Breaking Free of False Caricatures

Watching both political conventions over the last two weeks, it finally dawned on me why I have come to find this entire election season so empty and soul-numbing.

Each side, using all the tools of public relations, exaggerates its claims to greatness far beyond any sense of reality, and at the same time exaggerates its opponent’s weaknesses, even making up lies where it serves them. In the end we don’t get an honest discussion of the issues, or even an honest appraisal of the men running to be our next President. We get a constant barrage of deceitful self-boasting and scurrilous accusations at the other.

False caricatures are all were left with. One person deserves our trust and the other is an evil man running for his own self-interest. The process is not designed to inform the electorate, but to manipulate their vote for that which does not even exist. If you talk to supporters of either man, they see it exactly the way the politicians want them to. One candidate is the only hope for America, and the other will totally destroy it. I don’t know what’s sadder, that politicians think we’ll fall for the charade, or that so many Americans actually do.

I would hope that when President Obama and Governor Romney go to bed at night, they see through the false caricatures that mar their own campaigns. But I’m not so sure they do. I remember when President George W. Bush was asked at the end of his first term if there was anything he regretted, or decisions he made that wish he’d done differently. He couldn’t think of any. Really? Can anyone be so self-deceived that they can’t look back over any four-year period and not see the failures that any moderately intelligent person could see? Who doesn’t gain better wisdom with the passing of time or in the consequences of their actions, not wish they had treated someone differently?

And now the media is in on the game as well. They join one side and manipulate their listeners to see their one-dimensional view of the world. Seemingly the only way to get a job in news these days is to be an arrogant, obnoxious advocate for liberal or conservative causes. Who is taking a hard look at what’s true and able to analyze the nuances of the major crises that confront our nation?

False caricatures are not only a stupid way to choose a President they also destroy human relationships at every level. And yet shame drags us into our own internal conversations that are very much like this political campaign. Viewing yourself or anyone else in such one-dimensional terms is a recipe for disaster. It is the language of shame throbbing like a drum beat in our heads as much as in our culture.

There are those who find it easy to exaggerate their own sense of goodness or gifts, while also exaggerating the weaknesses of others. They end up thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think and will live arrogantly in the world, demanding their own way, betraying their own word when it suits them, and making accusations against others to deflect people from seeing them as they really are. Wherever they tread, relationships are destroyed.

While I’ve known a few people like that, there are probably more who tend to focus on all their faults and failures, while exaggerating the gifts and insights of others. They are so crushed by their own perception of inadequacy that they exaggerate their own weakness or brokenness, while at the same time exaggerating the gifts and goodness of others around them. Unable to accept themselves as they really are, with a full complement of attributes, some positive and some negative, they define themselves as unlovely and unworthy.

As long as we are dominated by shame we’ll live in a world of false caricatures of ourselves and other people around us. In the end we don’t get to see people as they really are, a mix of some talents, wisdom, and gifts, but also of weaknesses, inadequacies, and blind spots.

I remember one of the last conversations I had with three other elders at the place I last pastored. They had been some of my close friends for almost fifteen years. They were trying to get me to embrace changes they wanted to make in the congregation that I thought would take us away from the road Jesus was inviting us to follow. The pressure they exerted was oppressive, offering me the place of “wise apostle” if I bought into it, and threatening me with being outed as a rebellious person if I didn’t. I was neither of the two things I was being offered and yet those were the only choices I was being given. In the end, I decided that wasn’t a game I’d play anymore.

I’m so glad I didn’t. That game leads only to a false world of extremes where reality is celebrated and true life can unfold. While I crave the day when a politician will forge an honest campaign and make the other look foolish for not doing so, I have little hope that our political climate will change. But each of us has the freedom each day to walk away from a world of false caricatures and see ourselves and others as they really are. Let God show you how he views you, both the places that reflect his glory, and those places that he still yearns to transform. Don’t be afraid to admit either and have the freedom to be who you really are in the world. It will help set others free.

