mercy

Editorial: Election Day, Rallies, and the Death of Secret Ballots by Michael Nichols

I hate politics. I really do, but alas, here I am, feeling a need to talk about them.

Of all things for society to hate, along with the discussion of religion, we had danged well better be talking about them. Living in the democratic republic in which we do, it is our responsibility to take seriously the role we stole back from the king of England in the 18th century.

To gawk at voting, rigged or not, is to shirk responsibility. If you have the power to change something bad or preserve something good, but do nothing, you are as guilty, if not more guilty, than he who executes injustice. I hate to judge, and I don't mean to do so, but we need a sense of urgency to execute justice, now more than ever. Also, note that this is an editorial. These are my thoughts, opinions, and their reasons. So, that being said, let's begin.

(Note: For those of you who read internationally and aren't familiar with how the government of the United States of America is structured, here's the basic gist. Citizens vote to elect people into power with secret ballots. The branches of government are three: executive (the Presidency and his Cabinet), legislative (Congress and Senate, two groups of representatives for each of the States, who vote on laws, passing them to the executive branch to be approved or vetoed), and judicial (meaning the people who interpret the law to judge court cases). Despite the fact that citizens vote for people based on what they're stated policies are, citizens do not directly vote on the laws. This leaves a gaping hole for political hypocrisy and corruption to fester. Those are the basics.)

I hate political yard signs. I despise political yard signs. On my way to work this morning, I passed at least ten signs, spaced no more than ten feet apart, for the same candidate, across from (and probably set up by) the same company. This would not be the only instance. No, every neighborhood I've driven or walked through in the past two or three months has been the same.

I'm also a first-amendment advocate. I like to talk and write and publish and do these things frequently and in large spats. That being said, we have something called "secret ballots," meaning simply that you have no business knowing who I voted for unless I don't mind you knowing. Apparently, a lot of people fall into that category. Fine. That's your business. Personally, I don't care who you vote for--well, I do care if they're a poor choice, and I do care if your choice comes back to bite me, and I really care if my choice comes back to bite me. (Like, "Did I really just vote for that?")

Secret ballots, though, were meant to be secret for a reason. Voting autonomously and anonymously ensures that our mutual desire to execute liberty, though it may be on different terms and by different means, is not threatened by the diverse nature of humanity, not conspired against by its governors. That's why I value my political privacy very much, just as most of us value our digital privacy. That's a whole different topic, but is it really? So much of what we do these days is digital. Not that we should worry about our secrets being divulged (what are we guilty of that requires secrecy?) but what if they were? Whose business is my transaction history? Whose business is it who I talk to or refuse? Who but God should have any say in the words of my conscience?

Speaking of private things becoming public, what is it about our desire to attend political rallies? I mean if yard signs weren't enough, let's go gather a bunch of like-minded people into the same room and listen to a person shout about the things that we want to shout about, then let's shout about them, too! Again, mind you, I love that we have that right, but does it really help? Let me restate. If any of you have received counselling, therapy, or psychiatric help, you will understand. What if all you did when you went to your therapist was yell mutually into the air about problems, then agree on an improbable and impossibly impractical and slow means to end the mutual suffering? How divisive that would be! How little would actually be accomplished! How much hate would we develop for people of opposing views, and how unwilling would we become to talk things out, and give credence to other ideas after thinking through our own and realizing they may not be as merited as they seem. Isn't that political rallying?

But wait...

That's also western church more often than not.

It's great to be able to speak freely about things that matter to you, but how far do we take that freedom, and in what direction? I have seen this so often in churches, and I've only just begun my life. How often do we take the scriptures that talk about a compassionate God and His laws, yet twist them to fit our own destructive worldviews, omitting passages about grace, forgiveness, compassion, unity; why is it so difficult to bend our will to meet His when we know that it's exactly what we need most? Yet we continue to serve ourselves first. Freedom. Is it a blessing or a curse? Or is it better to have the ability to fail and repent rather than to only know goodness, but have no freedom to grow into it? Is that even genuine goodness?

It's great to be able to speak the Gospel. It's great to evangelise. It's great to come together to be as one in the presence of the Lord. It's also great, in a much lesser way, to show support for your ideals and your candidates of choice. We need to know where we stand, and we need to be active in offering our worldview to others; but we also need to be wary that our freedom doesn't become pride, because arrogance alienates, and from alienation comes war, and from war comes destruction. Be willing to fight, but be seekers of peace. When you go voting today, when you go to your next rally or install your next sign, understand exactly what you're doing, and be ready to take the fall for what becomes of what you do. Division and unity is on our shoulders. Do not shirk this responsibility. Do not squander this power.

"He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?"

