Serving The Bottom Line

I voted today and it was not a joyful event. Politics in the U.S. are at a low-ebb, at least the lowest in my lifetime. I hate both political parties——Republicans and Democrats. And please take note that my hatred is aimed at the parties themselves, not the people involved in them. (How I wish there were a credible third-party candidate to vote for, and no, I don’t need the comments and emails trying to convince me otherwise. And I’ll apologize from my roof-top if any third-party candidate comes close to winning this election in even one state.)

Humans, grouped together, have an amazing capacity to do justify horrific behavior when it serves their interests. And right now the only thing our political parties seem to be committed to is electing their own to power, and serving their own unique band of special interests to line their pockets and increase their influence. That’s their bottom line, and when your only compass is power, money, or influence, character and integrity is always lost. Truth has no meaning, corruption ensues, and society becomes a poorer place.

As I read Psalm 58 on Sunday morning I’m reminded that the corruption of those who seek political power is a constant theme of human history.

Is this any way to run a country?
Is there an honest politician in the house?
Behind the scenes you brew cauldrons of evil,
behind closed doors you make deals with demons.

Psalm 58:1-2

I guess it’s nice to know this problem is as old as humanity, and the constant desire humans have to force others to do their bidding. I would hope there are people in both parties who care about a greater common good for our country, but it is not evident any more. They have figured out how to slice our fellow-citizens up into special interest groups from which they can find 51% willing to vote their way. It is corrupting to the core. George Washington himself warned us this would be so. He thought political parties would eventually ruin this country. In his farewell letter to the nation, he warned that political parties would turn the government from “a group of people interested in their nation’s future, to a rabbling mob of power-hungry professional politicians.”

He was right and the fulfillment of his words are coming due in our generation. Our political parties are money-grabbing, influence-peddling, character-destroying institutions whose only ambition is to increase their own power. Over the past few years I’ve spent more time than I would care to admit with people who serve a bottom-line above everything else. For some it’s money or power. With political parties it’s votes. But whenever someone cares about their bottom line more than what’s right or fair, truth is the first thing discard by the side of the road. They will say or do whatever they must, to get what they think they deserve and they have absolutely no concern for whatever carnage they create. Both parties have demonstrated that in this election.

But I do believe history turns on small decisions by thousands of people, and voting in a republic, while a small one indeed, is nonetheless critical. So I took pen in hand and voted once again, often having to hold my nose as I did it. And, no, I did not vote for President Obama this year. Probably the blog posting that has caused the most angst among readers and generated the largest volume of e-hate-mail, was the one when I talked about voting for President Obama in the last election and what I thought it meant for nonwhites in American history.

As I made clear at the time that vote was mostly a protest vote against Republicans for selling out our country to war-mongers and Wall-street executives, and betraying their own principles in outrageous spending, and I do not regret it. But President Obama has been a far worse president than I feared and I could not consider voting for him again. I knew his rhetoric for bi-partisan efforts would be far easier than dealing with reality, but I have been disappointed that he has not lifted a finger to forge collaborative legislation and has only bullied others to get what he wanted. He betrayed most of his campaign promises, except for those that served his leftist leanings. In the end he seems overmatched for the job, especially on economic and domestic issues, and now has run a purely negative campaign that has only torn down his opponent with false charges, instead of building a credible case for his own re-election.

We need a problem-solver at the head of the economy now and I’m hoping Mitt Romney has the chops to deliver on his promise. He certainly has far more experience in dealing with the realities of high-finance, and a greater record for collaboration than his opponent. But it was not an easy vote. The Republican party does not speak for me on so many issues, and the ones it does it seems to only give lip service to, in hopes of manipulating a constituency’s support rather than actually governing from those priorities.

I have no illusions here. Their bottom line is the good of their party, rather than the good of the country. I hope that changes some day, or this may be how our grand experiment in representative governance ends: the goodwill of the people overturned by the corruption of its officials and the arrogance of its political parties. When your bottom line is the amassing of personal power at the expense of the common good, you are part of the momentum that bears us toward destruction.

No, this is no way to run a country. The Psalmist was right. But let it also be a warning to us. This is also not way to live our lives. Do you have a bottom line you put above loving others? Do you live each day trying only to find what makes you happy, or trying to find a way to make someone else give you what you want? If so, you are also a collaborator in your own destruction.

