by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Is there anything authentic to be found beneath the layers of posturing and photo-ops and plastered smiles and targeted events?
Maybe that’s what troubles me so much at election time. It’s not politics in the sense of “peace, order and good government” (whatever that looks like).
What troubles me the most is the work of the machine behind Candidate X or Party Y who have carefully orchestrated the events that will help said Candidate or Party to appear to enjoy activity A, B, or C, or to have a deep connection with target community 1, 2, or 3.
When it’s all about optics…when it’s all about gladhanding and babykissing and being seen to enjoy kittens, hockey, tim hortons, and so on, does the message not get lost?
Maybe I’m strange, but I don’t care if the leader of such-and-such a party drinks lattes or gas station coffee. I may have opinions about what tastes better, but I’m not at all convinced that their taste in caffeinated beverages will help me like or dislike their policies better.
I have friends who love Tim Horton’s. I have friends who love Starbucks and I have friends who will only drink fair-trade, shade grown, organic coffees. They’re still my friends. But for politicians! Politicians, surely must control their image, and appeal to whoever the target is that particular day.
With all the hoopla going on, it’s easy to get distracted from the essence of what this whole thing is about.
If I’m gonna send you to The Hill, I better be able to trust you. If you’re creepy or arrogant or a shapeshifter, I can’t trust you. The unfortunate part is that that’s exactly the way of it for most party leaders in this election.
It may be that Gilles Duceppe is the only one being authentic. He’s got nothing to lose. He stands for something. He’s not trying to become Prime Minister. His is a different ambition, if I can put it that way.
That rings true for me.
His politics aside, he appears to be consistent in message and attitude, and he’ll tell you what he thinks. Maybe his handlers have just done a very good job, but there’s something to be said for someone who says and stands up for what they believe in.
Posturing makes me sick. It’s probably no coincidence that in my day-to-day life, as a regional youth ministry director, we talk often about the importance of authenticity. Don’t pretend to like Gaga if you can’t stand her. Don’t pretend to hate The Notebook just because the teenager you’re hanging with hated it. Sure, these are surface examples. We often talk about the importance of authenticity as we minister amongst youth.
When it comes to politics tho? We adults have a thing or two to learn.
Maybe that’s why the politics of Jesus are so compelling to me. Maybe that’s why I put more hope in authentic communities of Jesus-followers than I do in the politicians of our day. Sure, the church has always been full of its fair share of politicians and fakes and traitors.
I’m there and you’re there, and we’ve all got something we want. Life is messy. So are we. At the end of the day, many of us are seeking ways to participate in the renewing of all things, to participate as the body of Christ in inaugurating God’s kingdom here on earth.
A kingdom of shalom.
A kingdom built for others. It’s not focused on me, on my group, and the way in which we alone will make all things new.
Such hubris, such pride will get us nowhere (tho if we play our cards right, it might get us elected). Jesus may have said that we will do greater things than he, but we’ll do no such thing without the power of God working in and through and (at times) in spite of us and our brokenness. Is that how we live? What do we expect of our politicians?
When I think of leaders I admire, they have always been authentic. They’ve been those willing to admit their blemishes and faults and failings and struggles. Throw up as many attack ads as you want. We all screw up. Take it on the chin and move on. I want my politicians to make mistakes and learn from them.
I know that’s not the political game we play, but I’m sick of playing games. Won’t somebody just tell me something true?