Friday, February 22, 2008

Living A Caucus Life

My wife and I showed up excited to vote. It was presidential caucus day in Colorado, our first since moving to the state. We met after work and arrived at 4:00 in the afternoon. We were surprised to be greeted by signs: Caucus Tonight 7:00.

We were used to primaries. Stay with me on this. At primaries a person shows up at a convenient time during the day, steps into the privacy of a voting booth, casts their secret ballot and leaves having fulfilled their civic duty. It is an important, furtive, private affair.

Caucuses are different. Rather than individuals showing up at a convenient time in the day, they show up at the appointed time. Rather than slipping into the privacy of a booth, you step into a gathering of your immediate neighbors. Rather than a private secret ballot, each person literally takes a public stand for their candidate. Primaries are stealthy, caucuses are boldly public.

“So, how does this work?” I asked a man standing in front of me in line to check in. “This is my first caucus. We just moved here.”

“It’s my first caucus too,” he answered, “but I’ve lived here over 30 years.”

It was the first time he felt it was important enough to take a public stand. He explained there was more at stake now than any time he could remember.

Most States have moved to primaries. People prefer them. They are more convenient. They are private. There is no risk of your stand being exposed to public scrutiny. Primaries let us think what we want without having to say anything. We like it that way.

In some ways I believe we have lost something as a nation and as individuals by moving from caucuses to primaries. Taking a stand requires personal responsibility. It invites thoughtful reflection. It necessitates meaningful dialogue. It puts a higher value on the wellbeing of the whole community than a priority of personal camouflage.

The movement from caucus to primary politics in our culture is paralleled in faith. Many prefer being primary disciples rather than caucus disciples. We prefer to participate when it is convenient rather than showing up at the appointed time (I am not simply talking about church attendance here. Being an apprentice of Jesus is much deeper than that.) We prefer to follow Jesus in the isolation of a spiritual booth rather than engaging our neighbors in plain sight. We would rather cast a private ballot for Jesus than take a public stand.

Don’t get me wrong. People can be annoying as they stump for their candidate at a political caucus. The annoying ones do little to constructively represent their candidate or advance their cause. However, much is accomplished by those who boldly represent their candidate through articulate dialogue and meaningful engagement with others.

Similarly, people can be annoying as they stump for Jesus. They too do little to represent Him or advance His cause. However, on a much deeper level, a great deal is accomplished by those who boldly represent Him through articulate dialogue and meaningful engagement with others.

The world is in desperate need for caucus Christians who are articulate and represent the Kingdom of God through meaningful engagement. The call to follow Jesus is the call to step out of the fa├žade of a privatized booth of spirituality to take a meaningful public stand through the content of our lives.

Paul said people like that are beautiful. The idea wasn’t new. He quoted Isaiah who said:

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7, cf. Romans 10:15)
Paul made it sound like this kind of beautiful life is also urgent. Eugene Peterson translates Paul’s words that follow:
“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?” (Romans 10:14-15, The Message)

How can people hear the good news if votes are cast in silent isolation? How can they see if we live sequestered behind the curtain of privatized spirituality? Primary Christianity is preoccupied with anonymous self-preservation. Caucus Jesus followers passionately embody the good news out loud with grace and truth. There is much at stake for a watching world.

The man checking in before me at the caucus felt this year’s election was important enough to take a public stand. He was convinced there was more at stake now than any time he could remember. As true as that may be about American politics, there will be another caucus and election in four years with new candidates and rhetoric.

If his urgency around this year’s election is high enough to get him out to take a public stand for the first time in thirty years, how much more urgent is the need for grace and truth-filled public stands of the one Gospel that lasts? That may seem obvious, but our watching world wouldn’t necessarily know it by how they see us vote. Because it matters for a watching desperate world, it also matters to our watching Lord. Jesus said:
"For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self? If any of you are ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Luke 9:24-26

He later added:

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever publicly disowns me will be disowned before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8-9

I am not suggesting Jesus is a political candidate. He frustrated many and liberated others because he transcends nationalism and political correctness. He is not up for election. His reign is secure by Who He is and what He has done. At the end of the day, we don’t elect Him, He elects us to represent Him in the caucus of our contemporary world. This is your appointed time for His redemptive cause in our broken world. He has assigned us to the precinct of our neighborhoods. It’s time to show up, step up and take a stand.

What do you think? Please click "Comments" 6 to leave yours.


Walter said...

Hey Wayne-great parallel. I love how you translate our faith in our daily life.
It seems 2Peter 1:10-11 is consistent with your right on view:
10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and *election* sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

I think your blogs are very relevant. I enjoy reading them as well as hearing about your feelings about your recent activities. It helps me put everyday experiences into the perspective of Jesus and Christianity instead of just living worldly. It helps bolster up my attempts at serving our Lord.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Wayne! I like everything about your blog...if is cool, timely, yet eternal truths abound throughout and make a person think! I especially loved the one that reflected on skiing! I could feel the exhiliration anf thrill of downhill skiing! Also, the one on the caucus was great! You have dicovered a great way to connect with all generations! You are so gifted anyway as a communicator! Keep it up! You are able to speak in a language that this culture can connect to. Love and blessings to you and the whole family!

Anonymous said...

We should all feel the urgency to get out and be decuples for the Lord for the time is growing near and we must be an example as well as spreading the Word.

Thank you for making these great correlations. Bless you

Anonymous said...

Interesting thought, but this also occurs to me: the 'private' booth for voting could be seen as our prayer booth/closet. The Father sees us in secret, but it simply doesn't stop there, just as casting our primary vote doesn't stop there. To complete the process of good citizenship we must 'be' good citizens as well as voting citizens; so also as primary Christians we are called both to pray in secret and let our light shine before men. At times caucus Christians seem to enjoy the attention on the corner when telling people they should vote for Jesus, but the lack of feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, visiting the prisoner - perhaps living out their platform? - is just too much trouble.

Thanks for starting the conversation, Wayne.

Bill Watson

Anonymous said...

Howdy. Seems to me LIFE is a caucus. Our appointed time and place to show up for the debate is the time we are allotted here on earth. Weather we want to realize it or not, we are presenting our side of the discussion 24x7. Everything we think, do, say, or feel flows from our fundamental assumptions. As followers of Christ, those assumptions reflect what we REALLY believe about Him and there are people who watch and are influenced by virtually our every word and action. If our assumptions about God are weak and diluted, that is the story we tell with our lives. If our assumptions are strong and concrete, does our life reflect it in such a way others can see it?

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:12