We find life not by doing what is expedient for ourselves, but by doing what love invites us to do in the moment. That will lead us to truth, not away from it. It will allow us to live with humility, compassion, and honesty in the world, and where you can freely do that the kingdom of God advances in the heart of men.

I voted today, but that’s by far not the most important thing I’ll do today. There are so many other ways to let God’s light shine on the world around me, which will somehow unfold in simply loving the next person God puts in front of me.

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24 Comments
  1. Pamela Wood October 31, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    I appreciate the sentiments, Wayne and could identify with much of your article. I voted this year for the first time in YEARS, not because my vote will count, as I live in an overwhelmingly Republican state, and one more vote against President Obama in Kansas will not do anything to change the election. But, I did vote, because, as a CHRIST follower, I felt compelled to take a stand against some things that are part of President Obama’s administration that, I believe, are against what I believe and what I stand for as a disciple of CHRIST. I did not say I am voting ‘for’ Mitt Romney, because the vote is not necessarily for him, it is against President Obama. I emailed the President and told him why I was voting against him, not that anyone cares, least of all the President.

    Ultimately, I will trust the future of our country, the church universal, and my family and friends to Father Who will use the outcome of this election to fulfill His purposes for His kingdom, whether it is positive or negative for the ‘kingdom’ of the United States of America. Who else are we going to trust? The politicians? Not!!!!

  2. Karen Grossman October 31, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Wayne, once again yours is a voice of reason bringing calm to an issue of controversy.

    PS I like your vote better this time.

  3. Alana October 31, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    While I dont necessarily share the same dissapointment with you regarding President Obama, your description of the current political culture is DEAD ON…you have hit the nail on the head. Thank you for your continued thoughfulness on this and many topics.

  4. Jeremy Weathers October 31, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I believe that politics is a lose-lose game for Christians. I believe history shows that terrible things happen when Christians (or alternatively the institutional church) hold political power. I follow Christ’s lead in eschewing political power. I believe that government is the messiah of secular humanism. I believe that involvement in politics betrays our status as aliens in this world and distracts us from the kingdom of heaven.

    I do not vote.

    For more eloquent arguments against voting from believers, I recommend the book “Electing not to vote” (http://www.amazon.com/Electing-Not-Vote-Christian-Reflections/dp/1556352271).

  5. Pamela Wood October 31, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I appreciate the sentiments, Wayne and could identify with much of your article. I voted this year for the first time in YEARS, not because my vote will count, as I live in an overwhelmingly Republican state, and one more vote against President Obama in Kansas will not do anything to change the election. But, I did vote, because, as a CHRIST follower, I felt compelled to take a stand against some things that are part of President Obama’s administration that, I believe, are against what I believe and what I stand for as a disciple of CHRIST. I did not say I am voting ‘for’ Mitt Romney, because the vote is not necessarily for him, it is against President Obama. I emailed the President and told him why I was voting against him, not that anyone cares, least of all the President.

    Ultimately, I will trust the future of our country, the church universal, and my family and friends to Father Who will use the outcome of this election to fulfill His purposes for His kingdom, whether it is positive or negative for the ‘kingdom’ of the United States of America. Who else are we going to trust? The politicians? Not!!!!

  6. Bev October 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Wayne,

    Thank you. Couldn’t have said it better.

  7. Karen Grossman October 31, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Wayne, once again yours is a voice of reason bringing calm to an issue of controversy.

    PS I like your vote better this time.

  8. Alana October 31, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    While I dont necessarily share the same dissapointment with you regarding President Obama, your description of the current political culture is DEAD ON…you have hit the nail on the head. Thank you for your continued thoughfulness on this and many topics.

  9. Jeremy Weathers October 31, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    I believe that politics is a lose-lose game for Christians. I believe history shows that terrible things happen when Christians (or alternatively the institutional church) hold political power. I follow Christ’s lead in eschewing political power. I believe that government is the messiah of secular humanism. I believe that involvement in politics betrays our status as aliens in this world and distracts us from the kingdom of heaven.

    I do not vote.

    For more eloquent arguments against voting from believers, I recommend the book “Electing not to vote” (http://www.amazon.com/Electing-Not-Vote-Christian-Reflections/dp/1556352271).

