Today is a beautiful spring day in central North Carolina. The summer heat and humidity that will oppress us for weeks on end is not yet upon us. Recent rains have made everything green and lush. The azaleas are past their prime but the camellias are in top form.
It’s a beautiful day. It’s also the day that voters go to the polls to decide local, state, and national primary contests. Holding our primary as we do in the month of May, we’re not used to mattering much on the national scene. Party nominees are usually firmed up long before now. But you know that your state counts when the former President of the United States visits places like Louisburg, Lenoir, Elizabeth City, and my humble town of Apex.
But there’s a downside to all this attention (isn’t there always?). To matter this late in the process is also to experience the worst that politics can become. Instead of appealing to our better selves, the campaigns now exploit our baser instincts: our suspicion of difference—religious differences, especially and our vague, unarticulated fear of the other. And they encourage perhaps our worst tendency as the myopic Americans we are: we look at the global situation around us (politically, economically, socially) and end up feeling most sorry for ourselves.
All of this poses problems for Christians who want to be engaged in this historic election, since we believe that the Christian life is not about seeking our own security but about denying our comfort for the sake of those who suffer; that is, for the sake of Christ in the world.
It’s a beautiful day here in North Carolina. But it’s not so lovely in Myanmar today, where the level of death and destruction staggers the mind. You’d hardly know this, though, from the stingy coverage by the election-obsessed media. We’re having fun in the Tar Heel state, secretly thrilled to be in the national spotlight for a day, but people in places like Sudan, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Congo (to name just a few) are not having a very good time.
(Originally published Tuesday, May 6, 2008)