Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I'm a Moderate

When it comes to politics, each side of the American major two-party system holds certain beliefs about everything. Including, but not very explicitly, human beings.

Conservatives (Republicans, Libertarians, etc.) seem convinced of the power of the individual. In this worldview, people have unlimited possibilities if they/we just try hard, sacrifice, invest, produce, invent and risk. The human person is strongest as the independent "I" who may contribute to the general welfare, but only because of personal choice and acting out of personal moral or spiritual values. The conservative man or woman buckles down, works hard, and enjoys the fruits of their labor, contributing to the general welfare in limited (roads, bridges, national defense) ways. Success? Well, you deserve it because of hard work, luck, or some other feature of your life. At'a boy! Think Warren Buffet, Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Liberals (Democrats, Green Party, etc.) are focused on the welfare of the whole, particularly those whose life experience, health, social status, age or race makes them vulnerable to fewer advantages in the classroom and marketplace. In this worldview, the whole needs protection from the individual run amok; the individual meaning someone Anglo-European, privileged, educated, and middle-class. The environment, exploited by industrialization, needs protection and renewal. Women, children, people of color, the sick, impoverished, and aged, perpetually disadvantaged by the economic system of the last 200 years, deserve legal protection and help from the government of the whole. Think Barack Obama, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and Ralph Nader.


Here's why I'm between the extremes: because human nature is imperfect, and both of these polarized views of people and communities are true. We are both ingenious and productive AND careless and profoundly selfish. We need all of us working at our personal best as well as joint efforts for justice, economic opportunity, education, and health care. The very best of American politics is an effort to balance out these perspectives on the human condition. Our extremist rhetoric of the last few years is an exhausting waste of all our time.

We need a government that is committed to hard work and effort as well as the common good. The vast majority of voting Americans know exactly what I mean, and can't wait for common sense to infuse politics. Won't that be a glorious day. 






Sunday, January 1, 2012

Spiritual Reflections: Warm weather could be sign of a larger problem

My newspaper column from Saturday. All the mild weather has had me thinking...and worried.

Spiritual Reflections: Warm weather could be sign of a larger problem: After the winter we had last year, snow as high as our shoulders at the end of the driveway, cold that froze lakes hard and early, this winter’s non-start is a strange reversal. A dry Thanks...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Early On

Every year after Thanksgiving I'm surprised when the church calendar says it's a new year. Advent marks the beginning of the church's annual liturgical review of the great stories of the faith.

Traditionally it starts with the prophets, who warn that God is among us and will show her/his self even more clearly in the days to come. Get ready! they shout. I'm always puzzled at this exhortation. How can a human being get ready for God?

It's this great human gift and problem of looking into the future. As far as we know, other mammals aren't able to imagine the future in the same way we do. They live their lives much more in the "now" than in the "then." But humans are so in love with the future, we think anything is possible there. The allure of a future we can imagine makes us all less attached to the present, I fear. We put off anything we can. The present? Well, we're just passing through.

The answer for me is the spiritual skill of waiting. It's some of the toughest emotional work we do, holding ourselves in the present while expecting something in the future. It's not about gifts and presents, I think. It's about waiting for God to be fully revealed to us and to a hurting world.

I will be thinking about Waiting this Advent. How hard it is, why it's important to grow that emotional muscle, what living in the present while expecting the future feels like. I think it's the central work of faith, managing the now and then. A belief that both the present and the future deeply matter.