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Sunday Reflections

Promising action amid political ads and negativity.

By Rev. Ben Black

It is that time of the year again. It is election season. The commercials have begun and the mud is being slung. 

I have to be honest—I cannot stand political ads. I despise them. All of the negativity just turns me off. It’s amazing to me that for people who care about leading so much to run for office, the only way to get in is by trashing the competition. To me, that has always seemed like a backward way to begin serving others.

I don’t know if you have seen the FedEx Office commercial entitled “Candidates” that pokes fun at campaign ads—but there is a hint of truth there. (Click here to see the commercial.)

Anyway, this is the world we live in. It’s a dog eat dog world, especially when it comes to politics. My wife and I lived in Boston prior to returning home to western PA and there was actually a campaign for a seat on Senate where one candidate accused Curt Schilling of being a Yankee fan in addition to disagreeing with the candidate he was endorsing. 

For the record, Curt Schilling was drafted by the Red Sox and eventually finished his career with them—he is decidedly NOT a Yankee fan (although his family is from Pittsburgh and he is a Steeler fan). The point is when it comes to politics people will say anything to get ahead. 

This fact troubles me. Sure, when it comes to Republicans and Democrats there is very little we are going to agree on with regards to politics—however what I hope we can agree on is that we all want to have a better country. We do not want people to be without jobs. We do not want the elderly and those with little family to be isolated and lonely. We do not want kids on the streets and hungry. We do not want to see more people without homes each year. We want the children in this nation to receive a strong education from qualified teachers. The list goes on and on of what I think we can all agree are goals that every nation and community should be striving for. 

However, we tend to fall for the fallacy (yes, I fall in this, too) that if we vote for the “right leader” who is making all of the right promises that these issues will then take care of themselves under the candidates leadership. That simply isn’t the case. If we care about these issues, then we ought to be willing to actively be a part of the answer. 

In light of a number of things that have recently happened in my life, James 1:27 has challenged me in this regard: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

The church ought to be out there feeding and sheltering the homeless, visiting the lonely, teaching the uneducated, provide for the poor—but yet in many ways we have become very comfortable with the way things are. It is always easier to look at the problems, complain and vote in someone else to be the answer. In that regard, we are just as guilty as a politician who breaks a promise. Let me re-phrase that, in that regard, “I am just as guilty as a politician who breaks a promise.” 

When I fail to care for those who cannot care for themselves, I only add to the problems of our nation. 

That is a statement that we all need to repeat to ourselves. Be honest with yourself, have you ever been victim to this kind of thinking?  Have you fallen into this trap? The reality is, if we aren’t will to step up to serve and meet the needs of others, then who else is there?

I don’t write this to call out Republicans or Democrats. We all have had our hand in the failings of our country. But this does not need to be. I would like to challenge you, as we discern the future leadership of our country through the electoral process, let us not shirk our corporate responsibility to care for our country, the people, in their moment of need. Through our compassion and service may we find ourselves as the answer to the many promises.

The Rev. Ben Black is pastor of Forest Hills Presbyterian Church.

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