The Manipulative Leading The Blind
This post is in reply to “Coming Out Religious” by my good friend Randy Bohlender. It began as a comment on his blog, but became way too long, so I thought I would post it here. Check out RandyBohlender.com for the original post.
My friend Randy Bohlender, in his post “Coming Out Religious” discusses the way that politics and religion seem to collide on the campaign trail. On the one hand, politicians want to be seen as men and women of faith, of strong moral character and of deep conviction. On the other hand, they’ve been conditioned to get as many votes as possible at any cost. The result, as Randy points out, is a “total separation between church and mind”.
I’ve always thought these kinds of “I believe [fill in the blank] but it won’t affect the way I govern” statements were silly. I understand that someone may hold a certain belief but not feel like that belief should be legislated onto others, but I don’t think anybody really felt like Mitt Romney was going to legislate that we all become Mormon. I get why a politician would want to distinguish between personal faith and national legislation, but to say that something as central as one’s faith has no bearing on the decisions that an individual makes day in and day out is ridiculous. Equally as ridiculous are the ardent supporters (be they on the right or left) who will justify those kinds of comments from their candidate, yet flog the other side’s candidate for similar remarks. Conservatives and many Christians tripped over themselves during the primaries to explain to us why Mitt Romney was a great candiate “even though he’s Mormon”. Not that there’s anything wrong with standing up for a candidate (and I believe that someone can be a strong leader and govern effectively even if I disagree with their theology) but I have a hard time believing that these same conservatives would be as willing to let the whole “he’s a Mormon” thing slide if Mitt had been a Democrat. As a matter of fact, it would have probably been a central talking point on Fox News and talk radio for months. (See every “Is Obama a secret Muslim?” discussion.)
You see, the problem with politics is that it has become way too WWE and not nearly enough DIY Network. Politicians and those who support them are so focused on painting themselves (or their candidate) as the the “good guy” and the opponent as “the bad guy” – or better yet, “the incarnation of evil and all that is wrong in the world” – that they’ve lost site of the work that is supposed to be done in Washington. They’re pointing fingers and yelling, threatening to pull out the metal chair and smash in each other’s head. Meanwhile, our home is in disrepair and in need of a little DIY fixing. On one had we find the “separation between church and mind” and on the other hand, the “unbalanced application of rage”. In the end, whatever your guy says is evil, twisted and manipulative and whatever my guy says is good, honest and pure.
In reality, we’re talking about politicians. And every politician I know of is a human being (except maybe the Governator). And every human being I know fails to be 100% pure anything. We are all partially right and partially wrong, part good and part bad. Therefore, to offer our allegiance to a person or party or even a set of ideals without allowing ourselves to question or challenge that person, party or set of ideals is to walk blindly into the future. It is, in essence, a robotic life controlled by a political machine – a machine that has become very good at picking out “one issue voters” and playing to them, a machine that has discovered the power of even the slightest nod toward a particular group, cause or belief and a machine that can nuance a message so that people on both sides of just about any issue will feel like they’re being heard and that this candidate might change something in their favor.
I would love for politicians to let their “yes” be “yes” and their “no” be “no”. But until then, I determine to read between the lines and refuse to be pandered to by the crafty salesmen on the right or the left who think they can manipulate me into following them blindly.