact is, most Republicans and Democrats I know are smart, well-meaning people who simply differ on what they believe is the best course for our nation.  

In the aftermath of the recent shootings and racial violence around the country, these conventions provide the occasions for bad actors to create havoc.  I pray this will not be the case.  

When all is said and done, I will confess to knowing diddly about how politics work.  But I do know that what Jesus commanded all of His followers to do was to seek justice in our communities.  Our nation has always done its best work when it concentrated on justice for all its people.  It strays when it is co-opted by a few to protect self-interests.

So this shall be our prayer:  “Let justice roll down like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”