Jesus, Politics and Cynicism
“She’s a politician and they’re not to be trusted.” –Obi-Wan Kenobi
A cynical line. Funny, too. But I’m tired of cynicism. I’m tired of hearing the idea that nobody in government can be trusted, or that this or that party will ALWAYS act a certain way.
The doctrine of Creation: God made the world good; now it is in a state of fallen rebellion.
The world isn’t bad. It’s fallen. Yes you should be wary of politicians, but if we automatically assume they’re not to be trusted then we lose the will to think clearly and speak truthfully. Politics, like any other field of human endeavor, is broken. The cure isn’t cynicism; the cure is Truth.
That’s why I’m grateful to the Ann Lamotts of this world. She’s willing to hold people to their promises, without irony. Against her friends, no less. (Proverb: The wounds of a friend are to be trusted.)
That’s also why I can’t stand the rhetoric of those who constantly speak of the evils of government…typically with less regard for truth than for book sales.
I consider myself an anarcho-pacifist. This is not because of cynicism regarding government (well, sometimes…but not when I’m at my best). This is because I believe that the way we arrange ourselves socially should be less violent and more personalist. We should prefer the weak over the strong. We should be careful what kind of borders we erect between us and the ‘other’.
But while I may have a certain amount of distrust towards democratic liberalism, and a huge amount of distrust towards ‘free market’ ideology, that doesn’t release me from Jesus’ command to love my neighbor. As long as I live in a liberal democracy and participate in a free market economy, I have an obligation to speak the truth to power and to help my country live up to its better promises.
Nevertheless, there is an ever-flowing stream of bad-mouthing coming from certain political conservatives in the U.S. that reeks of a lack of willingness to embrace the other, an over-willingness to exclude through labeling, and a sincere hope that those who disagree with their ideology fail miserably.
Sure, compared to what I believe to be a robust Christian politics, Obama’s ‘Hope’ is thin gruel. In fact, optimism is NOT hope. Optimism, because it is not based on truth, leads to cynicism and despair just as much as anything.
By all means, let’s be people of truth instead of an empty hope. That requires that we hold our leaders accountable, friend or foe. But it also means that we always hope, always trust, always persevere.
I can’t find that sort of persistent hope outside of Christ. That’s why it’s important for me to have the qualifier Christian anarcho-pacifist. I’m convinced more than ever that he is the only hope for this broken world.
But because what often passes for Christianity in U.S.America is so truncated and idolatrous, I can’t afford to have illusions that this message will win the day anytime soon.
In the meantime, what does the church do?
She has to be faithful to the crucified rather than the empire.