It is simply a lot less work to support Barack Obama for president than it is to lead our churches into being living communities of righteousness, justice and God’s Mission in the world.
The above is my highlight from some excellent observations relating to my post on Charlie’s post about Obama and “change you can believe in”. Here are several passages from David Fitch that pointedly go after the vicarious “making a difference” that people attach to being “an Obama supporter”. (I still think he stands way above anybody else out there, but these insights about how well we are “participating” , particularly those of us who claim to be a part of God’s people, are downright serious matters.
Here, we are offered ideologies to appease us, to make us feel better about ourselves, so that those in privilege can keep on conserving what it is they really desire. So now, we look at the political ideologies spinning across the political process, and instead of politically observing “they do not know it, but they are doing it,” we observe “they know it, but they are doing it anyway.” In essence, we listen to all the new political speeches and new political options given the electorate and we know nothing will really change. Yet we participate in it anyway, because in essence subconsciously this is what we really want: we wish to protect our own specific pieces of the economic social pie yet feel good about doing it (there’s the classic Freudian split in the subjective consciousness). Political ideology serves a cynical function now, giving us a Big Other to participate in, making us feel better about ourselves (morally), all the while we hope for keeping the status quo in place protecting our own personal pieces of the pie.
When it comes to Christians of my evangelical tradition, I would suggest this “ideological cynicism” could work another way. We participate in National politics, its political ideologies of a more just society, even though we deeply suspect the corporate national machine insures nothing will change. We do this because it is much harder to think of the church itself as a legitimate social political force for God’s justice in the world. It is simply a lot less work to support Barack Obama for president than it is to lead our churches into being living communities of righteousness, justice and God’s Mission in the world.
Even worse, is this “new energy” and “revitalization” acting as a substitute and a drain on the life to which the church is called?
Is our participation over here in electoral politics sapping our energy (or worse even assuaging us) from participation in the work of justice as an extension of the church?
Senator Obama is putting out a pleasing message of “Change.” “I’m asking you to believe in Change,” “the Audacity of Hope,” and “A Unified America.” Yet Zizek would call these ideas “signifiers without the signified.” Words that in the end no one knows what they mean or refer to. Zizek would say it is these “words” which allow us to consent to what we know is a lie so that we can avoid the Real: that true justice of God demands we change fundamentally the way we live in relation to each other and the world.
I fear these Obama “words” take the place of pres. Bush’s words “Freedom” and “No child left behind,” words that few knew what they actually meant but morphed into a politics of multinational corporate politics the horror of which is hard to believe 8 years later. In a Zizekian way, I have often asked, did we consent to all this (vote for George Bush) as Christians 8 years ago (who by and large elected him) in order to assuage ourselves that we (through our country’s national politics) are contributing to a better world all the while staying comfortable within our protected enclaves.
More and more, people are understanding a new possibility for a Hauerwas radical politics (see for example Mark Van Steenwyk here and here). SO GO AHEAD AND BY ALL MEANS VOTE FOR OBAMA, but do not allow false ideology to sap our energy or distract us from the task of being God’s people, his embodied Kingdom in submission to His Lordship, birthing forth His justice amidst the world that was made possible in His death and resurrection until He comes.
#333333">All of this stuff hits home.