Rustlings (March 7, 2016)

Mr. Smith’s question seemed a bit deep for a room full of sweaty, tired, post-recess sixth graders. The last hour of the school day had been devoted to Geography during our first semester. The new semester began today, and we shifted our attention to American Government. Mr. Smith began the hour with a question, “If you were elected president, would you ‘represent’ your constituents by making decisions according to their opinions (since they supported you) or would you ‘represent’ them by making decisions in their best interest even if contrary to the opinions of your constituents?” I chose the latter. I still do.

Since South Carolina primaries are over, I’m trusting no one will accuse me of attempting persuasion or influence in the voting process. I’d simply like to share with you what I expect from my presidents and what they can expect from me. I expect the president to work with other government officials in making decisions that benefit our country and communities, as a whole, whether I agree with them or not. I expect them to have access to information that I do not have and to use this information in their decision making process. In return, I will always assume – even if naively – that they have our country’s best interest in mind. I do not believe any president has sat in the oval office and purposefully damaged this country. I will also refrain from being critical – and certainly not abusive – of our president. I do not appreciate ‘blaming language’ levied at past presidents, name-calling or any other manner of disrespect. (Most of this language is partisan, meanspirited, myopic and void of credible fact analysis.) I will pray for our elected officials, but I will not put a messianic burden on them. Contrary to popular belief, they are not the primary instruments of God’s work in the world.

These practical perspectives allow me to maintain a healthy theology around humans being human, the church being the church, and only God being God. It also allows me to live and move and talk and listen and think with a generous measure of civility…something a lot of Americans seem to have lost. I encourage you as people of faith, American citizens, members of the human race – perform your civic duty… and be civil in the process…

— Jim