I am struggling to return to our series on poverty.  I’ve continued with my research over the summer, focusing on how our two main political parties approach this issue. On one hand, the Democrat’s approach seems so kind and in line with my values of helping the poor. But, when I read a Republican’s explanation on the economy and the damage done by ineptly conceived and deployed social programs, I find myself thinking that view makes sense too.

I’ve also spent some time talking with people who devote their lives to helping people overwhelmed by poverty, and once you really get them to tell you their story, it is like looking into the eyes of a volunteer in a catastrophic natural disaster.  The depth of their love and the extent of their exhaustion are at war within them.  The pain and the frustration, and the love and the commitment, are waging a battle each day.

It feels like a hopeless situation that one cannot escape.  We cannot quit, but we cannot go on.  What does one do with that?

Oh, but then I remember that anytime I look at things through the lens of politics, I am being deceived.  It is very hard to extract ourselves from the pervasive cultural programming of the media that divides us so clearly against one another.  Nearly impossible, really.

This is what I believe – we have been tricked, slowly and methodically, into throwing the baby out with the bath water.  In the name of tolerance and equality we have gotten rid of the one thing that could have provided both.  A common value system.

I ask my friends who do not believe in God to stick with me.  Can’t we all agree that one of the things that we are missing in our current society is a base, foundational set of values?  It is difficult to counter a culture that glamorizes celebrity and defines success, not by the content of character, but rather by amount of content you own.  Without a culturally agreed upon set of values, what do we teach our youth?

It feels like as we have moved away from the base Christian values that this country was built upon, we have also moved away from a healthy and vibrant culture.  I realize that there we have never been perfect, but I long for a future where civility is a default response and reaction.  And I realize that there is debate about whether or not our country was founded by Christians, but I believe the words etched in marble throughout our Capitol provide a compelling argument that whether or not every founding father would consider themselves an evangelical Christian, the character of Christ as laid out in the Bible was a driving force in their thinking.

As we look at the hurt and anger and division in our country today.  As we look at the disparity between the wealthy and the poor.  As we look at the divorce rates and single parents.  As we look at abortion rates and crime rates.  As we look at the prison population.  As we read the vitriol spewed out in almost any article on the internet.  As we feel the anger bubbling up…can’t we agree that something has gone terribly wrong?

I believe in good, and I believe in evil.  I have seen both in my life.  I have seen both in me.  I believe that evil has built a house in our political system.    It divides us and blinds us to the reality of our own responsibility no matter what side of the political fence you sit on.

We have to find a path back to a common set of values that we, as a culture, can expect from one another.  Values like taking care of the poor, holding yourself accountable to working and earning what you can, treating one another with respect.  We have to expect more from our companies, our families, our churches, and ourselves.

No matter your personal beliefs, can anyone deny that those in our society who live in moral poverty would not benefit from these values soaking into their very bones?  Can anyone deny that we must begin building a foundation for those in our society whose lives are lived on no foundation?

I have never believed quite so fervently that we have God inside us – that His spirit is what guides us to our best selves.  I believe that this is what makes me a better person than I would ever be on my own.  I believe that this is what drives an atheist to live a good and worthy life.   It is this driving force of creation in all of life that results in good.

On the flip side, I believe that to deny the pull of love is to choose evil.  I believe that, much like gravity, there is a law that allows one or the other to be present, but never both.  If you reject love, you choose hate.  Too many have chosen hate and don’t even realize it.  They have done this because they have never seen love…they are trapped in a cycle of hate that will continue until someone can break through and show them that another way is possible.

Believer or non-believer, it is the responsibility of those who live in love to help those who are trapped in hate.  It is exhausting work, and unless we all decide to participate there is no hope.  There is no government program that can instill a moral code.

We have lost something precious, and the more I delve into the pain and hurt and desperation of the least in our society, the more I believe that the answers lie in our ability to see past the talking heads and the rhetoric and find a common ground to stand on.

So the question lies in how we get past the ‘evangelical right’ and the ‘liberal left’ that we are all told we belong to, and find a way to come together.  I have more in common with everyone I know than I have differences.  Atheist, believer, democrat, republican – most of my friends are just great, intelligent, caring people who want to see this world get better and move forward.  They want their kids to be a part of something good and hopeful.  They are not these labels of political parties or denominations – they are people.  Great people.  I love them.

How do we get past the labels?  How do we overcome differences to reach common ground?  What can you do to make this happen in your life?  Where can you stop judging and start loving?  Where can you start giving time to help lift someone up?

  • Kathy Cantrell Rossing

    We are getting a taste in our community of how to come together…. Methodists.. Babtist… Catholics….Assembly… Christian…. all different sorts of disaster relief … people from all walks of life… working together to restore some semblance of sanity to the chaos and destruction of the Floods and storms…..AS IT SHOULD BE ..
    While I am not a religious nor a political person I have an understanding which gives me those moral values which I agree is sorely lacking in todays world…
    But if you believe the stories of the bible…(forgive my ignorance of this) but I see a pattern of disaster when things fall apart in society… Such as the ark…. the red sea incident… While I think that things happen to “TEST” our faith ,( from my own experience with Life happening,) it seems as if disaster sometimes is the only thing that give’s the willingness to change what needs to be changed in todays world…..example 9/11 amazing how the country came together … Doing the right thing is ALWAYS harder than doing the wrong thing…. Putting aside selfishness and self-centeredness that sometimes we don’t even realize is there to be of service to those around us…. SIMPLE… MORAL… VALUES…. like please and thank you… respect…love Unfortunately I think we forget this all too soon unless… we are faced with another disaster… IF ONLY….

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