After the bums are thrown out

November 24, 2010

Stanford historian David Kennedy likens our
political era to the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, when there
was lots of political turbulence but very little political action.

U.S. presidents during the Gilded Age were a series of
unmemorable, "bearded, bland and boring" men who left "but the faintest of
tracks in the historical record." The dynamism of the country was in the
economic sphere, not in politics. It took decades--until the Progressive Era,
says Kennedy---before politicians were able to take on the great issues of the
day.

Let's grant Kennedy's point: we are living in an era of volatile
"throw the bums out" political activity but little meaningful action. (For
example, there's hardly any hope that Congress will address the issue of carbon
emissions and climate change in the foreseeable future.)

The situation simply underscores a persistent truth: political
results cannot be the measure of meaningful action, at least not for
Christians.

Whatever happens or doesn't happen at the level of politics,
churches have the space to change lives and shape minds and hearts. Churches
can mobilize local actions on poverty, health and the environment. Churches can
speak the truth. That's real action, and someday the politicians will want to
catch up.