“What is man that you are mindful of him. . .” Psalm 8
As I write, cable news is all geared up for the Republican National Convention, about to begin, hurricane or not. In the evenings, the GOP will trot out their best and brightest to inspire thousands gathered in Tampa, and millions around the country. New Tea Party stars will woe ‘em with their own brand of beloved ideology and sheer mystique. Stem-winding rookies will parade up front like perfect foals at a county fair. The candidates themselves will shake the rafters, I’m sure.
In a month, the Democrats will gather, and other than a directional spin here or there, the rhetoric will likely be pretty much the same—we care, the opposition doesn’t; we know the way, the opposition are beanbrains. The names on the signs will be different, of course, and, probably, the color of the balloons; but their convention will also be, as an NPR headline said this morning, a “love fest.”
I like ‘em. Most of the speeches are inspiring—and they will be next month too. The rhetoric is just about the best rhetoric around, and what’s formulated in the back rooms is public policy, the direction a party creates to steer the ship of state into an always perilous future. People are dying in Afghanistan; jobs are still leaving this nation as plentifully as immigrants are arriving, unemployment won’t dip beneath eight per cent. Despite the balloons, these “love fests” are high-stake enterprises, promising, as all of them do, a far brighter day because hope is on the way. That’s what everyone says.
Viewership is down from the old days. People aren’t watching. Maybe the entertainment just isn’t exciting enough to draw a crowd. Maybe a ton of us just don’t care. Sometimes, I think we’re really a pitiful lot. We don’t much care about significant issues. Sometimes it’s not hard to echo David: “what is man that thou art mindful of him?”
What a lot of the electorate knows is that these love fests are just so many fancy words, because, really, what makes Democrats or Republicans think they can do something about Islamic fundamentalism, the debt crisis, or health care? To many of us—me too sometimes—the problems we face appear greater than the reach of tinseled rhetoric. Political dialogue is a fancy phrase for hot air.
Let’s get real. Conventions, like retreats, even spiritual retreats, are designed to inspire, to uplift, to generate joy sufficient to carry us through darkness we all know lies directly down the path before us.
David knew, from the inside, his own emptiness. Even as King he suffered derision; as a believer he behaved wretchedly. David knew the emptiness of his own rhetoric, even in his songs.
But, amazingly, he kept singing, as we all must, because he knew, in his heart and his soul, and his mind that hope was on the way.
There is, in this life, enough reason for all of us to despair; but there is—listen to David—great reason, always, to hope.
Despite our bully pulpits, the good news of eternity is simply this--that God loves us. That’s what David promises, and that’s what the Lord, by way of his favorite singer, promises us too.
That’s real talk. Nothing empty there.