Politics and Poverty [Friday, Jul. 24, 2009, 10:07 pm]
I don't consider myself as belonging to any political party. I registered as a Republican and I often vote along those lines, but I want to re-register as an independent, because I honestly don't feel enough loyalty to either side to justify aligning myself with them.
I guess when I was younger I often saw Republicans as the "Christian party." I definitely wouldn't call it that now, not that it ever was. There may be some overlap between Christians and Republicans, but I think Christians should be able to hold onto their views without letting party loyalty get in the way.
I'm not just going to talk about politics though. I also want to talk about poverty. I had a chance to witness poverty in my own community a few weeks ago, up close and personal, and became aware again of how divisive it can be to try to mix religious views of poverty with political ones.
If I had to label myself politically, I would want to be a Compassionate Conservative. At the present, however, I feel I lack a lot of the wisdom, experience, and positive characteristics that this title would imply. Therefore, I can simply strive at it for now. Compassion, like love, is a verb. If no action results from it, it's only sympathy, and that doesn't do a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. The reason I don't like mixing politics with views on poverty is because I think each side gets it wrong in some very important ways.
The liberal point of view often seems to aim towards a fantasy utopia in which there is no poverty, war, or suffering of any kind, no rich or poor, and everyone is free to do what they want (while at the same time not hurting anyone else, which never happens). I still have to admit, there are a lot of good ideas going here. What's wrong with combating poverty and suffering?
Especially when contrasted with the stereotypical Republican stinginess which seems to imply that poor people are the way they are through their own fault, and people who have money have worked for it and therefore don't have to share it.
I really try to see some good on both sides... on the one hand, we should be actively seeking to aid our fellow human beings, and not entering into war unless there is no other choice. Sometimes people are poor because they've been born into that cycle and can't get out of it, or have just honestly fallen on hard times. On the other hand, I can understand why some people are wary about just giving hand-outs to the poor. Some people are poor because of their own choices, or their lack of interest in doing any work. Why should they get hand-outs that simply encourage that dependence?
It's not a political issue. Poverty cannot be legislated away, nor does it make sense that it should be. We live in a sinful world and as long as there is sin, there will be rich and poor. Jesus himself said "you will always have the poor among you..." (John 12:8) But if anything, that mere fact should encourage us to do something about it... not from any attempt to eradicate it completely from the world, which would be futile and arrogant, but for a genuine love for the people themselves, regardless of who they are, what they've done, or how they became "poor."
That's how Jesus approached it. He stayed out of politics, and because of that, wasn't the leader that some people were expecting. He didn't wipe out any big problems in one swipe, like he could have. Instead, he helped people on a person-by-person, community-by-community basis. He didn't judge them, but loved them, healed then, and sent them on their way.
Yes, the liberal view is unrealistic and unfair, but how is the "Republican Christian" view any better if it simply provides a political antithesis to that? We don't need politics, we need love. Real love, not human emotion or sympathy. As far away from the political squabble as possible... regardless of your party, if you can follow the Jesus model, you're heading in a much better direction than most of us.
Writing - Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009