  10. Bev October 31, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Wayne,

    Thank you. Couldn’t have said it better.

  11. Judy Gale November 1, 2012 at 3:11 am

    Take a look at this video and LISTEN closely (link below).  THIS is why I am now voting for those I know will support equal rights for same-sex marriage. THAT along with the reality that I personally know colleagues, friends, neighbours, and loved ones whose lives are undergoing undue hardships, namely, no access to health insurance and retirement plans, due to the unequal rights being enforced upon them by (most) current national, state, and city legislations. When I let my heart be engaged, I find the ‘right’ response for me and my community. Judy Gale, Chapel Hill, NC
    “If I diminish you I diminish myself” ~Desmond Tutu
    Video: http://brianmclaren.net/archives/blog/give-this-three-minutes.html

  12. Judy Gale November 1, 2012 at 6:11 am

    Take a look at this video and LISTEN closely (link below).  THIS is why I am now voting for those I know will support equal rights for same-sex marriage. THAT along with the reality that I personally know colleagues, friends, neighbours, and loved ones whose lives are undergoing undue hardships, namely, no access to health insurance and retirement plans, due to the unequal rights being enforced upon them by (most) current national, state, and city legislations. When I let my heart be engaged, I find the ‘right’ response for me and my community. Judy Gale, Chapel Hill, NC
    “If I diminish you I diminish myself” ~Desmond Tutu
    Video: http://brianmclaren.net/archives/blog/give-this-three-minutes.html

  13. Frank Ancona November 1, 2012 at 6:35 am

    Wayne,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The problem with representative government, the least problematic of ALL other forms of government in world history (even the Greeks and their “absolute” democracy would often wait for certain parties to be out of town at war before holding elections), is that we really don’t get to know the candidates as a person. I’m not just talking about presidential elections, but even our local officials. We don’t get to know who they are, where they came from, and what they believe. We are only given finely, carefully crafted charicatures of who they are.

    Seeing some of the comments above, I don’t understand how anyone could assume selection on one or two issues. That still doesn’t help us know the heart of the candidate, only where or how they will wield their power if elected. That is why we are more divided than ever. Start this conversation, as you have experienced, in the midst of any group of citizens and consensus can be found. Start the same conversation among elected officials, and power and votes are put ahead of consensus. Our nation was lost almost from the beginning when we stopped forcing elected officials to go home after a few years. Now we make politics a career and distort reality for that which will garner the most votes. As such, we don’t have time to truly consider the pros and cons of ANY issue, unless we research it. That takes work, while ads, slogans, and soundbites are much easier.

    Let me also say this: Neither candidate stands for Christ and his ideals. His ideals are about SACRIFICING my wants for the wants of another. We gain victory by surrender. I don’t see that in either candidate, or even Gary Johnson or any of the smaller party candidates. I pray that Papa’s will is done in this election. Yes, I have voted my conscience as an INFORMED citizen (I research, I don’t accept ideology). But His will be done on earth for by His love He knows what is best for all even when it is sometimes distasteful or painful in the short run.

  14. Frank Ancona November 1, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Wayne,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The problem with representative government, the least problematic of ALL other forms of government in world history (even the Greeks and their “absolute” democracy would often wait for certain parties to be out of town at war before holding elections), is that we really don’t get to know the candidates as a person. I’m not just talking about presidential elections, but even our local officials. We don’t get to know who they are, where they came from, and what they believe. We are only given finely, carefully crafted charicatures of who they are.

    Seeing some of the comments above, I don’t understand how anyone could assume selection on one or two issues. That still doesn’t help us know the heart of the candidate, only where or how they will wield their power if elected. That is why we are more divided than ever. Start this conversation, as you have experienced, in the midst of any group of citizens and consensus can be found. Start the same conversation among elected officials, and power and votes are put ahead of consensus. Our nation was lost almost from the beginning when we stopped forcing elected officials to go home after a few years. Now we make politics a career and distort reality for that which will garner the most votes. As such, we don’t have time to truly consider the pros and cons of ANY issue, unless we research it. That takes work, while ads, slogans, and soundbites are much easier.

