The Post Election Blues

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

As a progressive democrat with bordering on Socialist allegiances I saw this year’s election as one of utmost importance.  Affordable access to healthcare, a likely Supreme Court seat, and the war in Afghanistan were just a few of the major policy issues that were at stake.  For the past 3 months I have been praying every day for Barack Obama to win the presidency and for democrats to take control in the Senate and the House of Representatives.  This was unusual for me, for normally I would have prayed a general prayer like, “Lord God, please bless the candidate who is best for our country to win this election,” but this election was so important to me that I deviated from proper prayer protocol and asked for a specific result.

As a person who has been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder politics is a very dangerous road.  Given the capricious nature of politics in general, having definite allegiances to candidates just increases the stress on one’s psyche.  So needless to say, I have been very stressed out in recent weeks over the developments of the election.  In addition to praying about the outcome, I would say mantras to myself over and over again.  I would chant, “No matter who wins this election, I and my family are going to be alright.  No matter who wins this election, the sun will still rise and the night will still come.  No matter who wins this election, Jesus is still on the throne.”  But deep down, I believe that I may have invested just a little too much of my soul in this year’s contest.  I believe that I may have invested a bit too much, because with the exception of the elation that I felt on Tuesday night when the election was called, I have been experiencing acute depression in the days which followed.

Depression is a very mysterious experience.  For those of us that suffer from severe and persistent mental illness, depression can come upon us without warning and can seem to have no apparent cause.  But in this instance, I believe that my depression may have stemmed from a fundamental confusion concerning my relationship with God.  As an African-American politics is very important to my welfare.  Most of the strides toward African-Americans having equal rights in our society have come about as a result of political activism.  From the voting rights acts of 1964-1965 to the desegregation of public schools and public places, to the end of slavery, to equal access to employment, African-Americans have utilized the tools of civic protest and political engagement to fight for our rights.  This legacy is in stark contrast to for instance the legacy of Native-Americans in this country for whom political activism has been less fruitful in securing national rights for Indians and Indian Nations.  But perhaps the lack of success of Native-Americans in the political spectrum might produce a better attitude among Natives when historic elections such as this past election arise.

It seems that during this election, despite my mantras to the contrary, I explicitly connected my welfare as a person directly to the outcome of this past political contest.  The truth is that for me, God is the center of my existence and my strength flows from my ability to rely upon God as a source of sustenance.  Unlike some other people, I cannot count on my moods to be stable or my mind to accurately assess reality at all times.  Rather, I rely on medications and fervent prayer and seeking god as a way to fulfill my duties as a father, husband, citizen, and servant of Christ.  And unfortunately, medication while useful in helping me avoid catastrophic happenings such as a psychotic break, rarely works to stabilize my mood or keep me from social paranoia and agoraphobia.  No instead of my meds, it is the 45 minute prayer regimens that I pray on a daily basis that keep me focused and productive.  For me, as a person that lives with severe and persistent mental illness, God is often literally and explicitly the difference between death and life, darkness and light, and depression and stability. I realize that philosophically, this is true for all people, but for me, my dependence on God manifests in my life as a much more visceral reality given my challenges.

So, in this election, I sacrificed my usual center of God, for the external reality of the election. I dovetailed all of my hopes and dreams into the election outcome.  Unfortunately, politics, while important for a variety of reasons rarely directly informs or dictates my spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and circumstantial welfare.  I readily admit and assert that my life would be different if I did not have Barack Obama’s healthcare stipulations on my side as I deal with chronic illnesses like Schizoaffective, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, but in terms of my level of hope, my level of functionality, and my level of mental stability, politics is for the most part not a pertinent variable.

So in this election cycle, I made the mistake of relinquishing my karma yoga attitude about life and putting all of my existential eggs into the election basket.  The problem with this approach is that it creates somewhat of a psychic catch 22, in which if one does not obtain one’s desired outcome one might be devastated and if one does receive one’s desired outcome one must then contend with the reality that such an outcome pales in comparison to the Universal Source of God as a cause for our well being.  Today, I really tried to regain my center by reminding myself that I am in the same species as I am sure discouraged Republicans and that I need to pray for their adjustment to the political reality that emerged.  Today, I attempted to regain my center by recommitting my allegiance to God more so than a political ideology.  I am not trying to suggest that voting is not part of our civic duty, that advocating for justice is not part of righteousness, or that we should all put our heads in the sand and wait for God to solve all of our problems without our active struggle and participation.  But I am suggesting that as we advocate and that as we fulfill our duty as citizens in a democracy to pursue the end that we have decided to be best for the country, that we need to realize that God is ultimately our source of strength and happiness more so than any circumstance that we experience or political reality that we desire.

So, as I pull myself out of the post-election blues, I am sober in my understanding that God is and must be my center and that I need to revisit my duty as a Christian to love other Christians and other citizens of this country who do not agree with my vision for a better America.  As I pull myself out of the post-election blues I am sober in my remembrance that this world is not my ultimate home and that I advocate for justice out of my devotion to God more so than a desperate and fearful allegiance to any political outcome.  So thank you God for in your infinite mercy allowing the election to unfold as it did, but more importantly thank you God for being the center of my life and the source of my ultimate joy.

