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Why I’m Giving Up Politics for Lent

Okay, this is an easy one. I was getting tired of all the polling and endless speculating before the 2012 elections. Two days after President Obama was re-elected, the Republicans were threatening to run us off the fiscal cliff and were still trying to find a cover-up in Benghazi. It’s draining and, frankly, I’m bored with the same old arguments that bounce around the media echo-chamber by the same old talking heads. I feel like I’m watching one long rerun. So I’ve decided to give up politics for Lent. (Just in case you think I’m getting off easy, I’m also giving up eating chips.)

It’s not that there aren’t important issues that are being decided, such as how to reduce the national deficit, how to create more jobs for more people, instilling reasonable gun control laws, and reducing carbon emissions. The list goes on and on. I’m just not sure I have the wherewithal to stay emotionally connected with the outcomes, much less all the political wrangling to get there. Basically, I trust the guy in the Oval Office. I think he’s a reasonable person who is willing to compromise for the greater good. Maybe, sometimes, too willing to compromise.

Besides being weary of the rhetoric, I’d like to think I’m abstaining from politics because I have better things to do with my time and emotional energy. For example, I’ve got a job that requires some attention. I sell residential real estate and the market is starting to come back. As most of you know, I like to write and I’ve been editing a couple of projects that I hope to put out there someday soon. I started volunteering as a counselor at a food pantry/emergency relief center in our area. On top of that, I try to walk my dog and have dinner with my wife and occasionally get to the gym.

My point is I feel like I need concentrate on myself and my immediate circle. It’s not as exciting as the stuff that makes national news, but it’s real to me. I like to think I deeply care about this country – and this world for that matter. At the same time, I feel somewhat disconnected from immigration reform or budget debates. While being aware of the issues is important for a healthy functioning democracy, I cannot lower the deficit, or provide someone with a work visa, or put a background check in place for a person purchasing a gun. I can have an opinion (and a vote), but that’s about it.

I used to live in Texas when I was a kid, so I grew up being a Dallas Cowboys fan. All these years later, I still pull for the Cowboys. Sometimes, I pull so hard I actually pull something. And then it occurred to me: I can’t change the outcome of the game one iota, especially not from my couch in Tennessee. So, what’s the point in being so emotionally invested? Of course, politics has much more serious ramifications than a football game. The policies and laws can affect millions of people, for good or bad. And, it’s important for the media to referee the game and keep us informed of the score.

At the same time, I feel an overwhelming need to refocus my energies on me. I hope that doesn’t sound selfish. I don’t think I mean it that way. Let me try again… I need to focus my energies on the things that I can control and the people that I know. The good news is, if I want to get something done, I don’t have to scrape together the votes or wait out a filibuster. There is no one who can stop me, because I have executive privilege of my own life. And that’s pretty empowering. The only question is – what to do with all this power?

This post also appeared on Patheos Faith Forward.


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7 Responses to “Why I’m Giving Up Politics for Lent”

  1. sherwood8028 says:

    Why not give up politics – for good! Following is letter sent to a neighbor here in Middle TN:

    I was fascinated by your article – together with John Ingram, urging the readers of The Tennessean to support an organization that caught my attention a number of weeks ago. You will have to forgive me – as I am moving right along in my 80’s and I have time to read – and write!

    First off, I commend the both of you for your thoughts – with the caveat I will offer in a minute or two. My problem is that I have been around for a long time starting with my participation in the Korean War and I am still heart sick at the inaction of our government with regard to the bodies of my comrades who were either killed in action or died in North Korean prison camps. Imagine the grief of those families who have waited over a half century and there are some who still must wait. Prior to the war, I was stationed in Japan and we had administrative control of an Air Force base near Seoul and I had the good fortune to get to know a number of Koreans and to this day, I regard them as good friends – even though millions are forced to live under a cruel regime – which we, that is, our government has never dealt with according to Asian protocols.

    We have the best government in the world, but as you are aware, that government has now brought us to the brink of financial destruction and we are sadly lacking for representation – as was envisioned by our forefathers in creating our Constitution. Those who must blame one or the other of our political parties do not seem to understand how we came into being as a great nation.

    There is a culprit and it is – our Congress, those folks who went to Washington as our elected representatives and chose to feather their own nests while pretending to represent – as our Constitution so boldly proclaims, “WE, the people…” The crisis we face did not start with the administration of our current President, nor his predecessor(s). It started when they opened the halls of our Congress to the armies of lobbyists who were there for only one reason – to persuade people to vote for their constituents and offered as incentives, the monies required to insure the re-election of those who voted accordingly.