    Let me also say this: Neither candidate stands for Christ and his ideals. His ideals are about SACRIFICING my wants for the wants of another. We gain victory by surrender. I don’t see that in either candidate, or even Gary Johnson or any of the smaller party candidates. I pray that Papa’s will is done in this election. Yes, I have voted my conscience as an INFORMED citizen (I research, I don’t accept ideology). But His will be done on earth for by His love He knows what is best for all even when it is sometimes distasteful or painful in the short run.

  15. Alan Gray November 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    It is a giant Monopoly game Wayne. No need to be concerned. The money is printed by Hasbro. The houses are plastic and now that we are citizens in a higher kingdom, all we need to do is push back from the table of squabbling players, turn our chairs around and see that none of it was meant for anything but to enjoy. The money isn’t real, our providence is already secured.

  16. Alan Gray November 2, 2012 at 2:42 am

    It is a giant Monopoly game Wayne. No need to be concerned. The money is printed by Hasbro. The houses are plastic and now that we are citizens in a higher kingdom, all we need to do is push back from the table of squabbling players, turn our chairs around and see that none of it was meant for anything but to enjoy. The money isn’t real, our providence is already secured.

  17. jacob November 2, 2012 at 5:49 am

    As long as we have money in washington, we will have corruption. Take the money away, and restore liberty to the people, and we just may be able to save the country. Otherwise, even my youthful optimism can’t run from the facts.

  18. jacob November 2, 2012 at 8:49 am

    As long as we have money in washington, we will have corruption. Take the money away, and restore liberty to the people, and we just may be able to save the country. Otherwise, even my youthful optimism can’t run from the facts.

  19. Tom Walker November 3, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Wayne, your cynicism is understandable but disappointing. The political parties are what they are but we are electing a man, not a political party as President. History is driven by the greatness of individual leaders, not organizations. All it will take is one person with the right character to bring America back from the brink. It’s been done before under no less dire circumstances. I believe we have such a candidate before us now. Let the rest of the country have their cynicism. It seems to me the proper response from the Christian community at this juncture is intercession.

  20. Tom Walker November 3, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Wayne, your cynicism is understandable but disappointing. The political parties are what they are but we are electing a man, not a political party as President. History is driven by the greatness of individual leaders, not organizations. All it will take is one person with the right character to bring America back from the brink. It’s been done before under no less dire circumstances. I believe we have such a candidate before us now. Let the rest of the country have their cynicism. It seems to me the proper response from the Christian community at this juncture is intercession.

  21. Linda Spangler November 9, 2012 at 1:46 am

    Wayne, now that the election is over I am in a rough place as I was putting some hope in the goodness of what good is still left in our beautiful America, but now I think I was wrong. l know that my hope is in Father and not men, but I find myself completely cynical about my neighbor. Evil will prevail in this life and I have spent far too much time in hoping I would not witness it consume our country-obviously we are going to watch it happen. I struggle with finding my footing in knowing that Father is in control, having to take the injustice of it all, and knowing that my job is to just continue doing as I have been doing for the past couple of years since Father opened my heart to his will of living loved each day and loving others in that love. I also know that many others have watched injustice happen all around them for a lifetime, and had somehow been able to live a life of joy in the midst of it. I am in need of perspective.

  22. Linda Spangler November 9, 2012 at 4:46 am

    Wayne, now that the election is over I am in a rough place as I was putting some hope in the goodness of what good is still left in our beautiful America, but now I think I was wrong. l know that my hope is in Father and not men, but I find myself completely cynical about my neighbor. Evil will prevail in this life and I have spent far too much time in hoping I would not witness it consume our country-obviously we are going to watch it happen. I struggle with finding my footing in knowing that Father is in control, having to take the injustice of it all, and knowing that my job is to just continue doing as I have been doing for the past couple of years since Father opened my heart to his will of living loved each day and loving others in that love. I also know that many others have watched injustice happen all around them for a lifetime, and had somehow been able to live a life of joy in the midst of it. I am in need of perspective.

  23. Wayne November 9, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I answer this last email in my current blog: http://lifestream.org/blog/2012/11/09/gods-purposes-continue/

  24. Wayne November 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I answer this last email in my current blog: http://lifestream.org/blog/2012/11/09/gods-purposes-continue/

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