Jubilee Economics

This evening, while surfing the web, I came across a phrase that truly struck me. The phrase was “Jubilee Economics.”  While I have often expressed more left leaning beliefs in reference to defining the kind of economics of which Jesus would approve, this phrase reminded me of the fact that economic equality has always been a “BIBLICAL” idea.   Twice in the book of Acts, the atmosphere of the Church of Acts is described as being a community of unprecedented equality.  In Acts 4:34-35 Luke recounts, “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and laid them down at the apostles feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”  And earlier in Acts, more specifically in Acts 2:43-47 Luke recounts, “And all that believed were together, and had all things common. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men as every man had need. And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.  Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord, added to the church daily as should be saved.”

In these two accounts of the Acts church’s equality, we can glean at least 5 characteristics that defined this equality among the church of Acts believers.  Number one, all of the believers had all things common with other believers.  So there was no sense of ownership.  Number two, the Apostles were trusted and trustworthy enough to be the initial beneficiaries of goods in a way in which THERE WAS NO LACK.  Number three, the phrase, “as every man had need” demonstrates THAT NEED MATTERED!! Number four, there was the element of joy in the gladness and singleness of heart of all believers.  Number 5, there was the presence of continual praise.

I think that it is valuable to compare the current “Charismatic Evangelical Community” which claims to be like the church of Acts with the actual Church of Acts fellowship.  To the credit of the modern Charismatic Church there is definitely Joy at Charismatic meetings and Charismatics have a tendency to praise continuously.  But in reference to the other 3 characteristics, the current Charismatic context fails to measure up.  For instance, I have heard several charismatic preachers say that God does not tend to need but that God only rewards faith.  I agree that scripture states unequivocally that “without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  But I assert that this is a different kind of faith than the “sowing of seeds” to big time ministry expecting a self-serving harvest that Charismatics claim moves God’s hand.

In fact, the bible is clear that the distribution of goods and services in the church of Acts community was based on “Need” not how much each person spoke in tongues or paid their tithes.  I truly believe that one of the reasons why the devil brought such fierce persecution to the church of Acts, is that he was petrified of them operating in such a powerful paradigm as “having all things in common. “ Similarly, although one might equate giving to big time ministries to laying goods at the Apostles’ feet, when one considers characteristic number one of “having all things in common,” the modern ministry is nowhere near as trustworthy as the Apostles.  The early church of Acts had an attitude in which they did not view their possessions as belonging to them, but rather they saw them belonging to the group.  The modern day Charismatic Church does not share this attitude, and the evidence of this fact is the reality that in modern times “lack abounds” in Christendom, whereas in the early church, before persecution scattered it abroad, lack was non-existent.

Now in extrapolating the book of Acts community to the modern day, one may claim that these believers “voluntarily” joined to one another economically out of a sense of common faith and so “class equality” is something that one should not strive for on the national stage because not all people can be “trusted” to experience this equality in the same spirit of love and servitude that the Church of Acts did based on their common faith in Jesus.  However, when one “dusts off” books from the Torah to gain a sense of God’s instruction to a nation and one peers into the wisdom of these books for a purpose that does not entail hating other people as a function of their sexual orientation one discovers quite a few references to God’s mandate for economic equality.  Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:36, Leviticus 25:37, Deuteronomy 23:19, and Deuteronomy  23:20 are extremely straight forward in forbidding the charging of interest on loans.  In a society in which the ownership of a house and car are most often based on the establishment of credit with interest, one can easily determine how far a supposedly “Judeo-Christian” society has travelled from the kind of justice that God prescribed.

Similarly Leviticus 25 speaks of “resting from one’s labors” every 7 years for “an entire year.”  Can you imagine how evolved society might be in its true understanding of God and humanity if all of us took a “year long sabbatical” from labor every seven years.  Leviticus 25 also speaks of a “Jubilee Year” every 50 years in which liberty is proclaimed throughout the land to all inhabitants.  While I did not have a chance to query the author of the phrase ,”Jubilee economics” as to what he or she meant, I believe that the notions of “liberty and equity” are paramount in the biblically informed understanding of such a phrase.

As we as a nation prepare to vote in this 2012 election and the idea of economic equality is often ignored as an imperative by politicians and pundits alike, I can honestly say that I feel less depressed, forlorn, and hopeless knowing that there are people who share the name “Christian” with me who speak of “Jubilee Economics,” and I am moved to pray, “Lord God please convict all Christians and non-Christians on the earth of the equality of every soul in your sight.  Please convict us all of the reality that all human souls hold equal importance in your eyes and that given that fact enduring inequality of any kind is problematic.  Lord God please reveal  your ways to all of the earth’s inhabitants so that we all may work together for a shared reality of wholeness, holiness, love, mercy, kindness, faith, hope, and peace.”  In Jesus name, I pray.  Amen.