Are the pursuits of political activism and social change purely abstract? Do the ideas we believe as liberals, moderates, conservatives and libertarians change anything in the way we live life – from the time we wake in the morning to when we go home to sleep at night?
If progressives care about the welfare of the poor and support socialism to help these people, does it change the way they react to the homeless man on the street corner? Or, if a conservative cares about saving the lives of the unborn, does that conservative donate time and money to the alternatives of abortion? Because if our abstract ideologies make no impact on the daily lives we lead, the hamster wheel of politics is a vain pursuit.
I previously covered what can best be described as the “scandal of the evangelical conscience,” a description used by Ronald J. Sider in a recent article for Books & Culture – the chasm between what evangelicals say they believe and what they do with their lives. This idolatry is evident in my own daily life and is a great problem in the American church.
Yet, this problem runs deeper than just the church. It is a product of the human condition.
I stress this in relation to politics because change takes place in communities when people change their habits and impact the people around them. Ideologues who care only about abstract thoughts rarely change history, and when the political ideas of people exist only in a vacuum you find disconnected realities.
Consider these examples:
- Millions of Americans support foreign wars, but are not willing to join the military themselves.
- Many people vocally support ending poverty and AIDS in the Third World, and yet are content only in raising their voice for federal aid.
- People who criticize the efforts toward legitimizing homosexual marriage in the United States, but continue to fail in their commitments to their own heterosexual marriages.
- Discontent conservatives blowing steam about the lack of responsibility in the federal government, but who continue to vote for and support a Republican Party that will not take seriously the concerns of its grass roots.
There is a disconnect between what we say we believe about politics and what we do with these ideas in our daily lives. Is it because the cost is too great? Whatever the reason, politics – in its current cesspool state – is primarily a conversation.
I must be the first to admit I do very little about homelessness in my state, or supporting alternatives to abortion, or ending poverty worldwide, or having integrity in my opinions about war. I complain about the theft of socialism, but I have stolen music. I complain about the sick state of entertainment in America, but I go see these movies, too. I could go on all day. The problems that plagued this nation – and this world – are within.
This plea for consistency has much more to do with integrity than an expectation for actual change. The reality is one person can only do so much, but the flipside is that when we say one thing and do nothing about it, we are mere hypocrites. If all shades of political ideology could be espoused by people who live with integrity, we would all see a pure desire for a better America.
As things stand now, there’s no interaction, there’s little integrity, and our political discourses are summed up by who can end the three-minute cable news segment with the wittiest comment. So, the political hamster wheel of vanity continues to spin. It may have been humorous to see a hypocritical John Kerry preaching at President Bush that faith without works is dead, but the biblical principle still stands true.