Memo to the movement: be careful

As thrilled as I was to see Gov. Sarah Palin capture the hearts of (most of) the Republican Party, there are a couple ironies here of which we need to be wary: concerns that we ourselves have raised about Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are in danger of becoming true of us as well. The lesser is the one that I’ve seen noted, that after invoking celebrity culture to critique Sen. Obama and Obamamania, the McCain campaign has most certainly, if not fully intentionally, created a celebrity of its own, and Palinmania is very real. We need to be careful not to get too caught up in it.

More serious, though, is the messianic aura and language of the Obama campaign, something for which the McCain campaign also jabbed him in its ad “The One.” I wrote about this a couple months ago thusly:

I don’t usually link to the same blog back-to-back, but there’s another post of Doug Hagler’s I want to point you to, one he titled “Idolatry American style: Barak Obama”; obviously we have very different views of the Republican Party (though even most Republican voters aren’t very happy with the Republican Party at the moment), but as I’ve written before, I think the idolatrous tendencies in American politics are a real problem, and I agree with Doug (and others) that they’re particularly pronounced around Sen. Obama. (I don’t think they’re the senator’s fault—rest assured, I’m not accusing him of having any sort of delusions in that regard—but I do think he’s yielded to the temptation to take advantage of them, and I really wish he hadn’t.)

Somehow or other, we need a countercampaign to bring the people of this country around to a critically important truth: Politics will not save us. We keep getting sucked in to the idea that if we can just win this vote or elect this candidate, that will take care of our problems, and it just isn’t going to happen; Doug’s dead on when he writes, “Nothing messianic is coming from either party any time soon.” Nor any time later, either. Politics will not save us, government will not save us, no institution is going to save us; only God can save us, and he builds his people from the bottom up, one life at a time. If we want to work to address our problems in a way that will actually make a difference, it certainly helps to have a government (and other institutions likewise) that facilitates our efforts rather than making matters worse, but in the end, all we can do is follow God’s example. One life at a time, one family at a time, one small group of people at a time. From the bottom up. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.

The danger of all the excitement over Gov. Palin, glad though I am to see it, is that we could all too easily lose sight of this; we could all too easily turn her into our own secular messiah, with “salvation” defined as a McCain victory in November. For this, too, we must remember that politics will not save us, and government will not save us—a McCain government no less, and no more, than an Obama government. Vote for McCain/Palin, yes, work for them, yes, as I am able; but remembering always that that is, at best, the lesser hope. Remember always that they too are only human, and flawed.

Update: for another, and quite interesting, perspective on this, check out this post from ShrinkWrapped. HT: The Anchoress)

Posted in Barack Obama, Faith and politics, Sarah Palin.


  1. Too late.

    I know this is nasty, but the thought that the Republican Party can be represented by anything other than rich old white men is contagious. This is old school for the Democrats, but hey, we welcome your enthusiasm for change.
    We will gladly bash you over the head for your hypocrisy, but seriously, enjoy it. It is a time to be proud of your party.

  2. No, I completely got it, but I chose to respond to the elements in the post that I found ironic and humorous.

    But to show support here, people do need to stand up for themselves and understand that a single vote in November will somehow solve all of their problems. We need to work together in our local communities and believe that we can make a difference, albeit without the glory of a stadium full of adoring fans.

    You speak, without acknowledging it, of positive activism centered around a strong sense of God, family, and community. Yes I am reading a lot into your comments, but that is what I gleaned.

    Taking that one step further, the comments at the RNC about community activism would seem to be counter current to your comments. There is a great commentary by Roland S. Martin that I think plays well with your theme.

  3. No, actually, that wasn’t the thrust of their comments. In the first place, those comments were directed at a particular kind of community activism, that represented by ACORN, which produces the particular job title “community organizer”; and in the second place, they were directed not against the value of community activism as such, but against the idea that being a community organizer is the sort of executive experience which is relevant to one’s qualifications for high executive office. I value grassroots work, no question, and I know that doing it well takes administrative gifts, because I’m lacking in such gifts; but that said, I also recognize just how much more is involved in being the mayor of a town (at least if said town has a strong-mayor government).

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