After making my decision about not voting this year (see “Out of the Voting Booth”), I’ve spent the last few days thinking to myself, “Well, now what?”
There is no shortage of BIG issues in the world, the United States, or even here in the Milwaukee Metropolitan area. Many of these issues appear almost intractable. The more I’ve thought about it all, the more helpless and paralyzed I’ve felt. At least when I was blaming the politicians I could delude myself into thinking my complaining, in and of itself, was making some sort of difference. I could smugly talk about the ineptness of any politician for whom I had not voted. I could also blame the opposition for any policy failures of the incumbents for whom I had voted. In many ways, my political life had been reduced to reading about partisan agendas, griping about politicians and making a mark on a ballot on this or that election day. While voting is a sacred privilege, I wonder if the way I’ve practiced it in the past hasn’t been more a sacrilege — since my political involvement has begun and ended in the voting booth.
Less than a week into my self-imposed hiatus from the 2012 elections, I am beginning to understand that simply “sitting this one out” isn’t enough. Now I have to get to work examining my own complicity in perpetuating the systems and policies that have made me comfortable even as others struggle for their daily bread. I can no longer compartmentalize my life. I no longer have the luxury of hiding behind the cult of individualism that is the preferred religion of our culture. Following Jesus isn’t about having one’s spiritual needs met. Following Jesus isn’t building a bigger church or promoting a bigger agenda or backing the “correct” candidate. Following Jesus seems to be about living as simply as possible, attending to one’s neighbor (regardless of political and/or religious preferences) and confronting systems that seek to “corrupt and destroy the creatures of God” (Book of Common Prayer, page 302).
The corrupt systems — political, economic, and all the rest — can appear as immovable mountains. Jesus once said that if his followers would have a measure of faith the size of a mustard seed (a very tiny amount indeed!), they could tell a mountain, “be removed and tossed into the sea” and it would be so. Wouldn’t we all like the quick and easy solution? Wouldn’t we love to see some mountains of poverty, racism, injustice, hunger and oppression disappear into the abyss of nothingness?
I’m beginning to wonder though. Maybe we need to roll up our sleeves in faith that our actions can make a difference. Maybe the way to begin to move mountains is one shovel full of dirt at a time. Yes, that will take a lot longer, but patience and endurance will prevail. Maybe we don’t need enough faith to levitate a mountain. Maybe we need enough faith to move ourselves and dig a little.