Balanced Perspective is Needed

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Another major election is now in the rear-view mirror and the process of governing supposedly begins.

That is said guardedly because it does seem our system breaks down a bit more every year, making true governance difficult.

There clearly have been extremes of political thought evident throughout our political history, but without doubt there have been periods in which compromise, civility and non-partisanship were more prevalent than today.

That is the basis of a commentary by Dr. Timothy Keller shared recently from a pastor friend.

Dr. Keller approaches the issue from the position of "idolatry," noting that many in our society have gone way overboard in their concept of government and our roles as concerned citizens.

He said there's evidence that an object has become an idol when fear becomes a central characteristic of life. "If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way, our response is complete panic," Dr. Keller writes.

Citizens who behave in this way "believe that if their policies and people are not in power, everything will fall apart...they refuse to admit how much agreement they actually have with the other party, and instead focus on the points of disagreement. The points of contention overshadow everything else, and a poisonous environment is created."

Most would agree that we do indeed have such an atmosphere in our current political arena. It is hindering us a nation, while tragically affecting many in our society who actually do treat political debate and elections in life or death terms.

Another factor in the decline of our consensus system is the manner in which debate and issues are treated in what can be called sporting terms, with winners and losers declared in the same vein as athletic teams. This was clear throughout the recent overblown "fiscal cliff" competition.

"After each election, there is now a significant number of people who see the incoming president lacking moral legitimacy," Dr. Keller adds. "The increasing polarization and bitterness we see in U.S. politics today is a sign that we have made political activism into a form of religion."

It's time for Americans to develop a more balanced view in many areas of our lives, including public policy and elections. We have far more in common than many want to acknowledge. We hope the days of distortion, conflict and bitterness can come to an end. There is nothing inherently wrong with holding differing views, but it becomes a sin (in theologian Keller's analysis) when we lose our perspective and practice fear-mongering and demonization.

As we often say in life, "we win some and we lose some." Let's all get a grip and realize that also is true in politics -- life goes on. Our concern should be achieving goals that are good for America, not always being so obsessed with being on the so-called winning side.