Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Muslim, A Jew, A Catholic, A Protestant, And the Future Steward of the United States of America

Since I was 9 years old, I knew who I would vote for in every presidential election.  Granted I had 9 more years to go until I would even be eligible to vote. But, I always had a conviction about my choice.  This year the only thing I have a conviction about is that the american electorate have lost their minds!  Yet, I have a moral conviction that voting is an obligation and not optional.  So somehow I must work through the options that lay in front of me and make the best decision I can.  Now this blog isn't for the Trumpsters who will be with him until the "bloody" end. Nor is it for the Hillsters who are with her, no matter what.  This is for every person out there that feels like they are disarming a bomb and are wondering "Red Wire" or "Blue Wire." 

This past Monday morning, as usual, I was getting ready for my day while toggling between CBS Morning News and Morning Joe.  As I was listening to the interview with the Khan family I suddenly stopped what I was doing, grabbed the remote, kicked it back 2 frames and gave the interview my undivided attention.  Why? I heard the word "Stewardship."  And it was like the lights were turned on, nice and bright.  Here is what happened....

Mark Halperin had asked the Khan family if they had considered the cost of speaking at the DNC the week prior.  Had they considered the impact of what might follow.    This was Mr. Khan's answer.....

“There comes a time in a person’s life where the burdens that have been placed on us mean nothing, This county its good, means so much to us... that we unanimously, we sat at home and we spoke about what could happen....The only way to say thank you would be to face it. But say it, say it, say it publicly.  So that maybe the dignity of the office, the stewardship of this office.  These are not simple words and concepts… these are realities. The world watches the United States..... they emulate it.   It is our obligation, it is our moral duty."

Let's place aside whether you agree or disagree with this families participation at the DNC Convention.  What captured my attention so swiftly that morning was the word "Stewardship"  Stewardship, was one of those church words I grew up with.  It was a big word, that as a child I thought meant simply, give a good offering because God said so.  As I grew up and gained a deeper understanding concept, I would come to believe that all I have and will have comes from a God who loves me and that he has entrusted me to use it according to His values.  

When Mr. Khan said that, it made me look at voting and candidate selection in a different light. For years the voting standard lied in simply the issues.  Where do they stand, where have they stood, and where do they say they will stand tomorrow.  We see tons of voter guides with issues and check boxes.  But, what gets a much lighter consideration, yet goes well beyond issues, is a question. Can we put the next four years in their hands, knowing they will move those issues forward?  

Trust, is such a tricky thing in this election. Hillary Clinton has been surrounded by a whirlwind of suspicion since the mid 1990's.  And let's face it, Donald Trump, isn't trustworthy either.  We have said for years, that politicians are crooked.  And yet, somehow, at this pivotal moment we have to select one of them.  How do we do that?  Well, as I studied the concept of Stewardship again, now in a different light, this is what I learned.  

Stewardship in simplest form is basically, conducting, supervising, or managing something.... the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.  Some synonyms for stewardship are caretaker or guardian.  When you delve into the secular perspective on stewardship the focus is primarily on the care of the environment and our physical world.  In Judaism, they go back to Genesis and the continuing work of creation. The focus is to alleviate environmental degradation.  

Now Pope John Paul II, said "The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.” Even though he too is concerned about the Earths natural state, he also compels us to be both faithful and consistent in our stewardship. In other words, don't say one thing and another.  St Basil, turns our perspective from the earth to its inhabitants when he said,  “The bread which you hold back belongs to the hungry; the coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked; the footwear mouldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes. The silver that you keep hidden in a safe place belongs to the one in need. Thus, however many are those whom you could have provided for, so many are those whom you wrong.” You could say his approach to Stewardship is a real throwback idea.  In this day and age, there is so much focus on self development/self interest and Basil in the mid-300's was challenging people to care for those in need out of what you have.   

Not to leave the Protestants out, John Wesley was in agreement with St. Basil (albeit some 1400 years later), when he said  “Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?” Again, we are being compelled to focus on humanity. However he too demands our faithfulness. In John Wesley's case he is asking us to be faithful to the thing we serve. And, if we don't take care of our people faithfully, he in essence calls us a fraud.  

After delving into all of this, I came up with a checklist, of stewardship principles to guide your thinking as you vacillate between candidates.  

Stewardship Checklist

  1. Does the candidate have a vision for the future?  Do they posses the capacity to manage towards that vision? (John Paul II - future generations)
  2. Are those in dire need a part of their plan? Do they have the capacity to care for those in need? (John Wesley/St. Basil - one in need, the stranger)
  3. Does the candidate understand that the hungry, poor and needy are "our problem" and not "a problem?" (John Wesley)
  4. Can they be entrusted to care for the nation and not their own personal ambitions? Will they reconcile all actions on behalf of this nation to the both the letter and the spirit of the U.S. Constitution? (Wesley - other purposes)
  5. Is there a plan to protect our natural resources? Is the candidate willing to reconcile any economic plan against the needs of the land it will impact? (St. John Paul II, Judaic Stewardship)
  6. Does the candidate have the capacity to roll up their sleeves and be a caretaker?
  7. Does the candidate have a history of caring and curating - showing true custodial care of the resources (financial, physical and human) already and previously under their care?

We have months to go, until any of us has to put pen to paper or pull a lever.  For many of us we are grateful for the time, because we are truly stumped and wondering  "Red Wire" or "Blue Wire."  My hope is that the above will help put some of this into perspective. May we truly understand what Mr. Khan was saying when he explained, "...these are not simple words and concepts… these are realities. the world watches the United States.... they emulate it.   It is our obligation, it is our moral duty."

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