Christmas is a season about humble beginnings that lead to extraordinarily humble endings. If you don’t know what I am talking about, ask a Christian near you. And so, humility seemed to be the theme that ran through the articles this blog found interesting during the holidays.
President Barack Obama used the funeral for Hawaii senator Daniel Inouye to talk about himself. In the short 1,600 word speech, Obama used the word “my” 21 times, “me” 12 times, and “I” 30 times.
Some Christian conservatives seemingly cannot help themselves. They have to try to find some deep theological explanation for the evil we witness in places like Newtown, Connecticut. But often in doing so, they injure the very faith they seek to represent. The latest example is by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who, in speaking about the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, said this:
I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me, and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.
And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.
Both of those stories are stunning, just stunning. They become even more stunning when viewed in light of an article from the Boston Globe about the inside of the Romney campaign. The bit from the long piece that has really made the rounds is:
“He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to . . . run,” said Tagg, who worked with his mother, Ann, to persuade his father to seek the presidency. “If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside. He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them, but he has deep faith in God and he loves his country, but he doesn’t love the attention.”
The meme has rapidly morphed into, “Romney did not want to win.” NONSENSE! – that is a statement of humility and service – a measure of Romney’s character. Our best presidents have generally been quite reluctant about taking the job, starting with George Washington. If you understand the job ,as opposed to the media that comes with it, you begin to understand that it is in many ways an odious job. The sheer lack of available solitude would drive me up the wall before I ever “got to work” in the morning. (Like there is ever a time the president is not working – save maybe the current one who has turned not working at the job into an art form.)
That this meme has developed as it has makes me afraid for the nation – I wonder if the nation any longer values humility and service. From later in the Globe piece:
Bird was confident that Obama would commit massive resources to building an organization that zeroed in on individual voters.
There was a significantly different view of the nation at play between the two campaigns. Romney’s was humble, willing to serve and about big issues. Obama’s was about the aggrandizement of himself and others on a individual basis. The Obama view, that it is all about “me,” clearly carried the day.
This is why, as we move forward religion and politics have to mix in new ways. No longer can religious organizations simply be demographic groups that the political parties seek to use their organizations to gain votes in blocks. Religious organizations need to return to their roots and become institutions that develop character; build people that the parties can then call upon. Churches and other religious institutions can no longer turn to politics to try and shape the nation’s ethos. Those religious institutions must now take up the job to shape that ethos by means of their own authority.
Many, if not most, religious institutions no longer have such authority. They must begin by working to regain it. To discuss how that happens would be a radical turn for this blog – not one I am sure this blog is meant to make. Time will tell on that. But this blog can and does call on religious institutions everywhere to think things through on this level. And get started now! It won’t be long and it will not be a matter of recovery, but a matter of starting from scratch.