It still wasn’t far enough away to not be infected. Infectious is the word. Those things, regardless of the channel, are diseased and anxious, passing off violent entertainment in the form of news.
See, GP gave up on political activism a long time ago. The story goes like this... Before Grumpy Pastor decided to enter the ordained ministry, GP was a politico. GP went to lots of local and statewide conventions (on both sides), worked on campaigns, worked for interest groups, etc. One too many late nights at a bar with all other sorts of politicos and policy makers from both parties, GP witnessed enough sordid things (like affairs between policy makers and a whole bunch of other issues of general integrity), and GP finally had had enough. Both parties were full of false saviors. Jesus was calling and was really the only salvation path to follow.
Since that night when Grumpy was finally fed up, calm has prevailed in GP’s life. What used to cause the Grump some serious consternation and indigestion, now is the equivalent to an annoying fly buzzing around, the kind that never goes away. The election cycles come and go, with virtually nothing changing except the number of the year of the election. It’s the same thing every 2 and 4 years – the most important election ever.
And you know what? GP believes most people enjoy this. By victoriously glorifying their great candidate who will so obviously save the world and vilifying the other side because they are so obviously evil and stupid, people derive meaning and existence. They play a part in the hope they have that things will be better for themselves and for other people, if only everyone would just follow the obvious best way. But that’s where the trick is. Things won’t actually get better. Furthermore, it’s not playing a part. It’s sitting in a seat and watching. It’s a form of entertainment by partaking in a rigged shell game. It’s not much more than a popularity contest, funded by those who want to control it.
A lot can be learned from ages past. Back in 1st Century Roman times, there was this poet named Juvenal. He was an ancient version of Saturday Night Live. He wrote something about Roman civilization. You might recognize the quote:
“…Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses”
As long as the Roman Empire gave out free bread (in the form of wheat rations) and provided entertainment (in the form of violent horse races – the circus), nobody would really take up their civic duty. Remember that JFK guy who said “Ask not what your country can do for you? Ask what you can do for your country?” While JFK had his own issues of lacking integrity, he was pretty much right. And his quote is light years away from our own practice, which is more like trying to bend other people to our own understandings and way of thinking. “I’m right, here’s why, and you better listen and change, otherwise you are a big, dumb, evil, stupidhead.”
Okay. So bread and circuses it is.
Well, Grumpy Pastor gave up on politics a long time ago and lives his life out in the church. It’s really much more life giving. In truly American form, GP kind of wants you to give up on politics too. But Grumpy Pastor understands that you probably don’t want to give up on politics, and probably won’t. And that’s entirely okay. Grumpy will still manage to like you, and maybe even love you, even though you don’t see things like the Grump does. Grumpy Pastor even hopes that Grumpy is proven wrong, and that the black and white, either/or kind of tribal contest that politics actually is, would make the world a better place. In the end, Grumpy Pastor hopes you find watching 24-hour news, swearing at your opponent, and trying to convince others of your own rightness every four years in the most important election ever is life giving and meaningful, even though it will probably never be either of those things.