J. Marshall Jenkins

Author, Therapist, Spiritual Director

Beating the Political Blues

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Political grace begins where two or more gather to seek loving solutions.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’ sake, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).

Political news gets ever more depressing.  It brings to mind manipulative tactics by ambitious climbers who care little about the causes they claim to espouse and those they hurt on the way up.  We expect this in capitals and state houses.  Most of us feel alienated from the very democratic systems designed to give us a voice.

So in the public square, what becomes of hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Both Torah and Christ couple love of God with love of neighbor inextricably, and we seem made for that, hungry for a better community and thirsty for neighborliness.  On paper, democracy should provide a political mechanism for joining together for common causes.  But on the ground, it pits us against one another and frustrates our hopes.

Yet in a dark and sobering way, democracy is working, at least partially.  We get the representation that truly reflects the fearful side of us, the side that seeks self-protection and advantage over others.  We the people set the game up to end with gridlock and disregard for the public good.  For we define the political arena as a battlefield through which competing interests slug it out.  Like a football game, it is organized violence.

So good people go to the polls every 2-4 years to vote for candidates who stand the best chance of getting them and their families what they want or protecting what they have, the losers be damned.  These voters  hunger and thirst for rightness, not righteousness.  Convinced that their hard work and decency entitles them to what they want, they feel certain that the others deserve to lose.  Victim-blaming seals it.  Such is the mentality of rightness.  Does anyone smell the seeds of polarization here?

But hunger and thirst for righteousness has different implications.  As opposed to rightness, righteousness loves and promotes connection and cooperation.  It is about right relationship.  Beating the neighbor with different needs omits the love part of the definition.  Leaving each other alone to live and let live leaves out the relationship part.  Relationships can be inconvenient, but we are made for them and can find no joy without them. At best, we find only smug, lonely comfort in a private fortress.

Cooperation, not competition, defines righteous politics.  That entails identifying a community need and pulling together to meet it.  If I give more than I get, righteous politics invites faith that the good for the most vulnerable will benefit all in the long run.  It holds that I cannot truly live in peace until all live in peace.

Pipe dream?  Only to the impatient.  But if you feel the hunger and thirst, take your time.  What need pricks your heart?  Too much to address alone?  Go find a partner.  Where two or more gather, there is politics, but where two or more gather in Christ’s name, he joins you.  Share your hunger and thirst to do the loving thing.  Good politics will follow.  If you do enough of that, the politicians may catch on.

Thanks to everyone I’ve encountered at every Wild Goose Festival I’ve attended for encouraging the hope expressed in this post. On July 12-15, 2018, I will again join hundreds more gathered by the Holy Spirit with their hunger and thirst for righteousness. As I have every summer since 2014, I will serve on the Spiritual Direction Team, enjoying the privilege of providing a hospitable sojourn by the French Broad River for folks at various stages of their journey. On Friday, July 13, I will lead a spiritual formation experience entitled, “Discernment: The Art of Really Living Your Faith.” (Regular readers of my blog may recall a post with that title.) If you cannot come, pray for God’s presence and guidance again. If you can come, come see me!

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J. Marshall Jenkins

About J. Marshall Jenkins

J. Marshall Jenkins is an author, psychotherapist, teacher, and spiritual director. For several years he has been writing on the Beatitudes for people in emotional pain, publishing biweekly here on his Beatitudes Blog at http://www.jmarshalljenkins.com. His newest book, Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith and Hope with the Beatitudes, is now available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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4 Replies

  1. Another great article that is right on the mark ❤️

  2. Michael Parnell

    Much of the political discourse in this country is based on people getting upset over what is perceived. I want to ask those that are so afraid of undocumented immigrants what has any of them ever done to them personally? Just because someone declares that these are a threat does not make that so.

    As you said, the need is to dialogue. But that seems impossible because the thing needed most in dialogue is a willingness to listen. And I cannot listen when I have my mind made up about everything.

    1. J. Marshall Jenkins

      Well said, as usual. And your implied point about the need to get to know people personally before passing and executing brutal and divisive laws applies to a plethora of divisive issues in our current culture wars, from immigration to sexuality to healthcare and on and on. Listening requires energy and time, and the onslaught of contradictory media impressions overwhelms us into retreat, even resentment. So it is challenging for us all. Yet, the energy and time are the expenditures of love, the kind of love with which God saves us and to which God calls us. As we offer that love in gratitude to God who first loved us, we find that God gives us the energy and compassion we need.

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