There are people I know – good people – who have been caught up in the politics of the day. I’ve gone to church with them. Worked on community and disaster relief projects. I have helped some, and been helped by others. I have had my son taught by them in Sunday School, and have taught some of their children.
It hasn’t always been a natural fit. Our family is of Hispanic extraction and for the past 20 years or so we have mainly been part of Anglo congregations. Our shared faith allowed us to work together with people who were culturally different than us, and even form the basis for some friendships and camaraderie. A sense of brotherhood. But in recent years I find some of those people, even people I have greatly respected, poisoned by the politics of the day. This has caused by wife and I to become more cautious and retiring. My wife has quietly removed most of the members of the church from her Facebook friends list. This includes many we have kept in touch with from other places we have lived, because of their toxic politically driven and sometimes tonally racist posts.
I am saddened and disturbed by this. I have forced myself to try to engage and politely share a more moderate viewpoint. It hasn’t always gone well. I’m not sure if you have ever seen YouTube videos where cats are fighting and a peacemaker dog jumps in to separate the combatants but if you have that’s me. I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up in a house with violence or because I have experienced death and loss but all of this intolerance, narrow-mindedness, tribalism, hate and violence feels dangerous to me. Everyone is walking around with a nuke in their little red wagons and ready to use them.
There is an movie from 1983 called WarGames that I really liked. Matthew Broderick’s character is a young hacker who gets access to WOPR a US military supercomputer that runs simulations of possible outcomes of nuclear war. He believes WOPR is a computer game and starts a nuclear war simulation without realizing that WOPR is tied into the nuclear arsenal. The computer’s AI doesn’t know the difference between the simulation and reality and prepares to launch World War 3.
At the very last moment the computer, with some help from our young hacker, simulates every possible attack combination looking for a ‘win’ and determines that all choices result in mutual destruction. At this point the computer delivers the classic line;
“A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
That’s the game it feels like we are playing. Everyone is armed to the teeth – inside and outside the country. The fires of hate are stoked and politicians and others with self-serving agendas keep pressing the fear button. We are convinced that those on ‘the other side’ of every issue are trying to destroy us. We believe this is a life and death struggle with no room for compromise. If history is any guide, and I believe it is, this will eventually end in something we won’t all walk away from.
The reason I mentioned Christianity is because this is incompatible with a belief in a higher power. The scriptures tell us we cannot serve two masters. Either your faith is at the core of who you are, and you use that set of core values as a lens to view everything else – including your politics – or you are not a Christian. If you are using your politics, or your prejudices to interpret your religion, you are looking in the wrong end of the telescope. The same is true of any other religion, humanist or even scientific belief.
If you are using hate, racism, bigotry, your passions about some narrow topic, perverted ideals or selfish interests to bend the lens of TRUTH to fit your ‘truth’ then you are not a true Christian, or Muslim, or scientist, or public servant, or humanitarian or anything else TRUE.
It’s time for each of us to step back and take an honest look at who we are and who we want to be.