So, what does politics mean to me in the year of cancer?

I’ve spent much of my adult life either organizing for political action or holding elected office. I understand politics, and I also, largely because I understand it, do not see it as the source of our hopes, either as individuals or as a people.

I stopped believing in political solutions as the answer to our dive into national suicide a long time ago. In truth, I cannot see how anyone could look at the massive dysfunction in Congress, the Presidency and the Supreme Court, the craven disregard for the common good of both political parties, and still cling to the idea that we will find our hope there.

I’ve met a number of people in my writing who are waking up to the reality of America’s political situation. It hits them like a rock between the eyes, sending them into a tailspin of sadness, fear and something close to despair.

Many of these people have bet a good bit of their psychological coin on believing that “their” party is the way to the political promised land. When they realize that both parties are leading us straight off a cliff, they feel lost and leaderless. Like people who have lost all faith, they want to sit down and wait for the trains to come and carry them away.

Other people refuse to face the emotional collapse that they sense awaits them if they face the fact that the god they’ve made of their political party is just another idol, fashioned by human hands. They will follow “their” party in the face of all reason and self-preservation. They chose to believe whatever lies the politicos shovel. They follow the party line, even when it backs up and runs over its own self with contradictions.

Their angry response to any hint that “their” political party is not the little-g god they have made of it tells the tale of just how spiritually sick this idolatry has made them. This devolves to the point that they either cannot or will not defend their positions, but simply reply to any discussion that threatens their fragile beliefs with name-calling and personal attacks.

I, on the other hand, who have known that politics would never save us from ourselves for many years, who have witnessed and grappled with the morally bankrupt political lies of both parties up close and personal for long, uninterrupted periods of time, do not feel the slightest smidgen of despair. Our situation is not hopeless.

Our political house is on fire, but, for the first time, a lot of people are gagging on the smoke and waking up. The fact that they are confused, scared and angry does not change the fact that waking up is the first step toward our survival. You cannot sleep while your house is burning down without being burned up in the flames yourself. You have to wake up, and if that scares you, the fear may be just what you need to face the reality of your situation and do what you must to survive.

America is not indestructible. The fact that it’s taking us so long to tear it down is due mostly to the enormous goodness and vitality of the American people, as well as how very well our nation was built in the first place. But America, which no one can destroy from without, is in very real danger of destroying herself from within.

The rot that honeycombs the leadership of our great institutions, ranging from higher education, to American business, to our politicians, will, if we don’t reverse it, hollow America out from the inside. After that, a small shove, a breeze of trouble, can bring it down.

So why am I not in despair? In this year of my personal war with cancer, why am I not overwhelmed with sadness by the bleak prospects facing us in the upcoming election as well as the new limitations on my own life?

I am hopeful that the American people will wake up and get wise to the political process, true. But my optimism is certainly not based on that. We the People have been we the sheeple for far too long to suddenly find our voice. We are a shattered people, fractured along a thousand fault lines of the culture wars. We are at hate with ourselves on a political level, and that shows no sign of leveling off.

My hope, which is more than hope, but certainty, rests on the great truth that I have lived these last few months. That Truth is simple and it goes like this: Life is hard. God is good.

We Christians have sold our inheritance of certainty and peace for a bowl of lies and worldly aspirations. We have, to paraphrase Shakespeare, “put our trust in princes,” and the princes of this world have done what they always do: They have lied to us, used us, stolen from us and spent our blood as if they were pouring water onto the ground.

We have committed what I call the “Political Heresy,” which is placing political allegiances on the altar of our hearts and bowing down to them. I have seen person after person on both sides of the political spectrum deny the Lordship of Christ by cutting and trimming the Gospels to align them with the “teachings” of their political party.

True political believers on both the left and the right attack the Church and attack the pope, either this pope or earlier popes, for teaching Christ. They deny Christ and defame His Vicar to avoid facing their call as Christians, which is to follow Jesus Christ in everything, right up to and including violent persecution if need be.

They can’t consider a viewpoint dispassionately, without adopting it or hating those who disagree with themselves. They consider themselves perfect Christians and condemn those who differ from them. But they cannot stand aside from “their” group and refuse to go along with it when that group takes a direction that conflicts with the Gospels. If someone, including the Pope, reminds them of Christian teaching, the resulting cognitive dissonance incites them to hatred and vitriol.

Members of both sides of the political spectrum trumpet their own self-righteousness and condemn the other side of the political wars for their immorality. They seriously seem to be saying that righteousness is to be found in which political party you affiliate with rather than Christ.

They appear incapable of approaching the Cross in humility and awareness that we all are sinners, that none — not one — of us deserves heaven except for the shed blood of Jesus Christ. They have forgotten that we owe Him everything, that there is no act of fealty to Him which is a bridge too far for sinners such as us.

It takes real courage to be a Christian who follows Jesus. It always has. The penalties for following Christ in today’s political environment are being called a Communist by rightwing nuts who follow the gospel of the Rs, and a Fascist by left-wing nuts who follow the gospel of the Ds. It means being accused of trying to establish a theocracy by one group and told that you are a slimy politician by the other group.

There is no true home for a follower of Christ in this world, certainly not a home in politics. That’s because Christians are not guided by the gods of this world. Christians follow the God, the one, true God.

Jesus is not a god among other gods, as some like to say. He is God. There is only one empty tomb. There is only one Hope, one Truth, one Life, one Way that leads to salvation. Everything else is an imitation that leads to death.

My optimism in this year of cancer comes entirely from that simple fact. Jesus Christ is Lord, and if He is for us, who can be against us?

We have within us the Voice of the Holy Spirit. We have the 2,000 year teachings of the Catholic Church. We have available to us at any time the many graces of the sacraments.

We are armed and able to run the race against the little g gods of this world, against the evils that threaten to dismember and destroy this great experiment in self-government that we call America. All we have to do is stop running away into the fantasy land of pretend and nonsense which puts political parties on the altar of our hearts.

We cannot convert this culture to Christ with politics. As Americans, we all have a stake in our government and a responsibility for it. But we will not save this great country by following the lying liars of partisan politics.

If we want to convert this culture to Christ, then we need to follow Christ and Him only. If Christians do that, we can change the world.

It won’t be easy. It never is. It won’t come cheaply. It never has. Cheap grace and political gods are not the Way that leads to eternal life. Jesus is the Way, the only Way. There. Is. No. Other. 

We can convert this culture. It’s been done before.

It should be easier for us, this time. After all, we are millions. When it happened the first time, it began with only 12 men.