Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rodger McDaniel is the Pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church.
This is an excerpt from a speech he gave to the Laramie County Democratic Party
I now understand political involvement is a part of living out my faith. Matthew Pistono has written a book about his life, growing up in Lander and taking a journey that led him to Tibet and from his Catholic upbringing to Buddhism and how he understands the confluence of faith and political activism. The book has helped me to understand where faith intersects with politics.
“Politics and spirituality emerge from the commitment to strive for enlightenment so that one may be beneficial to others. Social activism is one and the same with spiritual practice. There is no separation so long as the commitment to benefit all beings never wavers. Bodhisattvas teach by example, not by quoting scripture.”
There was a time when one could involve herself or himself in politics without endangering their soul, in fact there was time when political involvement enhanced one’s soul.
In 1966, Robert F. Kennedy first walked with disenfranchised farm workers in Delano, California to learn their story and to see what he could do to bring hardworking people some justice. Robert Kennedy came to the Mississippi Delta and brought back images of poverty and hunger that shocked the nation. Bobby taught the value of hope in the face of despair. Something happened inside of people when they saw this wealthy son of an aristocrat sitting on a porch with the poorest of the poor, his face grimaced as he looked at American children with swollen bellies. Bobby Kennedy made the plight of the poor a spiritual issue, a guttural faith issue in America. He gave hope to the hopeless.
When he died so did that. When he died, the Democratic Party and politics in general saw what Robert Frost saw. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveller, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.”
Ah...the undergrowth...when Frost chose that word it meant something to his readers. They knew places where you could not see the forest for the trees, where shrubs and saplings and bushes grew so thick under the trees one could not see to the other side. Where one must choose a path without knowing where it leads.
In today’s virtual world the term undergrowth has acquired a new reference point. It’s the 24 hour news cycle, the internet, twitter, facebook, email, FOX News, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity…it’s the creation of a virtual reality that not only conceals the truth in the undergrowth but makes the truth entirely irrelevant to the choices we make. We find ourselves in a world where politics and spiritual pursuits have little apparent relationship.
I grew up in a blue collar home. My dad was an underground miner in Leadville when I was born. Later we moved to Cheyenne where he got a job as a milk man and a truck driver. He was a Teamster. His parents were itinerant farm workers who survived the dust bowl in west Texas. My mother worked her life as a cook and waitress.
My earliest memory of any discussion about politics was my parents telling me about FDR. They believed the President of the United States, FDR, actually cared about how they lived. They really thought he spoke to them, listened to them, and laid awake at night worrying about their hunger, their children, and their lives.
That’s what we’ve lost in the undergrowth of a world more concerned with messages and spin and talking points than with people. That’s what we have to work to regain if politics is to become the honorable pursuit it once was.

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