It’s an election year. The very words summon deep dread in me. And, for reasons to be explained, make me think of touching a live 9-volt battery to my tongue.
If you ask me to distill my perception of American politics to one summary image, I’d choose the third temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Standing on a spire and overlooking the kingdoms hearing, “All of this can be yours… if you’ll just vote for us whenever we ask.” It’s like the temptation of Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring. “You could seize the ring of power, but use it for good… why not?”
As a people in the process of being transformed into the Beatitudes1, the campaign trail can be a fraught place for the church. And, as some factions have gone headlong for electoral power, the public image of the church has been pulled apart to the left and the right, with the cross of Christ split and splintered like a dry log between them.
Enter the AND Campaign. In their primer on civic engagement, Compassion (&) Conviction (InterVarsity Press, 2020), their leadership lays out principles by which Christians can think through policy issues and then act through whatever means of civic involvement is available to them. One part social studies class, one part meditation on Scripture and politically contended disagreements, the book strikes a balance between the black and white mechanics of American politics and all the grey thinking (i.e., wisdom) needed to engage the machine. You can learn why it’s pointless to picket your city council to bring recess back to public elementary schools while also thinking through a biblical meditation on being “salt and light” in the context of protest.
This early declaration echoes throughout: “It’s better to lose than to sacrifice our virtue for… what is politically expedient.” This isn’t just another manifesto, all brash and no quarter. It offers a political discourse marked by humility, never lacking in courage, with more room for generosity than polarity. I personally have doubts about participating in politics on the terms the politicians themselves have chosen2—especially the farther from my house the policy gets made—so I appreciated the AND Campaign’s continual efforts, chapter after chapter, to season their words with scenarios and reminders of biblical passages carefully selected to challenge both the Left and the Right.
It’s an election year, and it promises to be an even bigger doozie than what this year has been already. I would love to see the kindness and generosity of Compassion (&) Conviction start sprouting here and there. Whatever happens at the polls and in the aftermath, the principles in this book are the kind of stuff that endures.
And about that battery. Well, if you’ve ever licked a 9-volt, you know that by touching both poles you’re bound to take some heat. But, you know, it’s the modern age and that’s literally how lights work now. Engaging both poles (&) resisting the power they throw at you can be positively incandescent.
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