Jesus said, "The first commandment is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbors as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
I think I have preached some form of this passage in almost every sermon. I suspect almost all of my fellow clergy have, too. It is at the root of everything Jesus teaches us. A follower of Christ is to exemplify the love of God wherever he or she is. All the time. Of course, none of us manages to love God, self and neighbor all the time. But we know that is our goal.
It seems to me that pretty much all politicians have forgotten this foundational teaching - a teaching that is not limited to Christianity. Rather than speaking on policy or social justice, those running for office spend almost all of their time slamming their opponent. Where is the love in that? How does this reflect one's own self love? Hasn't winning at all costs become like a god to these people?
Then there is the money spent to run these angry campaigns. In a country that is still fighting its way out of a recession, imagine how many ways all of the money raised for campaigns could benefit the jobless, the homeless and the hungry! Isn't our mandate to care for these people first?
Yesterday, I heard a media pundit say that regardless of whether we pay attention to them or not, political ads affect the way we think. Frankly, I don't want to be exposed to the negativity and fear I hear in these ads. I may have to turn off the television until after the elections in November. I have already stopped listening to the news except for NPR occasionally.
What do you suppose would happen if every candidate for office was only allowed to speak in one debate and send one letter to constituents describing what legislation he or she would work to pass if elected? What would happen if we only had a campaign season that lasted six weeks instead of two to six years? What if Congress were to spend more time being legislators and less time being campaigners? And what would happen if no one was allowed to speak about their opponent at all?
I don't have answers to those questions but I would like to see us try a new system. I would love to be excited about elections again. I would look forward to knowing exactly where the people I vote for stand on all issues and where they would like to help take this country.
And wouldn't it be really exciting if other nations could look at our nation and see something different: a nation that really does love one another and takes care of those who need our help.