This isn’t what you think. It is not a rant against the evil Obama administration (or the evil “fill-in-the-blank” administration). It is a reflection on something that has bugged me for awhile. It came to a head for me a few days ago when I logged onto Facebook and of the first 10 posts that I viewed, 9 of them were some sort of political statement (a comment, a link to some article, etc.). I have friends on both sides of the political aisle, so some of the statements were quite contradictory. I like following the political news and have a definite point of view on most issues. I link to articles that I find interesting fairly regularly and comment on other persons’ posts. But that particular day the last thing that I really wanted when I logged onto Facebook was to jump into some political spitting match. And it hit me. Our politics are totalitarian.
Now that statement may strike you as ridiculous. We don’t have secret police knocking on doors in the dead of the night to drag political enemies away to jail. (We have our problems, but if you really think that we do – you might want to put down whatever it is that you are smoking, switch to decaf – something…no, really). Whatever your opinion of our current President (or his predecessor) – neither one of them is a Hitler or Stalin starter-kit. But that isn’t really what totalitarian, at it’s root, means. Totalitarian refers to a view of the state (or in the way I am using it here, politics broadly defined) that places no limits on the state’s authority and seeks to regulate every aspect of life. In a very real sense, politics and political discussion has become increasingly totalitarian in my lifetime. It dominates more of our time, our thoughts and our way of looking at the world. I am not just referring to those awful left-wing statists who want to take over our country and transform it into a combination of Sweden, France, and Red China. I am including those (like me) who claim to be all about “limited government” and scaling back the Leviathan State. We place way too much stock in the ability of electing the “right” candidates to solve the problems of the world. Likewise, we also tend to way overstate what electing the “wrong” candidates will do to wreck our country and send it down the tubes.
I am not saying that elections, laws and policies aren’t important. They certainly are. But I believe that politics is a lagging indicator of what is already happening in culture. To the extent that I think our politics are in bad shape (and I certainly do), it is only because I believe that our culture has deteriorated. Here’s where I could quote a bunch of statistics detailing how bad things are and how they used to be better – but that’s not what I really think. What I think is that culture is about what kind of people we are – beginning with me. If I want things to be better, I have a lot more responsibility than studying up on the latest political news and voting for the “right” candidates. I have the responsibility to be a better Christ follower, a better husband, a better father, a better worker, a better neighbor. I have the responsibility to steward the resources God has committed to me in a more faithful fashion, spending less on my own selfish priorities and more on helping others. I have the responsibility to spend less time griping and criticizing other people and spend more time encouraging others and being thankful for what I have (which is a whole lot more than I deserve). With that in mind, here is my encouragement to you. Next time you want to link to that article that shows how bad the other side is and how right you are – think again. Maybe you can link to something that a higher percentage of your friends would find encouraging or helpful. The next time you stumble across a post that raises your hackles and you have the perfect comment ready to put the poster in their place – take a breath and think about the reason you are friends with that person in the first place. Here’s a hint – it probably wasn’t their politics. Better yet, unplug and spend some time with your family and friends doing something fun or that helps someone else. I know, I know…the other side won’t rest – they will keep posting and commenting and spreading all of the awful information that they see fit to spread. But then again, maybe they won’t. And even if they do – what does that matter to you? It can only make you mad or ruin your day if you let it.
I can’t stop the 24 hour news cycle or control what anyone else posts or thinks. But I can keep it from taking over my life. Maybe we should all just take a breath and let it go for a bit. It certainly won’t hurt to try.