Thursday, January 21, 2016

What Can Political Campaigns Teach Our Churches?

On my way to work yesterday, I heard this story on NPR about the people who have given up their regular lives to work for Ted Cruz campaign.  Some of them are no doubt retired.  But I was struck by the one man who gave up his job for the chance to work on the campaign.  I was even more intrigued by the woman who sounded so breathless with wonder at the fabulousness of her candidate.

I felt a swirl of emotions.  My first thought:  I have never felt this way about any candidate ever, that I would give up a full-time job to work for a candidate.  Part of me felt sad about that--but a larger part of me was thankful for my groundedness that helps me to realize the folly of placing all my trust and hope in the political system.

Of course, church was one of the main places where I learned to be wary of political systems, and I was also struck by the ways that the people in the news story seemed to see their candidate as a Messiah.  Were they not similarly warned?

I thought of the ways that people have yearnings, and the institutions that rush in to fill those yearnings.  That yearning for deliverance, for a Messiah, seems a yearning that the Church is uniquely qualified to fill.  And yet, we also know that people are often yearning for a different kind of deliverance than the one that Christ offers.

I was also struck by the community that the political campaign creates.  It's easy for that community to take root and blossom, in many ways.  They've taken over an unused dorm because it would be so cost-prohibitive to provide hotel space for the duration--at least that's the official story. I do wonder if the campaign also realized the potential for solidifying support by housing people this way.  It also helps keep spirits higher than they might otherwise be--campaigns can be a bit of a slog, after all.

I think the most successful churches are the ones that help create the earthly community for which so many of us yearn.  We might be able to take some lessons from political campaigns, as counterintuitive as that might be.

I do understand the power of being part of a group that's bigger than the sum of its parts, a group that can do more together than they would have been able to do alone.  I understand the pull of that dream that a campaign offers.

I couldn't help but wonder how the world would be transformed if we could capture that forward motion and use it to solve a different set of problems.

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