Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Liturgy of Democracy

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. (Winston Churchill)

I had the opportunity yesterday to speak to some young political campaign workers. I ended talking about the hard work of citizenship, work that far too many in this country don't even recognize as work that belongs to them, let alone work that they are willing to do. Liturgy, a word that now is used only in ecclesiastical circles, originally meant the public work of the people in sustaining the life of the city - the polis - and that meant politics.

Politics is the way in which we make decisions about our common life, and thus politics is far too important to leave to our elected officials. Voting is not the beginning and the end of our work as citizens, even though many of us don't even show up for that work. Engaging with elected officials between elections is one of the responsibilities of citizenship that is neglected by most of us. We can't be bothered or we think that our opinions don't matter and so, while we grouse to our friends about the decisions that are made in Congress or the state legislature, we never write or e-mail or call the people whom we elected to represent us. When we are silent, the voices that are heard are those of lobbyists and others who understand how to influence political decisions.

It doesn't take many calls or letters or even e-mails to get an official's attention. One Roman Catholic nun with whom I once worked said that twenty letters from constituents about an issue was a deluge. A legislator's staff member said that the phones had been ringing all day with calls about an issue - there were seventeen calls. We are mistaken if we think that legislators don't pay attention to the opinions of constituents. And we are dead wrong if we think that it isn't our responsibility to help shape the decisions that are made about our common life.

I heard someone said that serving others is the rent we pay for living on this earth. I agree and would add that active involvement with politics is the rent we pay for living in the United States.

1 comment:

Yorke said...

Dear Daniel

I stumbled accross your web site because a friend of mine gave me a word of knowledge "Toytown". It was meaningful to me - in the next month I will be a volunteer at two summer events where children will be - but I wanted to see if there may be other reasons why the Lord may give me this word. I did a google search for Toytown+Bible and nothing seemed to come up and then Toytown + Jesus - and I found your site.
I live in the UK and find what you said about our political leaders needing our support if they are to represent us just as relevant here. I have great respect and gratitude for any political leaders at all levels of Government in the UK - any who are prepared to stand for election - even those I do not even remotly believe in. What seems to happen is that people are voted in and then they endure not one word of encouragement or thanks - but condemnation and critisism are common. Why anybody stands I do not know.
I loved your old name of your blog "The Gospel of Toytown". How or where did the name come about or from?