Politics sours Christmas spirit

Christmastime is here, but I am feeling like Charlie Brown as he and Linus are about to join the rest of the gang to skate on the ice in, ?A Charlie Brown Christ?mas.?

It doesn?t feel like Christmastime.

Why? One word: Politics. Maybe two words: Politics and religion.

Correction: Make that politics, religion, belief and practice.

Two months have passed since my last commentary on the current state of affairs between the slate of political candidates for our nation?s highest office. Change has come, but not for the better.

How much time must one be forced to watch the debates on television before one says, ?Enough!??

To be honest, I did not spend much time watching the latest round, nor did I watch the earlier debates. I did spend time checking out campaign websites for commentary on policy, however. One can only stand so much bickering and arguing among adults behaving like undisciplined children.

Unlike observing sordid behavior on television, one can determine a candidate?s political affinity from the written word, not only by what is written, but also how it is written, and even if nothing is written at all.

?Judge not, lest you be judged?.?

This bit of Scripture, taken from the book of Matthew, may be one of the most often misinterpreted and abused verses in recent times, often in defense of an action deemed uncaring and unchristian, and used to instill guilt within the mind of the opponent, and silence further scrutiny.

Specifically, though debate is a valuable format to determine a candidate?s expertise, intellectual prowess and verbal skills, it is a greater indication of unworthiness when verbal sparring degrades to the lowest level one can imagine.

Unfortunately, this behavior is coming from presidential candidates identifying themselves as Christians.

?…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law? (Gal. 5:22-23, NIV).

Rather than behaving like unruly children, we should strive to emulate behavior that restores hope in a lost world. Rather than using language that provokes anger and destroys relationships, we should rise above the noise and chaos to restore, to heal and bring about the culture that solves problems.

We live in a dysfunctional world. We should not let that world dominate our behavior. Rather, let our nature be transformed by a higher power that can restore hope where there was none.

In practical terms, if one were a Christian and an aspiring politician, the greatest challenge is to not only convince the electorate that he or she is the best choice, but demonstrate the way to live in harmony and peace with one another.

?Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others? (Phil. 2:3-4).

Much of what I have learned from my days of lobbying in the halls of Congress reveals the lack of agreement over this bit of Scripture. It is possible, yet difficult, even for the most dedicated Christian/legislator to follow God?s desire on a good day, let alone live accordingly every minute of the day.

The label of a ?public servant? is largely ironic. It is the antiseptic, noble, iconic metaphor we read about in the media. It gets dirty from there.

We are familiar with the moral failures of well-known legislators such as Sen. Ted Kennedy and others. It should not be surprising, however, because the mantle of authority and status, along with the vast resources of the U.S. government, is a powerful intoxicating mixture.

As one goes about the business of working in the public?s interests, the legislator?s time and attention is a valuable ?commodity? as people vie for consideration of their proposals. They are the enabler for a rising sense of self-importance, and few people can keep their egos in check.

In light of this, how then should we behave, not only as politicians, but also as ordinary citizens?

Micah 6:8 says, ?…And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.?

Much of Scripture addresses our need for redemption, restoration, healing, grace and mercy. These are expressions of God?s heart. And though he is incomprehensible in might, wisdom and splendor, God is humble, meek and mild. A sign of a great public servant is one who reflects the heart of God. It can be a hard act to follow, especially if one tries to live on one?s own power.

Without a spirit of humility and compassion for the weakest among us, our democracy has a steep hill to climb. Will we succeed as a democratic republic and move from dysfunctional government to one that reflects the ideals embodied in the Constitution and the image of the Statue of Liberty?

I do not have an adequate answer. Like Charlie Brown, I am uncertain.

That said, if you want to talk about Christmas, I can get excited about that!