There are only about 21 days left in this year’s presidential campaign – thanks be to God!  The campaigns throwing aside goodness, reason, and hope, get reduced to campains – the effort to inflict as much pain on the opponent and upon all voters so that they are truly terrified about who might win the election.  But the campain is never about who is going to win, it is all about who should lose, as if in losing the candidate will be assigned to oblivion never to have a place among humanity again.

We have entered the campain in which the candidates and/or their organizations endeavor to sling every spurious, and scurrilous slur they can imagine, or get away with.

And though one can develop vertigo watching  the precipitously dropping stock market, both party’s campaign’s truth and ethics levels are falling even faster in the uncontrolled spin of an out of control heavier than air object.   Gravity may accelerate the fall of objects at 32 feet/second/second, but the truthfulness and morality of negative campaigning drops a whole lot faster.

In a surreal sign of where things are, when John McCain tried to stop some of the outrageous and Obamaphobic comments of his supporters at one of his rallies – when he tried to re-establish respect, reason, rationality and reality – his supporters booed him!  They are enjoying their phobias, anger and hatreds so much that they don’t want their candidate to take away their fix.  And partly this happens because in the negative campaign they are no longer voting for McCain, they are really and only voting against Obama – so they do not want to hear McCain calling for respect.  He is already irrelevant to what the campaign’s negative efforts have achieved.

In the rational world of stock markets, when the market hits a point where values are falling faster than is sane, markets suspend trading.   Would that the presidential campaign had a similar sanity check, and the campaigns of the candidates would be suspended once they hit a critical free fall speed of negativity.   I mentioned before that in France in the week before the election, campaign advertising is suspended – a wise move in our media dominated negative campaigns. 

I certainly would encourage people to turn their TV’s and radio’s off for the next couple of weeks anytime a campaign ad comes on or anytime a talk show host or commentator starts spinning the negative nexus of nonsense.

Don’t let these phobia driven campaigns take away your hope, your humanity, your rationality.   Respect for one’s opponent is a good thing, no matter how stimulating and satisfying you might find the irrational emotions of hating and fearing others.

Fighting the Good Fight

Today in our parish we had the ordination of Marty Watt – ordained to the diaconate.  In that ordination service we sing the hymn:

“O holy martyrs, who fought the good fight and have received your crowns, entreat the Lord to have mercy on our souls.”

The hymn spoke to me deep in my heart.   It was a strong reminder to me of what I have always wanted to be in my life – a servant of Christ.   And one needs virtually no possessions to make that happen.

Yet our lives become full of things we “need” – a home, a car, a bed,  a bank account, food and a kitchen, things to do, tools, clothes, a place to go, money, validation, friends, electricity, etc.

Three times in my life that hymn of the martyrs fighting the good fight was sung regarding me – at my wedding, my ordination to the diaconate, and my ordination to the priesthood. 

And I know how far I have come up short as a martyr – in my marriage, as a parent and in my priesthood.  Reading through my 1978 journal while I was a missionary in Kenya, I realize the same shortcomings there.  Too easily distracted from the goal to be a servant of Christ.  Too many other things become important or pressing in life.  It seems so many things need to be done or are needed, but Jesus said to such thinking there is only one thing needful

I need to get back to that goal – find the one thing needful, the pearl of great price, and then sell or give away everything else to get it.

Being a martyr means:

Not only to live for the Lord but to die for Him

Not only to live for the Lord but to witness to others about Him.

Remembering the one thing needful, not the many things desireable.

It seemed obvious to me in today’s ordination service that I have allowed myself to drift far away from the one thing needful.  Many things seem good, useful, helpful, enjoyable but only one is needful.

“We All Make Many Mistakes” (James 3:2, RSV)

From my Journal for 10 October 1978, Kunjeru, Kenya:

“Read James 3 today and found great comfort in vs. 2 – “For we all make many mistakes…” (RSV).   I am always so afraid of my mistakes – I hate to make them or admit to them, but here in the Bible James says WE (including himself) make MANY mistakes.  Somehow I felt a great relief – it is a relief to realize it is human to make mistakes, not demonic or evil.  And it is an experience of mercy for me to acknowledge my own mistakes.  I hope this realization helps me admit to and accept my failings in the future.”

Though in Orthodoxy there is a fair amount of pressure toward “perfection” – the word “Orthodox” originally implied a correct way of thinking, but it has come to mean for some in Orthodoxy  that there is only one way to think about anything, no questions asked.  It is a pressure that every clergyman must always be infallible.  That fear of being wrong makes it hard for Orthodox clergy to truly repent, for to have to repent is to have to admit that you did something wrong – were not Orthodox!  And this is deemed almost unforgivable in a church which demands repentance and confession of all its members! 

Combine all of that with a personal need to be perfectly correct and to never error, and you end up with spiritual insanity.

St. James in verse 3:2, speaks about everyone stumbling, erring, making mistakes.  It cannot be avoided.  This is why we pray that we spend the remaining time of our life in repentance.  We all are sinners, and yet God loves us while we were sinners – He doesn’t wait until we are perfect.

It is OK to have to admit to being wrong, to failing, to erring, to making mistakes.   God loves us anyway.

A very hard concept for those of us who feel the need to be perfect.