Monday, November 06, 2006

Campaign Rhetoric

As with many people living in Washington, I am very curious to see what happens in tomorrow's elections. While I am tired of the campaign commercials airing on television, I do enjoy reading the different predictions and commentaries on who is ahead and who is behind.

One of the races receiving national attention is the race for U.S. Senate in Missouri. I was raised and educated in Missouri, and much of my family still lives there. I know the name Jim Talent but the name Claire McCaskill is a new name to me. One cannot escape any of the newspaper articles or television commentaries on what might happen tomorrow without seeing both of these names mentioned, however.

When I called home this week, I asked a couple of simple questions, "What do you think of Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill? Who are voting for?"

The response was rather to the point, "I like them both. I think they both have great qualities. However, I did not vote for either of them. When I completed my absentee ballot this week I voted for every race and item on the ballot with the exception of the U.S. Senate seat. As far as I am concerned, it is time for voters to stand up and say they will not put up with all of the negative campaign ads. You would not believe some of the commercials. It has gotten so ugly, and I figure it is time for a referendum. I could not support either of them after the things they have said in this race."

These comments have made me think a lot. They come from someone who has never missed the opportunity to vote before. They come from someone who is politically active. They come from someone who has refused to participate in the process of electing a U.S. Senator because of the ways in which the candidates have acted.

I wonder how many people have given up on the church because of the ways in which the church has acted (or failed to act). Someone recently commented on how some D.C. neighborhoods are filled with so many people on Sunday mornings -- people walking their dogs, drinking coffee, or meeting their friends for brunch -- that it makes you wonder if anyone is in church on Sunday mornings. But how many of these people have been turned off by the church? How many of these people have been alienated by the church? How many of these dog walkers have read the Gospel accounts only to conclude that those who go to church today do not appear to be following Jesus as they are not doing the things Jesus asked them to do? How many of these coffee drinkers believe the church is no longer relevant?

While I love the rich diversity of the city, the city also makes me think -- a lot. Life in Washington presents more opportunities to be like Jesus than my earlier years in Missouri and North Carolina presented to me. When I arrived to work at First UMC in Hendersonville I did not have to unlock the church's doors with a homeless person sleeping six feet away. When I lived in Columbia, Missouri, I did not have to pass the man each morning who asks me for change in order to get something to eat.

My friend in Missouri would have voted for a U.S. Senator had the candidates acted like Senators.

I wonder how many people would come to church if the church was acting like Jesus -- if the pastor stopped to say "good morning" or bring a cup of coffee to the person sleeping on the church's stoop this morning instead of quietly locking the door behind her. I wonder how many people would come if we lived this radical life that Jesus lived -- a life that healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave the thirsty something to drink, and befriended the lonely.

We have heard so much rhetoric in recent weeks about what candidates will do once they step into office. Candidates for political office always promise more than office holders can possibly deliver. They often say they will vote one way during the campaign only to change their mind once they get into office. Candidates also drag their opponents into the mud, making us wonder which person, if any, we are to believe.

Lord, may our rhetoric -- may the words that come from your church -- not be rhetoric -- but words that are accompanied by our actions -- by a living faith.

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