With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.--Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865.
when i first returned home from dc, i blogged "there's also the bewilderment i felt in visiting monuments and memorials that ascribe to a higher ideal of america and americans than many of our current elected officials seem to be striving towards." i've been really pondering since my trip how my relationship with jesus should impact my role as a citizen. i've always been diligent about voting; but for awhile, i've been sensing that merely voting is just meeting the minimum requirement. our country is a bit of a mess at the moment. jim hancock identifies some of the biggest issues far more eloquently than i can in the "you broke it, you bought it" portion of this post.
quite frankly, it's more than a little easy to be overwhelmed by politics and the process especially when much of the process involves negative campaigning in an effort to either get or keep a job as an elected official. a prime example is our current gubernatorial race here in california. i've yet to see an ad financed by governor schwarzenegger's campaign; however, the california republican party is airing an ad that uses material from democratic primary candidate steve westly's negative ad's towards his opponent phil angelides who won the primary and now faces schwarzenegger in the november election. phil angelides' camp is running an ad touting him as "a leader not an actor". of course, both candidates would say they're for fixing immigration issues, cutting tuition costs, improving public schools, etc. but i haven't ever heard a clear plan that makes sense on how to accomplish these things from either one. it bothers me that campaigns focus more on the candidates than on the details of the issues. i feel like much of the time we focus on the candidates and the politics rather than the end results of the issues. and when we as americans allow candidates and media to focus on anything but the heart of the issue and how it impacts the everyday lives of people, we fail.
in dc, as i visited the lincoln memorial and read the words from his second inaugural address (excerpted at top), i was moved. his words were simple and got right to the heart of the problem: the country was at war, the war needed to end and america needed to heal. now i don't think lincoln was perfect, but it felt as though he was looking beyond himself, his agenda and focusing on the larger issues. in dc, i kept noticing as i visited the different sites that i had a vision, an awareness of being a part of something bigger than myself.
and for me that's where faith, idealism and stewardship come in. i feel like because i want to follow jesus and reflect him to others, i need to be more engaged in being a good steward not just as an american citizen, but as a citizen of the world. when politicians are campaigning on anything but the issues, i should do the research to find out where they stand on the issues. i should email or call my congressional representatives and let them know how they can best represent me. i should get involved in bringing issues that are neglected in the press and the congress to their attention--the genocide in darfur for example. it's also important that when i do contact my representatives, i do so respectfully and graciously even though it may feel futile.
i also need to make lifestyle choices that reflect good stewardship. i need to get involved in my community outside my church bubble. i need to choose to recycle. with curbside recycling, there's no excuse for me not to recycle magazines, newspapers, glass and plastic containers and pressed paper packaging besides the cans and bottles i have been. i'm sure there's more i can do, but for me these are realistic first steps.