And then learn to see others as they really are, celebrating their gifts and strengths, while pouring out compassion and patience on the broken places they endure. Life is so much better when we live in reality and not the false caricatures that our society seems to crave.

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18 Comments
  1. Kent September 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    PR…….the act of making the weak argument look strong

  2. David Takle September 12, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I wonder, too, Wayne, whether we will ever see a real statesman again in this country. And if we had one, would people want to elect them as president?

  3. John Hard September 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Some very good words, and quite honestly, a breath of fresh air amidst a political climate that is about as stale, yet vitriolic, as 2 year old bread. What saddens me the most is Christians who have bought in, lock, stock and barrel, to their political ideology, and placed it on a pedestal as high as their calling as Christians. Neither candidate is the ideal choice, not is any candidate going to, as you said, totally destroy America. Those are words from those who would attempt to coerce our vote through fear.

    Thanks for a good, fresh perspective and re-orientation.

  4. Leo Free September 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Thank you, Wayne. This is very confirming of some things transforming within my own heart. The whole false perception, including pendulum swings into false good and false bad. Thank GOD for the many gracious ways Father brings us into intersections with truth. He is not correct dogma, but our living savior. I’m so thankful for the relationship journey Father beckons each of us into. Blessings brother. Thanks again for sharing your insights.

  5. Tom (aka Volkmar) September 12, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Good thoughts and observations Wayne.

    Political campaigns have become, at least since the Nixon/Kennedy race, more about image and entertainment than about conveying actual information and perspective. This quote from Neil Postman is spot-on;

    I am particularly fond of John Lindasy’s suggestion that political commercials be banned from television as we now ban cigarette and liquor commercials. I would gladly testify before the Federal Communications Commission as to the manifold merits of this excellent idea. To those who would oppose my testimony by claiming that such a ban is a clear violation of the First Amendment, I would offer a compromise; Require all political commercials to be preceded by a short statement to the effect that common sense has determined that watching political commercials is hazardous to the intellectual health of the community.

    [Neil Postman, pg. 159 of Amusing Ourselves To Death]

    Tom

  6. Kent September 12, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    PR…….the act of making the weak argument look strong

  7. Kent September 12, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Tom, Amusing Ourselves To Death is one of the most important books I have ever read.

  8. David Takle September 12, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    I wonder, too, Wayne, whether we will ever see a real statesman again in this country. And if we had one, would people want to elect them as president?

  9. John Hard September 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Some very good words, and quite honestly, a breath of fresh air amidst a political climate that is about as stale, yet vitriolic, as 2 year old bread. What saddens me the most is Christians who have bought in, lock, stock and barrel, to their political ideology, and placed it on a pedestal as high as their calling as Christians. Neither candidate is the ideal choice, not is any candidate going to, as you said, totally destroy America. Those are words from those who would attempt to coerce our vote through fear.

    Thanks for a good, fresh perspective and re-orientation.

  10. Leo Free September 12, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Thank you, Wayne. This is very confirming of some things transforming within my own heart. The whole false perception, including pendulum swings into false good and false bad. Thank GOD for the many gracious ways Father brings us into intersections with truth. He is not correct dogma, but our living savior. I’m so thankful for the relationship journey Father beckons each of us into. Blessings brother. Thanks again for sharing your insights.

  11. Tom (aka Volkmar) September 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Good thoughts and observations Wayne.

    Political campaigns have become, at least since the Nixon/Kennedy race, more about image and entertainment than about conveying actual information and perspective. This quote from Neil Postman is spot-on;

    I am particularly fond of John Lindasy’s suggestion that political commercials be banned from television as we now ban cigarette and liquor commercials. I would gladly testify before the Federal Communications Commission as to the manifold merits of this excellent idea. To those who would oppose my testimony by claiming that such a ban is a clear violation of the First Amendment, I would offer a compromise; Require all political commercials to be preceded by a short statement to the effect that common sense has determined that watching political commercials is hazardous to the intellectual health of the community.

