As the 2012 election year gets under way in the United States, I’m reminded of a major thought-shift I experienced several years ago. It all started with a confession: I was a political junkie! If a political discourse was going on anywhere, I was tuned in. If a candidate or an elected official was scheduled to give a press conference at 2 p.m., I dropped everything to be sure to watch or listen to the broadcast. After all, didn’t I want to be a well-informed citizen? But this approach was very time-consuming – and in fact, it often left me feeling more stirred up than informed.
The day finally came when I recognized that there was a definite line between being a responsible citizen and being drawn into the stir and swirl of 24/7 coverage of political campaigns. I realized that my fascination with politics bordered on obsession.
Investigating Webster’s definition of “politics,” we see a contrast between the lower and higher meaning of the word. A limited sense of politics gets mired in the “competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership.” The competition for funds, air time, ideas, volunteers, and votes often takes on a heated tone as the election draws near. Candidates end up misrepresenting themselves or being misrepresented.
Contrast that scene with Webster’s higher definition of politics: “the art or science of government.” True art and science are of divine, not human, origin. They begin in Love, God, and are manifested in expressions of wisdom and intelligence, inspiration and insight, goodwill and brotherly love. Such a spiritual premise does not discount or ignore what is being said in the political arena. Rather, it promotes the discernment that gives a better perspective and a sense of proportion. With that discernment, candidates and voters can maintain their natural poise, ethics, and etiquette.
Is this approach doable in politics? It absolutely is! We’ve all seen stellar moments in politics that stay with us. I remember seeing a television interview with presidential candidate Jack Kemp that was broadcast a few years ago. The interviewer repeatedly referred to another candidate as Mr. Kemp’s “enemy.” Kemp responded, “The other candidate is not my enemy. He’s my opponent. Bad ideas are the enemy.”
So now that the airwaves are once again rife with the rhetoric, spin, and punditry of a presidential election year, we have a choice not just between candidates, but between approaches. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “We must look deep into realism instead of accepting only the outward sense of things” (p. 129). And later, she stated, “The real jurisdiction of the world is in Mind, controlling every effect and recognizing all causation as vested in divine Mind” (p. 379). To me, this means the final word on righteous government doesn’t rest in the hands of men and women. It proceeds from God, Love, expressing itself; and man being attuned to Love’s standard stated in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. Effective government involves walking and talking shoulder to shoulder – that is, being willing to discover, outside personal interest, a united premise.
I still love the promise of politics, but I’m no longer heavily invested in the drama of it. My commitment is now more along the lines of prayerful watchfulness to see the divine reality of God’s supremacy. I take my cue from this statement by Mrs. Eddy: “I am asked, ‘What are your politics?’ I have none, in reality, other than to help support a righteous government; to love God supremely, and my neighbor as myself” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 276).
Does it matter if we pray during the political season? Does it really make a difference? James thought so and said, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). Prayers that acknowledge the government of divine Love will help us recognize the nearest right solutions on the political scene as the art or science of the government.
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