This isn’t an article about politics. You don’t need me to tell you it’s a turbulent time out there. It’s so turbulent that as a country we’ve taken to voting based on what we are against rather than what we are for. Never Trump. Never Clinton. Those are the obvious ones. But this has been building for a long time, and really it’s part of our human nature.
It all starts with fear. Political candidates are rarely content to tell you the benefits of the policies and plans they support. But it’s not enough to explain in clear terms why a certain policy is a good idea and then let the voters decide if they agree. So they chase that quickly with a litany of the devastation to be brought about by enactment of the policies of their opposition. As time has gone on, politicians have spent more and more time presenting the negative litanies and less and less time talking about the policies they support. The buildup of fear was inevitable. Remember, this isn’t an article about politics.
Why the rise of Never Trump and Never Clinton? Because we as a people are afraid. At some point we the people started making decisions based on the litany of devastation rather than what we believe are the relative benefits of the policies presented. We started making choices out of fear, and that was the beginning of the end.
The only way to reverse course is to vote for rather than against. That’s awfully hard in the current political climate where many don’t agree with either candidate (leading them to wonder justifiably if the choices on the ballot really do reflect the best choices available for the job!). Still, Brother Dave Gardner once said, “Don’t tell me about your doubts. I have enough doubts of my own. Tell me something you believe in!” There’s wisdom in that.
And it’s true of far more than just the political world. After all, this isn’t an article about politics. Making decisions based on fear of the negative leads to reactionary, defensive decision making. Fear-based choices paralyze us. They keep us from walking boldly forward as we are crushed under the weight of uncertainty. On the other hand, decisions based on the positive position us to take advantage of opportunity and growth (assuming those positions are grounded in some modicum of reality, of course!).
You see this in the church so often it’s cliché. Sacred cows, they call them. Things that can’t be touched for one reason or another. Some of them are physical items, most of which have a shiny plaque. Many of them are practices—things we’ve always done this way or that. And woe is the one who attempts to change the sacred cow!
But this isn’t an article about politics, and it isn’t an article about sacred cows either. The thing is both of those exist. There will always be politicians trying to convince us of a narrative that leads to one eventuality: they will get elected. And there will always be things in churches that mean a lot to a few people that frankly get in the way of the forward progress of the church. Because reality, people. But that doesn’t mean we have to be driven by it.
So how do we step out of this nightmare? Realistic positivity. Think realistically and thoughtfully about what you want to happen and how you can make it happen. Then do that. Yeah, I know. You don’t like either candidate. But think about what the candidates stand for based on what they have said and done, and then make your choice. In the church, we have to resist the temptation to judge the plaque-adorned credenza as an eyesore and a liability. Cast a vision for the positive things you’d like to do with the space and present that. Nobody wants to hear, “I hate the credenza that you’ve been walking past every week since you were 4 years old because it’s awful.” Everybody wants to hear, “Imagine what we can do when we paint this, clean that, put some curtains over the other, and do this super awesome thing with that space there.”
That’s the good news. This isn’t an article about politics. It’s an article about hope. Even if we’re easily led astray by fear, deep inside, in places we don’t talk about at parties (1000 points for citing the reference in the comments), we want to be inspired. We want to believe the best is yet to be. We want to live in a world where decisions are not made by doubts, but rather are made by what we believe in.