    [Neil Postman, pg. 159 of Amusing Ourselves To Death]

    Tom

  12. Kent September 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Tom, Amusing Ourselves To Death is one of the most important books I have ever read.

  13. Alan Gray September 14, 2012 at 9:28 am

    These men are not to to be compared to real human beings. Their image is made and maintained by their “corporate veil” of protection. It produces these caricatures. They aren’t real people, they are figurines or icons that represent things. It is wrong to think that anything else could come out of human organizations. If people created people, they would all look like candidates. In fact, they do. We present images to people around us rather than honest expressions of who we are. We don’t just crawl out of bed and walk out the door to work. We clean up our presentation. We create images of propriety because we don’t like what we see in the mirror. Taken to the extreme, we look just like Barack Obamas or Mitt Romneys (see attached pictures). We smile for the camera but we aren’t as happy as we pose. We are as deceptive as these two smiling icons of the 21st century. They are mirrors of us.

    My attorney went to great lengths to explain how I am to present myself to customers so as to maintain the corporate veil of protection that my company provides for me. If I screw up, I don’t get blamed. The corporation takes the brunt of my error and since the corporation is a fictitious entity, it can be punished or killed while I survive the attack. I can incinerate the corporation an open up for business the next day operating under another corporate veil all I have to do is make sure I change the name enough so no guilt by association is legally detectable.

    Oddly this whole human concoction is exactly what Jesus told us we already have in him. We don’t believe in the protection he provides however, even if we form fictitious corporations to promote His “gospel”. We do it behind the corporate veil an create the same caricatures to represent them.

    Politics is religion is politics. There is no difference. It is a disease that needs a host. We can’t be satisfied that we are acceptable already. We refuse to believe it completely but – we are, and that is a perfect ‘host’ for these diseased institutions to wrap themselves around. If some corporate icon can first convince us that we are not acceptable (killing the planet, going to hell, too rich, too lazy, whatever) then it can offer it’s veil of protection, but only if we become a member of it’s fictitious legal entity. It will warn us that we cannot survive as a “lone wolf”.

    I look at these people and see the image of a true man. Not a man who has no shame but rather a man who hides it behind a man made veil of protection. They are sold as men who stand on the solid rock of their principals and causes but they are not such men because of the causes they promote. They are not courageous because of their single minded determination and laser focus on the high ideal they represent. These men are not the icons they are made up to be.

    I run into a real human being every once in a while. They are not made up to be such, they just are. They are the product of a confident and loving Father – in whom He is well pleased. They have obeyed the solitary inner voice of the spirit of Christ speaking every step of truth they make. They are obedient to that voice and they are not distracted by the voice of corporate responsibility to a cause or group. They stick in the craw of the institution because they are better than it’s icons yet they won’t fit in to it’s organizational chart. Every once in a while, they drift into these institutions an rise so rapidly toward the top that they are viewed as a threat. They are better at what they do than the icon of the organization so they are spit out of it’s mouth. Jesus was so much, such a man.

  14. Alan Gray September 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    These men are not to to be compared to real human beings. Their image is made and maintained by their “corporate veil” of protection. It produces these caricatures. They aren’t real people, they are figurines or icons that represent things. It is wrong to think that anything else could come out of human organizations. If people created people, they would all look like candidates. In fact, they do. We present images to people around us rather than honest expressions of who we are. We don’t just crawl out of bed and walk out the door to work. We clean up our presentation. We create images of propriety because we don’t like what we see in the mirror. Taken to the extreme, we look just like Barack Obamas or Mitt Romneys (see attached pictures). We smile for the camera but we aren’t as happy as we pose. We are as deceptive as these two smiling icons of the 21st century. They are mirrors of us.

    My attorney went to great lengths to explain how I am to present myself to customers so as to maintain the corporate veil of protection that my company provides for me. If I screw up, I don’t get blamed. The corporation takes the brunt of my error and since the corporation is a fictitious entity, it can be punished or killed while I survive the attack. I can incinerate the corporation an open up for business the next day operating under another corporate veil all I have to do is make sure I change the name enough so no guilt by association is legally detectable.

