Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union

I've been wondering if my silence on politics has been telling to some of you. My last entry was back in February last year. It seems that even by then I was already straining toward some sort of optimism about our new president. I've been trying to hang on to much of that same optimism, but honestly it is getting harder and harder. I wasn't able to hear the State of the Union address and haven't had the inclination to read it either. Mostly, I'm not sure that I'll be encouraged by what he had to say.

These are hard things to write. It is not a matter of protecting my ego because I fear eating humble pie. It is hard to write about these things because hanging on to hope is vulnerable. There is a reason why lots of people avoid talking about politics and religion. It's scary. Yet, what I'm trying to do here with this blog is put forth some thoughts on these kinds of important matters precisely because we need to be talking with each other. We need to be sharing our ideas. The only true hope of our democracy is if we can continue to practice the art of good, charitable conversation. What truly tempts me to despair is the lack of good, thoughtful dialogue. What saddens me most right now is not just the sobering difficulties of Obama's first year, but the further partisanship, a further tearing apart of our country. Some might argue that it is Obama's overly ambitious first year that has caused this rift. Yet, my suspicion is that these are deep divisions that have always existed in our country. Obama's presidency has just brought those divisions to the surface.

I really appreciate my friendship with David Taylor. He's the one who has edited this book I have a chapter forthcoming in, For the Beauty of the Church. During the writing of that essay, David continued to encourage me to keep the voice of my writing optimistic and hopeful and to avoid condescension. David wanted me to maintain the voice of a loving pastor who can come alongside people with humble help. It is no surprise that David recently quotted Conan O'Brian's final words on the tonight show (see below) in his blog. I find it ironic that it is a satirist who is challenging us consumers of popular culture to remain optimistic. I don't know very many satirists left who I think are still truly satirists. Most have just become scoffers making a living tearing things down cashing in on the fact that misery loves company. But here are some bright words that I think about after the State of the Union.

"To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere.

Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

No comments: