After the first debate of the 2012 Presidential election, the primary topic of discussion among Americans (at least online) afterwards was Big Bird. This is not a political post, not in the sense that I will be parading the glories of one candidate while demonizing the other. (Roseanne Barr is actually on the ballot. That speaks to the ridiculousness of this presidential contest all by itself.) What I want to address is a contrast between countries, not parties or candidates.
In the months leading up to the election, the most controversial topics the population as a whole discussed were Chick-Fil-A and Big Bird. This is politics in America. These are the values and concerns of the land of the free.
My best friend works with Congolese refugees in Denver. As they discuss the upcoming election, they are relieved to be in a country that will (more than likely) not become a war zone because of an election. Refugees and immigrants from other countries have seen horrors that result from a change in leadership: war, hunger, discrimination and job loss. In some cases, they feared for their life when going to the polls.
In the US, there will be a portion of the population that chooses not to vote because it’s inconvenient or because they don’t particularly like either candidate. If an American citizen chooses not to vote it will not be because they fear for their lives.
Overall, Americans we are petty. We make a big deal out of chicken sandwiches and muppets while ignoring issues like sex trafficking and the fact that the FDA doesn’t do its job. We have been entrusted with great freedom and have, in turn, shirked the great responsibility that comes along with it.
Back in the spring, a video entitled Kony 2012 went viral. The video highlighted a conflict in Uganda that has been going on for 20+ years. Instead of being concerned about those involved, like the child soldiers, Americans began to argue about the motives of the filmmakers. It was easier to attack an individual or non-profit than it was to think about the horrors those children endure. The debate, the attention, the verbal attacks and the weight of the situation caused Jason Russell, the founder of Invisible Children, to suffer a psychotic break. Suddenly the focused shifted from children who are forced to murder their parents and fight somebody else’s war to the fact that a film should be discredited because the producer was naked on a public street.
Nobody argued whether or not there were problems in Africa or that Kony needed to be stopped. But we chose to address the peripherals instead.
How much like the Pharisees we are! Rather than addressing the heart of the issue, we want to attack the behaviors, the surface issues of sin. Modifying behavior does not address the heart’s condition: our desire to do things our way, our tendency to usurp God’s kingship in our lives, our depravity.
The beauty of the gospel is that it addresses the internal AND external issues. Jesus’ death on our behalf covers the lies we tell and the insecurities that motivate the lies, the addictions we have and the desire to control our own lives that lead to such self-medication, the gossip we spread and the self-righteousness that makes us think we are somehow “better” than the topic of our gossip.