    Oddly this whole human concoction is exactly what Jesus told us we already have in him. We don’t believe in the protection he provides however, even if we form fictitious corporations to promote His “gospel”. We do it behind the corporate veil an create the same caricatures to represent them.

    Politics is religion is politics. There is no difference. It is a disease that needs a host. We can’t be satisfied that we are acceptable already. We refuse to believe it completely but – we are, and that is a perfect ‘host’ for these diseased institutions to wrap themselves around. If some corporate icon can first convince us that we are not acceptable (killing the planet, going to hell, too rich, too lazy, whatever) then it can offer it’s veil of protection, but only if we become a member of it’s fictitious legal entity. It will warn us that we cannot survive as a “lone wolf”.

    I look at these people and see the image of a true man. Not a man who has no shame but rather a man who hides it behind a man made veil of protection. They are sold as men who stand on the solid rock of their principals and causes but they are not such men because of the causes they promote. They are not courageous because of their single minded determination and laser focus on the high ideal they represent. These men are not the icons they are made up to be.

    I run into a real human being every once in a while. They are not made up to be such, they just are. They are the product of a confident and loving Father – in whom He is well pleased. They have obeyed the solitary inner voice of the spirit of Christ speaking every step of truth they make. They are obedient to that voice and they are not distracted by the voice of corporate responsibility to a cause or group. They stick in the craw of the institution because they are better than it’s icons yet they won’t fit in to it’s organizational chart. Every once in a while, they drift into these institutions an rise so rapidly toward the top that they are viewed as a threat. They are better at what they do than the icon of the organization so they are spit out of it’s mouth. Jesus was so much, such a man.

  15. Benjamin Coker October 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    More false equivalence from an Obama supporter. Are we to be guided by the Holy Spirit or the sentiment of the Occupy Movement? Four years after voting for Barrack Obama and this is your political commentary? You are a liberal, not Spirit led otherwise you’d stop shilling for Obama under the flag of “Christianity” or some form of spiritualism. No better than a right-winger using the “church” to shill for Romney. This is toxic.

    Sad.

  16. Benjamin Coker October 19, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    More false equivalence from an Obama supporter. Are we to be guided by the Holy Spirit or the sentiment of the Occupy Movement? Four years after voting for Barrack Obama and this is your political commentary? You are a liberal, not Spirit led otherwise you’d stop shilling for Obama under the flag of “Christianity” or some form of spiritualism. No better than a right-winger using the “church” to shill for Romney. This is toxic.

    Sad.

  17. Wayne October 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Benjamin, you know what is sad? People like you who make unfounded accusations with the same carelessness that the campaigns do. False accusations are so easy. Let me just be clear with you. I’m not an Obama supporter. Though I voted for him four years ago, it was mostly a protest vote against the Republicans who had squandered their chance to do something for the national good while growing the government and bailing out Wall Street. Has Obama been worse than the last Republican regime? In almost every way. And now he is running the most vicious campaign I’ve ever witnessed, that is not based on why vote for him, but why not to vote for the other guy and then knowingly, willfully distorts Romney’s words so that he can mock what Romney doesn’t even believe. That’s sort of like your post above , Benjamin. Does this really lead to helpful discussion?

  18. Wayne October 20, 2012 at 1:58 am

    Benjamin, you know what is sad? People like you who make unfounded accusations with the same carelessness that the campaigns do. False accusations are so easy. Let me just be clear with you. I’m not an Obama supporter. Though I voted for him four years ago, it was mostly a protest vote against the Republicans who had squandered their chance to do something for the national good while growing the government and bailing out Wall Street. Has Obama been worse than the last Republican regime? In almost every way. And now he is running the most vicious campaign I’ve ever witnessed, that is not based on why vote for him, but why not to vote for the other guy and then knowingly, willfully distorts Romney’s words so that he can mock what Romney doesn’t even believe. That’s sort of like your post above , Benjamin. Does this really lead to helpful discussion?

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