Rising above all the houses in town stands the beautiful brick and mortar Methodist Church. It’s beautiful stained glass windows are definitely a sight to see and on Sunday mornings that church bell rings all throughout town.
My wife and I visited this church a couple weeks after we first moved to town. As the oddball Orthodox couple fresh out of water in a little town, we felt like it would be a good idea to visit the Church. This way we could meet the locals and introduce ourselves.
I don’t think I was quite ready for my first Protestant experience. As a former Roman Catholic and Orthodox convert, I’m used to a liturgical form of worship. This was a shoot from the hips freestyle service that didn’t even offer communion. It didn’t matter however, we were there to meet everyone and to get to know the community.
After the service we were invited downstairs for a little after church potluck. We were busy introducing ourselves and John was playing with the other kids. I started explaining what I do for work, and the conversation was soon all about trucking. Suddenly from a few feet away I heard someone mention my name. Quickly turning around, I was immediately thrown in to a completely different conversation.
“Oh Ian’s a trucker, of course he voted for Donald Trump!”
Gulp. We were now talking politics, and I wasn’t ready for that can of worms.
Try as I might to avoid it, politics is a topic I’m going to have to talk about eventually. With everything that’s been going on in the news lately, I figured now would be a good time to give my two cents.
There has been a lot of talk lately in the Democratic arena regarding social issues and progressive policies. Some people on the left like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are fighting for Democratic socialism, and believe that if we just raise taxes, we can fix many of today’s societal problems. If we could only squeeze more money from the rich, we could provide free healthcare for all and cancel student debt and make universities and colleges tuition free.
On the other side of the democratic spectrum, you have people like Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden who believe that we must work with the wealthy elites and the big companies in order to make societal change. One says we need a political revolution and the other says stay the course.
After the 2016 election, I learned to keep my mouth shut. I wasn’t a supporter of Donald Trump and I was vocal about it. A close orthodox friend of mine finally spoke up and accused me of supporting the enemy. He basically said that by not supporting the republican nominee, I wasn’t supporting our Lord. He said I was totally throwing my salvation away and would surely face judgment for my vote. I was going to burn in hell for supporting a pro-choice abortion loving candidate, and the only way that I would ever be able take communion or make amends is if I begged for forgiveness upon the altar of Jesus Christ. Okay, message understood. Thanks for the guilt trip. Look, I am by no means pro-choice. I believe all life is sacred and that abortion is wrong. I also believe that politics in general is a very nuanced topic with several different matters to consider. What about education and healthcare, or maybe the environment, foreign policy or military spending? How about gun control? My point is just because a candidate is pro-life, doesn’t mean they’re a good fit on all of the other issues that you care about.
From that moment on I have done my best to avoid talking about politics in public whenever the topic was brought up. I have no desire to put my foot back into my mouth or start a major argument, and like saint Arsenius once said “there are many times I’ve regretted the words that I’ve said, but I’ve never regretted my silence.”
It’s three years later, and this pro-life independent voter has been following the current political discourse very closely. I got to say, it’s exhausting. My own wife can’t stand it when I talk politics. It’s a stressful and toxic topic, especially because the negativity is what gets the clicks. Can anything good come from the endless debates, the constant arguments, the toxic drama cycle, and the fight about whether or not Democrats are good or evil?
I think I finally found the answer to that question. Because of course I found something positive in all the chaos. I believe the best way to improve this country isn’t with people in high offices giving away free stuff. Don’t get me wrong, some of these policies could be beneficial. Making healthcare more affordable across the board would help millions of people stay healthier and live longer lives. Student loan reform could really help all the people who have struggled with the rising costs associated with a college education. Conserving our natural resources and limiting access for drilling in the wilderness could preserve some really important and critically threatened ecosystems.
These plans all sounds great, and our elected officials are a key component that helps society function, but remember: real change starts from the bottom up. Working in the community and giving your time and energy to the people around you can you make just as big of a difference as a newly passed piece of legislature. As Gandhi said “be the change you want to see in the world”.
What I am trying to say is, we dont need government socialism. We need Personal Socialism! Personal socialism in my opinion is loving thy neighbor, and turning the other cheek. It’s giving to those who need help and lifting your brother up when he is down. The difference here is that Democratic socialism is driven by social justice, whereas personal socialism is driven by compassion and love.
We absolutely need our elected officials to act as our voices in government. But as a community, we are only as strong as our weakest members. When our focus is only on those in office, and not on the ones at our feet, we fail. Believing that electing someone new into office will be a magical cure-all for all of your problems, is just like expecting a raise when you haven’t earned it. If you want progress, you gotta get your hands dirty, because political promises and fresh legislation takes a lot of time to go into effect… and there are people who need help now.
While waiting for Uncle Sam to give you a boost, realize that you’ve got plenty of time to reach everyday people with real issues and real needs… You know, people like you and me. Government is slow and as I said before, legislative change takes time. However, the love and help you can give to another person can be felt immediately. The life of your neighbor can be saved with the simplest kind gesture. If we all practiced this kind of personal socialism of loving thy neighbor, real change would build from the ground up and would permeate all aspects of society. That is how you make real change. Some may say it’s a tall order, and impractical, but I think it’s the basic call of any Christian.
Going back that critical moment in the basement of the Methodist church, I panicked. “So Ian, who did you vote for?” Holding a half eaten pastry in my hand, I forced my brain to come up with something quick.
“Um… I voted for Jesus!”
Another bullet dodged.
Thanks for reading my friends. I apologize for my recent disappearance from this blog. Unfortunately, my availability for writing has been severely limited due to a major increase in my working hours and of course traveling back and forth for Thanksgiving. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back on schedule and keep this blog updated more. In the mean time, remember to love thy neighbor, biggly.
– Orthodox Trucker
The United Methodist Church in Lacrosse Washington