No matter where I turn today there seems to be conversation of the fact that we live on the edge of a political doomsday. My left leaning democratic friends are deeply unsatisfied with Hillary and her long story of dirty money and business. My right leaning friends are enraged by the killer clown that is The Donald. Watching this year’s debates has felt disturbing to many. It is perhaps the sinking feeling of a child who wakes up to the sound of her parents screaming at one another first thing in the morning. We are watching those who must lead our society go at each other’s throats, and in the process exposing each other’s ugliest flaws. The process is deeply unsettling to many.
How do we maintain our optimism and hope in times like this? I was skimming through some of C. S. Lewis’ essays on politics and culture this morning and ran across a helpful distinction that he makes about politics. Lewis notes that politics is only able to tell us of the best means of attaining the good things to which we strive. It is the means, the tools of change, not the source of the change itself. Politics is one of the tools through which we take our perspective of what is good and right and bring it about within society. The trouble with many of us today is that we have allowed politics to become, not only the means, but also the end. To many of us, politics has become the “great story” itself. Many people today have given in to the idea that most of the basic questions of life are contained and answered within the political world itself. We live in an age when questions such as, “What is wrong with the world?” “Who is at fault?” “What is the solution and how do we get there?” are believed to be determined by the next presidential candidate.
And lets not be naive. This is a problem for people on both sides. Many religious conservatives think that if only we get a christian in the White House we can hold off the apocalypse of Hillary and her leftist policies. If we fail, all is lost. On the left side, many people believe that what we really need is another leader that will lead us in progress toward equality, justice and freedom for all. It is often felt that our greatest need is to be freed from the restraint of the religious influence of the past, that this is one of the greatest hinderances to our progress toward a world that is more rational and equal.
This political season has pulled back the curtain for all of us. The house of cards has come tumbling down. Your political heroes are no heroes. We can’t avoid the glaring reality that they don’t actually appear stand for many of the good and right things to which we long. Defending one candidate has come down to arguing how much more evil the other one is. To many who have honestly considered the picture, it has lead to disillusionment.
So lets come back to Lewis’ idea from earlier. Politics is merely the tools of change, not the source itself. As the cards are tumbling down for many of us its a great opportunity to take a step back and to reflect on the whole picture itself. This is a moment to push deeper and to consider the sources of our ideas of what is good, what is beautiful and what is true. In his essay, Lewis argues that we must be anchored to that which is timeless – to that which does not change yesterday, today or tomorrow. Unless we are deeply rooted in the things that do not change, we will certainly struggle to maintain composure and perspective in the windstorm of today’s (and tomorrow’s) society.
How is your grasp of that which is timeless? Does the story of life in which you live have sufficient foundation for values that are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow? Is there anything left to your view of the world when the policies and leaders of today fail you?
Lewis, C. S. (2014-05-20). God in the Dock (pp. 91-92). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.