Can a presidential candidate get through a speech without promising Change? … Change to what or from what or instead of what – all that goes unspecified. … We the People are simply expected to react favorably to any mention of Change. Call it the political version of a Pavlovian response. The marketing of presidential candidates still has more in common with selling soap than ideas. — Paul Greenberg, Jewish World Review
Change is inevitable — except from a vending machine. — Robert C Gallagher
Every so often, my wife gets in a mood to move the furniture. This is one way that we’re different — I never get in that mood, ever. A while ago she decided the refrigerator would work better on the other side of the kitchen.
I stalled as long as I could, but I finally gave up and moved the refrigerator. First I had to take down a cabinet and repaint the wall, then I had to put in a new water line for the ice maker. We found new places to put “stuff,” and when it was all done, I had to scrub up the grunge that had been hiding where the refrigerator used to be.
She tells me this is just a trial to see if she likes it this way.
I hate change. Well, hate may be too strong, but it’s close enough. I’m watching Barack Obama’s post-primary speech in New Hampshire and his supporters are waving signs that say “Change we can believe in.” Clearly, there are a lot of people who feel better about change than I do.
Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama are the anti-establishment, new idea candidates — 2008’s change agents — and after their surprising wins in Iowa, the other candidates are all of a sudden saying, “Me, too! I’m for change, too!” Demand for change may be the bedrock issue fueling people’s election-year thinking.
Paul Greenberg is right to wonder just what the candidates have in mind when they talk about change. Will the hip, young Barack Obama unleash a pack of feral feng shui fanatics on the White House who will transform the Oval Office into a Dodecahedron Den? Will Mike Huckabee print the Four Spiritual Laws on White House cocktail napkins, or install a baptismal pool in the press room?
(Come to Jesus, Helen Thomas! Your friends will wait, the buses will wait. Let’s all sing “Just As I Am!”)
Both candidates say they want to change the way Washington works. If we were to ask American voters what sort of change they want, what would they say?
Here are some possibilities.
Responsive government, by which I mean a government that listens well and acts quickly to solve problems.
Ethical governance. No stashes of cash in the home freezer, no tax deductions for your friends. Every elected official and government bureaucrat should wear a WWGWD bracelet (What Would George Washington Do?).
Fiscal restraint. The majority of Americans are people of limited means with no significant safety net. Meanwhile, Congress burns through money like a prairie grass fire and piles up monstrous obligations to be paid in the distant future, by our children.
Adult behavior. Debate is good. Disagreement is a fact of life. Civility despite our differences and a willingness to compromise must be evident in everything that Congress and the President do together.
Jesus was an agent of change, which probably accounts for his wild popularity with ordinary people and the fierce opposition he faced from the establishment.
Eight times in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says, “You have heard it said… But I say…” For example:
You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. — Matthew 5:21,22, The Message
Turn the other cheek, let him who is without sin cast the first stone, sell all that you have and come follow me — Jesus shook up the status quo.
The night before his arrest, as he prepared himself and his disciples for his death, Jesus ate a meal with them.
Over dinner he announced that he was introducing a New Covenant between humanity and God. Our connection to God would no longer depend on our adherence to the law, but on a remarkable mercy — grace — dipped in the blood of the cross.
Everything changed with the cross, and then as now, many found that change threatening.
I probably would have been among Jesus’ critics back then, hanging tight to tradition, resisting this new movement of grace with all of my strength.
But change can be Good News.
Christianity represents a historic paradigm shift ushering in a new way for God to relate to humanity, and a new way for us to relate to God. Along with it came a historic change in how we are to treat each other. No longer are we alienated by sex or race or class or political affiliation. We are equal before God, equal beneath the cross.
This election year, I think America will vote for change. Which will be just fine with me, so long as they leave my sofa where it is.
Photo credit: National Archives, Western Union operators