--Micah, a prophet of the Living God, Micah 6:8

Rev(ital)ised: Adulthood by Michael Nichols

I was eighteen years old by the end of 2009. Everyone always makes a big deal about it. It's sort of a cultural thing, and who can blame a guy for being a little excited? You gain the right to vote, join the military, and do plenty of other things legally, some of which are wiser than others.

A few months in, I wasn't the most ecstatic person on the face of the planet, though. It seemed to me like just another number, but I was thinking about this number on much different terms. A lot of what I wished for has come true since then, to my gain and detriment. This is how I began my legal adulthood.

20 March 2010 at 2:34am -- from Facebook Notes, revised 24 February 2014

I'm eighteen years old. Milestone? I giggle at you. I have the ability to [legally] buy tobacco products, pornography, lottery tickets, and am deemed by the state/nation to be a "legal adult". How does this benefit me? If you have a theory, please enlighten me because I've got nothing. At sixteen, I gained the legal right to test for a driving instruction permit and the ability to consent to sex. At twelve, adolescence happens. Let's not go there, I think we all get it. And at random years in between we actually do this interesting thing called living our lives.

Day to day, whether we think it through at any degree or not, we make simple this-or-that decisions. Drive, or don't drive. Work, or don't work. Eat, or don't eat. Worship, or don't worship. Pray, or don't pray. Honor the Lord, or don't. Share, or don't. Get up, or don't. Love, or don't. Hope, or don't. Believe, or don't. Fear, or don't. Give, or don't. Take, or don't. I could ramble on about all the different this-or-that decisions that make up every single move we make as living souls, but I think you get the point by now.

I'm eighteen years old. What changed? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. "Legal" means nothing. Whether a government says, "We recognize you as an adult when you turn eighteen or twenty-one," does not make a difference. You choose the difference whether you're young or whether you have multiple college degrees. Is this too simple? Too easy to be true? No. As a matter of fact, simplicity is exactly what we need as human beings.

We're all just a bunch of over-sized, coffee-drinking, relationship-having, reproducing, job-doing, schedule-making children. Just because we paste on this facade of sophistication doesn't for a second mean that we're any better. Paul the apostle said, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, acted like a child, thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things." He didn't hit a certain age and then magically become mature. He chose. He realized that he was a child and needed to grow up.

We believe what we believe because we were taught it. Our lives took the paths they did, and here we stand, believing what we do, be it true or false. We did not evolve into this voluntarily. We are not God. We do not have the power to breathe life into nothing. Show me someone who can besides the Lord Jesus Christ. Even from the beginning, we were taught by the Lord God Almighty in the truth, then we were deceived (taught a lie) by that old serpent called Satan (meaning: the adversary). Our sciences have been taught by the world around us when smarter men decided to listen to it.

No matter what, our existence has been nothing but a learning process... and this is where it gets ugly. When we think that we no longer need to be taught, that is when we are mere children. That is when we have failed. When we think that there is something about ourselves that is all we need, that is the exact moment we need to think again. If you jump in the deep end of your heart and swim around for a little while, you will realize this truth. You will know that there is this unquenchable thirst for something more than yourself, something solid, something that will last forever; but in this life only, we will not find such a love. "In Christ alone" will true hope be found, but I digress.

I know by personal experience that when you get that attitude of being the only one who matters, the only one of whole value, the only one who is worth fighting for, the only one without a flaw and with need of nothing... Well, let's just say that "pride goes before destruction." Eventually, life will teach you... [chuckles...] teach you that, even though you are of value, even though you do matter, and even though you do have something to offer, every single one of us having our own form of righteousness, we have nothing to offer before the Lord but "filthy rags."

But here is the thing: Jesus Christ said via His actions, "I love you. You have taken upon you dirty rags for clothing. You will be naked. But I have good clothing. Here. Take mine. From me, all who come shall be clothed." He traded His perfect life for every failure, every sin, every immaturity, every vulgarity, every curse of man behind the back of the blessings of God, every hate, every torture, and every unspeakable thing, all wrapped into one collective, united human slaughter, one ultimate sacrifice, the only one good enough.

I cannot do enough to repay Him, and that's not even the point of the cross because nobody can. But if we don't make a concerted effort in His name, then who are we, and what is the point? What love goes unreturned? What debt goes unpaid? Being a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, if I care that little to the end that I would blow off this gift, His will, everything He has given me... if I don't tell anyone, if I don't do everything within my power, including surrendering to His, how dare I stand before Him and say that I'm good enough, and I should get into Heaven, or even get a decent life on earth?

I've gone all the way around the block simply to say this one thing... Adulthood. It's not an age, a right, a license. It's a choice, a surrender, humility, letting our sins be crucified with Jesus, being open to being wrong. It's a gift, grace, mercy. It's in our hands.

This is adulthood. I want to grow up.