Foolish Campaigns

Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Episode 160

Is there anything more foolish than American politics? The process for determining who our leaders will be, from the president to local offices like school boards and sherif has increased in time so much in recent years that it feels like campaigns last for ever.

In an episode just before the 2000 election, This American Life told 3 stories around the theme “Character Assassination.” The introduction to the episode tells the story of Jack Robinson, a candidate for Massachusetts Senator in 2000, who issued what became the “Robinson Report,”  a document admitting to everything he believed he had ever done wrong, from speeding tickets to his failure to pass the bar exam multiple times.

The goal, according to Robinson, was to put everything that could possibly be used against him on the table. “I hope to have offered my fellow citizens a full and fair description of my personal background,” he writes in the report, “in a manner which allows them to decide whether I am capable of representing them in a position of public trust, confidence, and honor.”

As we find out more about Robinson’s story, we discover that this move actually lost him support. People who had once stood behind him cease to offer any help in his campaign, and he is left to fight alone against Ted Kennedy, to whom he eventually loses.

Why does being completely honest cost politicians so much? After all, we live in a society that constantly attacks those representing us in government as liars and slanderers. We all know they’re only working to get reelected. So why when this man puts it all on the table does he lose so much power?

Maybe this is what Paul has in mind when he write “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1:20) After all, it is in politics that power is made explicit in the world, where a few people make decisions that effect large groups.

What separates the power of the cross from the power of the world is that for the cross, being honest with who we are is the true source of power. Christ, the incarnate God, knows who we are better than even we do. It’s this relationship which allows us to live fully as who we’ve been called to be. When we know the love of God, we are able to live honestly, free from the fear that what we have done may hold us back.

What seen through the eyes of the American electoral system, a power that frees us to be honestly who we have been called to be does seem a bit foolish.

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