    All the while, back home in Tennessee and throughout our nation, our representatives, were busy convincing us that they were either proud Conservatives or loyal Liberals, no need to discuss the details of their chicanery. How do I know this? Well, dating back to the late 50’s, as a “gung ho” college student I have embraced such nonsense for far too many years. It has taken me a long time to understand the real problem.

    The REAL problem is that the average voter still ignores what has been happening to the public purse and still is prone to believe in the political wisdom they hear, never realizing it is really so much “smoke and mirrors”.

    I repeat, the culprit is our Congress and until “We, the people…” vote those rascals out of office, they will continue to look busy while we get our pockets picked. And here is the bottom line – like those who were aghast at the youngster who realized that the “Emperor” had no clothes, we will keep hoping that somehow things will change while adamantly ignoring the facts of life in Washington.

    I pray that the folks at “Fix the Debt” succeed in their efforts, but I am sore afraid that those who sign their petitions are going to be the losers.

    It is not the ink on our petitions that will turn the tide, it will our votes at the ballot box.

    And at my age, I might not live to see that day.

    • Jeff says:

      It’s like taking a bit of vacation, isn’t it Joy?

      Karen, it sounds like you are tuned into the right channel.

      Hi Trudie, I agree. Charity starts at home and works outward. (Thank you for encouragement).

      Okay, don’t get me all fired up Sherwood. You know I’m trying to avoid politics.

  2. Trudie Barreras says:

    Very good choice. One of the points that Jesus was continually making is that the important thing is always LOVE, properly focused: “How can you love the God you don’t see if you don’t love the neighbor that you do see?” Each of us has to begin by loving ourselves – the only one upon whom we can ultimately have any real positive influence. It ripples out from there. Show me a person who is a force for good in the world, and I guarantee that person has found the balance of investing emotionally in the things they are able to directly influence. And of course for you personally, your writing is the major way you reach out to the greater world and serve the more universal good. Have a blessed season of Lent!

  3. cor wiser says:

    I totally understand and have to do that every so often myself. I think it is a spiritual retreat to reconnect with myself and God at a deeper level. Still, I know that it is only by working with others and prayer that things can be changed. It worked for Martin and Mahatma. Joining with others in peaceful brotherhood and sisterhood, humanhood, is the only way.

    Have you read “Love Changes Everything Even In The World of Politics” by Caroline Cottom. Might be a good read for you. I suggested she friend you on Facebook and I think you two may be friends there.

    Enjoy your re-treat. One thing I’ve found though…sometimes I can’t even control things close to me. Life is funny that way.

    • Jeff says:

      Thanks Cor. I haven’t read the book, but it sounds great. You’re also right about not being able to control my own life either, although I feel like I should have a greater impact on it.

  4. Karen says:

    Great article! I, too, had to back away from anything political after the elections. They sucked the energy right out of me because I allowed myself to have such a strong attachments to the outcome. Politics have really become so ridiculous lately with all the lying, fighting, and outrageousness, and it’s all become so negative.

    Personally, I have total faith in President Obama (and this isn’t to start any arguments). I refuse to worry about anything that I have no control over. I refuse to listen to hate-talk TV and/or hate-talk radio and there is plenty of that out there. The biased one-sided news propaganda programs have stepped way over the line in news communications, yet people are believing whatever they say even though most of it are lies.

    When I went within and asked what I need to do on all of this, I heard to just work on myself. To concentrate on my own spiritual journey and being the best being that I can be. Concentrate on loving all people regardless of any differences. Grow in wisdom and work at being connected directly to Spirit 100% of the time. Keep my heart focused on the pure, unconditional, love of Spirit.

    When I got all freaked out over what was going on in our country, I heard, “Karen, lighten up. I have this under control. Let me handle it.” I have to let go, and let God.

    Yes, there are some things I can do. But I am letting go of everything else and focusing on my own journey, cleaning my own house, and learning to let my own light shine to every one and every thing all over the world. Finding my own inner peace. As the saying goes… Be the change you wish to see in the world.

    Thank you again for a great article!

  5. Joy Scudder says:

    Well said, Jeff, and great response, Karen. “Let go and let God”… takes the world off one’s shoulders. Phew!

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I grew up in Franklin Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, where I attended a charismatic church that sincerely tried to follow Christ's teachings and actively sought the gifts of the Holy Spirit. During the summer of 84, I interned in DC with the Reagan-Bush Re-Election campaign and was indoctrinated in the dark arts of neo-conservatism. After graduating from Pepperdine University in Malibu, I worked in the financial services industry in Atlanta; then I drifted back to Southern California for a few introspective years before eventually moving home to Tennessee. Along the way, I began to question some of my longstanding beliefs and attempted to reconcile my political and religious views. Increasingly, I became saddened and angered with how Christianity was so often misrepresented for personal and political gain. Hometown Prophet was written out of that frustration.

- Jeff Fulmer