Scorning The Airplane: Political Engagement For A New Year
Just when we thought that we had escaped the long-awaited Mayan Apocalypse, the news came out: Kim Kardashian is having Kanye’s baby. Like we do to the hand that explodes out of the grave in the closing shot of the movie, we, the people, love to scream in excitement at objectively unremarkable things. Like metaphysical ostriches, we seek to bury our heads in the sand of mindless entertainment, regardless of the consequences. How many Christians fall prey to these same sentiments – particularly on such boring and life-changing matters as politics and economics?
We want entertainment, and the manufactured drama of “Washington vs. the Fiscal Cliff” (or “Washington vs. Washington on the Fiscal Cliff”) was simply the latest episode in our obsessive series. Recall the scene: as the deadline grew ever-closer, both the government and its media spun a narrative of clash and intrigue with our nation’s leaders at center stage. Negotiations were like a sword fight – “Boehner thrusts, Obama parries, McConnell feints, suddenly, it’s Biden from behind” – all the while, the ship they’re supposed to be piloting edges nearer to the waterfall. With tax increases and who-knows-what-else (those are the boring details) looming, our heroes worked late into the night to save us. All that’s missing are the 3-D glasses.
Naturally, as all good stories do, the plot resolved literally at the eleventh hour (Eastern time, 10 Central); a late-night vote on a holiday delivered the catharsis for which we had been waiting. The Cliff is avoided; the country is safe again; we all can return to our lives ignoring Washington until someone yells that we should be scared again. Back to Baby Kanyedashian.
So, let’s talk about him/her – Lil’ Kimye, I mean – and pretend like he/she’s starting to eat solid food already, but isn’t too crazy about what kind of diamond-encrusted fish sticks are on the menu. Maybe his/her nanny will resort to the age-old trick of making funny faces and noises to get that mouth to open and take a bite. Perhaps the baby spoon that will cost more than my car will, for a moment, become an exciting airplane to distract that stubborn child into ignoring what he/she cares about for the sake of being entertained.
Sound familiar? Back to today, as the credits roll on the Adventure of the Fiscal Cliff, and as we praise the politicians we like and wish that all others had never been born, we just got airplaned.
To call reporting on the passage of H.R. 8 misleading would be giving it too much credit: how many articles have you seen or stories have you heard lauding the fact that only those dirty rich people are going to have to step out of their bathtubs full of money in order to pay an increased income tax? The middle-class working shticks have been saved that terrible burden – no income tax increase for us!
And then, typically buried in the last two paragraphs, a sentence will point out that several other forms of taxes are increasing on all brackets to the extent that upwards of 77% of taxpayers will see increased bills. Income tax is only one of several forms of taxation by which we are regularly saddled. And given the significant shortfall still present in the national budget, more changes are almost certainly to come.
How many people have been lulled into a false sense of financial security by all of the rhetorical posturing and blatantly partisan politicking that have marked the last several weeks of political news? Given that the story is now over (that is, it’s no longer being reported on), how many do not realize that our country’s financial woes are far from solved? How many will be surprised by their own higher tax burden when they file in the next few months, tricked into thinking that the same government that created the Fiscal Cliff Conundrum fixed everything already with just one vote?
The mere fact that you are reading FaithfulPolitics.org indicates that you will not go ignorantly into that future. Regardless of whether the outcome of the Fiscal Cliff Good-Time Family Band Solution pleases you or not; no matter your views on whether Pres. Obama or Rep. Boehner is the worse human being; and your placement on the “crazy-liberal-to-crazy-conservative” spectrum notwithstanding, you have taken it upon yourself to seek out more information about the way that your world is turning. You are scorning the airplane rather than swallowing the mouthful that it’s trying to force-feed you.
Thoughtful engagement is the responsibility of all citizens, but even moreso for Christians, as we have been charged to ever set our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, [and] whatever is admirable” (Phil. 4:8). Admittedly, the shady realm of politics rarely qualifies as noble, right, or pure – but the inescapable effect that governmental policies have on the lives of real people should be motivation aplenty for our attention. We must not stick our heads in the sand, blindly following the message that is fed to us; we must be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:2) so that we can “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
Aristotle called mankind the “political animal” because our communities, this side of Eden at least, are plagued by enough problems that cooperation is necessary for our survival. As in every situation that truly matters, the intellectual Christian voice should not be silent in this conversation. This is what we do here at FaithfulPolitics.org – seek to provide Christian reflections on culture and current events that, as best we can, are marked more by Scripture than by party affiliation. We are a rag-tag group of Christians from many walks of life – men, women, liberals, conservatives – who live all around these United States. We love God, our neighbors, and you, and we care about the direction our country is moving.
If you’re just now finding us, then this article is a good introduction to where we are coming from and I encourage you to glance through our archives or the tag cloud on the right banner to see what we’ve been thinking about lately, or you might try our top ten posts of 2012. After the excitement of an election season, the political air is heavy with promises and 2013 looks to be an exciting year. Won’t you join us as we think Christianly about them together?
If not, then Papa Kanye will always be there to take you back.