Monday, January 21, 2008

A Sort-Of Framework: What It Means for Me to Blog in 2008

Why we type, at least part of the time. Mostly though, it's just for giggles.

If I'm up for it, alot is going to be said this year. And throughout all the bitching, and all the snark, and all the times I try to be funny or ironic or smarter than the world, I thought it might be nice to explain why I care about these things I type about. Why I care about elections and the elected and the function and responsibilities of the electors. Essentially, why I give a crap.

If there's one thing I want people to take away from whatever BS goes up on this blog, I guess it's this:

There is a thing called government, and it is a tool -- a means to an end. Government isn't inherently good, and government isn't inherently evil. It's a result of Evil to be sure. We wouldn't need it were we still living in the paradise of Eden. But it's a result of Good, too. We wouldn't have created it unless we saw in it some temporary relief from lawlessness and disorder. A democratic government is only as good as its people. And that's a plain fact. We get out of government what we put into it.

To wit, the government is the people. It is chosen by us, in a remarkable process of the popular vote (well, in most cases). It acts for us, legislating and executing laws on our behalf. And in the end, it is answerable only to the people. We are it and it is us. And when we grow tired of it, we tear it down and elect a new one, without a shot being fired. This is what we do every presidential election. We either confirm the status quo or reject it by brining in someone new. A bloodless revolution every four years.

My view of government has been evolving in fits and spurts for some time now. With all this rhetoric, it's easy to assume I've adopted a populist point of view. And maybe you'd be right. But mostly you'd be wrong. My view of government has less to do with the Roosevelts of the world, and more to do with the Calvins and Luthers. It's Judeo-Christian to be sure, but it's Reformed as well. My view of government is one that says the people have a right and a responsibility to stand up to the Great Powers of the world and say, "Sit down and shuttup. You are not our authorities, our representatives or our judges. We walk with you as long as you walk with us. The only power you have is what we give you. And should you cross us, we will tear you a new one. Then doodle funny little cartoons about how stupid you are. Because seriously. You are stupid."

Essentially, the purpose of government is to stand against tyranny -- in any form. 250 years ago, that meant the tyranny of Mother England. Unrepresented in Parliament, the people of the American colonies revolted. Today that might mean the tyranny of the few over the many. The tyrannies of excessive wealth and corporate greed, consolidated media and big business, corporations who tell us how to live our lives but who in no way represent us or our best interests. If the Founders had seen what unchecked business could do to their nation, they'd be aghast, Jefferson and Hamilton alike (for all their differences).

Anyone who knew me five or six years ago would have thought I was interested in theology mostly, and maybe a few other things from time to time. And theology still has a strong hold over me. But my reasons for asking the "Big Questions" have shifted somewhat. In the day, I asked the questions out of curiosity. Not enough people were asking them, so I thought, " Why not me?"

Now I ask the questions out of a desire for proper praxis. I want to know how to live rightly in 21st century America. Also, I want to know if that's even a possibility. And living rightly, in a political sense, brings up different questions than "Does God know the future?" or "Is there a magic way to read the Bible so that we all agree on every issue?" (And don't try to kid yourself; if you live and work in America, you're already a politically active person. The act of owning property or goods or simply buying milk and where you buy it are all political acts.)

And I want to know what it means -- both politically and theologically -- what it means to own land, and what it means to purchase items others have made, and what it means to buy milk at Kroger rather than IGA, or 2% rather than skim, or organic rather than conventional. And if you don't think your theology informs all those decisions, then it's time to rethink your theology.

Of course, exploring these issues brings up loads of hypocrisy. But that's only human. We believe in things so deeply at times, that it's hard to bring our praxis (our actions) up to speed with our doxis (our beliefs) in the midst of a fallen world. But just because it's a hard thing, doesn't mean it's a futile thing. We try because we must. We try because we're people, because we don't get things right the first time or the second time or the third time. Because we know that even though we may never get things right, we learn something new and something powerful and something useful every time we fail. And we become better people for it.

And yes. The process of reforming our government seems like an impossible task sometimes; but that doesn't give us the right to sit back and let someone else take care of it. This little website, in its own small, insignificant way, is my own small, insignificant voice. It is one of many small, insignificant political acts, that I hope add up to something not so small or insignificant. It's my way of saying, "I have a voice, weak though it may be. And it counts for something."

Over the next 10 months, remember that. And remember this, too: Your government functions on your behalf for as long as you would have it. And then, every four years, a revolution happens. Picking a new president isn't a political game, it is the responsibility of the polis, who in our country consent to be governed by others -- others who owe no loyalty to any other nation or institution or corporation, but do what they do for the express purpose of what's right for all of America. In a perfect world, we wouldn't need government....

But you know the rest.


Adam said...

Jonny, good to have found you again. I'll just say that this post = great. I really enjoyed what you had to say, largely because I agree. I find myself in similar states of mind as you lay out here. I'm far more actively "politically minded" than I have been before, and not because I find it particularly interesting, but instead, because I know it matters. If nothing else, it informs me. All that to say, keep writing. And I hope you are well.

dkrice said...

Mom & I have read your post and we are impressed & proud!
Mom & Dad