This entry is part of a series of blogs that connect political volunteering with spiritual themes. These observations come from my current volunteering for a congressional candidate. Today: Discerning what’s right.
The older I get the more I’m aware of “what’s just not right”—a kind of innate sense of what makes no sense because it’s not righteous. Some of that intuitive sense of virtue has helped me choose the candidate for whom I’m volunteering.
The campaigning has also made me aware that what’s right is not always simple to discern. If politics is the art of what’s possible, then it stands to reason that compromise among differing viewpoints helps bring about the greater good in society. One piece of legislation may offer necessary benefits for one group or moral cause while at the same time injuring the rights or well-being of others. A politician who seeks to be ethical in her or his work certainly has to be wise about the whole society, and perhaps the wider world. “Being right always” can be satisfying for one’s moral compass, but perhaps not always possible inside of political realities. All of us need to be careful about judging righteousness too narrowly.
On the other hand, it’s pretty obvious in this campaign season—embedded in our nation’s present political atmosphere—that there are many places where right(eousness) has taken a back seat to what is plainly immoral.
It’s just not right when immigrants are denigrated, when the color of one’s skin is cause for injustice, when the welfare of women is disregarded, when people who are poor are oppressed even further. Candidates who manipulate others with invitations toward hate, anger and self-satisfaction are just plain wrong. It’s not Christ-like to disregard truth, to try to destroy one’s political opponents, to mock and bully others, to elevate one’s own narcissism into an acceptable national character trait. It makes no sense to set people against each other, with violent words or dog-whistle encouragement. No long-term benefits come to this republic when voters are discouraged or dissuaded from voting. Nothing good can arise from robbing the poor to benefit the rich. And there is no honor to be found in campaign themes that ignore the rest of the world’s needs or capabilities.
Yet these unethical attitudes and behaviors are strongly evident in the political climate in which this year’s elections are taking place. Truth-tellers are attacked for exposing dishonesty and greed. The wide presence of self-serving behaviors can make them seem acceptable. Unpunished wrong can encourage the spread of mean-spirited mindsets into wider swaths of the electorate. In the name of Christianity, emptied-of-grace versions of morality can begin to push aside other viewpoints.
Perhaps these existing political realities explain why I’m working with a congressional candidate who’s trying to do what’s right. He’s a first-time political candidate, and his values seem consistent with the principles we have long held to be beneficial for this nation. His personality seems free of hyper-egoism; his priorities are directed beyond his own self-interest; his hopes for the nation encompass a wide variety of people and he is beholden to a broader vision of society than that held by the current administration. He tells the truth and admits his mistakes.
I think that it’s right to volunteer in the political sphere, to restore some measure of common decency into this part of our culture, and to witness to what God surely desires for the world God so dearly loves.
I may never become completely wise in political matters, but at least I’m trying to do what’s right.